Exploring fading memories at the ODD Gallery

The opening of the most recent exhibit at the ODD Gallery was unique in a couple of ways. To begin with, it was the first KIAC event to take place under the Yukon Government’s current State of Emergency rules, so everyone had to demonstrate that they were fully vaccinated. That left one attendee accessing his QR Code status on his cellphone before he could be admitted. Happily, it took him about three minutes.  Secondly, the talk for the Gathering/Tethering exhibit was a mixed live and virtual presentation. 

Ursula Handleigh, fully masked, as were all dozen members of the audience, was on hand to explain her part of the show.

Anna Heywood-Jones, who lives in Vancouver, and is currently Artist in Residence (coFood Vancouver), was visible and audible from a laptop computer next to Handleigh.

The audience, after enjoying an unobstructed wander around the room to view the five parts of the joint exhibit, seated themselves in some chairs which were carried in and placed from the room at the back of the building. 

Handleigh and Heywood-Jones spent the next 45 minutes or so talking about the various segments of the exhibit.

The room was dominated by two items in particular.

“Traces”, is a hand-woven, silk, linen, wool, and rayon multi-coloured hanging, looped across most of the room’s width, shading between off-white and indigo. Heywood-Jones said she was attempting to symbolize some of her father’s life experience.

On the south wall of the room there is a shelf carrying a variety of things connected to her parents that she has collected and called “Structures of Loss”. These memory bits include bits of clay, charcoal, cordage, knots, paper, photographs, plants, stones and textiles, each grouping accompanied by a card with a short description and a bit of verse. 

The purpose of the collection is, as described in the brief program note, an attempt “to acknowledge and reckon with the process of incremental loss.”

Both artists are attempting the same thing within the framework of their individual disciplines.

“Through tactile methods of remembering and creating, their collective work emerges as an ever-evolving anthology of lived experience.”

Handleigh comes at the idea through the use of photography. The second piece dominating the room is entitled “I can feel you forgetting” and deals with Handleigh’s father’s advancing Alzheimer’s deterioration. 

The shelf, suspended at the height where breath would flow across it, consists “of ninety-eight photographic plates. They exist as living photographs.

“Rust, cultivated through a single exhale of breath, initiates a continual state of documentation. Presented at breath’s height, these photographs are never fixed. Taking in the air that surrounds them, iron becoming iron-oxide, they bear weight as they decompose.”

“In the Spaces Between Loss” is Handleigh’s other large piece, resembling nothing so much as a quilt or hanging made of silver gelatin photo paper exposed to traces of heat and body contact. 

“The process of sewing a record of touch is preserved in its materiality. The variations in hue are created from the duration of the time each piece is held in hand. Sewn and assembled during a time of mourning and loss, this quilt is an embodiment of touch.”

The very last, and smallest, part of the exhibit is just inside the entry way, the image of forget-me-not flower grown from seeds sent by Handleigh’s grandmother, which arrived two weeks after her death.

There are brief biographical notes in the teo page program, which also includes a map of the room.

Handleigh is a Tkaronto Scarborough-born artist, of Filipino mixed-ancestry, currently living and working in K’jipuktuk / Halifax, Nova Scotia. 

Anna Heywood-Jones is an artist and educator based in Vancouver, BC on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm, Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, and səlilwətaɬ Nations. 

Handleigh’s practice explores questions of identity and how the role of memory, ancestral knowledge, and storytelling can be used to reconstruct archives and preserve histories.

Through her work, Heywood-Jones explores the complex relationship between human and botanical spheres, articulated through textile materials and processes. Her practice is also dedicated to witnessing the slow loss of her father and the growth of her infant son.

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