First, could you introduce us to yourself, and your work?
I’m from Calgary, living in Toronto by way of Halifax where I just completed my MFA at NSCAD University a few months ago. I work with an array of diverse media to investigate the relationship between art and everyday life, and explore the performative possibilities of everyday circumstances. I really like collecting the ‘poor things’ of culture that end up in thrift shops such as animal figurines and landscape paintings, and finding new ways to represent and celebrate them. I make and accumulate drawings, sculpture, textiles, photographs, and performance, and often combine and recombine these elements in various formations for different purposes. Often what ties the works together are strategies of DIY optimism and ‘Fake it til you Make it’, and the continual focus on themes surrounding gender, art history, Canadiana, and non-human nature. My favourite Torontonian is Margaret Atwood and my favourite emotion is laughter through tears.
What initially drew you to starting the Canadian Woodlands Survival Unit project?
I was wondering whether surviving in the woods would be a useful metaphor for surviving as an artist in Canada today. I have concerns about the increasingly uncertain and marginalized position of the Canadian artist under a Conservative Government, and have long been aware of Margaret Atwood’s book Survival: a Thematic Guide to Canadian Literature (1972), where she claims that “survival, plain and simple” has been a central and enduring metaphor of Canadian cultural identity, and that “Canadian authors spend a disproportionate amount of time making sure that their heroes die or fail”. Failure is especially close to the heart of an artist, I think, as we spend so much time doing a seemingly useless activity that yields next to no obvious (read: financial) success for the most part, yet we obstinately keep on rubbing sticks together in the hopes that some kind of fire will start and keep at least our own hands warm. Is this too depressing? Sorry, I really do love being an artist!
When completing a project, do you find you move through different mediums intuitively, working towards your final expression for the project, or, do you start a new work with a firm idea of the end result in mind?
I have worked both ways before and as always, sometimes things work and sometimes they don’t, and I never really can predict why! I think my job as an artist is to do something that I don’t really know how to do, kind of like walking in the dark, and hope for a happy accident. That said, I work hard for those happy accidents by surrounding myself with materials, images, books, objects, ideas, etc that interest me and give me energy. I learn to listen to those things that I am drawn to, and I collect them and I stick them in my workspace, and I sit with them and I work with them and most of the results end up as by-product, and a little bit of it ends up as finished work.