I began my first semester in graduate school by researching the nature of the religious experience. This came from a desire to reflect on my upbringing in a devoutly Christian family. Specifically, I looked into the material settings used to engineer these experiences. My goal was to replicate them in my artistic practice. My first installation, called Temple for One, presented a set of hands formed in the sign of benediction. The repetition of the hand pointed to the ritualistic nature of Christianity. I erected simple fabric walls around them to direct one viewer at a time to encounter the altar-like display.
My next attempt to design a contemplative experience was a dismal failure. I ventured into wood-working to build an octagonal room. It was 8 feet tall and 5 feet across. Its simple white exterior contrasted with a bright blue interior that offered blankets on the floor, in which the viewer could sit and relax. Not only was this piece a chore to construct (I am not a wood-worker or an architect!), it did not succeed in welcoming the viewer into a contemplative space. I was so fed up with this project, I didn’t even take photos of the finished product (which I regret).
At around this time in the semester, my research was also pointing me to the conclusion that transcendent experiences – whether routed in religion or not – do not depend on particular physical settings. So in my next works, I returned to clay where I reflected on the idea of labour as meditation. Instead of chasing the unfeasible goal of crafting a contemplative space for everyone else, I pursued my own reflective practice. I was so happy to have my hands in clay again. I was in a much better head space with this exploration, compared to my brief foray into construction. The repetitive mode of making in Pinched Tiles allowed me to slip into an altered state of consciousness within the confines of my studio. The intuitive interaction with clay reflected my acceptance of the futility of attempting to reach some greater understanding. I suspended the tiles to allow viewers to walk through the installation, where they could see the marks of my fingers. The magic enters into the piece as the viewer realises the dramatic shift in the porcelain – opaque from one side, and translucent from the other.
I have also been staging Interventions in spaces that already hold a sense of mystery. I take my small ceramic components and place them in locations where people may stumble upon them. Taking the work out of the gallery is exciting for me. Not only am I free from the hierarchical nature of the “white cube”, but by interrupting the viewer’s expected reality, the work reawakens their childlike curiosity.
During the Christmas break, I plan to read a few of the pile of books that have been waiting for me. I will also take time to luxuriate in the studio, starting a new project and re-approaching old ones. This semester was about veering away from my core interests in order to find them again. I feel as though I’ve found the beginning of the path I want to follow.
In August 2016, I started my MFA program at Virginia Commonwealth University. I am loving the program. It’s demanding and stimulating, and the graduate students are forming a very supportive community. My work is currently being driven by research into the materiality of religious experiences. In other words, what are the sensory stimuli necessary to create a sacred space that is conducive to a religious experience? So far, I have built one version of a Temple for One. I am now in the process of preparing the next iteration. I’m so excited about this strand of research in my art practice! Check out the pictures in the gallery called “MFA Work”!
I’d love to hear about your spiritual/religious experiences. Where do you find time to be still? Where do you encounter the Divine? Email me or message me on Facebook! Can’t wait to hear from you!
I was able to focus on my practice full-time for several months this past fall/winter due to a grant from the Ontario Arts Council. Being able to dedicate my undivided attention to time in the studio and completing applications to graduate school was such a gift. It really paid off too: I will be starting graduate school at Virginia Commonwealth University this August! Adventure time!
That sounds so somber. My time at Medalta has come to a close, and I’m back home in Ontario. Time is a funny thing. I thought 2 months would be plenty of time to get some work done. Even though it was a very productive time, it flew. I wish I could have done more, but that’s always the way.
I completed 2 major projects during my time in Medicine Hat, as well as a few smaller explorations. The 2 major installations were: a group of clouds installed in the Brick & Tile Factory, and a group of legs installed in the Yuill Gallery. You can see pictures in my Recent Explorations gallery.
I’m still working on compiling my photos into a time-lapse video of King of the Castle. Here are a couple of early shots.
Another major accomplishment during my time at Medalta is finishing a pile of applications for graduate school. I was so happy to get input from Aaron Nelson, Noriko Masuda, Alana Wilson and Josianne Desrochers. I’m so glad all that paperwork is over. Now I just have to wait for a month or two while the powers-that-be determine my fate. Fingers crossed!
I’m so happy to have a cloud installed as part of Medalta’s Holiday Exhibition featuring the International Artists in Residence. My goal was to create a small, still space by bringing a piece of landscape into the gallery. The raindrops are fired porcelain, decorated with stain and gold lustre – my little pieces of magic. Hopefully the contrast between the rough, unfired cloud and the precious raindrops create a sense of wonder. (The raindrops would also make wonderful charms on necklaces. Hint: Christmas)
I’m already starting my third week in residence at Medalta (Medicine Hat, Alberta). The time is flying by. I have a great studio space, and the people are fabulous. I’ve been posting regularly on Facebook and Instagram to document my progress.
Today Noriko Masuda (Studio Manager) and Al Dillman helped me to install a cloud at the Medicine Hat Brick & Tile Site. The factory was flooded in 2010, and subsequently closed. Now it stands as part of Medicine Hat’s industrial heritage. I plan to install more clouds at the Factory in the coming weeks.
I’m finally here. I opened my eyes to a flawlessly blue sky today, and a grin crawled across my face. That never happens in the morning! I spent my first full day exploring a few areas of town. I’m so excited for my tour of the Medalta facilities tomorrow, and can’t wait to get some clay.
I cranked through another group of clouds in my last couple of weeks before leaving Ontario. I took some very good advice from Nurielle Stern (a really cool ceramic artist based in Toronto), and took some scale shots. The serious scale shot features my husband, Mike (you can find it in the Recent Explorationsgallery along with detail shots). I thought I’d put the fun scale shot here, featuring my 15 year old Millie. I tricked her into the shot with a little snack.
The Fusion Clay & Glass Show was a great success. The show looked fabulous at Wychwood Barns, and I was happy to exhibit my Fragmented Figures alongside such strong artists and craftspeople. Reid Flock did a great job organizing the show.
This summer I’ve been spending a lot of time outside. The landscape has crept into my studio with these cloud explorations. In joining my figurative work with the clouds, I was wary of getting too close to the classic cherubic look. Instead, I look at these figures as observers or witnesses.