Disbound Exhibition Statement

I am a sculptor who disassembles, deconstructs and marries books with found objects and wax and or encaustic to make succinct yet subjective statements about the rights and roles of girls and women in today’s societies. I play with puns, double entendre, symbolism and satire and there are so many metaphors when it comes to books. For example, the work from the Jackets series. The Jacket series references the metaphorical phrase “can’t judge a book by its cover”, as one shouldn’t prejudge the worth or value of something, by its outward appearance alone. The books are humanized by emulating a jacket as an article of clothing complete with fasteners, buttons, ties and other closures. I want to demonstrate that books are important in crafting who we are as individuals.

Kim Bruce – Button Up, Encaustic & found objects on a book, 7″h x 3″w x 2″d

My mom gave me the gift of books. She is an avid reader and for as long as I can remember I have been surrounded by books. Growing up mom had books on everything, not only novels but business books, like how to write better business letters (I think I still have that book somewhere), self help books of course, everyone has those, and mountaineering, which was her passion.

Books bring me peace. I really like that a story is a self-contained world without being subjected to the unpredictability of the real world. The story, no matter how many times you read, it always ends the same way. The only external influence are our filters, our life experiences, they impact how we interpret the story and no 2 people interpret exactly alike. That is the beauty of book clubs, a place where you can discuss different interpretations.

It takes me a long time to read a book, and I do not have and hopefully, will never have a Kindle. I may be old fashioned but I really like the feel of the book, leaving through the pages, and knowing where I am at in the book. I also read every word. I liken speed reading to viewing a work of art from a distance. You see the entire piece and get the gist of it. You like or don’t like the color, the subject matter, etc. But it is not until you get up close that you get a feel for the detail, the textures and materials. To me reading every word is like getting up close to a work of art, examining and understanding the details. If you ever see someone close to a work of art this is what they are doing, they are reading the details.

Unlike storytelling in books, my work does not tell a finite story, you may think that is intentional but the truth is I don’t know how to work any other way. It allows people to bring their experiences to it. It is truly a gift when someone tells what a piece means to them. It reminded them of something, brought back a memory or made them feel something. I want the viewer to be able to bring their own experiences to the work. I want you to find meaning in my work that is significant only to you. In that way the work becomes yours, personal and intimate.

My work with books started with the Open Book series around 2009. In this series, I emulated books with wood in an open position. I wanted to focus on the central spine which is prevalent in a lot of my work. The central spine, to me, means having backbone; strength of character. I created the pieces with the dimensions of an open pocket book, and used book pages and objects in the creation but the focus was on the strong vertical line.

Objects became important to my art practice because of my dad. He influenced how I look at the world and how I translate it with using my visual language. Dad is the very definition of function before form. He built the house I grew up in by reusing, repurposing and recycling materials. He never mortgaged the house, he built paycheck to paycheck, living in the basement while finishing the main floor. We had a quirky, funky little house that had kitchen cupboard pulls made from copper tubing, a wood ceiling made from door skins, a window in the back porch made from several oven door windows, which btw, are sealed units. My Dad taught me to look at my surroundings and the objects in it with new eyes. It’s not just a piece of copper tubing, it’s a door pull. It not just a window for an oven door, it’s a window for anything, it’s not an oven door handle it’s a towel rack. This list goes on.

Thanks mom and dad for my love of books and objects. I think it is important not to fight the weirdness in your life but to embrace it and make art out of it.

Then one day after the open book series the work took a turn. I started using actual books and I was sealing them shut with wax, string and other objects. It is interesting to note here how I work, and if it wasn’t for the way I work I am quite sure the work would not have developed the way it has.

I like to call my process “intentional intuitiveness”. What I mean by that is, I don’t use a sketchbook, I do not have a plan, I may have an idea and I say, “what if”, a lot. Basically, my studio is a place of play, a place where I typically take 2 things put them together and then start the process of problem solving. I consider myself to be a visual problem solver. Every piece must satisfy 2 criteria to make it out of the studio; it must keep the eye and it must have a voice. By keeping the eye, I mean, the piece must satisfy the principles of composition, balance, rhythm, harmony. Foundation principles that I hold of the utmost importance. Not all my work finds its voice, though I will give it every opportunity and there are other pieces can’t shut up.

Women’s Work

There have only been a handful of times that I can say the piece came to me in its entirety, screaming it’s meaning. Those are special pieces, but even then, there were construction details to work out. A few examples are Women’s Work, the hair tie that freaks out some people and Glass Ceiling with it’s rolling, rolling pins. These are earlier works that I never really gave enough credence to. I now realize how pivotal they were and though it took me a few years to come to terms with my work, I feel with this exhibition, that I have finally heard what the work has been saying.

In the end, I want my work to mean something, not only to me, but to you as well. It is only with meaning that I feel it was worth exposing my vulnerabilities, my underbelly if you will, to reach out to you to find commonality.

I found my voice, as I said earlier, when I started closing the books, sealing them shut, thus making them inaccessible. This is when I realized what the work has been and is now truly about. I call this work Disbound.

Disbound is a bookbinding term that means to remove pages from their bindings. I use it as a metaphor to make statements about removing girls from the bonds of tradition. I think it is important to note that disbound should not be confused with unbound. Unbound is a bookbinding term to describe pages that have never been bound.

These books have been deconstructed, twisted, turned, and generally made into a visual statement about education. It’s also about choice. It’s about girls, and boys too, but mostly girls, who, due to tradition or religion, don’t get to choose. They are married off as soon as they hit puberty and often left to fend for themselves and their children because of war, strife or circumstance.

Gender inequality exists. It exists in Canada, the USA, throughout the western world, but is most prevalent in developing nations. I want to bring awareness to the importance of education and the role it has in shaping future generations. If girls are educated and given choices, they can influence the world.

As with all my work, this series of books, references the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, a reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. These contradictions allow me to expose my private self through veiled metaphor, creating objects significant beyond function. The under-laying message – the essence of my work – speaks to the roles and rights of girls and women.

I truly hope you will find meaning in the work.

Fine Tuning My Works Voice

I have written about this work a few times and talked about it as well. For obvious reasons, I believe the education for girls is extremely important. I have even tried to sell this work in support Because I am Girl, with limited success.  The work is timely, now, with the me too and time’s up movements,  but I find my feelings toward the 11 bodies of work in this series is changing or maybe I have become introspective.

My heart breaks for the girls who are denied education due to culture, strife or war, but I also have to understand how the work relates to my story. I need to take full ownership of my work.

Quite a few pieces in the Disbound series are actually my story. 

Henigman Bruce – 3 Hail Mary’s, Sideways, Cast Encaustic, oil, books, needles, thread, false hair and found objects, 4″w x 16″h x 4.5″d

Work like 3 Hail Mary’s which speaks to being raised in a strict, (2 of my aunts were/are nuns), Catholic household only to be told at a very young age, after the fear of god was perfectly instilled, we are not going to church any more.

Fairy Tales and Tying Knots references the princess complex. They reference the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. 

Henigman Bruce – Twin Beds, Encaustic and string on books, Diptych – 7″h (18″ o/a) x 10″w x 2″d overall

A number of pieces are demonstrative of 50’s values. Like the Twin Beds used in early TV shows and movies, because babies came from storks, don’t you know.

I believe that I use books and objects to tell my story because my love of books was a gift from my mother and the reuse and repurpose of materials and objects was a gift from my father. My parents did not have a happy marriage, but these 2 gifts are happily married in my work. That makes me happy.

Veiled Metaphor, Cast Encaustic & found objects on books, 9″h x 4″w x 4.5″d

My work has progressed or better said, has repurposed itself. I did a series back in 2009 called All in My Head. It was a series of cast encaustic heads with found objects. I had a really hard time basing the work. To the point of giving up and letting the heads simply float off the wall. Last year, and I can’t quite put my finger on how this came about, but I started combining the books with the heads. By doing so I was able to finish each of their stories. I continue to work with the heads and it has been very gratifying to be able to give each of these personable pieces their true voice.

They say that all artists’ work references themself and I have been accused of being over the top with some of my references, especially my older work. I hope this work has found a more neutral grounding. By that I mean a place where to work can be appreciated as much for its aesthetic value as for it’s message. 

My work is full of visual puns, double entendre, symbolism and satire. It references the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. These contradictions allow me to expose my private self through veiled metaphor creating objects significant beyond function. The underlying message – the essence of my work – speaks to the roles and rights of girls and women.

 

All my Ancestors were Immigrants.

All my ancestors were immigrants. In fact I would not exist if they had not immigrated. My grandmother would not have met my grandfather here in Canada if she stay in the Ukraine. 

Simple as that.

Kim Henigman Bruce - Merged
“Merged”  now resides in the home of a judge.

I have always been proud that my mom’s mom (featured in this portrait) came to Canada alone when she was 26 and could not speak any english.

I often wondered why at 26 she was not married and what if anything happened that made her make such a journey. But we did not ask those questions growing up, it just wasn’t done.

My grandfather on my mom’s side immigrated from the Ukraine as well. They met in Drumheller where my mom and uncle were born and raised. It’s one of the reasons I was happy to have had the show “How I Got Here” at the Western GM Drumheller Gallery. I think my grandma would have been proud.

I think of this image of my grandmother today because I used her passport photo to create the piece. This piece was purchased a couple of years ago by a judge, which I find ironic considering the current ban on immigration put in place by the Trump administration in the USA. 

How I Got Here

Exhibition Notes: How I Got Here
January 5 – 28, 2016
Western GM Drumheller Gallery
80 Veterans Way
Drumheller, AB
Phone 403-823-1371

It was very exciting to be offered the Drumheller Library Gallery to exhibit book sculptures from my Disbound proposal. Working with books has found a home with me and to be able to exhibit them in a library setting is extra special. The gallery is a beautiful space but the hanging system wouldn’t work to show my wall mounted book sculptures. So rather than forego the opportunity to exhibit, Janet, the library representative, worked with me to come up with alternative work that was compatible with the hanging system.

We all go through life in a progressive way, one step leading to another. This progression is very true for an art practice. One thing always leads to another, we learn and apply and move forward. Looking back on my work from the last 15 years I started to see how I got here, and it occurred to me that perhaps a retrospective was in order.

Having this exhibit in Drumheller is particularly fitting and special because Drumheller is where my grandmother and grandfather, who immigrated separately, met and settled. It’s also where my mom and uncle were born and raised. When my grandfather died of black lung from working in the coal mine in Newcastle, my grandmother moved the family to Calgary.

Woman's Work, 2010 Encaustic, false Hair on board 20" x 30" (22.75" x 32.75" Framed)
Woman’s Work, 2010
Encaustic, false Hair on board
20″ x 30″ (22.75″ x 32.75″ Framed)

They say all art is autobiographical and on some level I find the work I’m presenting here to be almost overtly self referential.  Starting with Family of Four which is a portrait of my maternal grandmother and then my mom in Being Thirteen. I comment on my exposure to religion in Class of 64, Saves 9, and Pegged. My experiences with being an entrepreneur since the 80’s is reflected in Glass Ceiling and Woman’s Work. And I make comments on the traditional roles of women in What Became and Casting the Net.

Even though this work reflects my life it also speaks to and for others who have shared similar experiences. That is what I believe is important about art; it’s a voice that conveys a message that not only helps people to feel that they are not alone, but one that speaks for those that have no voice. I am drawn to subjective statements and open-ended interpretation which allows others to bring their own experiences to my artwork.

Just Me, encaustic medium, just and found object on a book, 5.5" x 4" x 5.25" © Kim Bruce
Just Me, encaustic medium, just and found object on a book, 5.5″ x 4″ x 5.25″ © Kim Bruce

Understanding my past has enabled me to follow my voice to my current work with books. I use books as my canvas because books are knowledge and knowledge empowers. My books are unbound and immersed in hot beeswax. In this state I am able to distort and manipulate the shapes and seal the books shut. This closing off of the books is symbolic of education being denied to girls, and boys too, but mostly girls.

On a whole my work is full of visual puns, double entendre, symbolism and satire. It references the dichotomy of my early life expectations to conform to a traditional woman’s role, when in fact, reality for me, was the need to be self-sufficient and support myself as an entrepreneur and business owner. These contradictions allow me to expose my private self through veiled metaphor creating objects significant beyond function. The underlying message – the essence of my work – speaks to the roles and rights of girls and women.


About Open Book

Open Book is a reflection of two things;  my love of anything old, the central vertical line that is prevalent in a lot of my work and books. I guess that’s three things.

I grew up with books, my Mom was / is an avid reader and since I can remember books have always been apart of my environment. It is hard to articulate what I find so fascinating about books. The story, the words bound into a container, compartmentalized, a world of it’s own bearing no external influences.  Old books with their bumps and bruises, still around after all these years with their story still intact. Never changing. Solid and sure in their identity.

More often than not when I start a new body of work I become prolific. One thing leads to another, momentum builds and I couldn’t stop even if I wanted to.

no images were found

The pieces in Open Book are the actual size of a book.  The book cover pieces where made from alpha mat mounted on to board. The spine was whetted and fastened over a form and left to dry. After which I applied encasutic and oil. Oh and I added some string to the spine to create the ridges. I carved in the text with a scribe and highlighted it with gold oil paint.  You can’t see it in the image to the left but the “book cover” lifts just a bit around the edge to reveal a book page underneath.

no images were found

Other pieces in the series take a more stylized approach where I emulate the interior of the book by using book pages and merge them with encasutic, oil and found objects. It is like old books meet old Victorian pealing wallpaper.

My work gets stronger when it relates to like pieces. They feed off each other computationally and keeps the eye interested.  I approach each piece as an individual work but like I said earlier; one thing leads to another as I explore a theme and all of a sudden a polyptych is born.

I am currently selling some of this work and donating the proceeds to girls’ education.

Please buy a book to support education for girls.

How My Dad Influenced My Art Practice.

My father has had a great influence on my life like most parents. He taught me a work ethic that lead to self employment at an early age, I was 26. But more than that he influenced how I look at the world and interpret that with my unique visual language. This is how my dad influenced my art practice.

Alan David Henigman was born in Saskatoon in 1928. He settled in Calgary in the 1950’s and bought a lot in the community of Millican Ogden in the south east. The land already had the foundation of a house and that’s it.

Not being wealthy man and no house plans he did his own design build. The story goes that he would purchase building materials pay cheque to pay cheque. He would problem solve as he went along.

Being an appliance repair man for General Electric, he also moonlighted by reconditioning old washers, dryers, fridges, and the like.  His work shop was in the basement and attached garage and he was always picking up broken appliances to fix and resell. Word spread because his repairs lasted. What he couldn’t fix he recycled, used for parts or as my list below mentions, repurposed.

Some of my favourite examples of his repurposing are…

  • Using copper tubing, more than likely left over from the plumbing, for the kitchen cupboard pulls.
  • Salvaging and using old oven doors from his appliance repairs and construction a window for our back porch.
  • The ceiling in the living room was a wood vaulted ceiling made from salvaged wood doors.
  • The towel rack in the bathroom was a salvaged oven door pull.
  • The front stairs to our home was a design of his own and he constructed and pored the concrete himself.
  • Not having enough siding to complete the length of the front porch railing he cut a detail to finish the shortage.
our-house-me-dad
My Dad and me at the BBQ slash fire pit he designed and built in the 60’s well before it was fashionable to have an outdoor cookery.

My Dad is the very definition of “function before form”. The most important thing to him was that it work.  The ascetic of our home was my Mother’s territory. My Dad taught me to look at my surroundings and the objects in it with new eyes. It’s not just a piece of copper tubing, it’s a door pull. It not just a window for an oven door, it’s actually a window for anything.

So when you see objects used in my work now you know why.


Do you have an unsung person that influenced your art? Who was it and how did they influence you?

I gratefully acknowledge Ann Hart Marquis who interviewed me about my work and really got me thinking. As a result this blog post was born. Thank You Ann for making me think.

One “O” in Poor

Canadian Artists for the Poor put out a call for 25 artists for a really fun project. The project consists of one artist painting one of the letters in their name — Canadian Artists for the Poor. The format is 11″ x 14″ portrait orientation.  They’re going to put them all together and have an amazing display of different colours, styles and fonts at Calgary Art Walk.

About One “O” in Poor…

There’s a lot going on in this simple little piece called “O”, which is one of the o’s in the word Poor.

The work is a collage of foreign currency (the real thing not colour copies) in a bed of encaustic. The wax was built up and scraped back to only slightly reveal the bills below. You know there is something below the surface but it is inaccessible.

I cut out the center of the “O” as a metaphor for nothing or zero, with torn bits of the international currencies touching the border. Visually and physically stopped at the edge going nowhere.

One could make note that I used money that could have otherwise have helped the poor. A waste? Perhaps. But maybe someone will appreciate the irony of this piece and contribute to the cause.

 

Why I Chose to Support Education for Girls

I am a reluctant feminist mainly because I don’t think there should be such a thing. I have always considered myself and everyone else as people first. Gender never really enters the equation, at least not for me. The word feminist to me means believing that all people to be people is not a natural state.

I am a product of the 50’s and grew up at the height of the women’s movement. Did I participate, no, not really.

What I did do is make my own way. I became self employed at the age of 26. I owned a design firm for nearly 20 years and employed up to 12 people. When my passion for art could no longer be ignored, I sold my firm to pursue my art full time.

When I realized that I needed a website, well, I learnt how to do that. Now I have a thriving online business where I help other artists create an online presence. My point…

I had choices

With the advent of the internet and coaches like ArtbizCoach.com, there is help for the artist entrepreneur who wants to develop marketing skills and take control of their careers.

Artists now have choices

Hassani_Shamsia_Banksy
Shamsia Hassani, ‘Dreaming Graffiti with Banksy’, 2012. Image courtesy the artist.
Shamsia Hassani, Afghanistan’s first female street artist, emerges as a spokesperson for women’s rights in Kabul.

Since I have the internet and a choice, I have an idea.

Here’s the idea

Since the fundamental component of all my series revolves around women’s issues I would like to see my work help those that need it the most.

story_malala_ys
Malala Yousafzai was shot when returning from school for going to school. She survived

I was lucky, I had a college education, I was able to chose. I can not for one minute imagine NOT HAVING A CHOICE!

But there are so many girls (and boys too), but mostly girls, that due to tradition or religion don’t get to chose. They are married off as soon as they hit puberty and are often left having to fend for themselves and their children because of war, strife or circumstance.

As much as I would prefer to live with my ideals; gender inequality exists. It exists in Canada, the USA, throughout the western world and as that fight continues there are still girls, children, in developing nations that may never have the same choices that we have.

I believe in choice.

Since I have a choice, I choose to:
SUPPORT EDUCATION FOR GIRLS.
The Girl Effect

To facilitate this I have created an online shop to sell work from the “Open Book” series. This series speaks specifically to the education for girls movement.

With your generous purchase of my art, I am able to donate to Education for Girls charities.

Why am I doing this?

Because I have a choice, so I choose to Support Education of Girls then maybe someday they too will have a choice.

Please contact me if you have any questions. 

View the work and Donate, Shop, Support

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Altered Books

I am a great lover of books both for their content and their aesthetics. Books have been around me for my entire life. My Mother is a big reader and has custom built book shelves in her home.

I daydream about writing a book although I’m not sure what that looks like in words. Mine is a visual language.

Books provide knowledge and ideas, but what if you could not access that knowledge. What if it was taken away? No you can’t turn to the internet that is not what this is about.

These altered books act as my canvas and present themselves as the keepers of knowledge. Vaults. Unreachable. Inaccessible.

View the book series