Thursday, October 17, 2019

A Stich and Time: The Slofemists at the Dunlop Art Gallery

The Slofemists (Lois Klassen and I) were honoured to be invited to Regina as artists in the Stitch and Time exhibition and related programming at the Dunlop Art Gallery curated by Blair Fornwald and Wendy Peart. We showed work from our collection and created new work with drop-in community sewing sessions at the gallery.

During Nuit Blanche people were invited to stitch with us and sit at the "Menditation Station" where they could write their intentions to mend something broken in their lives and steps to take to fix it.

These  menditation masks you see in the photo above are created using cyanotype on fabric I made with plants. They're filled with lavender, wheat berries, and buckwheat. You can wear them to block out the light when you're relaxing and you can put them in the fridge and apply cold whe you have a headache. The leaves used in the cyanotype above have been altered by leafcutter bees that cut holes out of plants to use as nesting material. Lois and I took a walk near Waskana Park and found some leaves that had been used by local leafcutter bees.

We also saw some great signage on leafcutter bees in the Native Plant Garden at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

I was very touched by our interactions and conversations with folks who dropped in to stitch alongside us. In particular, the person who created the embroidery below had never done anything like this before. Amazing! Stitching is a simply hands on activity which focuses the mind and calms the heart. It allows us to create a space with a gentle spirit where connectivity can flourish.

It was great to connect with new and old friends as we stitched the pattern Lois created on unbleached muslin panels.  Lois writes: "Famished Road Ecology (for 25 Million Refugees) is a new embroidery pattern that the Slofemists designed especially for Nuit Blanche Regina 2019. The stitches laid down onto unbleached cotton panels will be added to Jennifer Kim Sohn's 25 Million Stitches--a project that is working to realize the quantity of refugees listed by UNHCR in 2016." 

Luckily, the gallery is in the main branch of the Regina Public Library, so I was able to find books on native prairie plants and books on embroidery which we could use to create patterns that represent flowers growing in the ditches on the sides of prairie roads. These are the plants I reunited with this summer as we brought my father's ashes home to rest.

As we stitched, we listened to the haunting sound track from Mindy Yan Miller and Susan Miller's piece Needle and Thread. It is a meditative soundscape dedicated to victims of the Holocaust with recited names, singing and birdsong. We were also stitching alongside another piece by Heather Majuary and Terre Chartrand called Neighbours: A Community Quilting Project which is a Truth and Reconciliation project. It struck me that people who are displaced are often separated from the plants of their homeland. Many of the weeds we see in ditches are medicinal plants that immigrants bring with them to help heal the trauma of displacement.

It seems it is the time of year to remember the people who have been displaced, traumatized, missing, murdered, or simply lost. Lois and I went to the thrift store to find orange shirts to wear on the day when children who were forced to attended residential schools are remembered.  I watch a newscast where a red banner inscribed with the names if children who died in the schools in unfurled. Its length fills me with sadness. From September 11th to All Soul's Day, to Remembrance Day on November 11, we pay respect to collective trauma and loss. We also take small quiet steps to repair the damage in our social fabric.

And some of those steps are exploring a connection with the nature outside the gallery. Lois and I take a walk through the green heart of the city. We discover a double crested cormorant resting on a branch.

We were also inspired by the signage and the foliage and the native plant garden installed at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.

We were lucky to be able to travel around the city and be inspired by the art on display in the galleries. I was particularly charmed by this piece by Bill Burns called "Bird Radio and the Eames Chair Lounge"  at the Mackenzie Art Gallery.

Special thanks to all the folks who made our contribution to A Stitch and Time possible!