During the workshop for Parallel Lines, participating in the suitcase activity and hearing some of my own stories and reasons for creating the work, primed Participants for the subsequent painting activity and also prepared them for their visit to the exhibition at the museum.
Through freely juxtaposing random items in a suitcase, both workshop Participants and gallery Visitors discovered how each arrangement could simultaneously reflect intensely personal stories yet also convey a range of different meanings to onlookers of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.
Participants became aware how objects can be used to convey symbolic meaning, subconscious bias and untold backstories. They also learned about object placement, juxtaposition, composition and design. Prepared by this experience, participants were open to trusting their instincts with paint. This learning was reflected not only in the painting activity, but later also at the museum, particularly in the installation 15 Minutes of Fame.
In the work pictured here, we can see a whiskey bottle lying on top of a playboy magazine, situated at a considerable distance from the bed on which we see clothes and personal items. Beside the bed we see a closed suitcase; and a pair of well worn work boots.
Triangulating from the other corner, we see a child's pair of moccasins. This use of space is very effective and powerful.
What does it say to you?
During the painting activity in each workshop, Participants from Canadian Mental Health Association, Cochrane Temiskaming Branch; Kirkland Lake District Composite School; and Beaverhouse First Nation were invited to meditate on a photograph that spoke to them in some way or held some personal significance to them. The photo might trigger a memory, a feeling or an idea. Participants were invited to reflect on whatever was sparked by the photo, and consider how they might represent this through painting. The photo could be glued onto the board or canvas, or simply used as a point of inspiration. The objective was to paint one's emotional response to the photo; or simply to consider the lines of composition in the image and to follow them to see where they might lead. There were no rules and no expectations. It was a completely exploratory process.
Each of the participants painted straight from the heart, sharing deep concerns, inner conflicts, hopes and dreams.
It is not for me to share their stories here (that is for each of them to do should they so desire) but all of us may look, see, interpret and find meaning based on how each work speaks to us individually.
I must say that I deeply admire the courage, honesty, and insight shown by all Participants in these workshops.
I feel it is an honour and a privilege to cradle the stories that have been shared with me.