Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Fruit Cellar of Miss H...

Today, more photographs of my installation, The Fruit Cellar of Miss H...  in the Project Window at Harbourfront Centre. The exhibition continues until Sunday November 7, 2010.

I was an artist-in-residence in the textile studio at Harbourfront Centre from 2006-2009.  I always enjoy installing pieces at Harbourfront because their wonderful installation crew is immensely talented, and because the Visual Arts and Crafts curators, Patrick Macauley and Melanie Egan are a such pleasure to work with.  You just want to please them.

Below, I have included my artist statement from the didactic panel at Harbourfront Centre. Not included in the panel information was the materials I work with - a lot of cotton organdie (I love the pliant nature of it, how it responds to being shaped so obediently) and all sorts of wools, some silk, some linen.  Much of the fabric I dyed using natural dyes - Queen Anne's lace, goldenrod, Lady's Bedstraw, madder, logwood, black walnut, pomegranate, cochineal - and some of it I screen-printed using discharge paste, earth pigments and gold leaf.  All of the screen printed imagery is taken from old recipes, photographs and ladies' magazines from the 1930s. All the fruits and vegetables are hand-stitched sculptures. The majority of mason jars (the Crown jars) were my grandmother's, the rest have been acquired at flea markets and antique markets, especially Aberfoyle.

The work is difficult to photograph as it is behind glass, and directly across from a brightly lit window.

Artist Statement
Preserving. Formerly, this household task occupied much of summer and autumn, in order to conserve fresh food for consumption during winter, when it was a scarce. The filled shelves of a cold cellar afforded a sense of accomplishment, virtue and security. This pursuit, so representative of ‘old fashioned values’, is lately experiencing resurgence as we place more importance on the provenance of our food.
Each year, I can fruits, pickles and jellies. This is an inherited habit. A few jars put down by my grandmother still remain after a quarter century.  In particular, one treasured jar of her pickles has become like a votive from her to me. This seemingly mundane object acts as a time capsule of seasons and places past, preserving her memory.
This body of work imagines the fruit cellar as a storehouse of memories. From season to season, the contents of each jar are imbued with vestiges of the past, triumphs and regrets, joys and sorrows. The vessels are an investment in the future as much as they are reliquaries of the past.  The fruit cellar acts as a hope chest of both realised and unrequited aspiration.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Home Economics (2009)

Home Economics  is an installation piece that I showed at Harbourfront Centre in summer of 2009 as part of the Building for the Economy exhibition in the Architecture Space.  Home Economics considers the earliest origins of the term which suggests the importance of the home as the centre of human life. It offers a cautionary tale that recalls eras such as during the Great Depression where recycling was second nature and maintaining the essentials of life was the cornerstone of every home.

installation view

For several years, I have been collecting monogrammed household linens.  I have always been obsessed with language and etymology and the preoccupation we have with labeling our possessions. When the wealthy did not always have their linens laundered at home, monograms served a practical purpose of proclaiming to whom the article of cloth belonged.  It also, of course, denoted status.  I have used the individual letters here on these hand towels to  spell out commands associated with good management of household resources.  I used what letters I had, and where they were missing I embroidered the monograms on blank towels to spell out 'scrimp' and 'save', etc. I plan on rearranging the pieces various other compositions exploring household language.

I love the dictionary, and consult it first when researching new ideas in the studio. You can read the 6 individual words below; each is a colloquialism of the word 'economize'. Read below for an excerpt from my artist statement on the piece.

home economics, plural noun [often treated as sing. ] cooking and other aspects of household management, esp. as taught at school.
The word ‘economy’ alludes to thrift, prudence, restraint, and frugality. Its origin is French (économie), via Latin from Greek (oikonomia), meaning ‘household management.[1]
Home Economics recalls a time when housekeeping, which included preserving and canning, laundry, sewing and mending, was achieved without the conveniences of modern appliances and supermarkets. The homemaker was tasked with creating a comfortable and attractive home while living within one’s means, making do with resources at hand, and planning for the future. This was often accomplished with do-it-yourself spirit, and personalized embellishments were done by hand, reusing and repurposing old goods. This installation suggests imperatives that urge us all to consider the necessities and excesses in our own lives.  


[1] economy |iˈkänəmē|
noun ( pl. -mies)
1 the wealth and resources of a country or region, esp. in terms of the production and consumption of goods and services.
a particular system or stage of an economy : a free-market economy | the less-developed economies.
2 careful management of available resources : even heat distribution and fuel economy.
sparing or careful use of something : economy of words.
(usu. economies) a financial saving : there were many economies to be made by giving up our offices in Manhattan.
(also economy class) the cheapest class of air or rail travel : we flew economy.
adjective [ attrib. ]
(of a product) offering the best value for the money : [in comb. ] an economy pack.
designed to be economical to use : an economy car.
economy of scale a proportionate saving in costs gained by an increased level of production.
economy of scope a proportionate saving gained by producing two or more distinct goods, when the cost of doing so is less than that of producing each separately.
ORIGIN late 15th cent.(in the sense [management of material resources] ): from French économie, or via Latin from Greek oikonomia ‘household management,’ based on oikos ‘house’ + nemein ‘manage.’ Current senses date from the 17th cent.