Material Witness will focus on extreme textile process. Images will be posted here showing the history of my work, new work, developing projects and inspiration.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Big Ugly Lump

The huge tumour was ugly. It was pumping awful into my system for a few years. The sick that came from that is now gone. The pain that was like a rat chewing my shoulder has also gone.
The beast was curling around my lymph node area and pretending to be something else.
It wasn't cancer!!!!

I have had lots of things pulled out that were cancer. The scariest one of all was not.

I have now been ordered back for "further testing". There are other lumps. These ones don't cause such a rucus. I think I might not go.

How many times have they gone in and taken a look or messed around with my parts? Memory is gettting shorter. I know I just feel tired.

All are now back on the road and travelling to their own homes. My Aunt left me healing stones.
I'll just put them on my chest and go to sleep today.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Family Ties

Today I find out about my pathology reports and get my stitches checked.

My family showed up in droves in the last few days. My Aunty and Uncle drove in from Torrington. Bri and Suzi came from LaCombe. My baby brother from Mission and Keri and her new baby drove in from Abbotsford. Even Ryan and the band showed up. There are people cuddld up and sleeping on the floor and couches. Babies are being changed. People are cooking, fussing and singing. No one is ever quiet. Comments both snarky and sweet are being tosswed out. We are squished in this little house like bugs. It feels so natural and comfortable.

What it is like to be from a small family?

I used to wish to be an only child like my mother was. I'd try to find quiet places to hide and plug my ears and pretend I was alone. Hiding under tables and beds worked for awhile. I'd disappear them and create tragedy to survive...alone!

Now that doesn't make any sense. Sometimes dealing with cancer means loneliness as the world carries on and you try to grab on somewhere. I need my cave full of these people right now. I love to hear them breathing and tossing around in their sleep. Even the growls work for me.

I need to touch thier stones.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bandaids Off

I feel so free. The wound coverings came off today and they did a fantastic job. Dr. Kuusk and sidekick Annie! They used at least one of my old scars and then sewed it up better than new.

I find out Monday how the pathology looks.

The whole afternoon was spent in the studio with both Jay and Adonna. I managed to make about seven little pupae and even tackled cording the wires frames. The variety of beings is now getting more exciting. The "collector's boxes" are being built and designed and all should be ready for photos next week.

Bummer is that I can't do the castings when people are in the studio. I will have to pull an all nighter and bring them home to dry.

A new possible summer intern contacted me today. I met him last winter and he asked all the right questions. He was also personable and low key. Another person has also applied from Cap College so I might have a little team this summer with Hilary, me and the interns.

Tomorrow everything goes in the patination bucket. Rust, Rust and more rust!.

Almost forgot to mention Rebecca Chernovsky-Harker's Grad Show photographs at Emily Carr College of Art. They are powerful and narrative. I am a proud "auntie"! She can sing,dance and act and now she can take wonderful photographs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Balls and Abigail

I feel back to normal today except pain that has been in my right side for years has disappeared.
Nearly normal except for a bit of energy loss.

Baking bannana bread helps and it smells good enough to make me think about all of the little balls I was making before my surgery. Little silicone balls covered in earth and sand and painted on the inside with irradescence and florescense. Bigger balls covered with my Eden skins.

Each a tiny thing I was going to make yesterday and today all inspired by Abigail Doan.

Abigail works with the earth and I work with smaller globes. Her vision and creations have kept me going through these last little trials. Her ability to use natural elements to breath air back in my lungs without knowing. She understands there is hope for the future and her optimism burst through with each of her organic and thoughtful works.

Both of us come from sheep farmers. She calls herself an "art farmer". I love what she grows!

Check out her blog www.abigaildoan.blogspot.com

Monday, May 21, 2007

Hebbie Jeebies

I am now on day three since my surgery. I am having what my father referred to as the "Heebie Jeebies". This is a collection of frights, worries and regrets crawling out from under the bed and various psychological closets from the swampy places in my poor brain. Influenced, no doubt, by the strange cocktails I have recieved to knock me senseless.

Why does this silliness take the shape of guilt and regret?

I have been a horrible person only occassionally in my life. It isn't a general habit. I try like everyone else to cover my"swamp thing" self and give it a scrub and dress it up in my Sunday best. It just keeps oozing out today. Seeping on it's pastel coverings. Staining whatever it touches.

I have been sick for a few years and have been dealing with pain. Sometimes I am just dealing with the memories of being sick and having pain. Sometimes I am just procrastinating my life away.

Today I will get up and read one thing. I will visit a new set of imagery and I will make a tiny.
Just one tiny object and finish it. Tomorrow I will make a bigger thing or another tiny thing and finish it. Tomorrow I can rip and tear.

Now I will try to get some rest and chase away that "Heebie Jeebie" and try to be nicer to Tim so it doesn't land on him!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Body Invasions

Home again!

Morphine is a good friend after surgery. Except the nausea.

It looks like this set of new growths was not cancerous but some kind of large benign tumour or cyst. Another body invasion

More later

Friday, May 18, 2007

Patchwork and Voyeurs.

Today is the day I get another patch on this crazy quilt of a body.

Surgery is scheduled for 10:00am. Nothing to eat or drink after midnight.

I need my glasses for consent forms and to stitch a little before I am hauled off. Clean panties for my grand burlesque as they roll me from one table to the next. No rips, no tears, no stains. Always the prissy panties and not my black lace favourites. Perhaps I'll just wear my scary old, lady bloomers. They are far more shocking. I need my book but the last one got snagged before I finished reading it. Slippers are required. I need one of the obscene sequined cream cheese pastel slippers I saw in the Moulin Rouge. Old lady bloomers and slutty, sequined slippers should work with the open backed blue gown.

Dr. Kuusk will once again open my layers and "take a look". I feel that my chest wall is like the hood of an old car that she keeps tacking together to roll it to the next garage.

Today I have a conscious surgery. I "get to watch". A "voyeur" viewing what is done to my body. I've done this once before and it didn't go very well. You get to observe them "freaking out" if a mistake gets made. Trust me...mistakes get made.

But today I have a little faith that things will go well and all these growths will leap out of me and run down the hall. They are just a nasty bunch of strangers who need to be sent away because this party is over. I have all my forces lined up. Knives, lazer guns and a fanatic guard dog of a surgeon. There are heat seeking missles to fry them if they even try to come back.

I should be home by 4:oo where I can crawl back into a red flannel nightie, eat a chocalate bisquit and have my tea. I"ll sniff the beautiful lily that Hilary left me and understand that it doesn't matter what they say. I am still here for today!

Break a leg Patricia!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Old Shoes

I am a flea. Nothing, but nothing is more comforting to me than to burrow into piles of old clothing and textiles. I shiver when looking inta a glass case and spying the corner of a tiny remnant. I become hyperactive when faced with the colours, designs and textures of a long forgotten trunk or suitcase.

When I was a little girl I remember finding a box of clothing in a field on the way home from school. It had obviously been sitting for awhile. Long enough to assume some of the textures of the surrounding prairie landscape. It was full of baby clothes. The contents was my childhood equivalent of lottery winnings. Little babies things. Tiny sacques and buntings. Soft embroidered nighties. Yellow and blue fine knit booties and sweaters. Wee smocked bonnets.
Best yet...cracked ivory baby shoes.

Total and complete bliss.

Fiona Parrot is my husband's cousin. She is an anthropologist in London. I curled up with jealousy when told she spent a year doing a study in London and went through the household belongings of dozens of people. She tried to determine what kind of a life people lived by what it was they owned.

Vashti, my step son's partner is an archaeologist. She has studied the belongings of ancient civilizations. She is in the process of determining whether or not there was once a strong and powerful group of prostitutes in Mexico. She dives into underwater caves to find their remnants. I just want to hold her collecting baskets.

My mother has a bottom drawer with objects carefuly wrapped in protective paper. Our things. Her mother's things and things from Ireland and England. My favourite is an old, deeply carved Irish Catholic leather prayer book. It holds pressed flower petals and a handwritten confession from a distraught and hysterical teenager. The upset and illogical teenager had once been my Nana. Her buttoned black baby boots are wrapped in a blue tissue paper.

My father was not this type of gatherer although he loved history. He was horrified and appalled that I would drag such awful things home. He tossed them in the burning can and lit them on fire. He explained about polio and smallpox. Horrible diseases like meningitis and impetago. Baby clothes that belonged to other children carried potential death and awful germs.
This was not illogical. Polio epidemics were still a reality when I was small.

Why else would they be thrown away?

I just thought the family moved and left them for me to find. I stood transfixed as I watched the clothing smolder and start to burn. The flames just illuminated the beauty of the intricate stitches and sent the clothing to heaven for squirming babies.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Bedouins and the Klan

Canadian Klansman woven by Barbara Heller

Barbara Heller is a remarkable contemporary tapestry artist and a master weaver.

Her technically accomplished work is intricate and emotionally challenging. She takes on any topic and leaves you raw in consideration.

Heller has woven scenes containing images of French Legionaires in full desert gear, Ku Klux Klan members in regalia, and toxic clean up workers entering environmental hell. All done in beautiful colour combinations with traditional tapestry weaving. Nothing, however, is traditional about her subject matter.

Sometimes this work challenges and contradicts her personal experience as a person of Jewish tradition and faith. The Barbara Heller I have encountered is a soft spoken and committed person. Her movements are delicate like her work but she is substantial enough to have raised her children and cared for an ill and elderly parent. She almost blends into the shadowed backgrounds of her work but jumps out at you at just the right moment.

I have watched as Heller's work has matured and reflected her deep and complex inner world. It has progressed from reflectons of memory and myth to dreams. She now capably reflects the conflicts and conversation needed for our troubled world.

Barbara Heller's work is being shown at the Elliot Louis Gallery in Vancouver during May. The website showing Heller's work is http://www.gallery@elliotlouis.com/

Unicorns and Ladies

Woven willow fence at the Cluny photo Tim Hurley

We sat for an hour in the medieval healing garden at the Cluny in Paris just breathing in the fragrances of the lavender, thymes and lilies. Ancient roses wafted all around us. This garden in the middle of Paris was designed for rest. The perfect place for a cuddle.

The stone walls in the Cluny go as far back as Roman times. Gargoyles watched our every move and guarded darkened corners. Grafitti had been carved into walls for generations and just became other markings on the stones.

I knew the museum held the Unicorn Tapestries. I didn't know how moved I would be standing in front of them in the dimly lit chambers. Each one of them was so carefully woven. Each yarn so carefully dyed and shaded. They made the lady's face so luminescent. The unicorn glowed so other worldly. Tapestry after tapestry was more beautiful than the next but with a constant design. Millefliore. Thousands of flowers and herbs are documented in the backgrounds.

I almost missed the twelfth century monk's shoe. Worn, soft and cracked brown leather. More like a slipper than a servicable shoe. More feminine than masculine by current fashion.

Who kept this shoe? Was it buried in the walls or had it been intentionally treasured? Who wore it?

The reason for shoe fetishes became very clear. The imprint of the foot had worn its mark and left its memory. The presense of its owner hovered all around. Who wouldn't love this holyman's little foot.

I saw so many ancient material objects in Paris. Things that had belonged to Napoleon and Antionette. Objects from those so greedy and long dead. Nothing captured time so fully as one worn leather shoe!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Ebor Mills

My partner Tim's family once owned the Ebor Mill in Haworth, England. His mother was born in Longlands, one of the family homes and her father was born in Ebor House.

We saw the millstream that flows past the Ebor Mill and watched as ducks and swans played in the waters beside the old stone textile mill. We looked for scraps of anything that might have been from family times. We found something else instead. No one from the Merrall family had visited Haworth for many years. The last cousin, Molly Holmes, died last year.

People in the town of Haworth were more than welcoming. They were thrilled to meet Tim, the grandson of a prominent community member. We were invited to tea with strangers. Jencis, a retired police officer, had saved Longlands House and is the warden at St. Michael's Church. Tim's great grandfather had built this beautiful church. He dragged us all over town and showed us every nook and cranny of the church, including long hidden stained glass windows dedicated to the family members. He showed us the church tower and puled Tim up it's narrow staircase to look at many golden bells. Many of the bells were hand ringers. Great Grandfather moved the Bronte's graves to be contained and protected in the church.We found each relative's crypt and grave marker and tidied them as best we could.

Longlands has become a beautiful youth hostel. The co-ordinator invited us for tea and showed us everything in the house. We scoured the house from cellar to attic and looked at where the horse stables had been. Huge stained glass windows covered many of the walls in the house both inside and out. Pomegranites cascade down the 30 foot windows and are landed on by swallows.
The many fireplaces in the house were tiled in Roman, Greek and Norse myths. The entire foyer goes up 3 or 4 floors and is carved with scenes from a Midsummer Night's Dream with Pan frolicing in such a naughty way. The youth hostel coordinator is concious of and loving with the house.

We tucked into bed that night in the Old White Lion Inn which was also owned by one of our ancient mothers. They warned us of the ghost in room 7. She was the Lily Crow, who died in a parachute accident at a great uncle's birthday party. She was reputed to be his lover. Her presense was only comforting to us. Her spirit didn't come and we imagined she was only there to protect us.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Genetic Affection

I wonder if like genetic memory there is something like genetic affection.

I have just returned from my trip to France and Great Britain. Fangfoss, near York, had been one of my destinations because of an ancestral home that was there. I walked on the grounds and touched the walls of Fangfoss Hall and felt at home. Some relative had built the home many generations before. This touch on walls that mine have built allows my imagination to scrutinize other times and experiences. Just a persistant quirk.

There was no preparation, however, for the affection felt for those encountered. Such strong stabs of feeling. Hoards of little children poured out of the Fangfoss School. So many of them looked almost identical to my white, blonde babies. What was so eerie was that the children came in all sizes. Tiny to tall! A swarm of genetically recognizable Viking offspring. Eyes of melted river ice like my father had. We drove away to the overwhelming recognition of abandoning a genetic tribe. Comparable to leaving a body part behind.

I stood in a field nearby and was swarmed again by thirty tiny spring lambs. Mewing little babies. Seeking something from me that I couldn't give. This identical experience happened once with my great grandmother when I was small. She said it meant that I was born to be a shepard and that lambs knew that. Generations of us have kept sheep and have created cloth from the wool.

Maybe just a genetic memory of shepard for the lambs?
Probably just genetic affection if there is such a thing! The lambs of Fangfoss just visiting the offspring of the former owner.