Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Heir/Looms @ Studio Beluga, Montreal

Back in August, I had the opportunity to travel and take part in the exhibition: Heir/looms, at Studio Beluga, in Montreal. Although it was such a brief exhibition, I was really impressed by the scope of textile work in the show. I wanted to share with you an excerpt from the Catalogue put together by curator Nicole Dawkins, as well as some images from the exhibiton:

Threads of Attachment

Nicole Dawkins

The last decade has seen a quiet proliferation of handmade fibre-based work within the contemporary art world. Some have argued that the resurgence of craft practice in visual art- as well as the rise of the braoder DIY craft movement- are rooted in a detachment from and longing for material experience.
Making things with our hands promises to link us to an imagined past of more meaningful creative production and "connect us to what modernity seems to wrench away" (Glenn Adamson).
And yet at the same time, the material and creative legacies that haunt these works are often downplayed or positioned discursively as ruptures from or subversions of tradition- for example in the popular media refrain "This ain't your granny's craft fair/ embroidery/ quilting bee/ etc.".
This reflects, on one level, an implicit challenge to the binaries (individual vs. collective, sudden vs. slow, progressive vs. conservative, original vs. traditional) that continue to mark the (now permeable) boundary between "art" and "craft". In order to be accorded the status of art, craft objects need to be "transformed into autonomous artistic creations detached from traditional contexts" (Karin Peterson).
The original concept for HEIR/LOOMS grew out of what I saw in my academic work and my creative practice as a tension between the yeraning to reconnect with traditions of making, and conflicting desire to cut those threads. What would it be like, I wondered, to have contemporary artists who work with craft materials and techniques to present their work alongside familial or cultural heirlooms that they had inherited? The intention was not to critique these points of rupture or disconnect, nor to weave together an artificial narrative of creative continuity, but rather confront the complexity  and ambivalence and techniques of our respective heritages.
Drawing from the qualities of textiles- fluid, flexible, and interwoven- the works we decided to include in the exhibit tell a far richer and more compelling story than the simple juxtaposition of new works and old crafts. Instead, these twelve artists engage in distinct ways with the notions of "heirloom"- emulating or appropriating specific linguistic and creative traditions; revisiting nostalgic signifiers of family and home; incorporating hand-me-down and discarded materials; and collaborating on and with things left behind by mothers, grandparents, and anonymous strangers.
Disrupting the boundaries between hobby craft and art object, past and present, "traditional" and "contemporary", works that make up HEIR/LOOMS explore how we use textiles to remember, preserve, and construct the past as well as frame ourselves for future remembrance.

Thea Haines: The Fruit Cellar of Miss H...
Mason jars, fabric, thread. 2011

Amanda McCavour: Stand in for home
Thread, 2009 - 2010

Cross stitched: Aida cloth, floss 2011

Tara Bursey: Crossed stitches, 2011

Lizz Aston: Antiquated Notions - Drop Stitch
Paper, free-motion embroidery, thread, burn-out.

Sarah Gotowka: Embroidery Sampler for 2011
Cloth, embroidery, floss.

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