A continuing thread throughout my work is that of linking the past to the present such as the paintings in “Progress” where I integrated Roman ruins with the prairie landscape. In this work I am combining images from photographs of my maternal grandmother’s family from the time of prairie settlement with images from today’s prairie landscape. My interest in my grandmother’s life stems from my life as a farm woman. What I know of my grandmother is mostly second hand. I have researched the history of women on the prairies and immigration propaganda and looked for clues in photographs of what life was like for prairie women experiencing a new land, a new language, and a new culture. By placing the figures of people I once knew or knew about in landscapes that I have inhabited, my intention is to bring the memory of them closer to my experience, altering their story to fit into mine. I see this work as giving voice to my female ancestors and to my identity as a 21st century woman.
In the large paintings, the paint acts as a vehicle to explore relationships between figure and ground, past and present. The process involves tracing the figures onto the canvas in order to retain the photograph’s authenticity. The painting progresses by way of responding to the traced markings bringing the figures forward and pushing them into the background of the canvas, blending with and at times losing them in the landscape. The brushstrokes deviate from the contours of the figures, blurring the images and giving them a ghostly presence. In the small collaged paintings the figures are brought to the surface and presented as characters in a recreated tale of their lives. The trees act as a background much like the forests in fairy tales.
In the end, it’s the act of art making that determines the outcome of the narrative, what becomes important, what is blurred, what is saved and what is lost.