Tuesday, July 09, 2019

To move slowly alongside

The solitude and quiet emptiness that I find on Manitoulin continues to be very important to my development as an artist.  I intentionally withdraw from people and put a lot of time into my work.  I touch my work a lot as I stitch it.
My pieces are large and simple, which makes it easy for my viewer to enter them.  They are safe, calm places.   I consider them a gift and am generous with the labour I put into my work.
I am planning an installation that uses old wool blankets to make a monumental walk-through corridor.  The rock cuts along the new highway 400 are the inspiration for this new work.  In northern Ontario, large areas of the Canadian Shield have been sliced open by blasting and heavy equipment to reveal eons of time and layers of beautiful sediment and crystals and minerals.
From the speeding car, we are able to look with awe at these magnificent grand pieces of Canada.  Trees grow on top of some of them.  There is something spiritual within these rock cuts.  The car keeps on moving.
My installation of blankets will encourage people to walk slowly alongside at an intimate closeness to the work.   I hope that people will experience the scale and weight of the familiar wool fabric, with their bodies.  Yearning to touch but not touching, and somehow feeling some deep truth of lived emotions that are part of our human experience.
The installation will have two parts, each part made from two or three blankets sewn together and bordered top and bottom with still more blanket cloth.  One part is shown in this post, and it measures 14 feet wide and 10 feet high.  The nick name for this part is Ash and Rose.
Blankets are already full of human time before I work with them.  Generations of time.  The marks of those hands and bodies have left signs of wear and all I have done is add more time and touch with hand stitch.  Both sides.
Materials such as blankets that relate to our universal human experiences in bed where things like birth, death, power or lack of power, pain, comfort, protection, and sex happen, are powerful metaphors.  Making crafted objects from them is contemporary art.
I work with hand stitch and used domestic cloth.
I make hand made things that invite the use of all our senses, especially the sense of touch. 

Thursday, July 04, 2019

continuing on

 everything is so alive
there are many possibilities
 I added energy marks to my blanket piece over the weekend
 It was Canada Day and my sidekicks were with us at the cottage
April made daily sourdough
 I started again with the grey blanket
and the sky continued to hold the moon

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

mississippi valley textile museum

I went to Ottawa in the middle of June to visit Grace and April joined us from Toronto.
On the Saturday morning, we drove over to Almonte to see Tania Love's exhibition on its final day.
Besides Tania's beautiful mixed fibre pieces, I wanted to re-visit the interesting and challenging gallery space at the mississippi valley textile museum.
The Rosamond gallery is on the main floor of what used to be a textile mill.  The thick walls and original windows have an authentic presence.
I'm extra interested because Penny Berens and I will be opening our own two person show in this gallery space in 2021 and I felt a need to walk through it.   I love this gallery space and have visited several times, one of those is described here.
Tania's work is hung from the ceiling and we moved among the vertical shapes.  There was an amazing communication between the kozo paper hangings and the spirit of this place.
 Lots of space for Penny and I.
Pathways: pigment on mixed fibre 2019  Tanya Love
The curator installs every exhibition with great respect.  In this case, these lightweight paper hangings that remind us of water tumble from the ceiling in variety of placements.  They evoke the river that runs through Almonte, and the waterfall in the center of town.  This exhibition honours water, our precious natural resource.
 Even the floor inspires me.
pathways 2019  pigment on mixed fibre  2019   Tania Love
On July 13, Those of Us Still Living,  an exhibition of repurposed denim by Jim Arendt opens at the MVTM.   Jim won the first place award at Fiberart International last month.    

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

mystical landscape

go on
move forward
give myself to the open
 make my way without a map
 trust beyond measure
if something is to come, something sublime
it is through risk
leading no one knows where
because there are still flowers
there is the rose

the rose forever opening for the first and the last time
images of sky with many moons, wool, indigo, hand stitch, completed today,
text by Luce Irigaray
the title of the post is because I started reading Mystical Landscapes am filled with emotion by the words and images.        

Sunday, June 09, 2019

time is a beautiful whirl

Not To Know But To Go On by Judy Martin at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery 2013, Canada
Q:  Can you please describe how to do the couching technique that you use on your big journal-sculpture, Not To Know But To Go On.   Thank you.
Not To Know But To Go On at the World of Threads Festival 2014 Oakville Canada
Lately, I have received several emails with questions and this post contains a brief tutorial about the technique in Not To Know But To Go On, and also some exciting news about it. 
Not To Know But To Go On at Mary Black Gallery Halifax Canada with Penny Berens in exhibition Cloth of Time 2016
First the news:
Not To Know But To Go On is part of the new SAQA global exhibition, 3-D Expression.  This show opens in Grand Rapids Michigan in September and travels until 2023.  I shipped it to SAQA at the end of May.
Q:  What type of material do you couch onto?
 A:  I cut panels from artist cotton canvas to measure about 13" x 22", and then later stitched them together with cotton tape.

Q:  Are you using regular quilting fabric cut into strips?  If so, how wide?  Do you finish your edges?

A:  The type of fabric varies.  I use cotton quilting and dress-making fabric, linens, silks, polyester sheer fabric,  and re-purposed clothing. The fabrics were collected over my years of being a quilt maker and a mother, and I only used fabrics that I love.  I tear strips of the fabric about 3/4 inch wide and do not finish the edges.  Rather I roll it into itself and lay it on the base cloth. Once I decide on a piece of cloth, I use it all up.
I couch the cloth to the base with the thread in a wrapping stitch.  This stitch looks as good on the back as it does on the front.  (see below photo)
First and foremost, this is a piece about time, three years of time.  That’s 1068 days.
Q:  What kind of thread do you use?
A:   I use ordinary cotton embroidery floss.  One complete skein for each day all six strands at one time.  I closed my eyes when I chose the thread so that I would not select something to match the cloth.  I had to trust that the threads and the cloth would be OK.
It resembles a rag rug, and actually, I was inspired by the narrow Finnish rugs of my heritage, but it is hand stitched, not woven.
Q:  What is the difference between a couching stitch and a wrapping stitch?
A:  They are the same thing. 

Every day for three years I threaded my needle and attached the strips of cloth to the canvas with a wrapping stitch or couching stitch.  An extra benefit is that the wrapping gesture of this stitch is very meditative and healing to do.
Time is a beautiful whirl.  Time is both the subject and the main material in this piece.  Day after day, time rushes by no matter the family event or world crises.  Time is relentless, and we have to trust.  We have to go on.  It will be OK.

SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Association) has many global exhibitions touring at this time.
And wow, there is a call for all Canadian SAQA members.  Click here to read the Call for Entry.  

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Nadia Myre

This post is about Nadia Myre's exhibition Balancing Acts, now on at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto until mid-September.  Nadia Myre is of mixed Algonquin and French Canadian heritage.  In 2014 she won the Sobey award, Canada's $50,000 prize for artists under 40 years old.
Sharing Platform 2018  ceramic, various oxides, stainless stell thread  Nadia Myre
From a distance, the artwork in the above photo looks like an antique sweetgrass basket, but on closer examination the materials are like beads.  Maybe it was made by an indigionous woman from long ago, presented for us to admire in this respectful museum setting.  But the artist, Nadia Myre, has fooled us.  Although she is indigionous, the 'basket' is brand new, made in 2018, from ceramic copies of clay shards that the artist found on the banks of the Thames river in London, England.

When Europeans arrived in the New World in the 1600s, tobacco use became popular and clay tobacco pipes pre-stuffed with tobacco werer manufactured in London and Glasgow.    The pipe had a bowl and an elongated stem that was broken off in segments as the tobacco was smoked.  It is these shards and segments that were collected by the artist and her son.
The exhbition includes large-scale digital photographs such as the one above, entitled Code Switching: Pipe Beads (2017). 
Tobacco Barrel 2018  ceramic, oxides, stainless steel thread, Nadia Myre
Nadia Myre's deep respect or and committment to the act of making things by hand is evident as she explores the politics of identity and belonging through poetic, feminist backdrops of craft, care and resilience.  (wall text, textile museum of Canada)
In this body of work, she makes new objects and images that demonstrate how institutionalized archaelogical narratives can be easily destablized.   She also shows how museums simultaneously preserve and erase cultural context.
Besides the work with pipe beads, there are several large scale digital photos in the exhibition.  Above is Gathering Sky 2016, an image of a net superimposed over an atmospheric blue and white sky.  But sky is impossible to contain.   Click here for a pdf that will explain further about Nadia Myre's work.
Scarscapes 2  Time  seed beads and thread  Nadia Myre
Nadia Myre uses photographs, beadwork and textiles to represent human presence.

Between 2005 and 2013 Myre invited people to cut or tear and then mend their scars, both real and symbolic, on stretched canvas fabric and, as well, to write about these scars.  Over the 8 years, 1400 canvases and accompanying texts were created for this Scar Project.    As a follow up to that project, Myre made loom woven beadworks that isolated the most prevalent motifs: sorrow, love, healing and survival.  Scarscapes (2009) and Scarscapes 2 (2015) are in the current exhibition.
Scarscapes 2 2015  Mind  Loss  Time  Nadia Myre
human interaction
environmental change
cultural production
Meditation  (respite 01) 2017 digital print (above)  is a large scale photograph, the first thing the visitor sees upon entering the exhibition.  The size of the photo and the repetitive handwork depicted in it prepares the viewer for a contemplative experience in the rest of the exhibition.
I also want to mention a project not included in this exhibition, but that is an important work for Canada.  Between 1999 and 2002, Nadia Myre organized the Indian Act project, in which she enlisted over 230 friends, colleagues and strangers to help her bead over every word of the Indian Act.   Each English word was covered up with white beads, all negative spaces with red beads.  Very labour intensive, beautiful, and political, the beaded works call attention to that colonial legislation and  provide a step forward for social change.

Nadia Myre asks enduring questions around colonial legacies and I felt lucky to be able to view her new work.