Big breaths

"The idea of looking at being young and immigrating and the idea of loss for me is really pretty big."

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"I wasn't expecting it—it was a fine group of individuals on the short list with me. They're all really, really good artists and they all make really good work," says the modest winner of this year's Nova Scotia Masterworks Award, Glynis Humphrey. Indeed, the artist was in fine company with short-listers Georgette LeBlanc, Lorraine Field, Elizabeth Goluch and John Little.

"I've always been a little on the outside, I feel, but maybe that's not necessarily true—it's that F-word, the feminist word. It often scares people off," Humphrey laughs. Not so. Her exhibition Breathing Under Water at MSVU Gallery last spring still resonates as a favourite. Confronting a lifelong fear of water and addressing the natural body shape of a middle-aged woman through video projections and giant audio balloons which emanate body sounds—pulsing heartbeats, breathing diaphragms—Humphrey says she was shocked at vistors' positive reactions, in particular when it appeared in a Montreal storefront and was declared one of the best exhibitions of the year by the Mirror. She says, "Once it's made, it's in the public's hands, whatever they bring to it. I'm really interested in work that affects you in an emotional and in a body-centric kind of way. I can intellectualize things to death—issues around embodiment are huge—but I want people to be able to access the work."

With the $25,000 award, Humphrey is planning on travelling and doing research—something that she hasn't been able to do so far. In particular, she wants to visit Great Britain, where she lived until she was 10. "The idea of looking at being young and immigrating and the idea of loss for me is really pretty big."

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