Escapist Series, 2017 - written excerpt from hand bound book

"It begins with a feeling. A passing thought. The remnants of the lyrics from a song I heard earlier in the day. A glare from a stranger on the subway. I remember the last person I kissed. I remember a patterned chair I saw by the subway station. I’m thinking about my rent, my various debts, and how I bought tomatoes from the corner market that taste like nothing at all. I recall my day, my week, my mundane back and forths throughout the city of Toronto.

 

I think about my youth. How it felt to be eight and to gather up all the important objects (a small plastic cat toy, some carrots in a bag, too many cookies, a broken Walkman that is shaped like scuba goggles). I would pack them in my lunchbox and climb up into the tree that overlooked the neighbour’s yard. I had no plan for once I got up there, but I had what I had and needed not much more than that. I think back to picking cucumbers from the garden and the way they smelled and the way my hands were always soiled and smelled like cucumbers too afterwards. I think about being nine and talking to the two Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs that we kept in the barn. Their names were Buffy and Jody. My parents named them, I didn’t get the reference at the time. I told these pigs my thoughts, and for the duration of a few weeks in the spring I watched them have sex. I didn’t understand that they were having sex. They didn’t care that I was watching.

 

I think about these things and with my bare hands I begin to mould a large square of wire mesh. My father found this old roll of chicken wire at a garage sale for three dollars. He gave it to me with a pair of pliers and gloves. In my mind I liken myself to Andy Goldsworthy. I’m Andy out in the snow, handling ice with frozen fingers, no gloves. Feel the material, let it hurt you if it hurts you. Learn from it. My father taught me how to scavenge, how to barter, and how to steal. Any given weekend I’d find myself out in the garage with him as he roughed together something loosely resembling a bookshelf or a treehouse. The edges were always a little bit rough and the measurements never perfect, but what my dad lacked in precision he made up for with ingenuity. We never once had to go to the hardware store.

 

I look at the wire armature. Deer-like? Turn it backwards. Fish? It’s a skeleton of something, I have no idea what yet. I rummage through a green suitcase I found at the side of the road. It’s large and holds a bag of fibre-fill, some old scraps of lace, a doily my mother didn’t want anymore, a fake fur vest I found at Value Village for $4.99. Possibilities. I pick through them at random. Something about this white lace must appeal to me, I consider it. Put it aside. Save it for later. 

 

To attach the material I use synthetic sinew. It’s a heavily waxed brown twine meant to simulate animal tissue. Bonnie Devine introduced me to it during an instruction on moccasin making. I think about how an animal’s tissues can be made into thread. What precision that must take. Do they dry them a certain way? Do they stretch? I feel some sadness. I think about what I’ve eaten today. There’s no guilt or regret there, I’ve been a vegetarian since I was fourteen.

 

One day in Bonnie’s class Duke Redbird came to speak to us. Amongst the wisdom he imparted one perspective he shared really resonated with me. He told us to think about ourselves as humans, and how humans consider themselves greater than animals, plants, and the earth. How we take without considering the consequences, we clear cut trees and forests, we eat McDonald’s without knowing where that burger came from or how that animal was treated. In our consumer society we have lost one important human perspective; respect. I felt something move in me. I remembered that tree, I remembered my conversations with the pigs. Duke said the way it was, the way it should be is actually opposite our everyday beliefs and hierarchies. The earth comes first, then the plants, animals, and we as man are last. We have the most to learn from those who came before us. Where did that go? I wanted that back. I believed in it.

 

What resonates with you, what imprints you can become a hunger. I found myself needing the forest, the farm, and the animals I grew up with. The city drained me, the advertisements, the consumer push and pull. They were all talking at me, every day. Yelling demands. I found myself needing to be something pure and unaffected, but knew I couldn’t have that here, not now. I wanted a silence I could only realistically have given our modern society crashed to the ground. A place where it is quiet, desolate, but still alive with wonder. Where curiosity is embraced and objects are compared and contrasted but never measured in worth. Where the people, be them man, plant, animal or a hybrid of the three have what they have and need not much more than that. So I created it.

 

The characters that emerged from the wire bones, fibre muscle, and fabric skins became players in this world. Archetypes my id constructed based on the dissatisfactions, worries, or personal breakthroughs in my own personal life. The bride, the protector, the child, the warrior, the trickster, the dreamer. I was in an intuitive collaboration with my imagination, my nostalgia, and the materials I surrounded myself with. Each character became as real and logical as the people around me. In the laborious hours spent sewing and staring at the forms taking shapes I realized that in the end they’re all me. Every single one of them, in some bizarre other world where I’m split apart and woven back into the flora and fauna I long to live in. And I’m happy there."