Fairy-Led explores the magical nature of the Newfoundland landscape drawing on lore about fairies as the starting point for imagery and associations. The term “fairy-led” means to be lured into the woods by spirits and never seen again. In Newfoundland, people are raised with instructions on how to avoid this - carry bread in your pocket, carry a coin, never look them in the eye. Fairy-led also can mean lost in familiar surroundings.
My experience of Newfoundland has been a bone-deep feeling of coming home. This is the landscape that I belong in and I hear it speaking to me in a language that I can just almost understand. Using the four seasons as themes, I am creating a visual vocabulary that taps into the mystery of this language. The project includes drawing, sculpture, photography, video, poetry and performance.
Fairy-Led also is my Dive Deep project for 2019-20. You can join me in exploring ideas around language, mysticism, spirits and Newfoundland lore about fairies as well as creating plant dyes, developing performance works and how the creative process functions in a year-long project. Learn more and sign up over in my shop!
Pictured: (top) Spring 2019, (middle) Winter 2019, (bottom) Spring 2019
Branks is an ongoing project that began as a response to seeing an image of the Medieval torture device called a Scold’s Bridle or Branks (see photo below). As I researched more, I discovered that Scold’s Bridles were used primarily on women, often by their husbands, in England and Scotland up until the 18th Century. The device was locked over the woman’s head and included a metal plate that went into her mouth so she could not speak or swallow.
When I looked at the images, I felt the silencing viscerally - I could taste the metal in my mouth. As I have shared these images with other women, they too have felt this response.
I have decided to take on this notion of a silencing cage around a woman’s head and radically change it from a device of torture to a device of empowerment. I want to draw attention to her mouth. I want her to make noise or highlight her voice.
I have started to share these objects with other women, inviting them to try them on in a group setting. The nervous laughter that hides the pain and, again, the visceral response - sometimes refusing to try on the object and literally leaving the room - has been painful and fascinating.
This project is a work-in-progress. Do you have a group of women that might like to experience Branks? Please be in touch!
This project has received generous support from ArtsNL, the arts council of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The House Museum
The House Museum was an interactive installation exploring how tourism shapes culture in western Newfoundland. Using all aspects of the interior of a house in Gillams on the Bay of Islands to raise the question, “Why are you here?,” the project ran as a tourist attraction from 2005 - 2010. Hundreds of people visited during the summer months and THM was the site of special exhibitions and events all centered on changing the tourist/local dynamic and shifting the typical museum experience to be more about giving than passively receiving.
After a seven-year hiatus, it re-opened in 2017 with BARDO-29, an experimental art space that invites artists to try out and present new work and formats. Every summer, artists are invited to present work that stretches their practice and explores new topics. The inaugural exhibition featured work by over 20 artists, all on the theme of “Newfoundland, Real and Imagined.” In 2018, BARDO-29 presented a collaborative installation titled, ——— by artists Amy Bay (Portland, OR) and Ashley Hemmings (St. John’s, NL).
In 2019, BARDO-29 will feature a site-specific poster project with artists Emma Croll-Baehre and Marta Croll-Baehre. Playing on the way people post signs in the communal areas of the mailboxes in each town along the north shore of the Bay of Islands, the Croll-Baehres will create letter-sized, pull-tab posters that queer the spaces in unexpected ways. Rather than advertising a truck for sale or the next bake sale, the posters will disrupt the space with messages that draw-in and surprise.
Grand Opening celebration, 2005
THM opened to the public in 2005 with a celebration that invited local residents and tourists to mix together. Pictured here (left to right): Rev. Edward House (brother of Wilfred House who built the house now used as THM), Eddie Blanchard (Mayor of Gillams), Gerry Byrne (MP for the Bay of Islands) and Gerry Byrne, Jr.
The House Museum
Located in Gillams, Newfoundland, THM was run from 2005 to 2010 as a tourist attraction for the summer months. Each year, a special project was presented including collaborations with neighbors and other local residents, artist-in-residence projects and the annual "Gillams Day" event that featured a pie baking contest, jelly contest and craft demonstrations.
The entry foyer included a video installation and guest table that held brochures and buttons with the phrase "why are you here?" which was the motto of THM. The wall paper design was handmade from photographs of houses that one sees as they drive up the North Shore Highway to THM (36 different images). Each image was color printed and glued to the wall, then stenciled around to create a wallpaper-like pattern that is similar to one that might typically be in a house of this era.
The Gift Shop
The gift shop in THM was a bureau in which I kept handmade items that I gave to visitors before they left the Museum. I was especially interested in how local hospitality would be commodified as Newfoundland's economy was increasingly directed towards tourism. To counter this trend, I gave gifts rather than sold them. It was interesting to explore the power dynamic of gift giving. For example, some people were so unsettled by this shift from the typical museum experience that they refused my gift, while other times I decided not to give a gift if I felt that the visitor did not appreciate what was on offer.
Reliquary is a project that I created as part of being Artist in Residence at Struts Artist-Run Centre in Sackville, NB in late 2018. The project explores how objects contain their experiences- even ordinary objects that we use day to day. When I arrived at Struts, I invited the community to donate objects that they had around their house - things that they didn’t use anymore but hadn’t been able to get rid of yet. One thing that became clear as I worked on the project was that the only thing that makes the difference between an object that we keep and something that ends up in the landfill or the secondhand store is emotion. This most fickle and intangible thing makes all the difference in the world.
People began to drop off items and sharing their stories about the. Items ranged from a well-loved coffee cup to one shoe whose mate had been chewed by a dog, a handmade quilt that had seen better days, and a duvet cover from a past relationship that ended in a broken heart. Twenty objects in all were donated for the project. I would sit with each object and just gently invite it to tell me its story. Then I would manipulate and change it to bring out those stories. Sometimes, what it wanted came quickly and clearly and sometimes it took many days to hear it.
At the end of my five-week residency, I had filled the entire space with transformed objects.
Reliquary - Send in the Clowns
For months in 2009, each time I rode the #7 train from Queens into Manhattan, I carried wool and drop spindles in my bag. As I spun, I engaged with interested passengers about what I was doing, and if they were willing, I taught them to spin. Each new spinner left the train with a bag of wool and a spindle to take home. It was my belief that spinning wool is an activity that spans cultures and crosses many borders. The #7 train, which serves the most ethnically diverse county in the United States was the perfect place to test this theory.
Spindle 7 was funded, in part, by the re-grant program of Queens Council on the Arts.
The Knitted Mile
The Knitted Mile
Handknit yarn made to look like a regulation road stripe in Dallas, TX. 2009.
The Knitted Mile was created as part of the exhibition, Gestures of Resistance, at Grey Matter in Dallas, TX (curated by Shannon Stratton and Judith Leeman). Working with 90 knitters from around North America, we created a stripe that was installed on a roadway in Dallas for two hours. The stipe was collected off the road and piled into the gallery, exhibited along with photographs of everyone who assisted with its creation.
It was later shown as part of the exhibition, Yarn Theory (curated by Martha Lewis), at PS. 122 in New York, NY.
The Knitted Mile
Handknit yarn, 2008.
Preparing for installation on the street in Dallas, TX.
The Knitted Mile
Handknit yarn, 2008.
Installation view. For more photographs of the installation, please click here
In the inaugural year of Wave Hill’s Winter Workspace Program, I was invited to create a participatory project using wool dyed with plants and other natural materials collected from the Wave Hill staff.
Each week, I collected the natural materials and dyed wool fleece in a variety of colors. When visitors came in to my workspace, they were invited to learn to card, spin and knit the wool and, ultimately, create a hat. Each person who made a hat agreed to return with it. At the end of the residency, we had a party for everyone who made a hat where we exchanged them so that everyone ended up with a hat, just not their own. The remaining, unclaimed hats were donated to a local home for women escaping domestic violence in the Bronx.
When the project was conceived, we assumed that a small handful of people would participate as Wave Hill is quiet during the winter months. Word of mouth about the project resulted in hundreds of people of all ages, and backgrounds coming through, learning new skills and working with their hands. On weekends, we needed two volunteers to help handle the interest and excitement as people streamed in eager to try out drum carding or using a spindle. Over 50 hats were created and distributed.
SpinCycle was premiered at The Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday program in April 2013. I connected my spinning wheel’s drive band to the rear wheel of a stationary bicycle so that the person pedaling the bike would also cause the spinning wheel to turn. A mirror was set on the ground in front of the bike so that person pedaling could see my face and I could see their face but we could not see our own faces.
Before the person got on the bike to start pedaling, I offered them a chance to “pick a card".” On each of the cards available was a prompt to tell a story about themselves, like ‘Tell me about your grandmother.” Or “What was your favorite piece of clothing growing up?” As the person pedaled, they looked into the mirror and told me their story. I spun wool at the spinning wheel that was being powered by the storyteller so that, together, we made yarn.
At The Brooklyn Museum premier, dozens of people took a turn on the bike and telling stories. It quickly became apparent that the activity of pedaling combined with the slight distance of speaking to an image in the mirror (rather than directly face to face) encouraged people to open up and share very intimate details about their life. The collaborative effort that we shared to create yarn created an almost instant bond and I found myself privy to remarkable stories and information. I realized that I had created an environment that allowed me a privileged glimpse into people’s lives.
When I reconstructed this set-up in two other locations: Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Inverness County Centre for the Art in Inverness, NS, a similar thing happened.
Heaven is the Most Dangerous Place of All
Heaven is the Most Dangerous Place of All was an installation included in the exhibition Starting From Scratch at the Handwerker Gallery at Ithaca College. Curated by Mara Baldwin, the exhibiton was built around the 100-year anniversary of the publication of the novel “Herland” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. The utopian novel, considered to be a feminist work, is about three men who come across an island inhabited solely by women. “Starting From Scratch” is based on the novel’s themes of feminism, socialist values and how it is everyone’s responsibility to care about one another in order to achieve a better society.
My installation was designed to provoke conversation about how we perceive utopia and our role in creating utopia here and now. Following the knit yellow stripe throughout the exhibition, it led to a series of pockets mounted on the wall, each containing a question or phrase designed to provoke conversation. Then the stripe led the visitor to a tent where one could sit in quiet contemplation or have a discussion with others.
A site specific installation created for Street Meet Festival in Saskatoon, SK, in July 2013 (organized by Keeley Haftner in association with AKA Gallery). I created a tent - the Utopia Tent - for visitors to enter. First, however, they washed their feet using river water and soap made from potash (a salt that is a major resource and economic force in Saskatchewan). Once inside, we discussed our versions and visions of utopia and the notion of temperance.
Saskatoon was founded as a temperance colony on the prairies by a group based in Toronto, ON, in the mid-1800s. Although the word "temperance" means moderation, the movement became one of total abstinence. Not surprisingly, the original mandate of the colony lasted barely more than a decade. However, one can still see remnants of the notion of temperance and utopia in Saskatoon today.
Visitors to the Utopia Tent. Saskatoon, July 2013.
Installation and performance, Trustman Gallery, Simmons College, Boston, MA. 2010.
Creating a curtain-off space in the middle of the gallery as a "living room", I invited students, faculty and staff to sit with me and knit while talking about when they had ever (if ever) responded to something with an unconditional yes. The Simmons community was invited to bring objects that symbolized this commitment and hang them on the gallery walls surrounding the living room. As the exhibition progressed, the walls filled with objects and stories. The stories were collected in a book in the gallery.
Crocheted yarn, 2009. Crocheted cover for a 10,000 gallon water tank on the roof of 395 Broadway in Manhattan.
Commissioned by D&AD to promote their Pencil Awards, the project took nine cases of yarn, five very fast-working assistants and three weeks to make. It was installed for two days on the water tower before being removed. It was sent to a needlework conference in Minneapolis, MN, where it was cut up and made into blankets for Warm Up America, an organization that donated handmade blankets to families in need.
Make it a Pencil - New York
90 second video made by D&AD for Make it a Pencil.