Sara Cwynar


  • Doors open at 6:00 p.m.
  • Artist talk begins at 6:30 p.m.
  • Mary Harris Auditorium on RMCAD’s Campus

This event has ended. Watch the recording below!

Students should download the RMCAD App prior to attending to get credit for their participation.


Sara Cwynar will discuss the role of kitsch and politics in forming a shared worldview through familiar images. She will look at design and popular imagery – a set of shared and repeated images and collective ideas that reflect the world to us in books, advertisements, on billboards, and increasingly on the internet. These types of images form a sort of public or shared archive that is common and copious, at least in a western context. Through several book, photography, and film projects, Cwynar will explore how the pattern of these types of images worm their way into our heads and shape our lives, our ideas about ourselves, and our history in ways we may not be able to recognize or think about on a day to day basis. She will also parse notions of value in this context, considering which images and ideas seem important for the long term and which have a brief life before they fade from view.


Sara Cwynar’s composite photographs of found objects and images court feelings of time passing. Using studio sets, collage, and re-photography, she produces intricate tableaux that draw from magazine advertisements, postcards, or catalogs. The artist is interested in how design and popular images work on our psyches and how their visual strategies infiltrate our consciousness. In her book, Kitsch Encyclopedia (2013), she considers how familiar, sentimental images smooth over unpleasant realities to cover up “the systems of control embedded within our social, economic, and political lives.”

Among her key works are sculptural constructions that are photographed, printed, tiled, and re-photographed; images taken from darkroom manuals that are deconstructed using a scanner; and stock photographs that are collaged by hand and then re-photographed. Cwynar’s process is, in a sense, circular: she begins and finishes with a photograph after a journey of intervention and manipulation that disrupts the smooth surface and perspective of the original.

Cwynar was born in Vancouver, BC, Canada and currently lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. She holds an MFA from Yale University; a Bachelor of Design from York University, Toronto, ON; and studied English Literature at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada.

Exhibitions of her work include The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, the Milwaukee Museum of Art, the Minneapolis Institute of Art, Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil, “Greater New York,” MoMA PS1, and Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, NY. In 2019 MoMA commissioned Cwynar to make a series of films that stream on the Museum’s website and social media platforms.

Cwynar’s works are in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum, New York; MMK Museum für Moderne Kunst, Frankfurt; SFMOMA, San Francisco; Centre Pompidou, Paris; Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Minneapolis Institute of Art; Dallas Museum of Art; Milwaukee Art Museum; Fondazione Prada, Milan; Kadist Art Foundation, San Francisco; Zabludowicz Collection, London; Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City; FOAM Photography Museum, Amsterdam.

Learn about Cwynar’s recent video project with The Museum of Modern Art here.

Next Day Q+A Lunch with Sara Cwynar

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
11:45 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

RMCAD faculty, staff, and students are invited to join the VASD Program and artist Sara Cwynar for a casual Q+A session over lunch. This intimate gathering provides an opportunity to further discuss the ideas presented in the previous night’s artist talk and engage with our special guest. A light lunch will be provided.

Studio Visits with Sara Cwynar

Wednesday, November 13, 2019
Various locations

Request a Studio Visit >

Sara Cwynar will conduct one-on-one, 30-minute studio visits with RMCAD students. All RMCAD students from all academic departments are welcome to participate. You do not need to have a studio in Spivak to participate.

Submissions are due by Wednesday, November 6, 2019. The VASD Program Committee will review submissions and selected students will be notified by Friday, November 8, 2019. VASD Program Committee will review submissions and selected students will be notified.

Please contact Tobias Fike at with any questions.

Available Time Slots
9:40am – 10:10am Studio visit #1
10:20am – 10:50am Studio visit #2
11:00am – 11:30am Studio visit #3
1:00pm – 1:30pm Studio visit #4
1:40pm – 2:10pm Studio visit #5
2:20pm – 2:50pm Studio visit #6
3:00pm – 3:30pm Studio visit #7

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