My new work presented in my last post finds its beginnings in past explorations. In 2008 I completed a body of work titled Remnants. A remnant can be so many things: vestige, residue, trace, leftover, debris, mélange, scrap, refuse, detritus, relic remains, fragment. It all depends on your personal take. Here's mine from a recent proposal for an exhibition of Remnants:
In abandoned or soon to be refurbished homes, in trunks and old boxes, in debris hidden in grass rests layers of history waiting to be uncovered and interpreted. While the place and time might be specific, the information gathered reveals universal truths. The examination of what remains provides a sense of the past and direction for the future. These pieces of history help to define identity and understand place.
Using various art techniques, I explore the themes inherent in remnants left behind. I’ve placed my family history within the process but extend the exploration to old houses, some abandoned and some in the process of renovation. While one of the houses has a personal connection, the rest I adopted as I came across them in my summer wanderings. The houses continue to come to my attention and I continue to document them for future works.
The peeling walls are metaphors for the lives lived within the houses and are similar in many ways to my early years. The beauty of the wallpaper patterns is in direct opposition to the basic work filled lives led by many of the women in these homes. Seeing beauty perhaps made their environment more aesthetically pleasant. Many of these woman created work by hand that adorned their home made furniture and children. It was the inside life of women while many of the objects I painted to pair with the wallpapers represented the outside life of men at that time: building, fishing etc. There was a strict division of labour and definite male and female roles.
These works are about my memories as much as they are about the objects that I have chosen to revere in the work.
As Estes notes in Women Who Run with the Wolves many of our memories are rooted in the body itself and need the merest touch to resurface.
"The body remembers, the bones remember, the joints remember, even the little finger remembers. Memory is lodged in pictures and feelings in the cells themselves. Like a sponge filled with water, anywhere the flesh is pressed, wrung, even touched lightly, a memory may flow out in a stream."
I became interested in the concept of sensual memory while writing my first artist statement. As I struggled to understand why I needed to work the way I do, I realized that my strong tactile style had a direct connection to the crafts I created in my formative years in rural Newfoundland. My hands have to create layers of meaning through the manipulation of materials. Paint isn’t enough; I need direct contact with materials, tearing and cutting fragments, applying layers, building up, patterning, hiding and revealing. I am building a network of connections in the content and the creative process just as my ancestors did as they created objects of useful beauty, without waste, from materials at hand.
My process itself is based on remnants created by tearing and rearranging image transfers. My new work has moved beyond some of the ideas explored in Remnants. Teresa said in her response to my last post ... "The first though that popped into my head was "haunting memories" in that it seems like memory born from a dream-like state". Haunting memory is definitely part of it, but the memories are born through the process of creating and layering. They are stored memories released through touch.