AKA Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada 2019


Collaborative project of Lezli Rubin-Kunda and Susan Shantz, with Honor Kever

This hybrid curatorial/collaborative process-based exhibition explores the intersection of art and everyday actions. It includes the work of three mid-career women artists who interrogate the domestic in light of their parallel productions as artists. How do women artists with children integrate their careers with the stuff of everyday life, how do these activities inform each other, and how do they let go of and transform their parental roles over time. The blurred boundary between art and life results in imaginative responses that crosspollinate art and domestic life. Susan and Lezli use the accumulated stuff of parenting, including video, objects, installation of natural materials gathered from the immediate surroundings and a live action ritual of unravelling, with thrift store knit and crocheted blankets, all against the backdrop of the existing photo murals by Honor Kever (The Brooding Rooms, 1986-88).

Curator/ writer Joan Bursa visited the installation as it was developing, and discussed the work with the artists, resulting in a text for the opening >>

"Brooding—Shedding—Unravelling", by Joan Bursa:
March 13, 2019 (a reflective interaction with the work as it was being installed)

In this concentrated Mother Zone, temporal and material traces of labour, care, and investment settle like sediment, breathing through an accumulation of charged objects, emotions, specific scenes, and performed actions associated with parenting.

Poignant transitions and transformations abound. From the intensity of hands-on mothering evident in Honor Kever’s evocative photo-based Brooding Rooms to the ritualistic unravelling of knitted and crocheted hand-made blankets in the “unravelling room,” Shedding distills and reflects upon the cycles, tensions, and depth of feelings experienced in raising and detaching from children.

In Susan Shantz’s sculptural assemblage, remnants from a childhood archive, including a boy scout scarf, stuffed toys, a desk lamp, a rag doll, a xylophone, a baby blanket, and two wooden stools are meticulously enveloped with transparent stretch wrap – an intimacy of associations bound together, a symbolic memorializing of familial history, a type of holding or processing prior to release. The layers of transparent plastic only partially enclose the objects, allowing us to see inside, as if exposing and offering a glimpse into an interior or psychic realm. Recollections and a transitional state appear to tug at each other, asking us to question: what is being shed, and what remains?

In one of the video pieces by Lezli Rubin-Kunda, the artist is on her hands and knees eating Cheerios off the floor; she appears to perform a psychological state of motherhood, what she has called “practicing humility.” Embodying the mother’s presence and actions as the reassuring glue that holds things together, in another photo-based work, the artist’s reclining body has quite literally become an armature for her children’s Lego experiments. As the Lego fabrications extend and morph around and on top of the mother’s body, she seems to be caught in a contradiction: she has become the foundation upon which her children’s efforts materialize, but she has also become somewhat invisible as they take bolder steps beyond her boundaries.

At the core of the project, the scaffolding and the heart-beat, are the four large-scale black and white photographs by Honor Kever, made almost 40 years ago, which retain their impact as a performative mapping of the silences absorbed in the everyday acts of mothering. In the skewed grid-like structure, the scenes within a kitchen, a dining room and an upstairs landing are distinctly off-center, generating a sense of disorientation, anxiety, and raw emotion as one notices in-process activities but a distinct absence of human presence. Unattended water runs in the kitchen sink, cupboards by the back door are thrown open, a bare lightbulb casts a mysterious sense of surveillance, a half-eaten lunch for two remains on the dining room table, a rag doll is abandoned on the floor. One scans the domestic interiors for signs of reassurance, but narratives of turmoil accompany the chopped vegetables waiting on the counter, the muffin trays waiting to be removed from the open oven, and the “do not disturb” sign quietly adorning the bedroom door knob.

A release or “shedding,” is most pronounced in the “unravelling room,” a space of meditative deconstruction where the artists (and gallery visitors) sit and unravel hand-made crocheted and knitted blankets sourced from local thrift shops. As the lovingly crafted, ordered worlds of stitching things together are slowly undone and transformed into soft, unwieldy piles of yarn, a sense of letting go and unburdening resonates. In this direct engagement with literal symbols of nurturance, we enact and recall the lingering of a familiar touch or caress, a sentiment and rite of passage that is therapeutically released in the physical act of unravelling.