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Hagar Wirba graduated from CAT’s Digital Photography program in December 2020 and already has work exhibited at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

You were one of the artists chosen by ARTSCO (Arts Council of the Central Okanagan) as part of their ‘Storytellers’ exhibition; what can you tell us about the ‘storytellers’ project?

The ‘Storytellers’ exhibit aims to highlight some of the different narratives that exist within the artistic community of the Okanagan. Participating in this exhibit, are artists who, I believe, are able to really share pieces of themselves through the work they create.

What can you tell us about your pieces for the exhibition? Could you give us some overview and/or context on what you have created?

The pieces I chose to exhibit are visual expressions of my celebration of life. Their titles are, “Fertility Goddess”, “Angel”, “Nyshdzsh”, “Freedom in Vulnerability”, “Untitled 3”, “Mona”.

I love being able to honor and celebrate people in my life and moments in my life, through my work. To immortalize them. Through all the impermanence in life, I find a way to create that sense of permanence for myself.

Some of the themes that are also prevalent in my work are femininity, intimacy, vulnerability and authenticity. These are themes I am continuously exploring in my personal life and through photography, I’m able to share some of my findings.

What was the selection process like? And how did it feel to find out you had been selected?

Ashleigh Giffen, Maura Tamez and I were actually contacted by Kirsteen McCulloch, of ARTSCO, who shared details of this exhibit with us and asked if it was something we were interested in participating in. I was really excited by this opportunity as I had previously been a part of another exhibition with Ashleigh and Maura, at the Lake Country Art Gallery which was successful, with all our pieces working together very cohesively.

I was thrilled at the chance to exhibit at the Kelowna Art Gallery, alongside my artist friends, for ‘Storytellers’.

Do you feel being included in exhibitions like this is important/helpful to you and your career, and why?

I think my photographic abilities enable me to create commercial work, but I think at the core of my photos and my work, are more artistic intentions and, with that being said, I think being able to exhibit my work is actually essential for where I’m headed with my career. Although, I’m not entirely sure where that is specifically, I’m an artist who enjoys the ability to create freely and would love to continue to contribute to the world of art.

I love to inspire. Exhibiting helps make that possible on a larger scale. Sharing work online is cool and of course makes it accessible to everyone, anywhere in the world, but there’s something really different about seeing a tangible copy of your work actually displayed in a gallery space. Ironically, it feels even more surreal.

What is your favorite part about being a photographer?

One of the things I enjoy most, as a photographer, is being able to partake in creative play.

I think photography is a fun way to learn how to say things and to capture the world around you. I love being able to experiment with perspective and break photographic “rules”.

I enjoy having the freedom to be able to say whatever I feel like I want to say in my work, and to give the world a glimpse into my own emotional state without fearing my own vulnerability.

What is the most challenging?

The most challenging thing to me, has been figuring out how to work with my own cycles of inspiration. Being able to accept the periods of time where I’m uninspired as just part of the process of being inspired.

Do you have something that you always set out to do with your photographic work? Your ‘mission statement’ as it were?

One of the most gratifying things about art, to me, is its ability to take me ‘Ailleurs’ – a French word, meaning ‘Elsewhere’, that has resonated with me for years and is central to all my creative pursuits.

Through photography, I aim to create an immersive experience for viewers to lose, and also find themselves within.

What tips or advice would you give to students currently in CAT’s Digital Photography program?

Enjoy and cherish every moment of it. My CAT experience was unlike any other; challenging as it was, it really helped me grow into the artist I am.

This is also a time where you will really get to explore your own intentions as a photographer and what you actually enjoy, so it’s a really good opportunity to experiment.

Outside of the difficult assignments and schedules, really challenge your own self. You will get the best out of your CAT experience if you challenge your own beliefs, ideas, ability.

Something that stuck with me throughout the year was “what you give is what you’re going to get.” That’s something Grant Robinson had said at the beginning of the school year which I later found to be very accurate. And another major advantage is your resources. The CAT community is extremely supportive and literally everyone there is rooting for you; don’t hesitate to ask for help or ask questions.



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