Meet some of our favourite local multi-hyphenate-artists

Calgary’s arts scene is vibrant because of the people doing interesting things here. These three multi-disciplinary artists share their thoughts on their practice and the city.

Jon Lowenstein

National Geographic Explorer, Guggenheim Fellow in Photography, TED Senior Fellow, Nikon Ambassador, Jon Lowenstein now calls Calgary home. Lowenstein has pursued a longstanding commitment to social narratives through ethical community engagement. Through a combination of filmmaking, photography, experiential writing and personal testimonials, he strives for unsparing clarity by revealing subjects who aren’t seen.

Lowenstein’s aesthetic reflects a unique conversation between himself and his community.

In partnership with local community, Lowenstein is producing a new portfolio with regional resonance.

Q: What does it mean to be active in your field?

A: I am interested in telling powerful stories that move people to think and question their world. I think collaboration with people over time and allowing it to happen naturally is really important. Having them participate in the experience and the process and how they want to show themselves — it allows for that real collaboration and agency and voice.

Q: Can you share some of your inspirations and influences?

A: Fracisco Goya, from an early age — Disasters of War changed the way I saw. Gordon Parks,Richard Avedon, and Diane Arbus. My mom gave me a book of Diane Arbus’ work when I was 11. James Van Der Zee ran a portrait studio in Harlem during the Harlem Renaissance. He photographed everyday people in his studio and documented that time. Those early influences of photography stayed with my processes and imprinted on me in a weird way — like this combination of being an outsider, an insider, and part of the community.

Q: Can you bring our attention to any artists in your field?

A: Mitra Samavaki — She is an Iranian visual artist based in Calgary, who recently completed her Master of Fine Arts in Photography from University of Calgary. She’s doing a really interesting piece about “home,” and a sense of loss of home as she has migrated and what that feels like — really evocative photographs. 

Han Sungpil — he is a really accomplished photographer. 

[TrépanierBaer Gallery exhibits Sungpil’s work; the gallery website notes he is, “A nomadic artist, Han Sungpil has travelled the world to discover, rediscover, and present the unknown or the misunderstood.”)

Kris Demeanour

Kris Demeanor was Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. He is a Calgary-based singer/songwriter/spoken word/performance artist who explores and exposes Western culture. With a patented rapid-fire spoken style, he doesn’t mince words. Demeanor released his 8th studio album in March on all streaming services. “Songs for my Father to Fall Asleep to,” is a hairpin turn toward something bordering joy, laughter and teardrops. From May 22 to June 1, Demeanor is performing in One Yellow Rabbit’s Dream Machine. 

Q: What does it mean to be active in your field?

A: I’m a jack-of-all-arts, so the “field” is a soccer pitch, a badminton court and a garage with a ping-pong table in it. Whether it’s writing songs in the basement by the space heater with no audience in mind, leading a project like “Songs for my Father to Fall Asleep To” and hiring my favourite singers and players, or being a happy cog in a theatre or film production’s grand vision, once you’ve given in to life as a professional wordsmith, the river rages in wonderfully unpredictable directions.

Q: Can you share some of your inspirations
and influences?

A: My father, Wilfried Wenzel, loved the artistic process as much as the end result. He’d often display his work outdoors where it was transformed by the elements, so the art evolved over time in collaboration with nature. I approach all my work with this playful spirit. 

My songwriting peers are my heroes and occupy an impossibly long list: Carolyn Mark, Rae Spoon, Geoff Berner, Mark David Stewart, Keri Latimer, Kim Barlow, Hank Pine. Please look them up,
and listen.

Fiction writers Deborah Willis (Girlfriend on Mars) and Suzette Mayr (Sleeping Car Porter) are on the bedside table now, and inspire me toward diving deep and being bold.

Q: Can you bring our attention to any artists in your field?

A: Ella Jean Haggis is an extraordinary multi-genre performer, singer and multi-instrumentalist who makes me feel the future of songwriting is in good hands. Her latest recording “Stay Calm until the Ambulance Arrives” is on Bandcamp.

Miranda Martini – I worked with her on Cheryl Foggo’s play “John Ware Re-Imagined,” and she writes songs that smash your heart then resuscitate it all in three minutes. 

Cedric Lightning is a 28-year-old Stoney Nakoda drummer and singer who conjures powerful melodies and lyrics from a deep well of wisdom. He’ll be a key participant in Ghost River Theatre’s “Sound Bath” project in 2024/25.

Marigold Santos

Marigold Santos pursues a lively inter-disciplinary art practice involving drawn, painted, and printed works, sculpture, tattooing and sound. Her exploration of self-hood and identity embraces multiplicity, fragmentation and empowerment, as informed by diasporic experiences. As a recipient of grants from the Canada Council for the Arts, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, she exhibits widely across Canada. 

Q: What does it mean to be active in your field?

A: I’m grateful to have viewership of my work through exhibitions at the galleries I work with (Norberg Hall and Patel Brown) and other institutions and independent projects. Having deadlines keeps me busy and committed to my time in the studio … as well as honouring my personal labour and my needs by giving myself the time and space to meander creatively or just get in deep work mode. I also place so much value in the connections I make with my arts community and my peers. 

Q: Can you share some of your inspirations and influences?

A: There is a throughline in my work that involves explorations in diasporic experiences, heritage and multifarious selfhoods. But so much of what fuels these explorations comes from my day-to-day interactions and what I experience as a mother. Lately I’ve been on a parallel path of learning and wonder as my toddler, specifically finding that I am just as excited as he is about the natural world we are introducing him to. I’ve been researching plant life and various oceanic creatures, whose existence requires an incredible sense survival and otherworldliness. 

Q: Can you bring our attention to any artists in your field?

A: Sri Lankan-born artist Rajni Perera is an incredible multidisciplinary artist who I will have the pleasure of collaborating again with and exhibiting alongside at the Fondation Phi in Montreal this spring. Her works range from meticulously detailed mixed media drawings and paintings to larger-than-life sculptures that feature surreal figures in surreal gestures that hold you with their ingenuity and boldness. 

Another artist I admire is Thea Yabut, based in Montreal. Her work ranges from drawings on paper to organic sculptural wall reliefs consisting of paper pulp material and metals. You can view her work this fall at Norberg Hall, where we will be exhibiting alongside each other.