NAC Member of the Moment / Katie Mazi

Katie Mazi is an interdisciplinary artist based in the Niagara region. Her installation work immerses viewers into subversive domestic environments, while her photos illustrate vivid and deceptive scenes. She also uses painting and drawing to communicate fluid and immediate ideas. Mazi is most interested in using everyday objects to represent the absurdity of human behaviour, especially in relationship to non-human animals and the natural world.

To see more work visit:


  1. When did you become a NAC member and why?

I became a NAC member around 2014 while attending Brock for Visual Art because I quickly began to realize that if I wanted to start exhibiting my work, organizing my own shows & being a part of a larger arts community that this was an absolute must. The NAC offered a great space to do all of these things with just a yearly membership ($45)!

  1. Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?


  1. What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?

The best thing about being an artist in Niagara is that it doesn’t take long to get an overall impression of the community and the opportunities that are offered here, but in the same respect there are always new exciting things & artists emerging.

  1. Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.

There are just too many to name. But I guess if I had to choose in this moment, I would say Jenn Judson. Jenn is a great artist and has become one of my very good friends. We recently have started some collaborative projects and working with her is great!

  1. Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.

There have been lots of memorable NAC experiences. Shows run by the Brock Art Collective while I was in school, group exhibits, film screenings, music, dance parties! I would say the most recent stand-out events would be Small Feats 2017 and Daniel Romano’s Modern Pressure record release party.


  1. What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?

I think that becoming a NAC member is essential for all types of artists, art appreciators, or just anyone that generally likes cool and fun things. If you are attending Brock for Visual Arts, I am sure this will help you navigate as an emerging artist. It keeps you in the know for so many interesting happenings affiliated with NAC and other exciting things that go on in the Niagara community. Since becoming a NAC member I have planned/curated shows, my work has been included in numerous NAC shows, I have seen many fantastic shows, met lots of great artists and art appreciators and now I am renting the NAC studio space!

Become a NAC member and be part of the Niagara arts community in whatever way that suits you OR buy friends/family a membership if you’re already in. TODAY!

NAC Member of the Moment: Geoff Farnsworth

June is membership month at the Niagara Artists Centre. In our NAC Member of the Moment series, we ask NAC members about art in Niagara and the number one reason to join NAC. Artist and NAC board member Geoff Farnsworth tells us about the good tiiimes and being part of NAC’s shared studio / shop at 433 St. Paul Street.

Geoff’s paintings explore a relationship between figurative and abstraction in order to meld unconscious probing and stylistic innovation with a meditative figural base.  Geoff’s paintings work well as collections of shape, colour, texture, and energy, while also building a compelling image.  Working with people and motifs from his personal world, Geoff focusus continuously on maintaining a balance between plan and accident, known and unknown, restraint and exuberance.  His figures look out as much into mindscape as landscape.

Geoff’s paintings have been shown in New York City, Washington DC, Minneapolis, Toronto, Winnipeg, Calgary, the Niagara region, Thunder Bay, Vancouver, Sweden, Norway, and Trinidad.

When did you become a NAC member and why?
I became a NAC member 4 years ago because I HAD to in order to join the first NAC initiated communal studio. But glad I did with also getting into the know n’ flow of the local Niagara art scene. Goood tiiimes!

Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?
A flourishing art scene locally, with close access to Toronto and Buffalo. We are lucky with so many venues here now like NAC and the PAC, Brock and Niagara College, and the cafe and restaurant scene that’s helped with the confluence of a really vibrant and connected sharing of art, influence, and ideas.

Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.
William Griffiths, Chris Pew, Amber Lee Williams, Bruce Thompson, Shawn Serfas, and so many more.

Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.
Lots. But the big winner for me lately is the newly incarnated NAC-initiated communal art studio on the upper end of St. Paul: 14 artists working in the back, good energy, gallery space at street level shared with Roly Poly.

What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?
Membership really keeps you updated and invited to a lot of cool events and exhibitions where you meet many interesting artists, musicians, and arts appreciators. Really fleshes out the experience of this rad community. Super dope!

Sign up for your very own NAC membership online or stop by NAC at 354 St. Paul Street in St. Catharines during gallery hours to get your membership in person.


NAC Member of the Moment: JFM

JFM – looking for fun since ’81!

It’s membership month at the Niagara Artists Centre! In our NAC Member of the Moment series, we ask NAC members about art in Niagara and the number one reason to join NAC. Artist and NAC Studio Manager Jesse Frank Matthews tells us why he got involved with NAC and about some memorable NAC experiences

JFM is a sound and collage artist who recently moved back to the Niagara Region. He’ll playing THIS Saturday 10 June at NAC’s Summer Rooftop Kick Off Party. Check out his EP Return to the Garden City here.

1. When did you become a NAC member and why?

2000. Fresh outta high school, very confused and looking for like-minded weirdos.

2. Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?

I make collages of found materials, sometimes with paper but more often with sounds.

3. What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?

Since I returned to Niagara last year it has been the scents that inspire me the most.

4. Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.

Phyllis MacFrugal

5. Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.

Playing while on mushrooms with The Strag on Bond Street, sweating so much I couldn’t see.

6. What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?

See answer to answer to question 1.

RatTail ‘sicko
‘ladies night’ VHS treated by RatTail’s Jesse Frank Matthews

NAC Member of the Moment: Tamara Jensen

It’s membership month at the Niagara Artists Centre! In our NAC Member of the Moment series, we ask NAC members about art in Niagara and the number one reason to join the NAC. Artist and NAC board member Tamara Jensen tells us why she got involved with NAC and about some memorable NAC experiences.  

Tamara is a practicing visual artist and entrepreneur in St. Catharines, Ontario. Co-founder of pioneering gourmet food truck El Gastronomo Vagabundo, Tamara was an early adopter of mobile marketing tools and has become a leader in digital marketing strategy. Driven by a passion to help Niagara’s entrepreneurs succeed, Tamara is a Digital Strategist with Form & Affect, where she helps local and global brands gain traction through advanced digital media strategies. Tamara is a volunteer small business mentor with Futurpreneur Canada, and a Starter Company mentor with the St. Catharines Enterprise Centre. The painting studio above her garage is underused, but makes for a pretty nice place to nap.

When did you become a NAC member and why?
I signed up at Small Feats in 2015 because I wanted to be a part of the show in 2016. I had put my art practice on the back burner while starting up a business with my husband, so I thought it would be a good reason to dust off my paint brushes.

Are you an artist, an art appreciator or both?

What’s the best thing about being an artist in Niagara?
The art community here is very welcoming and inclusive; from students to dabblers to professionals, I’ve found the Niagara art scene to be humble and supportive.

Name a Niagara artist whose work knocks your socks off.
I want to be Mel MacDonald when I grow up.

Tell us about a memorable NAC experience.
So many! All of the Strutt / Voix de Ville performances; a fire-swallowing magician entertaining guests at a NAC fundraiser at Kwong Chow; the mad rush of Small Feats VIP previews….

What’s the number one reason to become a NAC member?
You get the inside scoop on all of the amazing events, shows, and exhibits that are going on in Niagara, all while supporting one of the oldest artist-run centres in Canada!

Sign up for your very own NAC membership online or stop by NAC at 354 St. Paul Street in St. Catharines during gallery hours to get your membership in person.


Governor General Awards NAC Artists!

Governor General Awards NAC Artists!

If you want to see the best visual and media artists in the nation, you need look no further than your down-home Artist-run Centre, NAC.

The Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Awards were announced on 15 February. Of the eight individuals awarded, two were good friends of NAC and recent exhibitors at our centre. For the quantitatively inclined that’s an astonishing 25%, or one quarter, of this year’s winners connected to NAC!

Congratulations to Shelley Niro and Mike Hoolboom. Videos about these whip-smart artists and kind-as-peach-pie people are on the Canada Council’s website right here. Congratulations to both, it’s well-earned and high time!

Keeping NAC Cool


In an effort to beat the heat, NAC will be closed for a few weeks beginning Thursday 2 February.
With remarkable foresight we’ll be closed for renovations during the winter doldrums so that an air conditioning system can be installed along with LED lighting and black out blinds for the Plate Glass Gallery.
These renovations are made possible thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation and support from our friends at Oast House Brewers.
NAC will officially reopen on Saturday 8 April with our annual Small Feats fundraiser and party. That’s a humdinger not to be missed.
Though we won’t be keeping regular gallery hours, the Plate Glass Gallery will remain open with work by Alex Fraser and Puppet-A-Go-Go, the Flea Market Gallery with work by Alicia Nauta, and other sporadic events peppered throughout the calendar including The Brock Art Collective’s annual exhibit in the Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery on Friday 24 February. (We’ll hold limited gallery hours the week of the show so you can check out Niagara’s latest crop of up and comers.)
As well, NAC will continue with its Film House programming at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. NAC’s Minister of Energy, Minds, and Resources will be moonlighting as DJ Awkward Mix in The Film House lobby on Wednesday 1 February and Saturday 11 February, playing country blues in advance of the I AM THE BLUES doc. Join us for a pre-show drink!
NAC’s board directors are also working out the details of our next culinary spectacular fundraiser to take place a little further down St. Paul at Bolete at the end of February. Tickets will go on sale next week.
And finally, we’re working away at NAC’s new STUDIO SHOP at 433 St. Paul and getting ready for a grand opening this March. Fifteen NAC Member artists have established studio spaces and storefront renovations to make the wildest retail space in town are well underway. 

If you need to get in touch with us, you can email or

Wish You Were Here / review by Bart Gazzola

Wish You Were Here: 23 Days at Sea
Review by Bart Gazzola for The Sound STC
December 2016

Many artworks employ an aesthetic of experience: intending to communicate the understanding of an event or occurrence that the artist has undergone / endured, or alternately that is worthy of recounting in a space of examination and consideration, like a collaborative act of remembrance. The current show at the Niagara Artists Centre, Chapter 1: Twenty-Three Days at Sea, is of that ilk.

The four artists that occupy the gallery space (Nour Bishouty, Christopher Boyne, Elisa Ferrari and Amaara Raheem) have a starting point that’s communal, but each brings their own understanding and history to this unique residency project. “Time stands still in travel” and thus we have slim vignettes of multiple intersecting experiences. Sometimes they overlap, and sometimes not.

Twenty-Three is a unique project. Its relevant not just for considering how a cultural space can continue to foster creativity amid the madness of late capitalist frenzies of Vancouver real estate. Access Gallery in that city is the genesis of not solely this exhibition, but several “chapters” to come.

It also disrupts assumptions about “place.” In the Canadian “narrative”, place taints everything conceptually. In the post colonial / post modernist / post factual world, it’s yet another means by which we de / construct experience…

The descriptor: “In December 2014, Access Gallery….issued a call for…a highly unconventional artist residency, offering selected emergent and experimental artists passage aboard cargo ships sailing from Vancouver to Shanghai. Crossing the Pacific Ocean takes approximately twenty-three days, during which time artists will be considered “in residence” aboard the vessel…two candidates [would] inaugurate this multi-year project by setting sail in late summer 2015. [What] we had initiated was not simply an artist residency, but a powerful framework through which to address the complexity of our contemporary condition. The cargo ship — sailing across a vast and “empty” space of the sea, nearly always invisible to those on shore and yet inextricably threaded through all our lives — seemed to offer a near bottomless container for the imagination, for narrative and for cultural critique.”

The gallery is divided foursquare with the artists’ respective works separated (almost like a map). Boyne’s delightful installation Geneva, immediately to your left as you enter the Showroom space, mirrors a far table of photographs (gloves are provided for your perusal of the stacks of  glossy, large prints) and objects, immersed in an overpowering, almost unpleasant audio fog, at the far end of the room, from Ferrari. Her works is Untitled (“To stay in the hold of the ship, despite my fantasies of flight”).

Boyne’s work has a guileless quality. Partly because his many “ships” and “nautical” objects, like a child’s field of toy soldiers, have a playful nature that invites handling. There’s a simplicity, a starkness, to Geneva (wood, paint, brass) that evokes a long trip across a vast expanse, the isolation and loneliness of this, the emptiness and the understandable joy when you recognize a fellow traveller, in another ship, that passes you on the waters. Some of the “ships” are delicate and detailed, others are rough facsimiles of “boat”, like with any act of travel or movement that is so vastly abstract that we need to incorporate it into our imagination to understand it. Colour is sparse here (blocks of orange, cones of dark blue) as most of the pieces are beige with a touch of detail, some easily fitting in your hand. Others are tiny and could be lost on the floor, like a drop in a wider ocean.

This minutiae, this construction of meaning through repetitions of small “pieces” (a visual diary) connects to the personal narratives of Amaara Raheem, from lists of items (titled Time, Body, Things) or her soft, watery video (titled submerged) that seems as self reflective as it is oddly ambiguous (is it swimming or drowning? Leaving or arriving, or simply in an interstitial space in between?).

The video projections of Nour Bishouty also engage in first person narratives, tales told. Her inkjet prints from the series Shifting Surfaces, however, are more immediately engaging: the monochromatic images are vague and abstracted, but lovely in their delicate white frames.
These are all “practices defined by a perceptible and sustained state of “seeking” bodies of work produced in response to their voyages, along with published reproductions of their logbooks kept while at sea.” These are interesting enough to peruse separate from the exhibition, or to skim before / after the gallery space.

The excessive, almost aurilly abusive pulse of noise in the back of the gallery, in Ferrari’s work, is an honest replication of her experience. It has the veracity of repeated violence: perhaps in that respect its most successful in small doses, and like much audio art, plays with pushing the comfort of the “listener,” but regrettably I’ve little desire to sift the images or handle the objects on the table while I also gain a headache.

Twenty-Three is an interesting response to an immediate reality: whether the displacement of cultural spaces in Vancouver, or a site that is often “outside” artistic consideration (Mandy Barber, a U.K. based artist once produced an entire series about “public spaces that are owned by no one”, and many of these were / are spaces of travelling). But as the first “chapter”, I look forward to future work produced through these residencies that evoke more interest and engagement.

<< This review first appeared in The Sound STC >>

EMERGENT ART / review by Barbara Bucknall

Review by Barbara Bucknall

When I look at the current show at NAC  by Justin  Pawson  and  Geoff   Farnsworth, the term “Emergent Art”,  which I found quite baffling when I first came across it, begins to make sense to me. These pictures seem to be emerging from the artists’ lower depths like improvised jazz pieces, without regard for standard categories such as “representational”, “abstract” or “surreal.” These categories are mixed.  The representational faces that look out at us from what seems like a rupture in an abstract surface, in Justin Pawson’s paintings, seem to belong to the world of fantasy and science fiction, and a very aggressive world at that. The titles are no particular help in identifying this world. Steve Remus compared them to the quite arbitrary titles attached to jazz pieces when I commented to him on this.

I think the picture by Justin Pawson I found most striking is “Babel” because the title is such an obvious non sequitur. When you hear the word “Babel” it is natural to think of the Tower of Babel, with the builders, stricken by God for attempting to reach the heavens, opening their mouths to offer incomprehensible fragments of speech, the languages having been divided. But the huge dark red face which dominates Justin’s painting is alone in quite a pleasant, appealing abstract area, with light, cheerful colors that in no way suggest Divine Retribution, while the mouth is tightly closed. It is such a severe face– my companion said it looked like Joseph Stalin–that it seems to be expressing condemnation rather than enduring it.

I said in my last Blog that Amber Lee Williams seemed to be engaging in soliloquy rather than inviting dialogue. Here we seem to be listening to two soliloquys harmonizing with each other. The comparison to jazz comes to mind again. Geoff’s paintings are less immediately self contradictory than Justin’s, but here too the line between abstract and representational is blurred, the two styles being broken into squiggly fragments, while the titles, such as “Amygdala Unit”, are equally disconcerting.

The one of Geoff’s I liked best was “Satori in Red and Blue”, which shows a male figure in a red coat and blue  boots standing in a snowy backyard.  The term “Satori”, which is applied to a sudden burst of consciousness after Zen meditation, seems appropriate, given the ordinariness of the scene.  “Before Enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.  After Enlightenment you chop wood and carry water.”  But for all I know, Geoff’s intention may be just to pull our legs.

But I now have another artist to mention. While I was viewing the above paintings at NAC  I was invited to step round the corner to Melanie MacDonald’s sale.  There I picked up the catalogue for her show “Scraps” at the Niagara Falls Art Museum, which I had unfortunately been unable to attend.  The introduction pointed out the sheer novelty of her completely unironic approach to the commercial art of an earlier time as it had been preserved in scrapbooks.  She really elaborates on that earlier vision on a very large scale.  This too can count as Emergent  Art because it is so surprising and unexpected, a completely new departure.

My final comment comes in the form of a poem I wrote some time ago about an experience of my own.


We come to the door and find it locked.

No answer to our call.

But picking the lock we think should present

No difficulty at all.

However if we with craft

And cunning machinery come

To pick the lock,

The intricate tool refuses,

The skilled electricity fuses

And we are forced to stop.

But then one day we are wandering,

Lost in a dream:

The door stands open wide.

Without volition

We find we have stepped inside

And gifts are in our hand.

The unknown glory lights unbidden

Our purpose and our land.

DISTANCE LENDS ENCHANTMENT, MAYBE / review by Barbara Bucknall

Review by Barbara Bucknall

As I consider  the recent Voix de Ville Extravagonzo and the present show at NAC by Amber Lee Williams, I am left with an impression of distancing.  The foreword by Steve Remus to the little brochure accompanying Extravagonzo talks of resisting attempts to possess and oppress us. In other words, the young people at NAC are Romantic rebels, committed to a work of liberation from prevailing accepted attitudes.

Part of this falls under the umbrella of atheism, which is what I cannot go along with.  When I was a student at Oxford in the1950s, obstructive, domineering authoritarianism was applied  by atheistic professors who disparaged and even persecuted the Christian creative thinkers J.R.R.Tolkien and C.S.Lewis. Consequently  I found the comedians in this show profoundly alienating.

I was not alienated, however, by most of this show, which I found fascinating and charming and above all surprising. I felt that I had somehow entered a stranger’s dream with all its bizarre twists and turns and sudden leaps of faith, without quite knowing how I got there or what prompted it.

The distancing in Amber  Lee  Williams’s show is rather different.  There is only our own movement, from one  part of her show to another, no sound and very little color.  We remain on the periphery of what Amber chooses to convey.

To begin with, she superimposes white scribbles on a series of commemorative photographs which explore identity by displacing it. Then we pass to a cluster of used tea bags. Then we are confronted with old children’s books which seem to be placed on a rustic base out in the country with twigs overhead. The pages have been  glued together and then perforated  to reveal photographs of the artist’s daughter and mother. This is followed by a solidified bag of baby socks and a series of photographs from a family album. Old and young, male and female, are pieced together and surrounded by a diaphanous watercolor haze.

Altogether we find ourselves listening to a soliloquy rather than being engaged in a  dialogue or swept along on a flood of eloquence. We may in fact be listening to a language spoken before we were born and to which we will return after death.  Amber’s show represents a challenge: a challenge to move out of our accustomed reality and cross a strange frontier.  This is very much in keeping with NAC principles.

The same challenge occurs, in a much more recognizable and welcoming way, in the puppet show in the NAC window, now in its third incarnation   Here we are presented with four tiers of puppets admiring a three ring circus, with a lion and his tamer on the middle level, acrobats above and merry and sad clowns below.  To me it came as a welcome return to my own highly peculiar brand of normality.

Voix de Ville Artist Spotlight

Voix de Ville Artist Spotlight
Lisa Renee McKenzie

NAC Member and textile artist Lisa Renee McKenzie is working with NACs creative team on the Voix de Ville extraordinary set, designed by visual artist Shary Boyle. Lisa answered a few questions about her favourite WTF moments and how she expects to get her mind blown this year!

  1. How many years have you been a part of NAC’s wearable art fiascos? And how have you contributed to the show in the past? 

I’ve been a part of NAC’s wearable art fiascos since…hmmmm, which was the one at the old bingo hall? I think it was six years ago? I did makeup for that one. And subsequent years following! And then, I think it was two years ago, I made the shows closer, the bride.

  1. Tell us a little bit about what you’re cooking up for this year’s extravagonzo.

I’m helping out with the stage treatment, so much colour and texture, I love the whole feel and vibe this year!

  1. As we evolve into Voix de Ville, what are you most looking forward to?

Very excited to see how the show plays out, see the differences from the runway show, I have a feeling this one is gonna BLOW OUR MINDS!!!

Also, BRUCE!!!!!!!

  1. Tell us your favourite WTF moment from STRUTT’s gone by.

THE DOUGH BOY. still one of my favourite pieces. And it was totally wtf.


Wearable Art by Lisa Renee McKenzie, 2013
Photo by Lauren Garbutt