Printmaker Sara Norquay explores the unifying concept of global citizenship at Harcourt House
It all began when printmaker Sara Norquay volunteered with Edmonton’s Skills Society, which supports those with disabilities, their families, and the greater community. At the time, Skills ran an initiative titled Project Citizenship, aimed at connecting and empowering those living in the margins of society.
As a printmaker with over 20 years of experience in such media as monotypes, photopolymer etchings, woodcuts, linocuts, and copper etchings, Norquay gravitated toward creating art. Inspired by her group’s exploration of citizenship, she decided to create 25 linocut portraits of them, which ended up as the beginnings of her own Citizen of the World exhibition.
As time went on, Norquay found resonate implications taking shape in the small cross-section of portraits, so she made more, and more. Eventually, Norquay began to clearly see what powerful messages the fast-growing collection could represent, and how important and timely those messages were.
“In the end, we’re all people,” she says, “and we all have the same problems, and we all have to get along; it’s not helpful to be talking all the time about difference. I mean, of course we’re different; we’re human beings; we’re individuals.”
Since 2014, Norquay has printed over 200 portraits of people she knows, meets, or simply has a conversation with.
“For me personally, what I like about it is that every time I cut a plate—it takes about an hour—I think about that person, so it has this other kind of meditative aspect to it,” Norquay says. “Every single person I at least had a conversation with—it’s a really wide range from all walks of life.”
Although she’s spoken with each person represented, Norquay deliberately does not tell their stories in her exhibition in an effort to avoid privileging any or putting them into boxes, potentially changing the meaning of the work.
The exhibition is a response to the artist’s concerns about our society’s obsession with celebrity and identity politics. She finds that both of these issues work against positive social progress and eradicating issues like racism and discrimination. Citizen of the World, though a small voice, aims to show the things that unite us, rather than divide.
Norquay walks me through her process, adding my portrait to her collection as well.
“I very casually ask people if they’d like to be a part of the project; I take their photograph, maybe several, they can chose the one they like … then I cut the plate and send them a print in the mail.”
She then prints exhibition copies with the Vandercooke press at SNAP, all made in the same style, using blue ink so as to not single out any one portrait from the group. The concept behind Citizen of the World is to maintain equality in the portraiture through the formatting and a degree of her own artistic abstraction.
“The work is meant to give viewers the space and time to consider their status as citizens of the world,” she writes, “as well as the fact that all human beings have this inherent status, no matter their personal, social or ancestral history.”
Norquay plans to finish the project at the end of this year as a way to put a cap on the project. All of the roughly 200 six by six inch portraits will be on display at Harcourt House’s Art Incubator Gallery, filling the three-walled space entirely. Norquay plans to include a few more during her artist talk at Harcourt House on Thursday, March 29 for those looking to join the collective.
Until Sat., May 12
Citizen of the World
Art Incubator Gallery
Thu., Mar. 29 (7 pm)