Artist Talk – Kayla Polan


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Kayla Polan

Calgary-born, Toronto based artist Kayla Polan gave a talk on her work and ongoing residency at Struts Gallery last night.

It was interesting to attend her talk, because although I did not find a lot to identify with in the thematic content of her work, it was great to see such an emerging artist give a talk so confidently. She graduated from OCAD University with a BFA major in Drawing & Painting just in 2016, a whole year after me, and is already really out there in the Canadian art world participating in group exhibitions and booking residencies.

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Kayla Polan, Everything You Need, Literally, screenprint and risograph on paper, 9.5×14″

She is a multidisciplinary artist working across many media including print, drawing painting, and new media. She self describes her practice as a melding of “feminism and popular culture to investigate contemporary ideas about sexuality, fetishism, domesticity, queer identity, autobiography, and consumer culture through the use of painting, sculpture, printmaking, video and performance.”

In her talk she went over the history of consumerist feminism, from the early 1900s today.Cover themes of how words like empowerment and certain products have become gendered, like yogurt and salad, Polan uses text from real advertisements in combination with her drawings of real products.She highlighted that these ads and the feminism that many celebrities embrace are based in personal choices and actions, rather than in causes that will affect the larger population.

Polan also briefly discussed the idea of queer utopias, space built out of necessity because there was not a space for these people in popular culture. In the context of this talk, this seemed a bit of a tangent, but I liked the idea she mentioned about noticing what is happening in the world as an artist, and being critical of it. A good thing to keep in mind, as I see hundreds of advertisements a day in my periphery online.


Nancy Fraser. Feminism, Capitalism, and the Cunning of History: An Introduction. FMSH-WP2012-17. 2012.



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