A new exhibit at the Campbell River Art Gallery features weavings and embroidery by three artists who are challenging traditional definitions of textile-based artwork.
Women and girls have historically been expected to know the highly technical skills of embroidery and mending, says contemporary arts curator Jenelle Pasiechnik.
The new exhibition confronts the tendency for those skills to become invisible, in part by projecting onto a gallery wall the reverse sides of tiny embroideries by Ingrid Mary Percy, a Victoria-based artist and educator.
“Choosing to show the backs is a way of exposing the labour that goes into the work, as a way of starting that discussion,” Pasiechnik said.
The large-scale projections – painterly works in their own right – are also meant to push back against the diminution of women’s artwork, she said.
“Men’s work has typically been very large in size and monumental, and women’s work has been smaller and more peripheral.”
The embroideries themselves are arrayed along a wall, each one of them named for one of Percy’s aunties.
“There’s this discussion of matrilineal knowledge transfer and how we learn things from our families or from our roots,” Pasiechnik said. “We can’t ignore the role of tradition in our lives.”
The exhibition also features works made of wool and other fibres by Kelsey Epp, whose exploration of the medium led her to discover her family’s roots in sheep farming. Epp and her partner now raise Gotland sheep – a breed from Sweden – on their acreage in Black Creek.
It’s an example of how people are turning away from the hyper-speed of their physical and digital worlds, in favour of nature and tradition, hence the name of the exhibition, Slow Technology, said Pasiechnik.
“She’s reaching back into her familial past and taking on this incredibly intensive lifestyle,” Pasiechnik said, adding that animal husbandry was once a female-dominated trade until it became more lucrative.
“When the economics of animal husbandry changed, men started to dominate the practice of raising and trading animals.”
The exhibition also features vivid patterns woven painstakingly out of scraps of telecommunication wire from e-waste recycling centres by Emily Hermant, an assistant professor of sculpture at Emily Carr University in Vancouver.
“She’s taking a product of that hyper-speed environment that we live in, but she’s using it in such a slow and methodical way that it really leads you to think about these kinds of issues: Where does this material come from? How is it manufactured? What do the different colours mean?” said Pasiechnik.
She sees the exhibition as an opportunity for reflection on change through time, and also the ways that people can resist or push back against conventional or traditional roles and practices.
“We don’t take things out of dumpsters and make them into beautiful weavings… or we do.”
Also on display at CRAG’s Satellite Gallery is a new exhibition called Collage, Sans Colle, curated by Pasiechnik and Vicky Chainey Gagnon, CRAG’s executive director and chief curator.
The exhibition is happening in three parts between now and November, with the current phase focussed on the history of the medium of collage and its relationship with the digital age.
A series of interactive collage activities for the public are coming up at the CRAG, including a sculptural collage workshop on April 13, a collage party for World Collage Day on May 11 and a community collage workshop on June 21. For more details, check the CRAG website (crartgallery.ca).
Slow Technology runs until May 1 at the CRAG’s main gallery. The current iteration of Collage, Sans Colle also runs until May in the Satellite Gallery.