Tuesday, July 1, 2014


We make memories every day. Some stick with us, some don't. I wish I knew what differentiated the two types. I have been reflecting this week on some year-old memories that are still vivid and continue to intrigue me.

One of the best days of my life came last July while I was riding my bike across New York State following the route of the Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany. It was my second time on the route so I knew the rhythm and that each day was do-able with lots of time for side trips or lazy time spent along the way. I researched what was taking place in the towns through which we would pass and in the areas immediately surrounding. It wasn't long before I came across what I knew would be the highlight of the trip. The Schweinfurth Art Center in Auburn, NY was showing Innovators and Legends: Generations in Textiles and Fibers. This show was originally curated for the Muskegon Art Museum in Michigan.

Auburn was not on the route of the bike trip so on the morning of my detour I set out early because I was unsure of distance and terrain. For the first few miles I was still following the roads that the rest of the riders would take on their way to Syracuse. It was raining but not so hard that cycling was either unsafe or uncomfortable. Soon it was time for me to make a right turn off the established route. I rode for perhaps another hour before I arrived at the outskirts of Auburn. I was ahead of schedule so stopped at a grocery store for fruit and then rode slowly down the main street looking for the art centre. There was still a most an hour before it opened. I continued to ride into town and found the local tourist office. The ladies there were intrigued by the fact that someone from Nova Scotia had ridden so far just to visit their town. They took me in, put my wet bike in the boardroom for the day and gave me a recommendation for the best coffee shop in town.

I was the first person to enter the art centre that morning. If my damp biking clothes didn't set me apart as a unique visitor, then asking the woman at the front desk to look after my knitting probably did. The show was so fabulous that I walked it three times. There was work by some "big" names; the best known to me were Nancy Crow and Arturo Sandoval. It was a revelation to see their work in person. Photos do not give any sense of the complexity and subtlety of both construction and colour. But there were two pieces which have stuck with me and which have grown in my imagination since I saw them.

The first, Wormwood Bones; Feral Fade by Sarah Wagner, was beautifully displayed on a round platform. Viewers could walk all the way around the five displayed objects and could even, as I did, kneel down to go nose to nose with them. My lasting impression of this piece is of a moment in time, caught by the artist.. There is a story in the relationships between the five objects and in their coloration and transparency and the form of their skeletons. I have since read that the forms are meant to be cats but they have an every-animal feel to me. I cannot find an image to share which even approximates what I saw in the gallery. Sarah Wagner's website will give you a sense of her work,

The other piece didn't hit me until I was almost ready to leave the exhibit. It is Model:Splitting by Maggie Casey. This is a seemingly simple and definitely unflashy piece made with wood, string and brass tacks. The longer I looked at it the more questions occurred to me. I still wonder whether I am seeing disintegration or the process of construction.

Model:Splitting by Maggie Casey
As I contemplate my memorable day and the art that has stuck with me, I think the common thread is story. If story matters, am I effectively telling or implying a story in my own work?

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