When I received an invitation to be a part of the Eat It Up exhibit (at The Andrew and Laura McCain Art Gallery, in Florenceville-Bristol, NB) I was absolutely ecstatic. It was such a thrill and an honour, if I may say so. There is just so much I liked about the entire concept. Who doesn't like to imagine what it would be like to be very big in a world of small things, or vice-versa? The Alice-In-Wonderland aspect of this concept brings all kinds of imagery to mind, in and of itself. Marry that idea with the concept of being an artist in New Brunswick and all of a sudden, you are really speaking my language.
The Gallery Co-ordinator (V) hit the nail right on the head in terms of how it can sometimes feel to be an artist in New Brunswick when she brought this idea together. I know I am not alone when I say that sometimes being an artist in New Brunswick can make a person feel rather small, in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes it feels like we are so small, in fact, that we are often completely overlooked. This happens to us on a personal level as well as a provincial level, from time to time. But, this exhibit asks us to look a little more closely, more deeply, at ourselves and our province. There is actually so much to see, if we take the time to really look.
The question was what to make, exactly? I had so many ideas. But, as with almost everything else I do, I sort of stepped back and let the energy of the concept flow through me and one thing lead to another. The key to it all, however, was the magnifying glass. I really wanted to create something that came to life under a magnifying glass because there's something quite magical about that idea. I wanted to capture that sense of magic.
I took the creation process one step at a time. I grabbed the little wooden boxes I used on my way home from work one day. The next day I drew something in pencil on two of them. A scratch here, a scribble there. I went on like that for a few days. By the end of the first week, I had come up with a tea-pot and an Alice-In-Wonderland style dinner party, with Alice looking off into the distance. By the middle of the second week, I had decided my third piece would be my version of the hare from the story as well, who is always in a hurry. So, I drew a hare (which was a first). I applied a little white paint here and there. l let it dry. I came back later on and added a marker line here and there, and so on. It went on like this for a while. Overall, each piece was built up over a series of bursts of creativity followed by a period of rest. I left them all for a few days and then, when I came back to the work, I started to add layers of glaze with brushstroke textures, then I let it dry, and then I layered it again, and again. After every session, I examined the pieces with the magnifying glass. Each time I did that I was surprised at what I saw, which thrilled me. The magic was there, somehow. In its smallness, the magic within it was very big. I saw things in the work that I would never have noticed if I had not taken the time to look at it with the magnifying glass... Just think about that. You can make marks, beautiful and amazing marks, that you would never have realized you've made until you examine your work with a magnifying glass. This begs the question: how much do we miss in this world when we become fixated on big things and forget to consider the small things? The parallels between that thought and the struggles we face as individual artists living in New Brunswick just go on and on.
But, I digress. Back to the work. So, I touched up the paint or the marker, or the glitter, or whatever, and layered it again and again. Then, I stepped back from all three pieces late one evening and I realized they were finished. But, what they actually were, was something I couldn't quite explain. They are not paintings, they are not drawings. They are a little bit of everything. In the end, I decided the best way to describe them was to say that they are illustrations on wood and, to me, they represent the magic of the story of Alice-In-Wonderland as they encompass a bit of that strange sense of mystery that is so prevalent in the story.
I don't know exactly why I remained directly in the theme of Alice-In-Wonderland with this work because I know I definitely didn't have to. I think, in the end, I might have done so because I wanted to bring a bit of that famous story down to size, to bring it to life in my own way, in the context of what it means to be an artist living and working in New Brunswick.