Val Magarian is a painter and animator living in Kitchener, Ontario, in Canada. She grew up in the Utah desert, coastal California, and the highlands of Guatemala. Her work explores the people and places she knows best, as well as the strange twists and turns that bring people together. Her recent animation, Elizabeth Sees, received numerous awards on the festival circuit and was made possible with grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and Ontario Arts Council. Val holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and works as an educator at the Guggenheim Museum in New York City. 


Artist Statement

My artwork begins with the places and people I know well. Many of my paintings show Utah and Guatemala, where I grew up. My animation, Elizabeth Sees, now on the festival circuit, is inspired by my Aunt Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is legally blind but has a small pinhole of vision. She will look at you, and only see one facial feature at a time. She will also ask to draw you, focusing on each little piece until she has a miniature version that she can see. Or she will gaze through her camera’s viewfinder, taking in the scene as a tiny picture.

In my studio I also play with focus, shifting between small fascinating details and the bigger picture. In my paintings I may clearly show a hand gesture or a hair-do, yet leave the larger picture mysterious. Viewers wonder, what sport are they playing? What genders are the people in the picture? In my previous animation collection, Blips and Hiccups, I also played with small pieces; Each animation was intriguing and short (under one minute) and hinted at a longer story.

I believe we all perceive similarly to Elizabeth: We can only see what is in our field of vision, and we can only understand small pieces of a big world. For some, this is a sobering thought. But this is what inspires me- the human drive to see and understand. So in my artwork I celebrate mystery and the process of a bigger picture coming into focus.