U of T is not necessarily known to be an artsy school, but the campus is alive with plenty of talented artists. Meet four of them below.
Salma Ragheb (@turpentinecxx), who is double majoring in neuroscience and visual studies, paints with tremendous intention. Many of her paintings are inspired by childhood memories, but each artwork has deeply layered questions about topics such as gender roles and history. One of her vibrant artworks, “Feminizing the Gaze,” discusses the intersection of womens’ roles and chess, in which the Queen was the second weakest piece on the board after the pawn, but it evolved to be one of the most powerful.
Anella Schabler (@greenisch.tint) gravitates toward capturing small details and intimate objects — they have painted colourfully rendered fruits, keys, and shoes. They explore these intimate parts of everyday life in their piece, “Offering”: “Peeling fruit was a sign of affection that my grandparents showed me. And I was wondering how that translates into how I show love… Recently, I’ve gotten into cooking and now I cook for my family, and that’s how I think I am able to express love.” By exploring generational expressions of love in their family, they have been able to connect to their Korean heritage.
On the challenges of being an aspiring artist, Ragheb spoke about the unfortunate pressure for one’s art to gain exposure to be considered valid. “I don’t want my art to be a token to be exchanged for money,” she expressed. “But it’s something you really can’t get away from if you want to be an artist.” Schabler recounted the same thing: “There’s a big looming rain cloud over my head telling me to network… half of being a successful artist is, unfortunately, marketing.” Regardless, U of T’s young artists are finding creative ways to foray into the art world.
Ragheb recounted sometimes making the “ridiculous and insanely ambitious” move of walking straight into established galleries and expressing her interest in exhibiting there. Though the answer is almost always no, she said the process of speaking to curators and gallery workers about what it takes to be showcased is invaluable.
Vicky Huang (@hedgehogtoast) explores conceptions of femininity with maximalist flair. A second-year majoring in political science and cinema studies, Huang creates artworks that are usually warped, psychedelic depictions of the female body and feminine motifs. She explains that she draws women with a lot of strange, elongated and deformed limbs as a “subversion of how we define feminine beauty. [She likes] to play on the typefied female body.” Growing up, Vicky recalled feeling uncomfortable in her femininity: “I’ve always felt very envious of the girls who were very in tune with their feminine side.” Art, she explains, “is a way for me to explore what I desire to be as a human being.”
Amani Hassan (@username4222020) likes to create art without boundaries. She studies sociocultural anthropology and art history, which she conceded does not leave her as much time as she’d like for making actual art, but she said she never enjoyed the structure of formal art assignments. Her artistic slogan, “Whatever feels good,” is indicative of the free-flowing way she makes art: many of her pieces are a collage of finished drawings, doodles, song lyrics, and magazine clippings. “Glowing brightly” is the whimsical product of this process, its title deriving from the lyrics of a song she was listening to while working on the piece.
Milena Pappalardo is an associate arts editor at The Varsity. She also makes art: @milenamakesart.
Disclosure: Salma Ragheb is an associate science editor at The Varsity.