PHOTOS: New exhibition at Campbell River Art Gallery highlights women’s invisible labour

Feltmaker and fibre artist Kelsey Epp of Black Creek, in front of a work titled Hiraeth (2019), a hard-to-translate Welsh term referring to profound heartbreak. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Meeting Points, a 2018 work made of merino wool and linen fabric by Black Creek-based artist Kelsey Epp. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Untitled pattern studies, a series of 2019 works made of telecommunications cables on canvas by Vancouver-based artist Emily Hermant. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Reflections on Perseid (No. 1), a 2015 work made of telecommunications cables on canvas by Vancouver artist Emily Hermant. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Untitled (Bernadette), a 2019 work by Victoria-based artist Ingrid Mary Percy. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Untitled (Catherine), a 2019 work by Victoria-based artist Ingrid Mary Percy. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror
Projections show the reverse sides of embroidered works by Ingrid Mary Percy, now on display at the Campbell River Art Gallery. Photo by David Gordon Koch/Campbell River Mirror

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.”

READ MORE: New exhibits at Campbell River Art Gallery unsettle Canadian landscapes

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.

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“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.

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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.


@davidgordonkoch
david.koch@campbellrivermirror.com

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