Split at the Seam

In the darkened section of the Yukon Arts Centre gallery, a great horse stands.

Gently dripping water splatters on darkened sheep wool, fresh and pungent. The horse looms above gallery viewers, standing perched on a wooden platform covered liberally with new sheep wool.

The horse is a myriad of leather patchwork pieces stitched together. The surgery-stitch stuffed-toy effect is both stunning and eerie.

Seam, by Veronica Verkley, is evocative and bold. The patchwork leather horse drips water from tubing concealed within its wooden frame, the darkened gallery room and the overwhelming smell of farm from the sheep wool all add to the powerful image.

Verkley has an affinity for horse symbolism, and she says the idea forSeam came to her in a vision: “It’s been gestating for a long time. Years ago, I had a vision of a horse standing in the rain, and parallel to this, I had an idea of treating leather we wear as skin, as the skin it was originally on an animal.”

The horse’s leather patches are all reclaimed leather, and features a bizarre array of adornments typically found on leather jackets: buckles, patches, grommets, zippers, buttons and labels.

Verkley says the leather was recycled from everywhere, including Value Village, the dump and the Salvation Army. Her repurposing of the abandoned leather gave the horse his skin, and offered new life to old leather.

Seam takes its name from the criss-cross of stitching connecting the leather skin. Verkley also associates the stitching with common sayings, like “bursting at the seams” or “come apart at the seams”, something her horse may do when the sutures holding the leather together become too soaked by the constantly dripping water oozing from his skin.

The wooden frame of the horse grew on an island Verkley lived on in the Yukon River, and when it came time to take the horse to Dawson, its wooden skeleton rode atop her possessions on her boat.

Sequestered inside the Westminster Hotel, the wooden frame fleshed out and grew. Verkley crafted the horse until it soon became too large for a hotel room, and indeed, too large to even get out of the hotel room.

She laughs, “We had to take the door right off the frame to get the horse out — thanks to Kluane Freight Lines, who were really great about coming forward and helping with the horse.”

News spread about the horse growing in the Dawson hotel and soon Verkley had the horse out and nearing completion.

Verkley’s Seam joins her other horse, a metalwork piece titledLandscape with Horse at the Yukon Arts Centre, although this horse has more travelling to do.

“I hope to eventually take Seam on the road, and display it,” says Verkley of what’s upcoming for the giant Clydesdale-sized structure.

Seam will be on display at the Yukon Arts Centre Public Gallery until March 13.

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