Folks, I have been sitting on this big announcement for a while now, and I am SO excited to finally be able to go public with The Public!
Together with my dear friends and husband, we are starting a microbrewery and art gallery in Steinbach, Manitoba! Based on the idea of a public square, we have designing a place where you can meet up with people, view the work of rural based contemporary artists while you drink beautiful craft beer made onsite!
Along with a gallery for viewing work we are also bringing The Tiny Galleryon board and it will travel around to rural towns with a reproduction from our main gallery.
I cannot even express how excited I am.
There is a shit ton of work to do, but for now, I am just so proud to be making this announcement!
You can follow the adventure on Instagram: @thepublicbrewhouseandgallery
This past month I participated in an online group exhibit titled, Momentum. Last week we had our online opening which consisted of a zoom panel hosted by artist and professor, Sarah Fuller. A week prior to this Dana Kletke, Co-Executive Director of MAWA interviewed me about my work in the exhibit.
It is my first exhibit experience that has included not only the opportunity to craft a group curatorial statement, but also to experience both a panel and an interview specific to the exhibit and my work. What I now know: I really enjoy the process of making work coupled with conversations about process and ideas. I love how both the process of making art and the art itself brings this expansive capacity to conversation and allows viewer and artist to experience, view, and talk around ideas within the art.
As a new experience, this feels like such a generous “art world” tradition. Every artist should have the experience of exploring their work with safe, curious, interested viewers. What a thing.
Though, now that I am reflecting on all this, it occurs to me that I should credit the organizations of MAWA and MAN (such an unfortunate acronym) for being safe, positive spaces for artists to talk about their ideas.
The exhibit and the interviews have been really helpful as part of the Rural Artist Mentorship Program. I will write about my participation the program soon, but I just want to just to mention this exhibit and interviews on my blog. Momentum lands as a mid-point in the mentorship program and, as such, provided a fantastic opportunity to forge and small body of work, and fine-tune the ideas, complete them, document, and then communicate about them.
I grew up saying grace at every meal. It stopped making sense to me when I was 8 years old. I had made the PBJ, not God. Why would I thank God for something I clearly did?
Fast forward 28 years and I am nearly full circle–except now before I eat, I thank the bacteria, the soil, the lichen, the rocks, the trees, the water, the clouds, the wind, the sun, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe…
It is mind blowing to me that what I put in my body has taken literal eons of time. Life that emerged, lived, adapted, thrived, reproduced and died in timescales and quantities I cannot fathom.
One day for Earth is, well, a nice symbolic token. A gesture, or perhaps more cynically, a political and late-capitalistic ploy, to momentarily redirect our attention.
When it comes to grappling with the complexities of it all, the beauty and pain of the story, and the sheer weight of the earth in this particular time and space–I think the topic doesn’t need a day.
Print has not connected with me since 2018 when I took a print class. It is odd because in many ways that print class sent me on a trajectory into my current interest in emergent order. I began the class as an angry environmentalist. Through the process making the 3 assignments over the semester I realized the earth and eco systems will adapt, but humans might not. But that’s another blog.
As you can see, it is not a far stretch from my final print “Easter” to my URA project, “Old Order, New Order.”
And now look where I am!
Photography, clay, and assemblage have connected with me. But since summer of 2018 I have felt like I have struggled to produce a good print.
I have been thinking about what it is that has not connected me, and last week I came to the conclusion that I let go of working big and that it is time to go back.
Now print is beginning to emerge in my head again. I have some ideas on where I need to go with this. No more small prints on their own. My small prints will be based on larger prints.
I am picking up where I left off and am dusting off my giant lino from the summer of 2018. I always felt this could be more.
I envision this being one giant zentangle-like linocut. It will take me a while. Within this there will be a combination of Celtic knots, swirls, and my chaos knots. Within these will be little illustrations of my past. These illustrations will be lifted into the documentary style screen print for each root ball. So the screens will be a series of 12 prints with the hashtag, #thisoncedefinedme. The larger sections of the print will be printed onto my containing vessels. It’s all making much more sense to me.
I love it when there is a breakthrough after years of wrestling. Note to self: sometimes go backwards to go forwards.
I hope you’re following, but if you’re not, the main point is: I’m going back to big.
I come from a filthy home. I come from a home where creative production and personal leisure were valued above domestic labor. Home was filled with a mix of hand-me-down furniture, unfinished project piles, and valuable dumpster finds. Dishes crawled out of the sink along the counter and our dirty laundry was the domain of cockroaches and black widow spiders. The materiality of domestic life was at constant war with the materiality of creative production.
Other People had clean houses but We The Smiths were creatives. We were culture makers, trend setters and gifted visionaries. Other People spent their time mowing their perfect lawns and dusting their china, but We The Smiths recycled concrete sidewalks into mosaic pathways and made our own china. We didn’t have time for status makers like perfect houses or nice yards.
Creativity requires life energy. Energy to think, energy to feel, and energy to make. There is not enough energy to also spend on whether you clean the stove top after cooking.
Creativity requires space. Space to flood into the living room, kitchen and dining room table. Clean surfaces are for non-creatives.
Creativity requires you to put aside social norms and embrace a life of chaos.
The cost of creativity is domestic and personal neglect.
But if you can make yourself small in a home you can find tiny unclaimed spaces to inhabit.
Folks, I am not a production potter. I tell you this with great pride and a twinge of sadness. Potters are so damn cool. I am in awe of people who can develop, create, and reproduce their stunning works. I thought for a while I would try to be that. I really want to be cool and I thought I could join the ranks of hip artists.
Alas, I am made of different stuff.
The honest truth is: I just don’t care to reproduce things. It gives me deep despair when I think of making work over and over again. I will even go so far as to say I am mentally and emotionally incapable of producing the same thing. By the time I have made three of the same thing I am ready to move along.
Just so you know, I did try to produce things once. In the summer of 2019, ah those beautiful ignorant days when I thought pandemic was interchangeable with epidemic, I set out to make many of the same things with slip casting. I will save all the gory details for a Failure Friday post, but suffice it to say, it’s just not my thing.
Folks, I am a conduit of chaos. She is my mother tongue, my jam, my alma mater. I was forged under her fire in childhood and now, as I am emerging my art practice and my own visual language, she is ever at my side (please note the bandaged finger in the photo); she finds her way into my process, my materials, and consequently in my products.
So, today I am articulating something I have learned over the last few years. I am stepping into the fact that I am not a production potter. I will keep making mugs, but I will not reproduce them. I will not have a line of mugs that I make efficiently and flawlessly. Go to the cool potters if you want those. They are mighty.
What you will find from me are my experiments. I can tell you with almost absolute certainty what I make today will be different tomorrow.
“Did you mean homeschooling?” is the usual response I get when I tell people I was unschooled. No, I mean “unschooled.” With the exception of 6 months of private school in Costa Rica, I never went to school before I entered college. My parents believed that institutional education will stifle your intellect and that life will teach you everything you need to know. My sisters and I were taught to read and write, and by grade 4 we were told that we would self educate, and that “life was school.”
I did self educate. And unschooling gave me a robust sense of self in the world.
On the brink of my 11th birthday I knew who I was. I was a gymnast who knew Morse code and hieroglyphics. I was a belly dancer, bangle cat breeder, and pet sitter who could slip cast ceramic molds. I knew the first 11 elements of the periodic table along with the multiplication table up to 10 by heart. I could sing the Ancient Greek alphabet, and could skateboard to and from gymnastics. I vaccinated our cats even though I could not spell vaccine. I knew I was missing subjects but I also knew I belonged to a rarefied class of humans who had very specialized important knowledge that could be helpful to archeologists and radio communication during a war. We did not waste precious time on things regular people did, like cleaning the house, or going to school.
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.
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
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.
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.