One of the hardest things is to treat a work of art as an everyday object; this exhibition was conceived with that idea – to enncourage artists, and the wider world of the postal system to treat tapestries as postal objects – postcards.
Some of the artists chose not to give their tapestries titles, others choose to use traditional techniques of weaving a frame, one artist wove both the back and the front.
The small size proved challenging to most weavers, especially those who were used to weaving in a large format. So much to say, and so little space to say it. There are ingenious solutions in the imagery and the design.
There were anxious emails back and forth asking if the postcards had arrived safely.
One postal worker was so concerned about the precious piece of textile making its way from Australia to Canada that she put it in an envelope, and included a short note saying she was concerned that it was unprotected.
Another postal worker said that it was illegal to send such items in the post without an envelope, though finally he agreed that it could be posted without one. All arrived safely, having been handled many times during their long journey between Australia and Canada.
FindingHome is as much a process as an exhibition. For the artists it was much more than making an artwork and sending it off to a gallery to be exhibited, as is usually the case.
Many of the artist statements became artworks in their own right, the artists not keeping to the conventional formats of artist statements, becoming a record of their thoughts, memories and email conversations with their partners.
Within the framework of tapestry, there is a place where they also find home – a place of comfort, serenity, peacefulness and contemplation.
Nanoose Bay, British Colombia
This project grew from an on-line discussion between two artists: Dorothy Clews in Australia and Linda Wallace in Canada. After expressing standard frustrations about limitations and barriers, we set out to find a way around them. Our goal was to find a way to allow Australian and Canadian artists, working in the medium of woven tapestry, to interact with one another on personal and creative levels, and to have the opportunity to see examples of real tapestry, created in each other’s country.
Postcards removed the restrictions of shipping costs and bureaucratic customs declarations. Once the other artists were contacted and all had agreed to participate, we had a name-drawing to randomly partner a Canadian with an Australian. And so began this amazing interaction.
While Dorothy Clews and myself conceived the idea and drew up the project’s parameters we were continually surprised by the unexpected complexities that developed. Twenty-six individual artists, most of them quite geographically removed from one another, developed their own interpretations and expectations. New layers developed.
Two themes predominated, as expected. The joy of receiving an object by mail that bears the handmark of the sender and of communicating similarities and differences with another artist. And, “finding home.” The concept was discussed between partners and among participants, and agonised over. Simple. Ephemeral. So difficult to define and represent with in the limitations of a woven postcard. The results are rich, eclectic, and fascinating.
Although the connections between the partners varied, the commitment to the project was uniformly complete. Stories were told, games were played, and personal memories were shared. Images of landscapes: grey Vancouver Island rain soaked beaches and broad flat expanses of parched Australian soil represented a physical sense of “home” on some cards, others portrayed thoughts of spiritual/psychological connections. Some imagery was obvious; others needed the message on the back to allow the viewer entry.
Added to it all were the shared experiences of creating the work and then sending it through the mail. Subverting the preconceptions of preciousness and the prohibiting boundaries created by bureaucracy. There was a sense of freedom laced with fear as the woven postcards were pushed through the slot in the mailbox. And, what joy to find a small, undamaged work of art nestled among the bills and flyers.
Another unexpected level was created by the postal service. Participants shared their stories of the varied reactions as they presented the woven postcard for weighing and assessing. Indifference, concern, enthusiasm, collaboration and occasionally resistance. All 50 cards arrived safely and without damage (two carefully preserved en route, inside plastic bags, by the Australia postal service.
Communication between artists. Sharing work. “Finding home”.