PROFile: Sarah Bezan

English Instructor

Sarah Bezan is an instructor, and she’s currently teaching an English 1A course called Animal Metamorphosis in Fiction at the University of Winnipeg.

Bezan says she just defended her PhD at the end of September and will soon be graduating. She’s also recently been selected for a Newton International Fellowship, which provides funding for two years of work at a variety of institutions, like the Sheffields Animal Studies Research Centre, in the United Kingdom.

“The Newton International Fellowship is a huge surprise. The success rate is less than one per cent for students applying directly from graduate school … So I did not expect that to happen at all,” she says.

Bezan says she’ll be going to Sheffield in January where she’ll do research on paleoart and thinking about paleoart in a time of ecological crisis. Paleoart refers to any artistic representation of a prehistoric organism or environment.

Two summers ago, Bezan went on a paleo dig in Morden, Man., where she and her tour guide found bones of a mosasaur. She started thinking about how people went from digging up bones to visually representing the creatures.

She found the work of Julius Csotonyi, a paleoartist, in the museum and got interested in the history of paleoart and how humans have a relationship with the world.

“We kind of think we’re the centre of all things. When we’re confronted with information where there’s millions of years of evolutionary history that precedes us, and that we’re just kind of like a blink, it makes us realize we’re decentered,” she says.

Bezan notes the 21st century paleoart is a bit self-reflective.

“Julius Csotonyi took a photograph that Scott Persons (a paleontologist from the University of Alberta) had taken of himself out in the field digging, and he superimposed that image onto the eye of a dinosaur,” she says. “So you can see the paleontologist reflected in the eye of the dinosaur. I found that juxtaposition really interesting.”

Q&A

What’s your favourite thing about yourself? I guess I’m an industrious person. I grew up on a farm in rural Saskatchewan, so I spent a lot of time doing farm chores. And I think, ever since, I have this drive to do things, and I do a lot of stuff. I’ve tried to focus on what I like doing and what I don’t like doing. I work hard, but I try to be strategic about how I work hard, so I don’t burn myself out.

What’s something you like to do in your spare time? I really love arranging flowers, and that’s something I typically do for family and friends. I’m so excited for Christmas holidays coming up, because I usually forego the tree and that whole thing, and I usually just buy a whole bunch of Christmas greens, and I break them down into different arrangements and just put them all over my house and give them away to people. That’s my creative outlet.

If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Maybe like time travel, because I’m so interested in mortality, I don’t think I want immortality … but I do think it would be cool to live multiple lives and to have a memory of all those different lives.

Published in Volume 72, Number 10 of The Uniter (November 16, 2017)

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