Wonders Underground: Focus Gallery

In the Focus Gallery, row upon row of colourful, clever, often whimsical postcards cover much of the walls. Every postcard features an original artwork, with a message written on the back. The postcards are hung with bull clips so people can take them down and read them.

The postcards are part of an exhibition entitled Eleventy-Leven: 11 Years of Collaboration and Exchange. The show includes work by Joyce Majiski of Whitehorse and Zea Morvitz of Inverness, California. The two artists exchanged postcards with each other every Friday in 2011, 2012, 2014 and 2019.

In the 2011 iteration of the exchange, the artists didn’t have a theme. They began the project with a standard postcard size (5” x 7”), then they started to get a little more creative, according to Majiski. She made a pop-up card. Morvitz responded likewise, with a pop-up card of her own. Then Morvitz started to “one-up” Majiski by enclosing small books as part of the exchange. The inventiveness ramped up from there.

The next exchange in 2012 had the alphabet as its theme, while a third exchange focused on alchemy.

“I can’t say anything’s my favourite,” says Majiski. “But I do love our alchemy exchange because there’s a lot of science in there.”

I love the alchemy exchange as well. It reminds me of an ancient and marvelous tarot deck. Morvitz drew fantastic creatures encased in globes. Majiski offered a few glimpses into her life, including her experience with knee surgery. She humourously depicts it with 16th century barber surgeons holding her down as she thrashes on the bed.

The postcards are like mini journals, capturing the artists’ creative journeys over time. For Majiski, the exchange was also something of a travelogue. The postcards document when she first became interested in water as a theme, reflected in larger exhibitions in Spain and Mexico, and The Song of the Whale at the Yukon Arts Centre in 2020.

As the exhibition chronicles, the collaboration grew beyond the postcard exchanges. The artists’ first full collaboration, where they literally made the work together, comprises two long scrolls on rice paper featuring Miles Canyon.

Morvitz came to Whitehorse and the pair went to Miles Canyon. Each artist started working on separate pieces of rice paper, then moved on to work on the centre of the other artist’s piece. They continued the collaboration in Morvitz’s California studio.

“We really had a sense of trust and a lot of respect for each other, so working on the same piece seemed to be quite a natural, fluid thing to do,” says Majiski.

The artists went on to co-create two larger accordion-style books, one which incorporates the wabi-sabi aesthetic, another with the theme of water. This collaboration had the artists exchanging and working on the same pieces. They used many media in creating the books. For example, Majiski used a letter press, while Morwitz used frottage – making marks by rubbing the paper on objects such as rocks.

The research and artistic exploration involved in their collaborations fed into their solo practices. Smaller work is intertwined with larger work.

“Everything is related to everything else,” Majiski says.

Did she ever get tired of the commitment to exchange work with Morvitz?

Majiski says no. “This is a way to play with different media too. Anything goes. I allow myself to do whatever I want. And I do, I use all my little scraps.”

She adds that it’s a practice, “like exercising a muscle.”

Now, with the exhibition, she gets to see the magic of all the collaboration and exchange in one space. And it looks amazing.

“Every week I do this thing,” she says, referring to the postcard projects. “And then I do this thing and then I do this thing. And now I see it all together and it’s like, ‘Holy shit! Look at all this stuff we made!’”

Eleventy-Leven and Kaska Dena Designs are showing at Arts Underground until October 30.

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