Absence Inhabited part 3

This exhibition aims to invite curiosity into the ways we inhabit our homes by contemplating the objects that surround us.

By Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Alberta Foundation for the Arts

Tub (Rosa) (1975) by Mel RosaAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Introduction to part 3

The works featured in the three parts of this exhibition all tell different stories. The represented objects all appear to hold a patina or residue of life, yet all the objects presented are inanimate lifeless forms. The range of objects represented allows for consideration of the concept of home and being from a variety of viewpoints – and challenges us to think about how we live, communicate, and function on a day to day basis. 

The Bed (1977) by Diana EdwardsAlberta Foundation for the Arts

With a background in anthropology, Diana Edwards viewed photography as a way of looking, and of relating to people and the land.

She stated, “I don’t take pictures of places and people I don’t like.... One of the things photography does is to help you constantly increase your awareness. It’s a great tool in living.”

The sheets left in a disturbed state from the sleeping body, now absent, create a kind of body-memory or presence through imprint.

Room Interior With Bed (1978) by Janet E. BrownAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Janet E. Brown was born in 1952 in Midnapore Alberta. She graduated from the Alberta College of Art in 1975, majoring in painting and photography. Brown was actively engaged in the arts community as a student and exhibited in various student shows and 3-man exhibitions in her 4th year of art college, moving on after graduation to being a photographer for Mount Royal College.

This particular photograph acquired by the AFA just three years after her graduation, features a room with an empty bed and sunlight shining in through the windows. These elements seem to generate a juxtaposition of bodily absence and an intruding ghostly presence of sunlight. In this photographic image of a percievably empty room, one may be compelled to consider the experiential memories that are crystalized within spacial environments.

Almost Always Never Dreaming (2013) by April DeanAlberta Foundation for the Arts

In April Dean’s Wet T-Shirt Series, she turned snippets of language into intimate slogans - inspired by poetry, tweets and text messages.

With a very contemporary approach to inner dialogue, Dean silkscreens these slogans onto T-shirts, and then photographs them wet on a light table.

The final works are digitally printed on transparent Pictorico Film and when exhibited, they are displayed off the wall by just a few inches.

Ill Equipped & Unprepared (2013) by April DeanAlberta Foundation for the Arts

The x-ray feel of these prints reference the body and the self in a very personal way.

The subtleties in these pieces speak of an emotional presence through the use of text, using fashion and language to create a proclamation of identity and inner anxieties.

Boots (1974) by Susan RobbinsAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Limited information is available on this piece by Susan Robbins, however this simple watercolor drawing can speak for itself in many ways.

Similar to the work of Terry Winter, these unworn shoes appear molded to the experiences of the individual who walked in them.

We can only imagine where these shoes have been - perhaps worn to work, or out in the snow... but any still life painted of a garment seems to have a strong connection to the figure and to personal identities and stories.

Untitled (1991) by Terry WinterAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Terry Winter graduated from the Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) in 1990 with a Fine Arts Diploma in drawing. Three of her works have been collected by the AFA, but not much is recorded about the works specifically.

This drawing acquired by AFA just one year after Winter’s graduation from ACAD features an unworn garment, which almost always references back to absence of the body.

Speaking of absence as well as a ghostly presence of the figure, we inhabit the clothing we wear and it arguably becomes a part of our identity.

When unworn then, does the garment feel? Does it remember to whom it belongs?

Outfit For The Afterlife by Pamela NorrishAlberta Foundation for the Arts

At first glance this sculpture made by then 32 year old artist Pamela Norrish appears to be a simple T-shirt and pair of jeans, but these garments are by no means ordinary.

Outfit For The Afterlife - Detail 2 (2010/2015) by Pamela NorrishAlberta Foundation for the Arts

The T-shirt and jeans are made entirely from tiny glass beads.

Each seed bead is 1.6 mm in size. According to the artist, she estimates that half a million beads were required to complete the “Outfit,” which she worked on for five years.

Deciding to make this piece, Pamela Norrish wished to create an outfit which she would be comfortable to wear for eternity- she said that a simple t-shirt and jeans was her go-to clothing choice for comfortably working in her studio.

Outfit For The Afterlife - Detail 1 (2010/2015) by Pamela NorrishAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Norrish explained that she beads representations of commonplace objects to “...suggest an alternate universe, an extraordinary beaded universe, where the everyday can transcend mediocrity.”

Untitled (Pantyhose) (1999) by Elizabeth ClarkAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Born in Sherbrooke Quebec in 1947, Elizabeth Clark moved to Alberta to acquire a diploma in painting from the Alberta College of Art, Calgary in 1984, and went on to earn a Certificate in Museology (1992) along with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree (1994) from Concordia University in Montreal.

In her artistic practice, Elizabeth Clark began to explore different aspects of social identity by constructing and manipulating clothing.

Clothing was for Clark, “a metaphor for the human body and a vehicle with which to explore human condition and interaction. They are illusion, masquerade, and idealized individualism of the human body. Clothing announces identity.”

Untitled (Sleeper) (1999) by Elizabeth ClarkAlberta Foundation for the Arts

These two works by Clark certainly seem to portray a ghost-like identity of their wearers.

A metaphor of the body, and an expression of presence through absence.

Elizabeth Clark passed away in 2008, but her works remind us of her contemplation and curiosity towards the many aspects of everyday life, and how materiality reflects our history, and identity.

Untitled by Bill SimpkinsAlberta Foundation for the Arts

Bill Simpkins was educated at the Banff Centre and University of Calgary, and was an excellent example of the modern photojournalist.

Starting out as a darkroom technician and moving on to become chief photographer for a few different major newspapers, Simpkins had a keen eye for story telling with photography.

His philosophy on photography is that its strength is in realism, and that we should not be intimidated by the photograph as an art form.

In this particular photograph, the panty-hose lay limp, yet the way they are hung and positioned seems to reference three figures, standing in a row. The materiality of panty-hose is fragile and skin-like, and the image creates a haunting or ghost-like presence.

Inner Weather (1995) by K. Gwen FrankAlberta Foundation for the Arts

K. Gwen Frank, in her artist statement on this work, explained that she was “interested in the underlying energy beneath physicality and immediate perception.”

Using etching as a medium - drawing with acid on copper, she described her exploration of “a certain darkness, a textural richness of experience” that she saw as part of the deep insights we all hold within us.

For Frank, finding oddity within the mundane, and shifting attention to small often unnoticed events opened up a way to embrace mystery in the ordinary.

The title Inner Weather seems to allude to a metaphor of home as an outer shell of self, and weather as inner turbulance or anxiety.

We all hold these internal dialogues, and Frank seems to be interested in bringing these dialogues to the forefront of conversations relating to domestic contexts and everyday experiences.

Bathrobe - View A (1993) by Marc SiegnerAlberta Foundation for the Arts

This bathrobe by Marc Siegner was part of a series of clothing sculptures, where clothing serves as a metaphor for the binary sex and gender system.

Clothing is in this context, a culturally invented self as well as a container meant to both conceal and reveal.

With Siegner’s sculptures, the physical body remains obscure, it’s gender and identity both in question.

Bathrobe - Detail (1993) by Marc SiegnerAlberta Foundation for the Arts

In this series, the skin-like sculptures directly reference the physical body and the self, as well as hint at encasement or shedding of skin.

Tub (Rosa) (1975) by Mel RosaAlberta Foundation for the Arts

This incredibly detailed painting of an empty bathtub by Mel Rosa, who is now primarily based in the States, doesn’t necessarily seem empty at all.

With so much visual information - the floral patterning on the towels, the stains on the tub, the woven bath mat, and the geometric tiling, this painting speaks volumes about modern culture and our private identities.

Credits: Story

Absence Inhabited
Curated by Ashley Slemming
2017 Emerging Curator Fellow

This exhibition represents 29 artworks by 27 Alberta artists:

Barbara Amos
Ray Arnatt
Martin Bennett
John Brocke
Janet E. Brown
Elizabeth Clark
April Dean
Diana Edwards
K. Gwen Frank
Evelyn Grant
John Hall
Douglas Jones
Lylian Klimek
William Laing
Glen Mackinnon
Darci Mallon
Walter May
Lesley Menzies
Pamela Norrish
Jim Picco
Susan Robbins
Mel Rosa
Kate Schutz
Marc Siegner
Bill Simpkins
Arlene Stamp
Terry Winter

These artists all highlight unique perspectives on object-hood and have contributed to a rich survey of domestically-situated artworks. These works bring into focus notions of intimate home spaces within a continually growing and interconnected relational world.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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