The two solo shows by Louise and Janelle Hardy on display at the Yukon Arts Centre this fall invite viewers into the artists’ personal, emotional worlds.
Both of them move into and through grief and heartbreak. Interestingly, this makes a place for viewers to reflect on their own experiences of the darker times.
The Trousseau Society offers both of them under the title Ministry of the Interior. The curatorial collective took migration within Canada as its focus for the shows it’s offered us through the arts centre. These shows take us on a journey inwards.
Both of the current shows invite the viewer to engage with the artworks more intimately than we usually do at an art gallery.
At the opening, Louise Hardy encouraged people to touch her felted works. I must admit, I didn’t touch them much, but it seems important to know that you can.
The pieces in Janelle Hardy’s hearts were meant to be broken include text panels beside them that instruct the viewer to look at the works in various ways.
For her dance video, she invites us to view it with, and without, headphones to hear the sound. (Unfortunately, it wasn’t playing when I visited the gallery, and I couldn’t make it play.)
In “Close to the Heart”, we’re invited not only to open lockets to see the self portraits she photographed with her computer over 12 days while going through a heartbreak, but also to write what we see in little notebooks in front of each locket.
Whether or not you write, you can read what others have written.
Words beside the pieces in Louise Hardy’s Pilgrimage: the Lust of Grief include collaged and photocopied reactions to the pieces by a group of other people, and emails to friends sent while she was going through various phases of grief after her husband’s death.
Both shows engage the space as an installation.
Janelle’s “Diving Girl” suspends a Barbie-sized nude female polymer clay sculpture over a mirror on the floor. She’s arched backwards, with oversized, translucent hands.
The back of the sculpture is painted gold with stylized eye shapes. The mirror allows the viewer to see her breasts and belly, more vulnerable than the painted back.
She’s at the base of a funnel of mobiles. Blocks of wood and tooth-like ivory set into brass hang from painted sticks with more of the eye shapes painted on them. This installation occupies most of the centre of the space.
Louise’s show takes up the two remaining galleries. Colourful feltings onto gauze hang 12 feet high. Blue and white strands of wool are felted together with yellow circles into a web that hangs from the ceiling.
Is the sky falling? It’s interesting to move underneath a piece of art.
It’s amazing to me that the Yukon is a place where the material expression of one person’s grief has this kind of space to be visible.
It’s courageous and generous of Louise to invite us in and allow us to touch the fibres she worked as she worked through her loss.
Many of the works are based on wool blankets she got from the Salvation Army. Often they were damaged, and in the process of making them into wall hangings, she put them and herself back together.
Materials also include found fabric from her own life—worn-out pink towels she warmed in the oven to wrap her babies in; embroidery she worked on, both when in hospital at her son’s birth and with her brother when he was ill; a wedding veil; feltings she made for her husband to see when he was recovering from treatments and couldn’t move.
Janelle includes images from her family photo albums. “Yukon Picnic 1953, 1981, 2012″—in black and white, then the kind of colour that dates the photo to the early ’80s, then a more contemporary digital image—shows us her family picnicking in the Yukon down the generations.
It’s a place to think about the way we’ve travelled over time. In a few other images, she’s cropped them to abstractions.
Many of Louise’s works are also abstract. But even in pieces that at first glance seem abstract, look for the frogs. They’re symbols of transformation.
You can visit the Ministry of the Interior until November 3.