Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Community Threads: Week Ten

Sunday September 11 was the opening reception of my tapestry exhibit Wholeness, featuring mostly tapestries and some other fibre related work. This event was also the official launch day for the Community Threads tapestries initiative funded in part by the Ontario Arts Council and undertaken by the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners Guild. The event was well attended and by my count, about 60 people came by to the Gibson Centre for Community, Arts and Culture. Quite a few of the guests came from out of town and had a minimum of one to two hour drive each way. Thanks to them for braving it. Among the guests, shown here in this photograph, Lynda Mitchell Reynolds, the Executive Director of the South Simcoe Arts Council, Mike MacEachern, Mayor of New Tecumseth. To learn more about this lovely towship go to

Since I had two years to prepare for the solo exhibition, I was able to create about 6 new pieces.....5 of which were tapestries. Shown here, are two of my most recent pieces which the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners helped in the finishing. These two pieces entitled Chakra 5 and 7 are shown here left to right. The chakras present us with a system to weave together body, mind, heart and spirit. This system of beliefs works well in describing how I choose to live my life and practice my artistic and artisinal endeavours, always trying to keep in balance the various needs we have as humans.
The Gallery at the Gibson Centre is a wonderfully restored historic warehouse. It once was a home to manufacturing agricultural machinery. It has been in the Gibson Family a long time, who make a significant contribution to Alliston's economy. They have a fleet of transport trucks that do much of the hauling for Honda, who also employs a large number of people in the area. The building was donated to the community to host its various social and cultural activities. I liked that it had a cash bar for people which meant I didn't have to be out of pocket for refreshments.

I thank Sharon Robinson and Greg Rodrigo for taking most of the pictures (and videos) of the event. Most of the pictures here are ones that Sharon took. Greg put together an outstanding slide and video presentation of the entire process of the Community Threads project to date. Everyone stopped to look at it and were mesmerized and awed.

What has touched me so profoundly is the positive feedback, praise and support of so many people, of the exhibition and the Community Threads endeavour. Debbie Harris, herself a talented tapestry weaver, couldn't believe that the designs for the tapestries had been done by people who had never painted before. Only two or three people had had a lot of experience painting. The rest were novices.

The weaving guild members continued weaving on the Community Threads tapestries during the reception. Here we see Janet Fayle at the top and Elisabeth Bishof at the bottom. Both of these two women have been working steadily during the entire project thus far.

Here a guest, Michelle Brady, an Art Director in the film industry, tries her hand at tapestry weaving.

Funded in part by the Ontario Arts Council.

Friday, September 9, 2011

CommunityThreads: Week 9

What strikes me most thus far while I am a guest artist and weaver at the Gibson Centre, is how much people can accomplish when they work together. Collaboration. Interaction. Cooperation. Together we can work wonders. Over and over again during the time I've been assisting the Nottawasaga Handweavers and Spinners, one fact is glaringly evident. So many of these people, and in this particular circumstance, women, are doing so much volunteer work to make their community a better place, their environment healthier, and the world a kinder place to live in. I am always so awed by the largesse of people's hearts. My life and financial circumstances don't give me the time and resources I would need to do what these people are able to undertake. Let us just say, that many othose who have more abundant resources do give back in ways I wish I could. They are great role models and mentors to others who will follow behind them.
The main gobelin loom is set up and the weaving guild members are now weaving on the tapestries. In this picture, Nellie on the left and Corrie sitting beside her. Above, we took a group shot of many of those who have helped out regularly over the last two months. Unfortunately, some were not present and certainly deserved to be part of this group shot. It's nice to record the event and project as it evolves.

Today, two gentlemen found their way to Alice's Attic where the weaving guild convenes. On the left, Dan Boucher, from Beeton and David Lloyd who lives in Keswick. These fellows own alpacas are were there to let the weavers and spinners know about their alpaca events and products. Their website is www.DATRIXALPACAS.COM if you want to know more.

Tracy Mulhall from Snap newspaper came by to see what we were doing. She took several photos and some notes on the Community Threads project and also on the Wholeness exhibition of my tapestries. She was very enthusiastic and personable and made us all feel so at ease. Tracy is standing at the back. In front from left to right, Elisabeth, Dawna and Nathalia.

This Sunday, the opening reception of Wholeness and the launch of the Community Threads project. It's shaping up to be a very exciting event with a lot of people saying they will be in attendance. See you soon!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Artist Statement: Wholeness


To be whole, is described as being healthy, entire; recovered from a wound or injury; restored; free of defect or impairment; mentally and emotionally sound; constituting an undivided unit; constituting a person in their full nature; not having omitted or disregarded anything; a coherent system or organization of parts working together as one; Referenced from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary

Wholeness. Many of us seek to become whole. To be and become what we can be. To be given the opportunity and the circumstances to know wholeness as a human being. That is undoubtely a blessing. We can find wholeness by engaging in an assortment of activities and relationships that will help us grow, flourish, and lead to our transformation. This has been a theme in my art practice, and my philosophy of life ever since I can remember.

Most, though not all of the work I am presenting for this solo exhibition are handwoven tapestries. Two series or bodies of work are presented, distinguished by their use of colour and the manner in which they are hung. What unites the two groups of work is that both groups of work seek to interpret visually the human experience of emotion, states and interactions. They have been inspired by a large body of research on religion, psychology, spirituality and scientific studies on the effects of colour. The series that employs bright colours is called the Well Being series. The dark, large, three dimensional pieces are part of the groupings called Turbulence.

The colours in the Well Being series have been inspired by the colours used to describe the chakras. In Hinduism, there are physical focal points where psychic forces merge and interact and there are seven chakras, each associated with a colour among other things. Chakras work in dialogue and relationship with each other. It is a body/mind paradigm which is also the case in western psychology especially in the practice of cognitive therapy. The momentum of this movement of well being can be observed in bookstores and on television where it has almost become mainstream, yet seems still to evade so many of us.

The colours found in the Turbulence grouping are more ponderous and heavy. Thoughts, feelings and memories weigh upon us bringing us some measure of discomfort. Acknowledging our shadow side helps us to transform these denser feelings into new insights, that may bring us a more joyful, positive and harmonious dimension to our life.

The two distinct groups of weavings are united in their theme – giving visual expression to the wide range of human emotion and states, and this includes our shadow/dark/ side as well as our more pleasant emotions. The pleasant emotions, the Well Being series, are shown as bright and intense colours, simple in their composition and convey the lightness and buoyancy they bring to our spirit, body and energy. Our darker side/reflective side is represented by the pieces in the Turbulence group, and they incorporate black as the dominant colour, and also a three dimensional technical aspect. This dimension of ourselves is more complex, revealing insights if we the courage to face them, if we are receptive and willing to heed its message. Grappling with our inner uncertainties, fears and uncomfortable emotions in a way that honours them, can transform them and us. This is represented in some of my tapestries that are three dimensional which are also interactive and are able to be hung in different configurations.

It seems really appropriate that the opening for my exhibition Wholeness is taking place on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Who can forget that day? That terrifying day left all of us in shock, our sense of security forever shaken. Taking the time to create work that has been part of my healing journey, I hope my work will have positive transformative effects upon those that view them. I have another reason to feel that this is a good date as well. My nephew was born on that date. For him, and all others born on this day, is reason enough to go forward to make their life, their world a better one, and to not steal away their happiness because of our grief.

Exhibition: September 1 - 26 2011

Opening Reception: Sunday, September 11, 2011

Gibson Centre of Community, Arts and Culture

63 Tupper Street West

Alliston, Ontario

Friday, September 2, 2011

Community Threads: Week Eight

It took two days to set up my solo exhibition. Barb Hilts, a well esteemed fibre artist and gallery curator for the Gibson Centre assisted me in hanging all the tapestries and other related fibre work. The show and setting work well together. It would have been a gruelling task to try to set this alone so I am thankful that Barb was able to assist me. I have several new tapestries never before seen in an exhibition for those of you who may be wondering if you've seen them all before.

While we were setting up, these two lovely ladies were preparing lunches for people who came to the eating area of the Gibson Centre. On the left Thelma, a volunteer at the centre and on the right, Audrey Gibson, whose family donated the historic building in which the Gibson Centre is situated.

Also while we were setting up the exhibition, Executive Assistant, Marsha Slack. Each month a ticket is drawn to win $1000.

We continued to mix the colours for the tapestries and we manage to get one full tapestry done each session we get together. From left to right, Elisabeth, Jean, Valerie, Allanah and Nicolas. Nicolas also made up a tapestry butterfly dance which he demonstrated for us! Very cool moves! We should have put on some up beat music. Sharon Robinson, Nicolas' mother was there as well as Chris. They gave us plenty of moral support and gave us some welcome distraction from our tasks. Janet Fayle and Valerie Splaine continued working on creating the cartoons with the overhead projector. Sharon Robinson emailed to say: "Thank you ..... for bringing this whole new exciting and learning project and experience to our community!"

On the last day of setting up my exhibition, Barb helped me to bring the gobelin tapestry loom from the third floor to the main floor exhibition area. This is the loom, shown here, that we are using for our Community Threads tapestries . Here Chris at the right, stands beside Sandi Nemenyi, and beside Sandi, Linda Needles. They, as well as Janet, have taken a real leadership role in this project.
Corrie Parsons is shown here starting on weaving the third tapestry. Elisabeth Bishof continued with it when Corrie was ready to move on.
Elisabeth became totally entranced while tapestry weaving and discovered that she really enjoyed the process.

While I was setting up the exhibition, I met Susan Menzies, who is has been the resident artist at the Gibson Centre for the last three years. She has also worked in animation and enjoys mentoring young people.

Next week Snap magazine will be coming to the Gibson Centre to do a story on the Community Threads project and my tapestry exhibition. Hope you all come out and put yourself in the spotlight for this momentuous occassion.

In closing I'd like to tell you about Sharon Robinson. She takes donations of knitting yarn for the CFFC, (Canadian Food for Children) whose friend, Frankie, is down in Guatemala working with the premie babies while traveling and visiting many clinics sponsored, opened and run by the CFFC. Frankie is a neonatal nurse and teacher at Mount Sinai Hospital and two other Toronto Hospitals. It is her 5th trip to one of the 22 countries that the CFFC assists in donations and medical aid. When Frankie returns from each trip with photos of these beautiful villages where communities living in such poverty and no hope, Sharon and her community get are more motivated to do what they can to help. Mother Teresa's motto inspires them: we can't change the world, but we can bring light and hope. Sharon and her friend Frankie hope to have 3000 baby gift sets and they have already prepared 2030.... these gift sets include a baby blanket, receiving blanket, cloth diapers, plastic diaper pants, pins, hats, booties, socks, face cloth, soap, undershirts and sleepers. All donations are accepted for all sizes of babies, children, adults, medical supplies and art and school supplies, food and dried eggs and flour and cereal etc. The high schools do a soap and salt collection several times a year and the teenagers are remarkable in their dedication to make it as successful as possible.... Any donations can be droppbed off at the Gibson Centre, attention to Sharon Robinson.

Sharon writes: "On behalf of Frankie (who is truly a huge force in helping keep CFFC running) and CFFC we are very thankful and appreciate all the ladies from our guild, who have donated so much beautiful quality materials, fibres and clothing of such excellent quality." Sharon and Frankie are always appreciative of any donations no matter how small or big as it all goes directly to the those we promise to serve and help.