With the new directions my work has been taking lately mixed in with headlines talking about equality, I have been learning new things about my art and myself. There has been a close examination of these issues through the lens of being a woman, from being mixed race, from having interests that are predominantly male centric, from having chronic illness, and from a lack of institutional qualifications. A lot of who I am is just how I was born; I did not have the option to pick and choose my traits or much of my situation.
For a long time, I have regretted that I rarely fit neatly into institutions and established systems - my interests or background do not always dovetail nicely with the existing framework. With the exception of people on the inside with generous hearts taking me at face value and extending a hand of invitation, I find a lot of what I am interested in has been subject to knowledge gatekeepers or old fashioned notions of “it’s always been done this way” without the possibility of exploring the options.
Recently, I have been thinking about how I contribute even if I do not often have a set place at the table, the table being a metaphor for the way the art world has typically run. Slowly it has been dawning on me that my job with my art and as an instructor has been increasingly about building a new table. It is not refined table, just something makeshift. Like someone in their first apartment, the substance on this table can be meagre at times too – I have limits on what I can offer. The beauty of constructing it though is that everyone is welcome. Personally, I am often far more interested in who has never been to the table and why they want to be there. Yes, pull up a chair, you are welcome at this table.
Another thing I like about this table, is while I might make a space for it, or put the bare framework together, I do not own it. This table can grow and shift as more people come to it and contribute their thoughts and ideas. A table like this lends itself to a potluck approach, the viewer or the student brings something as well and it adds more choice delicacies to sample. I recognize that there are other new tables being built – some of these might suit some tastes or dietary needs better. This is good. There is also the possibility of extending or joining tables down the road, should there be more space required.
With my latest work, a lot of it explores this sense of having no place to properly belong; severed ties missed connections and the feeling of being set adrift through policies and predominant attitudes. I know that I am not alone in this, so it felt like time to share where I am at with the hopes of others being encouraged to speak up about their journey. With teaching, there is a reason why I love introduction or basic skills-oriented sessions. The act of empowering someone to finally express their creative thoughts and discover their potential puts wind in my sails like very few things on this earth.
Now though, my focus has been putting together a little table, set with my artwork, my classes and most importantly, my time. Please come and have a seat if you want or if the other tables do not have room for you – I am happy to see you here.
* A note about the artwork, This is what I've been loosely calling my Protest Poster series (this series is unfinished as I don't have access to the studio at Alberta Printmakers to use the Vandercook press due to COVID-19.)
These are exploring ideas of lost culture and language. Broken letterforms (by using P22 Blox, a fragmented typeface) and signifiers (the bandolier blocks) that don't have the full scope of meaning and are layered and printed to create a picture of chaos and scattered thoughts. These are printed on Domtar Cougar 130lb paper in white and are limited editions of ten.
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