Mapping a project

Thy Creature map

An excerpt of the Thy Creature series will be shown within a group show in February. The curator asked each of the artists to describe the process they used to develop their work. This map represents my current thinking about this project.

 

Reconsidering the terms "artist" + "mother"

16RMRadiant Monster (detail), 1996

I'm developing a presentation about being an artist-mother for a conference that considers a collaborative dance project by dancer Julie Lebel. Her project opens up a new possibilities for understanding intersubjective, collaborative and creative movement. The ensemble she's been working with is made up of a community of children and parents who've danced together weekly over a four-year period.

My presentation, on a three-person panel following a performance by the ensemble of children and parents, will discuss how becoming an artist mother has empowered me to interrogate stereotypes of both artists and mothers. I'll talk about what it has meant for me to develop my practice as an artist-mother, when it sometimes felt like those terms were mutually exclusive. Becoming an artist mother has helped me redefine both what it means to be an artist and what it means to be a mother.

Rather than experiencing the role of the artist as one of alienation and selfishness, I understand that it’s possible for an artist to have social responsibilities, participate in a world of relationships and consider others as at the same time as they pursue their own goals.

I’ve also redefined what it means to be a mother, because as much as I love my children, I still need to maintain my sense of autonomy and personal agency. A mother doesn’t have to give up her identity and passion because she has children. I see that my work has an artist inspires my children to pursue their own passion and goals within their lives as young adults.

Repetition or Invisibility?

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and discuss my preoccupation with repetition with my long-time friend Jeanne Randolph (psychoanalyst, theorist, critic, art writer, and performer).

Jeanne reminded me that repetition is about what cannot be spoken, "Freud suggested that repetitive action is a way of remembering, with the implication that words cannot possible represent what happened (or cannot be found) for various reasons: that memory is preverbal; that memory is traumatic; and that memory has been forgotten in any conscious form, so can only be repeated through an action."

She suggested that there is something in my work that is not coming into representation and wondered if it might be about invisibility rather than repetition. I may think it's about the face but what if it isn't? The face I draw over and over again may be a red herring. What I'm really revisiting is still unknown.

01 heads

Reunion redux

The 400+ drawings installed as part of the I'm Feeling Lucky exhibition (currently on view at the Elora Centre for the Arts) are part of a larger archive of approximately 1,000 drawings. This collection of powdered graphite drawings on vellum were produced between 2001 and 2004 and are based on a single photograph of my mother, who died in 1991.

To be invited to present these images in Elora, where my mother once lived, is an extraordinary circumstance of serendipity and great satisfaction.

I'm Feeling Lucky

Photo by Alison Cooley

Reunion installation, photo by Alison Cooley

A project I began more more than 14 years ago has been included in an unusual group show in the town of Elora, Ontario. Just over a 100 km from Toronto, with fewer than 4,000 residents, Elora is not exactly the place one expects to discover cutting-edge curatorial projects.

The exhibition I'm Feeling Lucky came about after curators Alison Cooley and Natasha Chaykowski were awarded the Middlebrook Prize for Young Canadian Curators. Funded by a local community fund the prize offers entrants the opportunity to create an innovative exhibition at the Elora Centre for the Arts, a beautifully restored three-story limestone school building.

Alison and Natasha wanted to examine history and collective memory, at the same time as questioning curatorial authority by curating an exhibition using Google search. They contacted me via email in May and after further discussion I agreed to participate. It's been a wonderful opportunity and my only regret is that I won't be able to see the actual exhibition.

When Alison and Natasha first contacted me they mentioned they'd like to include my Reunion project in the show. The extraordinary coincidence is that my mother, whose face is featured in this drawing series, used to live in Elora. I stayed with her over the course of a summer, when I was going at art school in the mid-70s. I rented a small studio and worked part-time at a couple of local restaurants. My sister went to school in the building that currently houses the Elora Centre for the Arts. So the project has what Alison described as a "coincidental perfection."

Returning to a consideration of this project these many years later has been a valuable experience. I'm pleased to find it still resonates for me (and others)—I'm feeling lucky.