She’s Come Undone

10 women – 10 self portraits

Gabriola Arts and Heritage Center
Opening reception Friday September 15, 7-9 PM. Show is up until end of day on Saturday Sept 16, 11 AM – 4 PM

I chose to submit this piece because, as they say, all art is self referential, and this is how I feel on many days.

Joking aside…

In this piece “I Can’t Hear You” I use fishing line as symbolism for the chaos of thoughts and how we can get tangled in them.

Please read about the exhibition in this interview with Sheila Norgate

Henigman Bruce – I Can’t Hear You, Cast Encaustic, book, fishing line, and found objects, 5.5″w x 11″h x 9″d

Henigman Bruce – I Can’t Hear You, Cast Encaustic, book, fishing line, and found objects, 5.5″w x 11″h x 9″d

Disbound at Langham Gallery, Kaslo B.C.

Langham Gallery, Kaslo B.C.
September 8 to October 29, 2017
I will be giving a short artist talk at the opening from 7 to 9 on Sept 8

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 never will 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 jest of it. You like or don’t like the color, the subject manner, 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 significance 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.

There have only been a handful of times that I can say the piece came to me in it’s 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 when, as I said earlier, 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.

How Quitting Art Helped my Art Career

Last winter (2016-17) I reached the end of my rope. I was dangling by a thread. Do I fall or do I quit? I decided to quit. We have all been there at one time or another. It gets frustrating, demoralizing and causes all sorts of angst to keep putting yourself out there only to be rejected over and over. I had been there before but this was different, really different, I was so done.

One of the straws was to get a solo show in the USA, but no artist’s fee to speak of. I CAN’T KEEP THROWING MONEY AT THIS!!!! The cost to crate, ship and travel there and back from Canada would be upwards of $3000. I was deflated, no wind, no sails, it was a good little gallery too, highly recommended. To complicate things there’s the current political climate in the states and I had to ask myself; do I really want to take a feminist exhibition to the deep south and travel there? I already boycotted my show in Seattle so I could stand firm with those affected by the travel ban, should I do that again?  

So, I made accepting this show contingent on getting a grant. There, I said to myself, done, the decision to travel will be made for me. I won’t get the grant, I live in Alberta where arts funding hard to get and the economy sucks.

I stopping trying for other reasons as well, one being inventory. I have so much inventory. Well over 200 pieces and no motivation to make more. I can find something else to do. I always wanted to bake. That’s what I will do. I will bake… cookies, and I will eat them all. And I did. This works for me. Baking is creative, it’s a process and there is something delectable at the end that most everyone will like.

But before I open my home bakery, I wanted to make sure I was making the right decision, so on the last day of the AFA’s deadline for acquisition I submitted my shoe project work. They turned it down once before, but I figured this would be the last time I will be able to submit that work because it will be over 5 years since creation and that is one of the criteria. I wanted them to reject me, I wanted affirmation on my decision to QUIT!

The other last ditch effort I made was to submit my Disbound show to 4 public galleries in southern Alberta. I have never been successful in getting a solo show here, up in Edmonton yes, but never around here. Again, I wanted to set myself up for failure. I wanted confirmation that no one wanted to show the work, because then I could tell myself that I gave it my best shot and it wasn’t for lack of trying. There DONE, where’s the flour?

Fast forward a few months you will find me happily watching the Food Network, cooking and baking up a storm. I love scones, and I learnt how to make them, life is good and does go on!

Then one morning I am checking my email and I see one from the AFA. So, I say to myself, they are emailing their rejection letters now. Good, let’s get this over with, only thing is, it wasn’t a rejection. In fact it was the first of 5 acceptance emails.

  • I got the grant to travel the show to Cecelia Coker Bell Gallery in South Carolina
  • The AFA bought my shoe project piece “Well Heeled”.
  • 3 out of the 4 public galleries that I applied to accepted the Disbound exhibition. AND to make things worse for quitting…
  • My work started to sell at my commercial gallery in Seattle.

WTF, I QUIT!!! Or so I thought. Maybe I am on sabbatical. Maybe I will go up to the studio and look around.

What Will Happen if I Quit Trying

Peace, too peaceful? Not really.
Quiet, too quiet? No.
Sad? a little.

Acceptance? Yes acceptance.
I am accepting of who I am. I know that sounds cliche, but we have cliches for a reason.  That is what I SHOULD, (did you just say should?) damn right I did. I SHOULD HAVE ACCEPTED WHO I AM YEARS AGO. But alas I had no idea I could. Besides I had no idea who is was. I was too busy placing expectations on myself.

Expectation to achieve
Expectation to earn
Expectation to succeed
Expectation to be worldly
Expectation to be smart
Expectation to be a role model
Expectation to be a leader
Expectation to be professional
Expectation to have nice things
Expectation to have a beautiful home
Expectation to have well designed, decorated, beautiful home

Damn, that’s a lot of expectations. No wonder I have tummy troubles and smoked. Yes, I was a smoker. I quit in 2013. Since then I have been forced to find a new way to live life. I did not go easily into that good night, more like being dragged, not kicking and screaming, but like a poor pup being dragged into the vet. I got depressed and super sensitive.

I was angry
I was sad
I was hungry
I was thirsty
I was lonely
I was getting fat
I found my anxiety

I kept going with the same expectations. After all I owned them. Only now I did not have my coping device. Only now I had only me and I got no where for a long time. I kept creating art, it was my therapy. Or so I thought.

Art was a place I could go to hide. Immerse myself. Avoid myself.
I created lots of work. So much art.

I have to show that art
I have to sell that art
I have to appreciate that art
I have to get a grant so I can show that work
I have to get representation so I can sell that work
I have to get lots of galleries so I can sell that work

I can not let all these have to’s interfere with what the work means to me. I can do that, I am a professional.

What if I don’t want to be a professional?
What if I want a simple life?
What if I didn’t really care about selling?
What if recognition didn’t really matter that much?
What if I let go?
What if I said enough already?

What would happen if I said that out loud? Made it public. Would it be real? Would I be making a commitment to quitting? What exactly am I quitting?
Am I quitting making art?
Am I withdrawing from the culture?
Is this what I want? Not to be an artist? Can an artist quit being an artist?

FOOTNOTE: I wrote this 6 months ago but only published it now because I have more to add. It’s all good. I’ll write about what happened in my next post.