Art history student takes art to the streets under pseudonym Sloast

Instead of hibernating in McLennan, the student artist known as Sloast has spent her graduating year steadily building up a fan base. With 1,300 Instagram followers, her support  is strong and growing. She was featured in The Market Cooperative in the Students’ Society McGill University’s (SSMU) ballroom where she first started selling her artwork, and her stickers can be seen floating across laptops on campus. She was even contacted by the University College London (UCL) to participate in their “Homeless Period Project,” an organization that provides impoverished individuals with access to sanitary products. Despite this growing notoriety, Sloast remains relatively anonymous and chose to omit her real name for this interview. 

While her artwork is scrawled across Montreal’s walls, signs, and street posts, Sloast is first and foremost a student, on the verge of recieving her degree in Art History. 

Apart from a professor who allowed to submit a painting in place of a final essay, Sloast creates mostly outside of the classroom. She experiments with a myriad of mediums, including painting, drawing, and printing stickers. Particularly interesting is her venture into street art. 

“You don’t have to be anyone to do street art—you just have to go and do it. It’s very opportunistic, and very democratic,” she explained. 

While she reveres the art form, she also recognizes the ways in which it is problematic.

“Street art is a process of gentrification,” she said. “It’s a way to bring tourists into the city, and raise rent prices. It brings the elitism of the gallery into the streets. The city pays for the murals to be here. Street art is supposed to be subversive, but how can it be subversive if the city wants it here?”

Insightful and self-aware, this criticism extends to her own privileged position, one that she readily acknowleges. Sloast describes the financial and emotional support her parents have given her as invaluable, and is cognizant of the advantages her privelege affords her. 

“I’ve never had an issue with the cops, and being white has helped with that,” she explained.  “I’m not seen as threatening.”

 Sloast’s mindfulness is a driving creative force. While not overtly political, her pieces are a reaction to a long precedent of white, male artists—a history she has studied throughout her degree. Her tag, “Eye see you,” gives women agency. 

“It is an active female gaze,” Sloast said. 

Sloast’s work is broadly influenced by feminism, spirituality, and the natural world, and she finds a nexus between these themes both aesthetically and thematically. Her pieces blend together inorganic pinks, purples, and blues in psychedelic patterns, sometimes incorporating a woman’s face and body, other times merely abstract. At the moment, she looks to ecofeminism for inspiration. 

“I am interested in Mother Nature as a living entity,” Sloast mused. 

As she enters her final month of university, Sloast is overwhelmed by the onslaught of final essays and exams, just like her peers. However, she is also planning where the next phase of her creative journey will take her, looking to travel to São Paulo, Brazil to teach and make art. 

Despite the stress, Sloast looks forward to the creative freedom graduation will bring. 

“Art for me has been a great way to de-stress and relax, which makes it less statement or political based,” she explained. “I hope once I’m out of an academic mindset that I can [channel] that critical energy into my art, as opposed to my papers,”   

Hesitant to limit herself to a permanent address or profession, Sloast has not envisioned a concrete future for herself. Nonetheless, Sloast is ambitious and brave. Just as she has done throughout her years at McGill, she is likely to continue carving unique opportunities for herself. 

“I know if I keep working, more opportunities will come,” Sloast said. “I have a lot of faith and courage in myself.”

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