Friday, 16 January 2015

Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/Deep Patience @ AGP 12

Dorothy Caldwell Comfort of Fog, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
The intimate textiles in this blogpost were situated in a cosy space with deep grey green walls. All five 14" X 18" textiles incorporate plant dyed cotton with stitching and appliqué and are mounted on industrial felt. The textiles diverge from Dorothy's bold palette: they are paler, earthy, and muted. Comfort of Fog is one of my favourite of these textiles. If you look closely, you see that she resist-dyed the background fabric. It reads like the aerial-view of a landscape.
Dorothy Caldwell Complementary Calls, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Complementary Calls is the lightest and subtlest of any Dorothy Caldwell textile that I have ever seen. It needs to be viewed alone to be appreciated.
Dorothy Caldwell Weapons/Listening & Waiting, 2012; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Like Complementary Calls, Weapons/Listening & Waiting is especially subdued.
Dorothy Caldwell textiles & books, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
History of Stone and Red Hill/Black Hill in situ.
Dorothy Caldwell History of Stone, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy Caldwell Red Hill/Black Hill, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Tonight this exhibition opens at the Cambridge Galleries in Cambridge, Ontario (now called the Idea/Exchange). Accompanying the show is Select Works: From the Permanent Collection at the Design at Riverside Gallery (just across the street from the main Cambridge Gallery and Library site). Both open at 7 pm.
Dorothy Caldwell Red Hill/Black Hill, 2013; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2014
Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice/Deep Patience statement

"This space contains artifacts and objects that reflect the experiences working on site during travel and residencies in the Australian Outback and the Canadian Arctic.

As I walked through exceptional landscape, collecting and touching became a way of knowing. Preserving indigenous natural materials including plants, ochre, seaweed, lichen and stones is my way of examining the contents of a place. Man made findings include rusted metal, hewn wood, and even a cooking pot. Some of the collection remains intact as found. Other materials were stitched and altered or used to dye and colour fabric and paper. Creating taxonomies and displays from these collections transformed the objects into artifacts. They became the material history of my experience.

In the Flinders Ranges, stitched cloth was taken to the ochre pit to be worked with earth colour and to literally absorb "place". Rusty metal, collected as mordant for dyeing fabric, often did not make it to the dye bath. Instead the objects themselves became artifacts, holding information and history of early settlers in the area. Wire shapes from the camp in the Flinders Ranges read as a symbolic alphabet, signs of European settlement.

A hike into the Chambers Gorge in the Flinders Ranges revealed another alphabet predating the Europeans. Rock carvings, or petroglyphs, are thought to be over 30,000 years old. To see these ancient symbols made by humans touched me deeply. In honour of this experience, I inscribed my own simple marks on small stones collected at the site.

In the Canadian Arctic fieldwork included walking barefoot on the tundra. It was as if my feet were tracing an ancient forest. A small section of this dense mat was extracted, deconstructed, and documented. Tiny leaves, lichens, reindeer moss, willow and other plants make up the natural miniature pattern of the land.

Field studies include journals. One Australian journal records earth collected each day over a two-month period. A book from a different journey is made from samples of pressed seaweed. Others are constructed from paper dyed with local plants....eucalyptus, mistletoe, arctic willow, purple saxifrage, arctic lupin, and Labrador tea, each with its own subtle colour.

From my traveling companion and fellow artist India Flint, I learned to make string. String has great importance to Aboriginal women who make it and use it to construct netted dilly bags, baskets, and other containers. It is also used for string games and storytelling. Anthropologist C. P. Mountford worked in the Flinders Range in 1940 and described how when asked to draw traditional stories, aboriginal women preferred to tell their stories in string and then trace around them.

The activity of making string, like knitting, became second nature and kept my hands active on long rides through the Outback. The plied string, shown in the cases, is a receptacle for earth colours of Australia and the plant dyes from the Arctic.

The creation of a museum of memories from the experiences of the residencies in the Australian Outback and in the Canadian Arctic is an integral part of the process of imagining this exhibition. I brought cloth and paper to my sites, much as early explorers would bring journals and magnifying glasses. These materials were marked, coloured, and rubbed with daily experiences. At the same time, found objects were preserved, transported and rearranged in patterned memory of the importance of marks to reinforce ideas that will appear as textile art. This small museum is a glimpse into the process of the maker." –– Dorothy Caldwell.

All photos were taken with permission from Dorothy Caldwell and the fine staff of the Art Gallery of Peterborough


Jennifer said...

I cannot thank you enough for sharing your experience and photos of this exhibition.

Nina OConnor said...

Thank you so much for so generously sharing your experience, thoughts and photographs of this exhibition.