not by chance alone

September marks a special month for me—the project I have been working on for almost 3 years is on display at the Richmond Art Gallery. (The exhibition opens on September 12th). Well, about 2/3 of the entire project has been installed for this exhibition. It climbs 16′ in height, and we have placed a few pieces on the floor, not many, just to indicate that the work continues and the installation is partial. I am most grateful to the curator of the RAG, Nan Capogna. She’s wonderful to work with. She’s very knowledgeable, she’s got a keen eye, she’s considerate yet honest with her comments and critiques. It is a privilege to work with someone of her caliber. The Preparators at the gallery are also fantastic–sensitive, very capable and efficient. Thank god they know how to do math and grids!  Kathy, Hilary, Melanie and Paula, part of Nan’s educational, administrative and curatorial team at the gallery are super to work with too. What a great group, and what a great experience this installation has been.

I’m sharing the exhibition space with an artist from Vancouver, Cameron Cartiere, and although we are thematically connected–we are both exploring the subject of bees–our approaches, perspectives and modes of execution are different. Cameron’s installation is stunning.

install

Installing almost to the rafters with Darius!

gallery-front

Partially completed text in the large windows

jasnaguy_RAG

Detail of installation. Photo by Scott Massey.

perhaps a why

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This summer has been a busy one–completing the large bee project, (I feel like I should say this in capital letters and with arms waving); I have the great privilege of being part of an exhibition at the Richmond Art Gallery next month. So there are many things I have neglected in order to focus completely on preparations for this upcoming show.

But I’ve also been peering very closely at little blurs of bees in my immediate neighborhood. This project is with the Environmental Youth Alliance and the Citizen Science Bee Survey (which has been a fantastic experience). I’m learning more and more about our native bee species every day, and loving every minute of it. This project too, is soon coming to an end.

And I’ve been invading the private parts of wonderous flowers, anxiously looking for that lovely dust, pollen; and seeking out nectar-and-pollen rich bee plants with my friend and bee-master, Lori Weidenhammer. (And now that the flowering season is winding down, I realize just how little pollen I’ve managed to collect–ha, the work will have to wait for next spring). I’d make a shameful bee.

I know that many artists are able to reflect upon their work while in the process of working, (some are highly articulate) and yes, I have scribbled notes and scratched drawings in sketchbooks and in various other places, but to stop, to step back, and to consider what this bee project has really been for me these past 3 years is another matter altogether. It requires a sense of detachment which I do not have at the moment. Perhaps I will start with this then, the crux of the matter–that art is not detached–not from life, not from our relationships, not from our modes of being, of thinking and of doing.I am like the Harvester in the image above (detail from my bee project, not by chance alone). In the midst of activity, every encounter, (tiny or substantial) brushes against me, and I with it; and it leaves its mark.This is existence, this is art for me, not autonomous, but deeply relational (even though I do so much of my work alone). I recall Cheryl Meszaros, a beloved teacher and mentor, defining the work of the artist– she said the artist pulls, withdraws something from the social imaginary, transforms it, allows us to see it in a new way, and then puts it back into that imaginary. Each perspective adding to the ones already there. Cheryl was doubtless quoting the work of a philosopher, for she loved philosophy. My encounters with Cheryl are endless, despite her passing; her work has affected me deeply.

the project

I haven’t been very diligent in posting updates on the progress of my big project on bees, (entitled “not by chance alone”) for the most part because it is difficult to share the endless bouts of self-doubt, but also because the documentation that I have been doing (consistently) has produced iffy photos often taken under poor lighting conditions. Stitching together images of varying exposures is tedious.

.A couple of months ago, I decided that I really needed to lay the entire project out to see how the parts fit together and to give me a better idea how to proceed towards completion. It would be the first time I would see the entire project together.

My friend, the artist Elizabeth MacKenzie, helped me with the huge undertaking of putting together the 300 or so puzzle-like sheets that I had completed. I got permission to use the gym at my partner’s school (the administration and staff were very kind to allow me the freedom to do this). Sitting on the bleachers and working from a master diagram, Elizabeth would yell out the number and letter code of each sheet and give me directions where to lay a particular section. Here’s s shot of the “installation’ – it really does help to show the scale of the work.

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Elizabeth was also the official photographer for this session, so I am very grateful to her for the images, her GPS and puzzle-making skills (:-) and the wealth of knowledge and experience in art-making which she so generously shares with me!

We still weren’t able to get the complete piece in one shot without massive distortion, so here are sections of the work: this one is the left side.

july 3 Left Side

 

Here’s part of the left and the centre portion:

July 3 Centre and left side

 

 

And the right side:

July 3 Right Side Flora

 

What a day this was!

shadowed busy heart

The exhibition closed today. After all the bustle and excitement of hanging work, of opening night and then days of visitors–nothing now but whiteness of empty walls. It was wonderful to share this space with the other artists, from Sharon Kallis and her beautiful bio-netting installation; to Robin Ripley and the ethereal maple seeds and pennies; to Holly Schmidt’s elegant living room of duck weed, and Joy Witzche’s woven masterworks–these are but a few of the varied and engaging works here that in one way or the other, addressed contemporary issues on the environment.

I don’t have photographs of all the installations in this exhibition, but here is a small selection:

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memory festival installation photos

What a fantastic opportunity it was to be part of the Memory Festival program, and to be able to show some of the work from the Withdrawn: scribing Nancy series. My friend Elizabeth MacKenzie (artist and Festival participant) asked me what I considered the best aspect of the Festival week, and I said that being part of an exhibition with her and fellow artist, Cindy Mochizuki was definitely the most incredible part. Elizabeth and Cindy’s  projects are incredibly beautiful, profound and unique explorations into memory, each investigation approaching memory from a private viewpoint—one that, at the same time, becomes greater than itself, expanding to relate to the larger public and a larger audience.

With Geist’s, (the founders of the Memory Festival), One-Sentence Memories of Vancouver, Theatre Replacement’s Movie Group performance, and my Inscribing Memory workshop, it was an an engaging and varied week-long exploration into memory!

Here are some shots from the Memory Festival installation of my work:

memory festival

I have the great privilege of being part of the Memory Festival this year, at the Roundhouse Community Centre.  The week’s program, which runs from November 13th to the 18th, contains an interesting variety of offerings, from text-based community projects, to performances, to installations of 2-dimensional work. Each presentation explores the concept of memory from a different perspective.

I will be showing some of my work from the Withdrawn:scribing Nancy series, including a video made with my friend, the multidisciplinary artist, Cindy Mochizuki. Cindy is presenting a performance at the Memory Festival, and the artefacts from her performance will be on exhibit as well.  My friend, Elizabeth MacKenzie is creating a text-based installation specifically for the Memory Festival. I am in astounding company, to say the least!

Chance

During my recent “return” to the Koerner library at UBC, I came upon a small installation in the foyer by the artist Luis Camnitzer. It is a collection of discarded objects Camnitzer found on campus, each mounted with a randomly chosen piece of text. The viewer is invited to make connections between the objects and the words. The pedagogical associations are inevitable, considering the location of the work – a major university library, and this aspect is underscored by the take-away card/advertisement, which lists a series of books available in the UBC libraries, related to the exhibition (even giving their call numbers).

I found the installation interesting and humorous and enjoyed looking at each object, reading the text and trying to make associations between the two. The installation plays with traditional theories of meaning, displacing direct relationships between object and word, and offering instead meaning produced in the moment, in an continuously changing and unstable relationship between the signifier and the signified.

(image: detail of installation by Luis Camnitzer).

This project brings to mind another art project, a superb blog posting, entitled “Daily Drawing Project” by the artist, Elizabeth MacKenzie. (check out the engaging drawing project Elizabeth gives her students). Art and pedagogy on multiple levels.