Wednesday, November 15, 2017

w h a t . h o m e

Exciting news, here... remember when I reluctantly gave up most of my teaching in order to concentrate on my art career? I still love teaching, and have managed to get a little in, but I really have been working my butt off in the art department, too. And finally I have a big announcement:

It's official! Over the coming eight months I will be collecting stories in south-western BC, Germany and the Netherlands for a new installation called what.home. I've got some big grant applications sent off, a growing list of people to interview, a Kickstarter campaign, and most excitingly this beautiful invitation from Goleb in Amsterdam (photo). Would you like to tell me your stories about home? Find out how at the end of this post. First let me tell you what it's all about!

Globalism, human transience and the prevalence of social media mean that our homes, lives, and thought processes have been fractured into a multitude of soundbites and images gone before we even process them. Our mindscapes consist of a jumble of these pieces, and out of this we are forming our current definition of 'home'.

what.home is a series of interviews about the concept of 'home', how our lives and cultures are affected by displacement, settlement, migration, identity, colonization, and landscape. The interviews will be presented in fragments through social media (@what.home) and as an immersive fractured film installation in Europe and Canada. In fracturing and disseminating the stories of home I am creating a space for viewers to reassemble them into our global conscience, pulling ourselves together across cultural and experiential divides.

My own and my husband's families immigrated to Canada from the Netherlands, Germany, and the United States (but from England, the Ukraine and Ireland, generations earlier), and made the BC wilderness their business and their hearts' home. We are people of European ancestry living on unceded First Nations territory. Stories of our European heritage and emigration are part of our psyches, but so are Salish stories, British Columbia settler history, and the BC rainforest that we know as home.

Everywhere people are affected by the busy moving around of our global population. “Home” has come to mean many things to many people. Currently, as racial and territorial violence increase around the world, and we live here as settlers on a land that isn't even our own, questions of belonging and identity seem to matter very much.

I have been invited to research, develop, and install this work at Goleb in Amsterdam in May, 2018. Goleb is an artist-run project space that works with issues of identity and belonging through its immigrant artist population. Goleb artists have been very active in the areas of home, belonging and identity that I am dealing with in my own work. From Igor Sevcuk to Toby Paul; Go-Eun Im to Bardhi Haliti to Hee-Seung Choi, the artists at Goleb represent a diaspora of experiences of home and identity; all working in related directions and from diverse backgrounds. Together we plan to work with globalism and the rising spectre of territorial tension/injustice.

In the end all these stories will come together as a fractured projection installation at Goleb in Amsterdam and in British Columbia. Yes, it's a huge project, so I am taking it one chunk at a time. Right now I'm booking interviews and making travel plans!

Would you like to get involved? This year I am looking for people of all backgrounds and histories to interview on Bowen Island, Vancouver's lower mainland, southern Vancouver Island, the Netherlands, Bavaria, and between Frankfurt and Wiesbaden in Germany! Please contact me in person through my website and we will arrange to do an interview on a dry day in an outdoor location that relates to the word 'home' for you. Indoor interviews are possible when outdoors is not an option.

Monday, June 12, 2017

To the Guys Who Grabbed at my Crotch: Thank You!

Me at Art! Vancouver.   Painting: Lluis Garriga Filip
In May I was walking down an aisle of exhibitors at the Art! Vancouver gala, wearing an altered wedding gown from my (dis)robe series. All around the skirt, painted arms reach up from the floor to embrace, protect, or maybe pull the wearer down. That’s me, in this case: The wearer. It’s an open-fronted wedding dress, now that I’ve altered it, and I wore it with a nude body suit, including false pubic hair, made of a discarded brown wig. Women laughed as I walked along; a couple of them thanked me, without saying why. And one of these, who stopped me in my tracks with a desperate-looking smile and wide eyes, held me tightly by the arm and said, “thank you. Thank you for doing this. Thank you so much,” as her male companion leered at me, then squatted down close beside me and tugged at the false pubic hair, his face only inches from my crotch.

You know what I did? Nothing. Because really, it wasn’t all that unexpected. In fact, three different men reached down and handled my wigged crotch that evening. A multitude more said lude things to me. And I did nothing about it. Because they were making a point for me, and their wives were thanking me. Art is always a kind of sacrifice, and I’d rather be sacrificing myself this way, on stage on my own terms, than in the countless ways I do when I simply walk down the street looking female.

My work is intended to make people think about life – the way we live it, and the other people we share it with. Everything I create, whether a very personal abstract painting, an immersive landscape of people telling stories, or a provocative reclaimed wedding gown, is an effort to illuminate humanity so that we see each other and the places we inhabit in new light, with compassion, curiosity, and a feeling of belonging.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Your Words Are My Words

Question: Why is your art full of other people's words when you could have written any of them yourself?

The MAMA Project in Bastion Square, Victoria. Photo by Linda Goldstein.

I'm getting ready for this year's MAMA Project installation at the Deer Lake Gallery, and posting here and there on social media some of the words that the project contains. These words all come from interviews with other mothers. Despite being a writer, myself, with way too much to say, myself, if you ask my family, most of my work comes from interviews. Why? Because people need to be heard. I have a stage. Why would I not share it?

Bigger than that obvious bit of logic, though, is that I don't want to sit on a little soapbox as an artist. It's really very easy to fall into that comfy place, especially as somebody with so much to say (irony: here I am posting to my blog... again). But my own ideas by themselves are rather limiting, even to me. I could absolutely have created an installation about my own experience of mothering, and quickly filled a room with the sounds and text and images of my own experience. It would have been much easier, in fact, not to have travelled around interviewing all kinds of people. But then it wouldn't be about all kinds of people, and it would be easy to write-off my expression as just one person's experience.

Mothering is everyperson's experience. Even people who have never mothered. Even people who have never been mothered. These people's experience or lack thereof is interesting. And most interesting to me is that the more people I interview and showcase in the project, the more diverse the project is... and the more homogeneous. (Whaaaa---?) I mean that as humans we all have similar needs. And these needs extend far beyond mothering and being mothered, but they're rooted in where we come from, as social animals. They're rooted in the feelings we had when we looked up into our mothers' faces as babies and absorbed all of their feelings and needs and history, and developed those things into who we became. They're rooted in how we discover ourselves passing on these feelings and needs and history on down to our own children, or to those we care for in life. The more I record and spread these stories and the emotions that accompany them, the more we see that we are all connected; all sharing the same great love. At its core, the MAMA Project and much of my other work is about human connection, and I need to show a great range of humanity to make that connection happen.

So when I make a book or an installation or a blog post or even just a single painting that is built around somebody else's words, those words are mine, too. I hope that, through the process of seeing them in the context of my work or project, they become your words too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The MAMA Project 2017

I'm gearing up for a new iteration of the MAMA Project, including a bunch of new portraits and voice recordings, and probably quite a different installation, since the space is smaller and different from any I've used before.

The MAMA Project 2017 will happen at the Deer Lake Gallery in Burnaby, BC, from May 11th until June 2. Performance just before Mothers' Day on May 13th. More info here:

And here are a few previews from the audio I'm editing right now!

The reality of motherhood is so huge; so diverse; so life-changing. There is no measuring how much motherhood changes us as people, or how much change we create in the world through our mothering.