Here are the words that go with my exhibition. It will be up in the Orpheum Annex Theatre until the end of December.
I am here too. Found hastily scrawled in a bus shelter. A simple phrase that captures the human experience.
You can learn a lot about a place if you pay attention to details. Words written on walls make a simple message system for the sans-phone subculture. When I walk around I find rude comments and demands for justice. I also find tender encouragements, declarations of love and messages that plead for validation.
The linens are embroidered with words found on “the street.” The needlework reflects the street culture dichotomy of tough looking tattoos and tender sentiment. Customary with graffiti, words on walls don’t last long. Sitting with the text for hours while I methodically stitch it is like getting to know a new friend. I speak out the words, imagining what prompted the statement and who might have written it.
The tent drawings are my field notes. They record the hours I spent sitting with people near their tents. Sometimes we talk, and other times I am an entertainer as I put pencil to paper. If the drawing is unfinished, its because the relationship took priority.
This showis a brief glimpse into an empathetic and overlooked community. The pairing of the drawings with the embroidered text creates a narrative with apocalyptic urgency, reflecting the many challenges facing Vancouver’s most transient citizens.
I went for a wee walk yesterday. I came across this locked gate and asked a woman how to enter the park. It's impossible to take shortcuts here; there are fences everywhere. Big fences, small fences, brick fences, charred fences, fences with razor wire... you get the idea.
"How do I get in there? All the gates are locked!"
"Aye, I wouldn't go in there if I were you. Lots of undesirables in the park, if ya know what I mean."
I didn't know what she meant, but I nodded anyway. She had just said my magic words.
Don't go in there.
"It's your choice of course. But I wouldn't go in."
I walked down the street and found the entrance to Colin Glen Forest Park.
The visitors centre woman gave me a booklet where I read about the booming linen industry that grew here, alongside centuries of rivalry between Catholic and Protestant townspeople. I didn't meet any "undesirables" but could hardly ignore the signs warning against "anti-social behaviour".
I will probably come back. The ideas are percolating.
It's not everyday that a textile artist lands in 'Linenopolis'. What I didn't know before I came to Belfast is that it supported the largest linen industry in the world in the second half of the 19th century.
This week I explored the city through graphite rubbings on fabric. It seemed like a good starting point. I did a similar project in London because there were so many monuments. In Belfast, monuments and commemorative plaques play a different role. Instead of honouring adventures who left to fight in foreign wars and conquer the rest of the world, these words honour the freedom fighters (or terrorists, depending on which side you're on) in their own country. Men who died as a direct result of the hunger strikes during The Troubles, graves marking the deceased from Catholic and Protestant communities. Brick and steel walls called Peace Walls that separate neighbours from any form of interaction.
The piece below collects words from West Belfast's Milltown Cemetery. I would go on about how imfamous this place is, but it's not necessary. Is there a piece of land in this city that hasn't seen sectarian violence?
Years ago I wanted to work towards a show called 'Rend/Mend'. I dropped the idea at the time, but it's resurfacing.
This month culminated in a four-day festival in the Midlands of England. My friends at Space to Breathe commissioned me to make an installation for a reflective prayer tent located at the edge of the festival grounds. As you can imagine, camping in the UK for the last weekend of August was not the best for weather, but there's something about running for shelter from torrential downpour with hundreds of others that really brings people together.
This installation is called "Even the Heavens Will Speak".
It's about disorientation, making sense of our surroundings, handiwork, and promise.
I have a solo show in October! I Am Here Too will be displayed at The Annex, downtown Vancouver. When I return home from the UK I will have two weeks to prepare the work and then it's installed and out of my hands. Here's a small preview.
In less than a week I'm flying to the UK to install my artwork at the Greenbelt Festival. My *new* studio looks like a sweatshop right now. Sewing machine, scraps of fabric everywhere, things pinned to the wall. It feels good to be in full production mode. These stars were inspired by collages I made a few years ago.
Some of the fabric was found on the streets in my neighbourhood (thoroughly washed of course) and others I found at a church bazaar. I love deconstructing familiar folk quilt shapes.
This week is full with documenting performance collaborations. I made the flag last year, hopeful to propose it as a public art piece for the City of Vancouver. Not surprisingly, my proposal for honouring sites of squatter communities through the decades was rejected.
Instead I am finding other ways of reclaiming space in my city.
The city painted over another Jenny/Street Artist collaboration. And this was my response.
The stencil was put up a day before I heard the news that I'm being renovicted. I have to be out by the end of the month. I'm not so sure this is an "ode to joy" but it will be nice to have a new space that doesn't smell like mold.
Once in a while I make paper cut-outs for a community-engaged, arts-based research project called 'Illicit'. I've learned a lot about the power of suggestion; how a simple shadow can set the stage for a profound work of art.
I have been loosely connected with this group since last year, when I was invited to make cut-outs for a performance that was installed in a back ally. Since the early days of Macgyvering a set on the fly, they have come a long way and are preparing for a performance at the Orpheum!
In the wake of the U.S. Embassy opening in Jerusalem and the past seven weeks of protests in Gaza, this piece feels timely. I made Diaspora in 2016 after returning from a month long artist residency in Israel/Palestine. It's been sitting in my studio waiting for a wood base forever. I was forced to complete it for a group show next month (see below).
'Diaspora', ceramics from Hebron, Jerusalem and Bethlehem, olive wood, 2016
Last month I had a studio break-in. It was stressful but it came at a good time. It provided me a clean break from the old work so I can make new art for my October show. I'm currently embroidering words that I find on the street (written messages that people leave each other). We have an archaic communication system in the Downtown Eastside but it works. I am intrigued by how the personal and intimate details of someone's life are displayed for anyone who will notice. Some messages are funny or profane, others are tragic. Once in a while I come across street prophecies and bits of wisdom.
I work with Old English Font for a few reasons; nostalgic sentimentality and its over-use in tattoos and street brand clothing. My needle work goes on vintage handkerchiefs but I love the subtle connections with street culture.