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April 28, 2022

ArtStarts Ignites Artist-in-Residence Spotlight: Paige Smith

Paige Smith project Marine Traffic of Burrard Inlet

Last year we launched the inaugural intake for the Ignites Artist-in-Residence program to provide three artists the support and resources they need to develop their art practice and personal projects. Earlier this year, Paige Smith participated in the residency to work on her photography project, Marine Traffic of Burrard Inlet. We checked in with her to reflect on her time during the residency and to learn more about her upcoming projects.

[Image description: A map of the Georgia Straight transposed over an image of a container ship in Burrard Intel as part of Paige Smith's ArtStarts Ignites Residency.]

ArtStarts: Tell us about your personal photographic project you worked on during your residency. 

Paige Smith: During my residency with ArtStarts, I worked on a photography project about the ships filling the ocean horizons around my neighborhood. Examining the visibility of the climate crisis, this project, Marine Traffic of Burrard Inlet, documents the vessel-filled waters surrounding Vancouver. I photographed and tracked these often overlooked and forgotten components of the resource extraction and transportation sector. Combining telephoto-photography with marine traffic mapping imagery, the photo series expresses the limitations of our vision and attempts to reveal what is often purposefully ignored or hidden in regards to the climate crisis. Intertwining the viewpoints connects a ground-level perspective to the massive scale and interconnectedness of these vessels to climate crisis-causing industries.



Artist Paige Smith photographes the stranded English Bay Barge during her Ignites Residency

The maps only render landmasses, with waterways and oceans remaining cutout to see the photography underneath. However, boats and shipping containers come forwards, refusing to be obscured. The semi-opaque map shapes reveal and hide the oceans, lands, and buildings they cover, rendering an almost painterly splat upon the photograph. Represented by small arrow shapes and dots, the maps are filled with vessels along the shorelines. One small mark on the map then could correspond to the massive vessel present in the photograph. 

ArtStarts: What was your biggest takeaway from the residency?

Paige Smith: My biggest takeaway is that I need to make art. Having the dedicated time and space to make my art during the residency made me realize how important artmaking is for myself and hopefully my audiences. I felt so happy and satisfied during the residency, and felt I was creating work that can help make the world a more beautiful and hopeful place. The residency gave me the confidence to keep pursuing my art.

Artist Paige Smith’s photo from her photographic project, Marine Traffic of Burrard Inlet. 

ArtStarts: Was there anything during the process of the residency that surprised you?

Paige Smith: I was surprised by how much I learned from helping with the Explores program! Actively practicing the Explores program's tenet of process-based exploration was surprisingly uplifting and quite a relief. Coming from an art school background, I hadn't truly given myself permission to let go of product focused making. The time I spent outside taking photos was so joyful. Being in nature and only needing to focus on what felt right in that moment was very freeing.

Paige Smith led an Explores: Our Province at Play digital making workshop for young audiences

ArtStarts: What is on the horizon for you?  Will the residency experience catalyze future possibilities?

Paige Smith: I'm excited that there are a lot of artmaking opportunities ahead of me. As a Post-Baccalaureate Diploma student in Visual Arts at SFU, I recently had the opportunity to exhibit my photography and video installation project The Big Reveal at the SFU Audain Gallery in a student group exhibition: Collecting Plum Blossoms

I'll be participating in a group show titled Digital Interventions at Massy Arts Society this summer, which features seven emerging artists with works focused on digital mediation of reality. My video installation artwork, Tethered Connection, will be featured in the second part of the exhibition Digital Interventions Part II – Mediating Vessels which runs from June 14 to July 07, and has an opening reception.

I'm continuing to make more artwork, including an experimental-documentary film Everything Precious is Found at Night, which combines telephoto video footage of my neighbours' apartment windows as they watch television with audio from an amateur, late-night radio DJ broadcasting music written for outer-space. 

I'm finalizing a zine project Who is this City for? which explores the trees within my neighbourhood of Vancouver's West End, and how their history can symbolize the livability of a city. Each of these projects were directly influenced by my time at ArtStarts, where I developed a project around telephoto photography and the themes of connections to our surroundings, landscapes, and people. 

I'll be distributing the Who is this City for? zine around the trees of the West End this late Spring, and I will continue to get my other projects exhibited for audiences broadly. 

To follow Paige’s work, find her on Instagram @paigesmithfilm and connect with her through her website.

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