Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Sandra Brownlee: Departures & Returns Deluxe 3

* This is part three of a multi-part essay about Sandra Brownlee's Deluxe Edition catalogue, Departures and Returns, and my experience with it. I've written the context in plain text and my experience in italics. Read part one here and part two here.

Before I heard the story behind Emerald Isle by husband-and-wife team Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland aka Whitehorse, I thought the song was nice, but I didn't give it much thought. Once I learned that the song is about Melissa flying half-way around the world to surprise Luke and be at the finish line as he ran his first marathon my appreciation changed instantly. Now each time I hear the song, I stop what I am doing and listen closely. Sometimes a song, a book, or a work of art is appreciated more fully when one hears the story behind it. This is true for my experience of Sandra Brownlee's textile I am becoming.
Sandra Brownlee Departures & Returns Deluxe Edition; Photo Credit: Jack Ramsdale
Sandra Brownlee I am becoming; Photo Credit: Keith McLeod
Sandra stitched "I am becoming" when she first moved back to Nova Scotia. Like the hemp mosquito netting inclusion that I wrote about in part two, "I am becoming" is embedded with significance beyond its message. The background fabric is indigo-dyed mosquito netting and the text is formed from strips of a Japanese obi that Sandra unravelled. Both the mosquito netting and the obi were departing gifts from Sandra's friend Michelle Liao. With a running stitch, Sandra slowly stitched the words with strips of obi in the order that they were unravelled, little by little, word by word. This was very much a Cageian chance operation. 

I confess that like the burlap-like page in part two, I initially wrote-off I am becoming. The textile is a departure from the black-and-white woven images that I associate with Sandra Brownlee and I didn't understand how it fit into her oeuvre. Without the remarkable story behind it, I dismissed it as being an affirmation popular in the 1980s self-help movement. Learning that this piece was made slowly with chance and intention radically changed my perception. According to Sandra, the "affirmation" was not planned ahead and stitched down. This was purely a stream of consciousness writing using needle, thread and unravelled strips from an old obi gifted to her. The flourishes (those shapes that look like the letters n, w, and u) were Sandra's moments of stalling, of not knowing what to write next. Hearing the story behind the materials, and why and how it was made, reinforced the themes of connection, recommitment, and "circle of love and support." I realize now that the act of stitching I am becoming led her back to weaving full-time.

To be continued...

2 comments:

iNd!@nA said...

i am really enjoying your series on Sandra Brownlee
presenting text with your additional comments in italics is most enlightening. thank you.

Judy Martin said...

Thanks for this great review of the Sandra Brownlee catalogue.

I have emailed myself the links so that I can save it for my own reference.

Very valuable posts. Thanks