I've designed a workshop to augment my exhibition, Parallel Lines, that brings together Newcomers, Indigenous and Canadian youth and seniors to explore memory, imagination, perspective and choice through sculpture installation, storytelling and painting.
I am conducting the workshop in the communities, schools, museums and galleries.
I've just returned from Kirkland Lake and the responses have been absolutely amazing.
The first activity I call "Stories from a Suitcase".
Here — participants open a suitcase and talk about what they think of, or feel, when they see the objects.
No two people see or feel the same way. Context is everything.
I'll be posting images so you can see how things went.
Here's how it started:
I'd love to hear what other people think about when they consider the juxtaposition of objects here. Our varied perspectives are absolutely fascinating.
Feel free to post your comments below.
In light of Canada's 150th anniversary, the recent US election; the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada; and the growing climate of intolerance — I feel that now, more than ever before, we need dialogue, and that this is what we artists are here to facilitate. We have a powder keg here waiting. Dialogue is essential.
Parallel Lines draws attention to the continued challenges of Canada’s Aboriginal peoples to overcome their history of incarceration on reserves, at residential schools and in prisons.
Parallel Lines also highlights the plight of refugees fleeing war and hardship in their own countries and their struggle to build new lives in Canada.
Parallel Lines was created and designed to honour and empower people; to facilitate conversation and dialogue; and cultivate mutual understanding and respect.
The work does not presume to speak for anyone. That's the participant's job in this work.
Over the years I have found that angry abrasive activism is not the only way to reach people.
Ambiguous yet playful Parallel Lines encourages and enables people to listen and learn.
Faced with the findings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, for example, I imagine many non-native people might dread coming face to face with a residential school survivor. Through Parallel Lines, however, the playful act of interpreting a painting or arranging articles around a bed engages visitors, drawing them in almost as participants in an unfolding story.
Defenses are lowered through play, curiosity and interest is piqued and a fertile environment is created wherein seeds of compassion and understanding may be planted.
I feel it is vital that Canadian-born people engage with First Nations people and with newcomers to listen to and hear their stories; stand with them and actively help to create a respectful space to enable healing to begin.
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I met a Bosnian shopkeeper in Toronto who told me she encountered a Serbian warlord from her village back home — by the elevator in her apartment building in Toronto.
Last week, I was chatting with an Iranian carpet dealer who told me he used to design textiles for the Queen of Iran. He lost everything when he was forced to flee his country. He said that the people of the regime he escaped are now buying up expensive homes in Toronto. He lives in dread.
The more we understand each others' perspectives, the more chance we have of cultivating compassion and peace.
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Parallel Lines is a multi-disciplinary interactive art project — encompassing a series of photo-based encaustic paintings centred around a prison bed, a prison suitcase and an individual; with interactive sculpture installations featuring 15 prison beds from the former Kingston Penitentiary for Women; and story-sharing.
Centred around the idea that we create a prison for ourselves through our beliefs — Parallel Lines explores questions of perception and choice. Parallel Lines also explores issues of incarceration and freedom, alienation and community, desperation and hope.
The title Parallel Lines refers to the parallel bars of the physical, emotional and psychological prisons where all of us find ourselves from time to time. It also refers to how parallel lines appear to converge in the distance just as seemingly opposing view-points can converge with a new perspective.
Parallel Lines draws people of all ages, socio- economic and cultural backgrounds to engage intimately with contemporary art and share their stories. Parallel Lines is an empowering, socially relevant project, providing a platform for people to express themselves and be heard.
Parallel Lines includes entertaining talks in which I discuss my inspiration for the work, the fascinating process of encaustic painting and exactly how I ended up with 15 prison beds. I also recount stories heard over the course of developing the project — some: heartwarming and inspiring; others: surprising and disturbing. Visitors are then invited to engage with the prison bed and suitcase installations to create their own personal artist statement and share their own stories.
A new art work will evolve from the stories people tell me. I'm really feeling passionate about this. I think dialogue is essential in our current climate. I truly believe we need to engage with one another to share our concerns, express our values, and discuss what really matters as we share this planet and learn how to love....
What do you think?