Elsewhere …

A thoroughly apropos title.

After the busy-ness of getting the work up for exhibition, and then the opening reception on the 9th, I thought life was going to slow a little bit. Not so.

I have been elsewhere (metaphorically) – catching up on all sorts of things that needed attending to.

Amongst those ‘to-do’ list items: A few images from the exhibition, and the curator’s essay.

A quick shot of the installation work I did in the exterior window of the gallery. The quotation is taken from  Roger-Pol Droit's lovely book, entitled How Are Things? It seemed to sum up so perfectly that I have been striving for, in this body of work, and in my practice as a whole.
A quick shot of the installation work I did in the exterior window of the gallery. The quotation is taken from Roger-Pol Droit’s lovely book, entitled How Are Things? It seemed to sum up so perfectly that I have been striving for, in this body of work, and in my practice as a whole.
Another quick shot, this a face-on view of the main window.
A closer shot, showing some of the detail. I will be back out to the gallery shortly, to shoot a proper set of images of the work, but this does give you some idea.

And inside the gallery …

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Our curator, Brenda Barry Byrne, has written an essay examining the use of memory in my work and Brenda Danbrook‘s. You can fine it online here, and a PDF can be accessed here: Elsewhere – Curator’s Essay – Jan 2015.

There’s also an interview with Brenda Danbrook and me in the Sherwood Park News. PDF of it here: Elsewhere – Sherwood Park News Article Jan 2015

This exhibition took the effort of many minds and hands to produce. My thanks to my co-exhibitor, Brenda Danbrook, and to Brenda Barry Byrne for comments, support, and great input and feedback, and to Strathcona County, for building such a beautiful gallery in which to show work!

My thanks and gratitude too to Kaylee Low from Gallery @ 501, Paddy Lamb, and Angele Karosi for their help in getting the work on the walls, and to Sara McKarney for helping me pack it and John Waldron for getting me and the work to the gallery!

Couldn’t have done it without you!

The Love Affair Else-where, Part II: Humans and Nests

The specific spark for the body of work I am developing over the course of my Residency at Harcourt House dates back well over a year now, to two conversations I had in quick succession, with two of my favourite poets: Catherine Owen and Jannie Edwards. Turns out, both of them had been re-reading Gaston Bachelard’s amazing work The Poetics of Space … and I had been reading some of Roger-Pol Droit‘s delightful explorations of phenomenology in his books How are Things? and 101 Experiments in the Philosophy of Everyday Life. I had let Bachelard’s book slip from my awareness a bit, and so after great talks with Cath and Jannie, I dug into The Poetics of Space once more, after a many-years absence. The reward was great and immediate – as it had been the first time I read his words.

Bachelard has this to say about nests:

A nest, like any other image of rest and quiet, is immediately associated with the image of a simple house.

And further:

A nest-house is never young … . For not only do we come back to it, but we dream of coming back to it, the way a bird comes back to its nest, or a lamb to the fold. This sign of return marks an infinite number of daydreams, for the reason that human returning takes place in the great rhythm of human life, a rhythm that reaches back across the years, and through the dream, combats all absence.

(Boston: Beacon Press, 1994,pp.98-99)

 So here we are at the intersection of the object, memory, emotion, and space: the confluence of the human beings’ relationship to things. But there’s more to this than meets the eye, if for no other reason than this is a human response to a non-human structure. A certain amount of species-centric thinking here, to be sure, but this is a discussion of human responses and ideas, after all.

And there’s no small set of contradictions in the human response to the bird nest – the ambivalence and ambiguity of which hooked me immediately – and simply required that I do something with it. Because, as Bachelard points out quite clearly, a “nest – and this we understand right away – is a precarious thing, and yet it sets us to daydreaming of security. Why does this obvious precariousness not arrest daydreams of this kind? (pp. 102-103)

Two nests I found within days of each other this past autumn. Hardly representative of the haven and security we seek.

There’s so much in the nest-as-object that screams insecurity, loss (potential or real), absence, ephemerality. And yet … and yet. They are also objects emblematic of ingenuity (be it hard-wired genetically or not), of a certain stick-with-it-ness in the face of any number of possible negative outcomes. Perhaps it is these things to which we respond so strongly. The idea of endurance, and the security that it brings … the longevity of memory that allows room for a return or two; the capacity to “use the available materials” (my thanks here to poet Louise Gluck) to craft a place that says “safe” that says “haven” … against all odds.


I have been contemplating the relationship I have to things – objects, that is. This in part because of several conversations I have had with various people lately, some of them questioning my desire for –  and collecting of – what amounts to garbage. I am drawn to collect various cast-offs to the point of obsession: rusty metal things, crow and raven feathers, bits of broken or disassembled clocks and machines, the requisite beach bits (a must for a prairie-born scavenger like myself). Even here, in this small apartment, I am unable to stop myself from bringing random things home as I find them (it’s more like they have found me).

Really the question is why? Why this particular affinity for particular forms of detritus? On one level the answer is simple – it is fodder for my work, and they are objects with shapes and textures that I find pleasing. But this does beg the question, really, and raises another whole set of questions about the nature of my work. Perhaps I need to engage in a process similar to that if Roger-Pol Droit in his book How Are Things? and catalogue my response and relationship with the objects I collect, or at the very least, examine my fascination with the categories of things that increasingly inhabit my world. (This book is, by the way, a delightful read – and a fascinating exploration of the relationship between objects, their roles in our lives, and the emotional and physical connections we have with them.)

I find myself beginning this examination with a passage from Droit’s book, that bear reproducing here:

“Is anyone really persuaded that our external reality teaches us nothing? That their [things’]  quantity is indifferent, their diversity without significance? That their variety, categories, genealogies and metamorphoses are as nothing — just so many irrelevant culs-de-sac? On the contrary. Things have no residence other than in their absolute singularity. Matter in this particular place, under this particular form. Displaying this colour and no other. This texture and no other. This degree of wear and tear and no other. Each thing is itself and no other.” (pp 9 – 10)

It is indeed this – the singularity of each object that I encounter  – that draws my initial attention. But this could be true of any collection;  so the additional layer of understanding that must be gained revolves around the particular categories of object that I collect, and what whose categories and the individual characteristics of the objects within each category provide in that way of … what? Satisfaction of some sort? Understanding?