Inspired by social and environmental issues as much as by personal experience and dreams, my creative work reflects my beliefs in the transformative capacity of art, in art’s ability to engage us on deep levels with – even teach us about – profound human truths. Much of my work can be called ‘place-based’, with particular reference to the land- and cityscapes that I love: the urban forests and ravines, the canals, the post-industrial structures and re-vitalizing neighbourhoods of Montreal and Toronto here in Canada, the landscapes and communities of Iceland, where I have strong connections. My artwork is informed by intellectual concerns, grounded in research, and so can be described by the scholarly term of research-creation. As the Concordia University Research Chair in Art + Education for Sustainable and Just Futures (Tier 1, 2021-2026), previously the Concordia University Research Chair in Socially Engaged Art and Public Pedagogies (Tier 2, 2016-2021) and originator of Studio Re-Imagine, I develop creative projects in three modes: studio-based, community-engaged, and participatory. Recent bodies of work are oriented to water, and our relationship to this vital, limited resource — as this 2017 artist’s talk of mine indicates.
I create thematic series and individual works in mixed media, ranging from drawing, painting, photography, audio and video, through textile and sculptural techniques, including smocking and embroidery, felting, textile construction, mouldmaking and casting, carving, and collection of natural materials. Much of my work assumes a form of collage, an assemblage of juxtaposed works, texts and artifacts.
Trained in drawing, painting and darkroom photography, I now work across analogue and digital platforms. I am increasingly drawn to textiles and natural/found fibres, and am shifting my making and teaching towards sustainable materials. Drawing on my love of narrative and history, my artistic practice has recently taken an ‘aural’ turn: I develop audio walks and draw on place-based oral histories, which I integrate into my visual work. I continue to learn a great deal from the community of practice at Concordia’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling (COHDS), where from 2017 to 2019 I was co-director with Dr. Cynthia Hammond, Professor of Art History. Currently (2020- ), I serve as co-director and a research member of the Textiles and Materiality cluster of the Milieux Institute for Arts, Culture and Technology at Concordia University.
I enjoy writing about my artwork. Often, an exhibition is accompanied by a related piece of writing – a personal essay, for example, incorporating a description of my process and revisiting related theoretical interests. And I publish regularly about my research-creation methods and my continuing inquiry into art as a mode of knowing.
Using Collage as a Research Method:
You Are Here | Vous êtes ici exhibition and catalogue of 14 years of textile map creation, launched March 5, 2020.
Studio Re-imagine generates the creative projects of my Concordia University Research Chair in Socially Engaged Art and Public Pedagogies (Tier 2)
Søndre Green: May (2019) is a woven colour map of the changing spring landscape around Søndre Green Farm, Norway, and a hands-on exploration of Norwegian wool.
Gardens of Water (2017 – ) is an ongoing photographic project that explores environmental and social issues of the St. Lawrence River waterways, linked to both the Great Lakes and the Gulf o f the St Lawrence.
Giardino dell’Eden (2017), a collaboration with Cynthia Hammond and Kelly Thompson, about the imaginaries and histories of the largest private garden in Giudecca, Venice.
Iceland: Earth and Sky (2016 – ), a textile walking map representing 30-days of perambulations around Blönduós, Iceland, during the 24-hour daylight of June.
Breathing Under Water (2014- ), integrating life-sized digital prints of underwater photographs on canvas with same-sized still-life paintings of flowers in water, exploring embodiment, frailty and the puzzle of beauty
Nel mezzo del cammin (2012- ), an ongoing series of textile walking maps of urban woods and green spaces
Made Flesh (2011), a graphic novella in digital collage, exploring life, loss, dogs and death, the role of art in the work of mourning
Sited stories (2011), a site-specific community weave for Nuit blanche, created in collaboration with artists Kelly Thompson, Lisa Vinebaum and dozens of visitors, exploring memories and meanings of Montreal.
I’ll take you home again, Kathleen (2011), an installation and participatory project for the Darling Arcade at the Darling Foundry, exploring histories, gentrification and change in Montreal’s Griffintown neighbourhood.
Finding Home (2006), a multi-modal artwork and accompanying text that traces a walk through my then-neighbourhood in Toronto, exploring questions of belonging and home-making. Also my practice-based PhD research.
Embodied (1998) is a series of five constructed paintings that explores the sensory dimensions of experience, with each work a high tactile, landscape-esque diptych.
The Bog Series (1995-96) links the cycle of human life and death with spirit of place, exploring contemporary resonances of Iron Age bog mummies unearthed throughout northern Europe.
The Heirlooms are a group of works that draw on family stories and pictures, in a collage exploration of personal identity and social histories.
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