Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Judy Martin: Mended World @ Homer Watson House & Gallery 1

Judy Martin, Trinity, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Mended World is comprised of five large panels, all circles within squares. Four of these panels were part of The Manitoulin Circle Project (2009-2013). One of Martin's daily "journal" textiles, Cloud of Time (2013) was exhibited as well, but the installation was less than ideal and detracted from the strength of it. It's not an easy piece to install in a small space. 

Trinity is the precursor to the Manitoulin Circle Project. Martin made Trinity between 2009 and 2011 for a Liturgical Embroidery course that she took during her embroidery degree studies with Middlesex University in the United Kingdom (2012). It's a subtle textile embedded with a lot of symbolism. In Christianity, the trinity represents God, God's son Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The circle symbolizes "eternity and perfection", and to extrapolate, heaven. "The square is the emblem of the earth or earthly existence. ... Its four sides signify the four elements, the four corners of the heavens, the four directions (Reimer, 8)." In Christianity, blue represents the sky, and thus heaven. According to religion, blue may symbolize truth. Trinity, when not travelling, is installed as a pulpit antependium in the sanctuary of the Little Current United Church on Manitoulin Island where Martin attends.
Judy Martin, Trinity detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Martin consulted with Reverend Faye Stevens, the minister of Little Current United Church, about her making of Trinity and, as I noted, this was the genesis of the larger Manitoulin Circle Project. A year prior to this, Stevens had approached Martin to be a volunteer artist-in-residence in the church, but the timing wasn't right. Martin designed the four panels that were made with The Manitoulin Circle Project as part of her degree studies. The making of the panels was completely independent of Martin's degree program: they were commissioned by Little Current United Church, facilitated by Martin as part of her volunteer residency, and made by Martin and more than 100 volunteers over a four-year period. 

Trinity, 2011 recycled linen damask, new silk, Procion dye, hand-stitched; 60.9 X 86.4 cm
Judy Martin, Earth Ark, 2011; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
Earth Ark is the first liturgical panel completed by The Manitoulin Circle Project. It is made from recycled linen damask (old table linens), silk, and women's handkerchiefs and was hand and machine-stitched. Its dimensions are 228.6 X 228.6 cm. The leaf stitched to the panel is replaced each time the panel travels and I imagine that once the panel is installed in its final destination (Little Current United Church), the leaf will be refreshed as necessary. 

Whereas Trinity is light and ethereal and resembles a rolling triple Russian wedding band ring (three separate interlocking rolling rings that symbolize faith, hope, and love), Earth Ark has a visual weight. The title and visual elements hint at the Bible story of Noah and the ark, the rainbow as a sign of hope, and the dove going out and bringing back an olive branch. To me, the brown half-circle registers as an island. Earth Ark has a pleasing asymmetry with the ark/island off to the right.
Judy Martin, Earth Ark detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
If you take a close look at the above image, you see the sheen of damask table linens. The image below reveals old lace handkerchiefs. In the old days, a lady would tuck a clean lace handkerchief in her purse on Sunday morning, ready to hold a morsel of communion bread. Once all eligible congregants were served their bread, they would all eat together: "the body of Christ broken for you."
Judy Martin, Earth Ark detail; Photo © Karen Thiessen, 2015
This is the first of three posts. Spending time with the liturgical textiles has been a treat. They are a fine example of non-representational Christian art made in collaboration.

Judy Martin Mended World: an exhibition of the Manitoulin Community Circle Project 
at Homer Watson House and Gallery, Kitchener, Ontario, Canada 
May 9 to June 14, 2015

All photographs were taken with permission from the artist.

End Notes: 
Margaret Loewen Reimer, "Signs and Symbols." Canadian Mennonite, January 24, 2000 Volume 4, Number 2, page 8.

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