Initially, I intended to pursue a major in sculpture. I imagined making short-lived installations, art without the more precious implications of permanence. However, education is based in questions, exploration and a quest for understanding, and the investigation of new concepts caused a shift in my thinking. In my third year at the Alberta College of Art, I was faced with a pivotal statement. My instructor, who was a new technology/conceptual artist, looked through my portfolio, listened to me talk about my work and what I was trying to say with it and told me I must make a decision. I must decide what was more important to me, the “object” or the “polemic.” After much soul searching, I finally concluded I was equally interested in both. That year I was introduced to the medium of woven tapestry and everything fell into place. I graduated from art school with, first a diploma, and then a BFA in Textiles.
I create my work primarily in the medium of woven tapestry. That’s my “object.” In creating “the object,” I strive to make work that is technically skilled. However, I also want my work to compel the viewer to stop and spend time exploring it. For me, “art” involves a type of ephemeral energy that animates and energizes the space between the object and the viewer. If I create work that is technically skilled but without compelling content, no one will linger, no energy will bridge the gap between the object and the viewer and thus, no “art” will be made.
In a world caught in a vortex of ever-increasing speed, where multi-tasking is a prerequisite to survival, I create my work with time, thread and thought. The viewer senses the presence of the hand of the artist and of the many hours of the artist’s life invested in the work. Time itself becomes part of the content.
The materials and techniques of tapestry also influence the form and meaning of my work. The image is built row by row, embedded within the surface of the cloth. The object and the image are one. The underlying grid structure of the warp and weft, the reality of the interlacement of threads, becomes a voice, a “mark” that carries subtle signifiers absorbed by the viewer. The tapestry artist must consider, throughout the design process and the weaving, how this structural grid impacts the image. In addition, the fibres themselves have a personality that influences the content of my work. I usually employ a cotton warp sett at ten warp threads to the inch. I select from a wide variety of fibres for my weft, supplementing wool with silk, linen, cotton, rayon and even metallic.
Tapestry has a long history. It has been woven in many cultures and used in many ways. As a wall hanging it has been used both in historic and contemporary times as a vehicle for narration. The narrative tradition works well with my desire to mediate and become a liaison between the worlds of science, medicine, technology, biotechnology and bioethics and the individual women receiving the benefits, or the tragedies, of those fields.