Artist Biography with Art Practice

I was born in 1939 in Victoria Harbour on the southern shores of Georgian Bay where I grew up in a farming community. At a young age, I participated in most farming activities and then creating in my solitary hours, ‘places’ that resemble some of the installation work I do today.

I received a BA in Art and Art History from McMaster University in Hamilton, an MA in Education from the State University of New York at Buffalo, and a Class A Certificate from Toronto Teachers’ College.

Stage 5 installation

I focus on gesture and so the drawing often reminds the observer of something.

During my thirty-five years in the teaching profession, I worked with learners at all levels of elementary, secondary, university and Faculties of Education. I offered mentorship for teachers through many workshops, seminars and panel discussions. During this time, I also designed and wrote curriculum programs for the Ontario Ministry of Education.

My career-long focus to keep learners connected to both the natural world and the local community merited an Ontario Teachers’ Federation Award for outstanding and creative teaching.

During my teaching career, I kept up art practice and exhibiting. I retired from the teaching profession in 1995. That same year, the Art Gallery of Hamilton held a solo exhibition of my work. Since then, my career as a visual artist has expanded regionally, across Canada and into parts of Eastern Europe. Gallery and Outdoor Installations have been a large part of my practice.

In the Forest
Donning the Coat of Nature

Installation Art is a form of art-making that often creates a place beyond the ordinary. It can have many parts to it and by bringing those parts together in the mind and imagination, the work communicates ideas and feelings unique to each participant. The term ‘participant’ is apt for installation art as the observers become involved participants. They are within the artwork rather than merely looking at it from the outside.

My work is rooted in ecological issues. As early as 1995, my installation exhibition titled Part of the Fabric at the Art Gallery of Hamilton used art-making to explore concretely, relations among the natural world, my work and community building. One of the installation works titled Donning the Coat of Nature implied that through enactment, I could practice creating relationships with, in this instance, the forest. The idea: “View it as a skill and develop that skill” was suggested through my performance.

As Part of the Fabric moved from Hamilton to North Bay, Thunder Bay and Edmonton, I further explored this model by remaining in each community to work with secondary school students who made their own ‘site-specific coats of nature’. 

This socialized creative process focussed on cooperation; on working as one. In doing this, I formed connections among, myself as artist, the gallery, youth, the artwork, the community and the natural world. Issues of lake, forest and caribou were embedded in these coats and in the minds of the makers.

Caribou Coat
Thunder Bay Forest Coat

As the years continue, installations and exhibiting, cooperative coat projects and new opportunities continue. I have owned several unique properties, founded galleries and now live in Paris, Ontario where I steward a historic property that is my home, studio, gallery and garden.

During the past seven years, I have returned to working with willow and metal, making large “drawings” that are mounted on the wall. Instead of communicating an idea as Installation Art does, these works represent something – a voice, a veiled woman, a pointing bear, a waterfall. I continue, even in this later work to leave the observer to “figure it out”.

I focus on gesture and so the drawing often reminds the observer of something. This “see and respond” action is often quick and for each observer it is different. I title the works to offer a context. The observer will look more closely and perhaps see something completely different. Metal drawings are “offspring” of the willow works in that they are photos of the willow and serve to allow the observer to see a 3D work and the same work in 2D.

Tectonic plates shifting, earth quaking, glaciers calving, sky curtains settling, all became thoughts of an ever-changing planet, a place constantly in flux.

When the pandemic began, we were made aware of where it was endemic and before long it became a global threat. Pandemic news was reported in tandem with climate change effects and it seems to me, one raised awareness for the other.

This new historic time prompted change in my work. It began with a satellite-distant view of the whole earth, a much larger view than was my custom. It was more to view all rather than get away from all.

Tectonic plates shifting, earth quaking, glaciers calving, sky curtains settling, all became thoughts of an ever-changing planet, a place constantly in flux. I wanted to make visible some of the things/events that can be neither witnessed nor seen. I worked with fibres to raise awareness around the patience required for ‘cocooning’ and living in isolation. One work took over two hundred hours of stitching. Time went slowly, stretched out. Waiting for change occurred.

Fibre Abstract
Fibre Abstract | Sky Curtain, Settling

A different world prompted a different way of representing what was going on. Twenty-four of these works came together in a performance hall in Vittoria (Ontario). The coloured shapes felt to me like ‘painting, like laying down pieces of colour, while the stitching felt like drawing with a needle and lace-weight yarn, embellishing the layer below.

For these works, I used all-natural fibres: wool, silk, linen, cotton, etc. in both the fabric and yarns. Some of the silk was dyed using purchased natural dyes from plants, insects and minerals. This prompted me to explore natural dyes of Ontario plants and mainly with silks. These two materials offer a combination of rusticity and elegance that I like to pair.

My next exhibition will be in 2022 in Dundas, Ontario. At this point, I have only a glimmer of the content in one evocative word. I will however, continue with natural fabrics and yarns, with dye exploration and as always, achieve ‘some’ goal slowly and by simply reaching it.

The human hammer having fallen, the sixth mass extinction has begun. This spasm of permanent loss is, if it is not abated, expected to reach the end-of-Mesozoic level by the end of the century. We will then enter what poets and scientists alike may choose to call the Eremozoic Era — The Age of Loneliness.