Art Unsettling

Unsettling myself: a five year art project

My dry pottery wheel slowly being covered by the pallets I am ripping apart for Tiny House cladding.

These past few months my art practice has been placed on hold while I have made very big changes in my personal life. Over the past four months, while “My Roots” have toured Brandon, Pinawa and Neepawa, I have started a business, left my marriage, and am now planing to build a Tiny House that I can live in while I divest myself of land ownership and question everything.

Art has the power to transform a person. I knew this before I started on “My Roots” but I really didn’t know. I had no idea just how powerful surfacing personal narrative was, let alone what it would mean for me.

In my Brandon performance, where I broke open the closed vessel in order to access my print “narrative fragments” I could feel the power of the metaphor each time I slammed the ceramic pot on the floor and the ground shook. I felt like it was my own soul that was breaking open.

You can see the performance if you follow the link attached to this video.

I planned this performnace as a metaphor about my decision to say my childhood experiences outloud through narrative and visual art. I thought about how telling personal narrative and owning your experience publically sometimes requires you to break unspoken rules. In my performance it was only by breaking the vessel that I could access my narrative.

What I didn’t realize, was that those same structures that contained my childhood and young adult life were also holding together my personal adult life. When I shattered the vessel I gained access to a self I feel like I have never met. Someone who is unbound, a bit wild, and with great capacity of inhabiting unsettling spaces.

In my 5 year art project I am embarking on I intend to live in an off grid Tiny House on land I do not own. I will explore my relationship to land as something that cannot be owned. I will ask how my relationship to the structures that “own” the land I inhabit shape my relationship to self, land, and community.

For my art practice I will install a moveable shed which will be my seasonal studio. I will be working with clay, print and photography to explore the topics.

If you’re interested in this project you can follow the process behind it on a blog I have started:

In the meantime I hope to pick up my practice again, finish My Roots by May, and begin my new body of work I am calling “A Little Unsettling.”

Maybe I’ll even make a mug or two.

Probably not.


Working Title

When I had my first studio visit with Brenna George in December I had just made the decision to focus on personal narrative in my work for the year.

I should backup.

I applied for the Manitoba Art’s Network Rural Art Mentorship Program in September. This program, produced together with Mentoring Art for Women’s Art in Winnipeg, offers 5 rural based artists the opportunity to be mentored by a professional artist for a year. The program culminates in an exhibition of works in the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

The program has been phenomenal. It was everything I felt I needed right after an intense four years at the School of Art. With the pressures of academic deadlines gone, and a pandemic summer in full swing, I spent the months after I graduated recovering from the pace of school in my 30s. After four years of sprinting between classes, homework, nightshifts, family and some semblance of social life I took the summer off. I didn’t even plan to. I just found my motivation to work on much art was not there.

Just before the pandemic hit. I’m exhausted just looking at my old day planner. #yesiwasbornbeforethedigitalrevolutuonanditshowsidontcare #iknowhowtohastag

As fall approached I knew I needed something to pick up the pace. It was helpful to hear Brenna phrase it as a “vulnerable” time for my art practice. I think she is right. It’s that time when ideas, knowledge and skills are fresh, the pressure is off and there is a loss of structure to channel the energy. I had this sense if I didn’t connect with something I could risk letting my practice slide, and after a year of no exhibitions, talks or opportunities, the goal of becoming a professional artist slips away.

That hasn’t happened!

Instead, I was accepted into this mentorship program and over the last five months I have been mentored under the gentle and insightful guidance of Brenna George.

In the first section of the mentorship, usually a weekend intensive but during a pandemic spread over 6 evenings on zoom, we went over goals. Brenna strongly encouraged all of us to focus our energy.

Folks, this is a near impossible task for someone who thrives on stress and variety in life. I narrowed my topic, and refined my mediums.

Here I am. Next Monday I submit the first of my works for an online exhibition in April through Manitoba Arts Network. My working title is “My Roots.”

I am learning the ropes. Again. So many ropes to learn in art. I am learning how to balance life and art, how to set productive goals for my practice; how to be motivated primarily through intrinsic means rather than extrinsic structures; and I am also learning that my work is always in progress. I know that sounds cliché, and I should have learned that by now. Maybe it is just that as I learn to stand on my two art feet I feel the weight of it a little differently.

Over the next few months I hope to bring you into my studio and into my thoughts around my practice as I make my first independent body of work. It feels ridiculous to say “independent” because I am making it under the caring mentorship of Brenna George, and in the social context of a loving community around me.

Nevertheless, this is the first body of work that I am making, and I am excited to share the studio process. Today, I would like to introduce you to my working title. Are you ready? Have I already said it out loud? Whatever.

The working title for my first body of work is My Roots.

Work in progress
Art Photography

A gallery is a ditch is an alleyway

As COVID continues to disrupt the already extreme isolation that being a rural Manitoba artist affords me, my mind has kicked into creative overdrive to to find ways to exhibit, stay local, and keep pushing my practice. I think I found a weird little path to pursue.

If you’re not familiar with rural Manitoba, saying we “lack gallery space” is an understatement.

Unless the ditches and alleys functioned as artist run public gallery spaces. Then we would have miles and miles of gallery spaces.

I’ve been thinking… If 4 people in Giroux see an installation in a ditch that is 4% of the population of that community. That is the percentage equivalent of a Winnipeg audience of 30,000. If 5 people in Mitchell see my work in the back-lane the percentage equivalent of a Winnipeg audience is about 1,500.

4 is an incredible audience out here.

I’ve been thinking… If a gallery is a space for viewing art what isn’t a gallery?

If there is space and there is viewing it is a gallery.

Why not?

I’ve been thinking…. about “exhibits.” What is an exhibit? Reduced to its most basic function, the act of displaying.

If there is work on display it is an exhibit.

I’ve been thinking… a ditch is a gallery, and my work is on display in it.

A gallery is a ditch is an alleyway // An exhibit of works by Alexandra Ross // On view until snow or vandalism end it

Mannequin, found structures, ditch flowers, grass
Rd 37E, Giroux, MB
49.5429848, -96.6164786

Activism Art Photography

In dandelions I trust

Listen to this text.
Winnipeg Urbanwild Garden–Pembinaish

I take a lot of pictures of weeds. Mostly weeds growing in urban settings, but I’m open to all manner of weeds. I am devoting a lot of mental energy to them atm.

Dandelions in particular have taken on a symbolic force in my mind.

Probably because everyone hates them. Well, not everyone. Children and bees love them for their beautiful flowers whimsical wish granting abilities (children for the later, but maybe bees? naaa, they are too busy dancing to make wishes.); they have more nutrients than spinach and their roots are medicinal; and yet adults hate them: we wage a chemical war against them, judge people based on the amount in their lawn and will even report you to authorities if the number exceeds some invisible tolerance line.

Somewhere I read that dandelions take over because they grow in impoverished soil.

Dandelions and comrades taking over impoverished soil in Steinbach–Brantish

When I hear “impoverished soil” I think mostly of grass, but also mono-culture and “developed” spaces. The intersection of earth and capital.

In other words after capitalist interests have exploited all the microbes and chemically burned off any residue from the nutrient rhizome layer of roots, dandelions grow down deep and begin making new soil.

So, basically, dandelions and all their weedy comrades are fighting against environmental degradation brought on by capitalist greed.

What a thing.

When I am hopeful for the future it is because dandelions. Damn right I honor them and all rebel weeds in my art.