Cecelia Coker Gallery, Hartsville, South Carolina, Sept – Oct, 2018
Cecelia Coker Gallery, Hartsville, South Carolina, Sept – Oct, 2018
The work in How I Got Here at Harris Warke Gallery in Red Deer, features work from 3 of my major series. The earliest is All about Eve 2002 to 2015, which looks at the female form in the guise of a mannequin. Heels 2012-14 examines the absurdity of fashion. And my current work Narratives.
Narratives is a series where I meld, mold and cast incongruous materials in the form of a head. I seek to probe and expose the dichotomy between inner and outer self. Repetition of this generic – yet charged – form suggests the many guises of a single individual and/or a collective of many.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.