The other week at an opening there were a number of you who said “I can feel the conflict between industry and nature in your work.” This, in its way, made me sad, for in making the work I felt a harmonious combining of the two.
But the artist makes only one half of the work. The rest is all you, and I am so privileged to learn your side. It lets me know who you are, the other, and how I can talk to you. To state your thoughts lets my work know you and dialogue back.
I noticed – hey – I know now what that person feels about industry/nature. My work asked them that question and I didn’t even know it. I thought I was trying to tell them something. But my work had other plans. It was curious.
A thing that comes up in my reading/listening a lot: the idea of making art based on questions, not answers. Answers and truths are illusory. This is a controversial stance. I’m not placing it as an argument but rather a hypothesis. In my experience, personal truths (are there other kinds?) are transitory.
Out in the people world, I find it difficult sometimes to talk to people about — people things. I’m not very good at it. I mean about families, spouses, heartbreaks, haircuts, injuries. These are relevant and important, but I am private in ways and just not very good at sharing back.
On the other hand, I am crazy to learn what projects/ideas/innovations/science/stories/techniques/places/spaces/perspectives/mind-tricks keep you awake at night. You know what? Sometimes its really hard to get people into those conversations. I learned a secret pass-phrase to get right in there, but some things are just tricky.
So I’ll get my art to do it. Then go places with it. It’ll be my wingman.
Hey guy, my art says. Quick, what do I make you think of? Wear it all over your face.
My time at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design is winding down. I’ve spent the last four years there: working, playing, becoming. It took me in, an emotional wreck, and spit me out a productive, contributing member of the community. Not to mention happy.
As a sort of homage, my first piece in our Graduate Studies show explores the idea of creativity. How we build it inside of us, like a little embryo. Not alone though, with lots of help from people who have practice.
This piece began life as a 3D model, then was printed in plastic. To make a pattern for the full-size textile version, I covered one of the petals with masking tape to steal the form, then blew up the resulting shape.
I find it hard to visualize three-dimensional space. When designing quilts, and other 2D creations, I rely heavily on digital software to help me see what is coming next. This allows me to easily test out composition and colour scheme before I start working in cloth. Without a similar aid, I felt at a bit of a deficit when I began working in sculpture.
Over the past term I’ve been dealing with this issue. I’ve just finished a course in 3D printing, which has taught me how to use digital modelling software, mainly Lightwave. I was amazed how easily you can place a sketch into the program as a backdrop and build out from it. I first tested this theory with a spaceship design my partner had drawn. I love collaboration.
It really seems to be a matter of getting into the zone and thinking about the screen as an open environment where you are actually manipulating 3D objects. Then you don’t have to worry about remembering sets of rules.
I started applying this to sculptures I was planning almost right away. The following three will be created in cloth and plant over the next month.
I’ve found it really helpful to be able to tweak composition ahead of time, and see it from all angles. I am interested to see what impact this has on the finished creations.
We learned a little animation too, and though I don’t find it as applicable to my work, I can see definite possibilities for working out kinetic sculpture, internal and external lighting, and design proposals.
The funnest part is that I got to 3D print one of my objects! I can’t really describe what it is like to build something in the computer, and then have it in your hand. The difference between working digitally or in reality seems almost negligible.
All of our technology comes from nature. Not only did we creatures build it, but we would be silly to think we are inspired by something other than natural processes. The more we learn about how biology and biosphere work, the more our own advances look like an homage.
My challenge is to show this back and forth in a collection of silk wall quilts. I will borrow inspiration from Saint John architecture, and unlike some of my previous quilts, these will not just be the buildings. These buildings will be overwritten by their naturally occurring counterparts.
I chose Saint John because of the breakdown, a sort of reversion to something less strict and geometric.
And then I thought, what about the other side of this coin? Don’t we transform nature into architecture?
These views of New Hampshire are begging to morph into buildings and cities.
I wonder where we draw the lines between technology and nature. At first glance it seems pretty easy to make the distinction between what is made and what simply occurs.
But does anything simply occur? Organisms evolve to adapt to niches put in place by other organisms, and all species have been forced to adapt to the overwhelming changes we’ve made to this planet. We make and change things because of evolved tendencies in our brains. So then maybe everything simply occurs.
The lines get blurry when you put your thinking goggles on. Where do you place the line?
I have to say this one is my favourite. It went along swimmingly at every stage. My first step was to draw the dress design, then create a life-size paper mock-up. You can see them side by side:
The next step was to make this into a pattern. I chopped up the mock-up and recreated it with layers of cotton and interfacing.
But I didn’t use just any cotton. These patterns I digitally designed using close-up scans of leaves. The day they arrived from Spoonflower and I opened up the package: magical.
The next piece in the collection is Nymph, the juvenile insect. It is very closely inspired by the stunning patterns of the dragonfly larva, as seen in the charming book “Zoom in on Nature”:
Each piece of the carapace is separate and self-contained, so that they overlap like armour. Once they were all machine stitched into plates I pinned them on the dressform using my meticulous photo-records:
I hand sewed them all to each other. It was at this point I realized two things: I am really glad I didn’t make this out of stiffer cloth, and I really really need to buy a thimble. Stabbed fingers aside, I love the control of hand sewing, and it went along a lot quicker than I had imagined. I wouldn’t begin to know how to accomplish this on a machine.
If you didn’t get to see this lovely lady in Saint John, she will be making an appearance in Fredericton! I have the luck of taking part in the bi-annual show for the Textile Dept. at the NB College of Craft and Design. A lot of really incredible designers come out of there every year, you don’t want to miss it. Check out the last one if you don’t believe me!
See you at the opening in The Gallery at NBCCD tomorrow evening (Feb 6) at 4:30 – 6pm.
Thank you to everyone who came out on a cold evening to share the opening! It was so interesting to see each person interact with the work, each relating more strongly to a different piece.
Because a photo can only say so much, you have one month to make it down to the lovely Charlotte Street Arts Centre. I’d love to hear your own response to the work. Please respect the brave individuals pictured here; if you recognize a face, don’t share their name.
This Friday will mark the opening of my first solo show, CONSUME, at the Charlotte Street Arts Centre in Fredericton. It is a portrait series discussing the power of addiction to usurp identity. This subject is very personal to me, and I suspect to everyone.
This project, though serious in nature, was a fun experiment in material usage, and I learned a ton. The repetition of motion was quite meditative and gave me a chance to reflect on the premise. Here are some examples of the many materials used, to give you a tiny taste of what you might see at the show!
Interest piqued? Stop in 5:30 – 7:00 on Friday to see the work, enjoy drinks and snacks and conversation. For more info see the Facebook event, or the article in the Here magazine tomorrow!
Thank you to everyone who participated in this show; those who supported this work and its exhibition; those who have expressed their interest and perspectives on addiction; and those who bravely agreed to lend their face.
Somewhere along my journey I realized glee and wonder are not merely childish, but the mark of a well-nourished adult. In fact, the word “silly” originally meant happy or blessed. In our world of logic and profound detachment, this is a fact we would do well to remember. But fear not, it is plenty easy to turn up the wonder in your life. Paying attention, shutting up for a while in your head and just paying attention, that’s all it takes. Bright clothing helps too. In honour of silliness, and also dinosaurs (which fill me full of wonder every time), I have created a spring jumper. It started with a line sketch, and then a tesselation. These are very fun very meticulous patterns where all the negative space is filled with motif, no spaces between them. Think Escher with his birds and fish.
Then I sent it off to Spoonflower and they printed me a couple yards on cotton. Nothing more satisfying than having something you made on a computer arrive in the mail. Talk about the future.
I designed this little dress jumper, half inspired by Margaery’s dress, and half inspired by tattered caveman clothing. Mocked it up first, which I can’t recommend enough, especially in the case of special fabric. I’m not supposed to use pretty fabric on a sample but I couldn’t help myself. Everything was mostly okay but there were some changes to be made to the hip shape.
I sewed it all up with a co-ordinating cotton lining. It was a little tricky figuring out how to sew this up correctly. A lot of pinning and unpinning, and stogging of pieces inside other pieces. But it all came together nicely and I will never again forget how to line a jumper. If you need help let me know! Along the bottom I followed the line of the pattern to get that jaggedy caveman feel. Boning was fed in all along the collar so it would have some substance. The result is pretty pleasing and even a little joyous.
And, suprise! It’s completely reversible. The inside looks like one of them rocket pops from my childhood.
Spring fashion advice: find yourself a pretty dress, and don’t listen to anyone else’s idea of pretty.
I just submitted a few pieces to an open call for artists who have lived with mental illness. Having had some experience in that area, I felt compelled to contribute. Never mind that I saw the call on Monday and were due Saturday. I pulled it together just in time.The project is called Mindscapes New Brunswick, and is a yearly exhibit. This year it will be in Bathurst, NB. A place I’ve never been but it sure looks pretty.
I originally had aspirations of making something specifically for it, but when I started going through my old work, I realized I had a number of suitable candidates. More than suitable, even, because they dealt directly with my mental health problems/solutions.
This submission was a surprisingly engaging process. I was combing through my artwork for pieces that spoke to my mental ecosystem. How often do we organize our work by concept? It was enlightening.
It has made me want to categorize ALL of my work by idea. In this world where specialization seems to be the way to make a living, I feel constant pressure to identify my “area of interest”. But there are so many, and it hurts me where my tears grow when I think of giving up some interests for the sake of only one.
However, it might be nice to see what patterns have developed on their own. What sort of direction I am heading with certain topics. That kind of thing. Constructive categorization. I believe the study of oneself is integral to mental health.
I have long been thinking about making a private blog to store ideas. I would use a blog mainly for the ease of cross-referencing through categories and tags. My problem with the oodles of notebooks and ideas I have spilling out around the house is that I never go back to look at them. But the odd time that I do, I realize how many different directions each one could be taken. My ideas need to be under multiple headings at once, and most of all they need a search function.
Can you imagine a collective of everyone’s ideas in the whole world? Where you could be matched with people with similar ideas and borrow ideas as you pleased? What an innovative world that would be.
But I digress.
As part of the submission I wrote an artist statement that explained my history of mental illness and what part art plays in my life. It was interesting to take stock of how far I’ve come. It made me feel proud and sure of myself.
I’m feeling hesitation about putting the statement in this post. It seems overly personal, unprofessional. Somehow I feel it might make potential viewers think twice. But that just betrays how brainwashed I have been by society’s insistence that mental illness be hushed. That is what this exhibit is all about, open discussion on a difficult topic. And to be honest, if my humble trials and subsequent victories are enough to scare you away, adieu.
So here it is, my past, followed by the pieces I’ve submitted.
“For as long as I could remember, I hadn’t been capable of true involvement in my own life. It didn’t feel real, and so apathy was ever-present. This culminated in a deep paralyzing depression during my teenage years.
When I sought help, the offers I received were of antidepressants, to fix what I had considered a symptom. My body did not jive well with these drugs and I ended up trying many different kinds. Eventually one did seem to help. Unfortunately after taking it for a long time, I felt trapped by the emotionless state it imbued.
I decided I wanted to stop. Even with slow weaning I suffered withdrawals, namely the debilitating “brain zaps”, which are exactly what they sound like. Every day I removed one more tiny bead from the capsule, and at long last severed myself from this demanding drug.
It was an awakening. Having been numbed for so long, I had one of the more mentally tumultuous periods of my life. I wrote, I thought, I created art in swarms. One morning while staring at my ceiling fan, I came to a life-changing realization. In order to feel real, you have to push yourself into the world. Before that moment I had only tried to let the outside in. It has to be a two-way valve.
I believe art to be the act of putting your insides out. I try to engage myself and my viewer as much as possible by reaching for more challenging projects. There are no failures when your goal is to learn, and when I do have particular success I feel great pride in my ability to connect to the world outside.
These days I am learning to be a textile designer and mixed media artist at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. I have shown work at my college and in various group shows and art auctions, and have recently completed several commissions. I was the winner of the 2010 NBCCD Scholarship for highest GPA, and this year won the Nel Oudeman’s Scholarship for a promising art student. I am feeling mentally sound and most permanently curious.”
Piece #1 :
9.5″ x 12.5″ x 1.5″ (including frame). Mixed media sculpture pressed between glass. Includes marbles, beads, plastic canvas, acrylic gel, tubing, paper, plastic wrap, and glue. 2011.
This piece was created to soften the memory of an incident that happened several years ago. I had stomach problems from anxiety and needed a gastroscope. I was given something so that I wouldn’t remember the procedure, but it didn’t entirely work. I was aware but could not move or remember what was being done to me. It was a disturbing memory but by creating this piece I have taken away some of its impact.
Bit by bit
12″ x 25″ (including frame). Collage of magazine clippings and glue stick. 2008.
This is what I would consider my first true artwork. Around the time I found a helpful antidepressant, I started my first art class in high school. This is a self-portrait I created, demonstrating my feeling of hope. The blue circle in my abdomen references a meditation technique I found quite useful for anxiety and insomnia.
If Your Friends
12″ x 13.5″ (including mat). Letterform collage of magazine clippings and glue stick. 2010.
This piece is a good-humoured take on the act of following suit. For our own well-being we must all go our own way.
16” x 16”. Expandable soft book made of digitally printed cotton, fibrefill, polyester, embroidery floss, and metal snaps. 2012.
I believe the point of life is curiosity, creativity, and the forming of connections. In this piece I pay homage to all three. Each segment shows a different area of science. Counter-clockwise from the top we have quantum physics, chemistry, crystallography, genetics, biology, botany, neuroscience, and astrology. I have digitally constructed the pieces from scanned images of my pen drawings and acrylic paintings, as well as pages from a vintage science encyclopedia.
(I will go into more detail about this piece in another post)
Well that’s that. Quite a rewarding trip down memory lane. Wish me luck!