Sunday, November 22, 2020

The Mother The Child and Joyce Wieland

In 1988 I was part of a group exhibition in Thunder Bay Ontario at the Definitely Superior Gallery that was entitled See Jane Sew Strontium.  The gallery had invited Joyce Wieland to attend the opening and give an artist talk and also a workshop the following day.  

I lived in Kenora at the time (6 hours by winter highway from Thunder Bay) and after a lot of deliberation, decided that I couldn't justify leaving my young family to attend the events.  I can't remember the exact reason, it may have been weather.
My friend Barbara Sprague was also included in this exhibition, and she was making the trip from Kenora to Thunder Bay and I asked her to deliver a letter to Joyce Wieland for me.   The other day, I came across the draft of my letter in a 1988 journal and that prompted me to find the artwork from that exhibition and re-photograph it for this blog post. The title of the piece is The Mother The Child.  
Dear Ms Wieland

First of all, let me say that I feel very connected to you through your work.  I saw your quilt, Reason Over Passion, at the National Gallery and it made such an impression.  I remember standing in front of it in awe.  Your femaleness comes through and it is such a rich, womanly, femaleness.  There is so much about being a woman that I can feel in your work, be it quilt or painting.  And you have a wonderful wit.
Anyway, I'm very sorry that I cannot attend the workshop and meet you.  I had planned ot attending until last week.  There are a lot of reasons I guess, but the main ones are distance, winter, and the fact that I have four children, two of whom are under three years.  I know I'm not the only woman who has very little actual control of how her life is spent.   I would like to have seen the exhibition.  I've only seen Barbara's quilt.  I'd really like to know your reaction to my piece.  Please, if you do have any time that you could spare, I would very much appreciate a written note.
I've used some photos that my father took and developed.  They are of my brother, my sister and me.  There are several of me at age 15.  There are also photos of the farm where I grew up in Northwestern Ontario.  I feel that our childhood and childhood landscape are remain within us always.  I think that these things are our inner core, the 'batting' layer inside us.  The painted tree symbolizes both growth and woman's connection to nature while the self-portrait is the 'outer self''  that I present to the world today, that of the good mother.  The baby is looking outward, the mother in this drawing is hiding behind her child.  

Anyway, with this letter I feel that I've made some sort of contact with you.  I'm just sorry it's not in person.  I'll see you next time.  Sincerely, Judy Martin

Joyce Wieland answered me and I've saved the letter....but I can't remember where.  I think I should find it and frame it.  Joyce Wieland  1930 - 1998


  1. Although I can’t put my hands on the letter for this post, I do remember one of the things she noticed in my work. She said that she could feel my isolation.
    When I find the letter, I’ll come back here with a photo of it and well check the exact words. Xo

  2. Wow! I don't have enough words to say how much I love your piece and its story.

  3. From my archives, here is more information about See Jane Sew Strontium: An exhibition of Non-traditional quilts dedicated to Joyce Wieland. Feb 6 - March 6 1988 The reception for Joyce Wieland is 8 pm Saturday, Feb 6.

    See Jane Sew Strontium: another 'Canadian love, technology, leadership and art story' for Joyce Wieland

    See Jane Sew Strontium is an exhibition of non traditional quilt-like works, dedicated to the artist, Joyce Wieland. This exhibition was created to regionally illustrate the Canada presciently introduced by Ms. Wieland in her earlier works. The stitched and embroidered artworks that she commissioned to Canadian needlewomen are remembered as the unacknowledged creative strength of women engaged in what was known as domestic craft.
    The artists participating in this exhibition have approached individually the theme of a strong Jane (Canadian everywoman) making three-dimensional notations on their Canadian lives in the shadow of the historical presidential Tarzan. The exhibition de-mystifies the notion of the isolated north and uncovers each artists' perceptions of contemporary layerings...geographical, sexual, environmental, technological, racial.
    Eight artists (seven from Northwestern ontario, one invited from Southern Ontario as a toxic reference point, installed constructed artworks. Descriptions of works follows.

    Lynne Sharman, curator, See Jane Sew Strontium.

  4. List of the Eight Artists invited and the titles of their art pieces.

    Michael Belmore, Thunder Bay: Warning: May Contain Natural Fibres
    Rebecca Belmore, Thunder Bay: True Grit (a souvenir)
    Lori Gilbert, Thunder Bay: In Love and War, The Male Body is also not Invulnerable
    Catherine Julian, Port Dover: Tree of life with accompanying video
    Judy Martin, Kenora: The Mother / The Child
    Glenna McLeod, Thunder Bay: Window to the Past
    Barbara Sprague, Kenora: The Human Design
    Lynne Sharman, Thunder Bay: Great Lakes Atomic Quilt: confusing the desire to evolve with evolution

  5. Having trouble posting (new phone). I’m glad to have the extra information. I love the economy of line of the drawing - that little child’s hand! The mother seems protective of her child to me - but then motherhood is complicated...

  6. How wonderful to see this work of yours, my younger self really relates to the mother/child. Connection. I totally agree about "'batting' layer inside us"...our comfortable cores. Beautiful work Judy.

  7. With a full day away from a busy studio, I have this time to explore your recent posts, Judy, and went directly to Judy's Journal. I am so moved by your beautiful art. Somehow along the way, I missed your beautiful quilt and now have the story. Thank you for sharing, and need to do some serious study of Joyce Wieland.

    1. Thank you Bethany. Joyce Wieland was a pioneer in art quilting and one of my heroines. xoxo


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx