In my fibre and fine arts, I explore the relationship between the natural and human world, as well as the complexities of witnessing one's own embodiment within that world. In particular, I unite self-expression with personal, social, and environmental advocacy, focusing on beauty (art for its own sake) and purpose (art for the sake of a cause). In my creative process, I often find myself asking: What can art do in the world? How can it help us see things in a new way? Does it have ethical as well as aesthetic capacities? And how can artists stimulate awareness, deeper thought, and positive action without losing creative integrity or sliding into sloganism?
I have long been interested in this relationship between aesthetics and ethics. Trained as an English professor, I taught ethics and social justice through the lens of literature and the arts for close to a decade. Stepping down from my academic post in 2018 due to a debilitating chronic illness, I have continued to explore the relationship between ethics and aesthetics, but in a concrete way – at an easel and sewing machine – rather than in a philosophical or literary one.
In my visual art, I explore the intricacies of the human experience—what it means to be a self, what it feels like to be embodied, and how we perceive the external world—by means of abstraction. I am drawn to abstraction because it has the capacity to draw us in to the ineffable, enigmatic, and affective qualities of being human. Abstract art tends to express reality as we experience it rather than as a realistic rendering of what we see. It is also particularly powerful for visually conveying what we cannot see, but feel, sense, imagine, conceptualize, or encounter. As I explore these aspects of human experience, I often rely on symbolic and spontaneous expression through line, shape, colour, and texture, using mixed media and layering to achieve my effects.
I am also drawn to abstraction because it invites us to see reality differently, to de-familiarize the familiar or surprise us with a new perspective. When we narrow in and look very closely at something in the natural or human world, it often ceases to be recognizable. Instead, it looks abstract. This also happens when we pull back and look at something familiar from a great distance. I am intrigued by these alternative perspectives and I explore them in my nature paintings particularly, where I closely observe real elements in the external world and render them in unexpected and often abstract ways.
Alongside conveying the unexpected, many of my paintings and mixed media pieces express the beauty and fragility of the natural world—sometimes in childlike wonder and whimsy, and other times in juxtaposition to its austerity or harshness. While not overtly touting environmental care and sustainability, much of this work is driven by my reverence for the beauty of the natural world (to be protected) as well as its severity (to be respected).
In my fibre art, my interest in environmental sustainability and ethical practice takes the foreground. After researching the excessive environmental waste produced by fast fashion as well as unethical growing, sourcing, and garment-making practices, I changed the way I approached fibre and fabric. I made the conscious decision to begin sewing and knitting sustainable fashion, to choose ethically-sourced fibres and fabrics, to reduce plastic waste with reusable hand-made items, and to make many of my own household wares and décor. I aim to combine appealing aesthetic designs with functionality and sustainability in whichever craft I am currently dabbling!