Nova Scotia Artist of the Month: Sandy MacNeil


An interview with Sandy MacNeil

For Sandy MacNeil, art has always been a family affair. Growing up, she was surrounded by a family of artists and she met her husband of seventeen years, Joey Adrian Macneil, while completing her Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD). Now, the two art teachers run Studio Villa Nova in Dominion, Nova Scotia with the help of their two sons, the eldest of whom just turned five and enjoys sticker art, collage and finger painting.

The studio offers a wide range of services including a photography studio, darkroom, art gallery and art studio. Because both Sandy and her husband are teachers, summer tends to be their busiest season; they run art camps for kids throughout the break, and put on an annual community art show in August to showcase local work.

Though she grew up surrounded by artists, Sandy truly became interested in art when she was in high school. At age 14, she worked as a photographer's assistant in a darkroom, and it was there that she found a passion for photography. While working in the darkroom, her boss gifted her a photo enlarger, which she still has to this very day and now uses in her very own darkroom.

Fast forward a few years to high school graduation, and Sandy knew that she wanted to pursue art as a career, so she moved to Nova Scotia to attend NSCAD in 1996. After completing her degree, she took a year off to work before returning to complete her B.Ed as an art teacher. As she started on her journey to pursue art as a career, Sandy knew just how difficult it would be but she never strayed from her ambitions. She knew what she wanted to do from such a young age, and art has always been such a big part of her life that she says she “can’t picture life without it."

Sandy describes her own personal style as surrealistic and narrative based; she loves using art to create stories and scenarios, and has recently been experimenting with combining mediums. Something else she strives to do with her artwork is to explore the female identity. Visitors at Antigonight on September 16th had the chance to see some of her recent work live and in action through a collage and animation piece titled Call Me Girl. The piece used projected imagery on clothing using a collage style animation and the concept of paper dolls to explore gender identity, the role of family and different life transitions.

What inspires Sandy the most? Her husband. The two met in 1997 and have been together ever since. As a fellow artist, she says that her husband is always there to help her develop ideas and get her work out there. She also draws inspiration from a variety of surrealist works, as well as installation pieces. Above all else, she loves seeing how people interact with art.

Sandy concludes by sharing two pieces of advice for readers; the first, to find something you’re super passionate about, and that will drive and fuel you into the future. She also thinks that everyone should get involved with the arts in some shape or form whether that means taking a class, checking out a local gallery (like Studio Villa Nova, perhaps?), or simply playing around with some paint and a brush.