The final days of my artist residency in New Brunswick played out in Sackville at Mount Allison University in December 2018. I still feel the glow of the beauty of those very rich and ever-so-full days.
With the help of many interns, the fishing net knotted with dictionary paper-thread grew to 30 x 12 feet. I used four dictionaries relevant to south-eastern New Brunswick: Le Glossaire acadian, Le Petit Larousse Illustré, Silus Tertias Rand’s English to Mi’kmaq and Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate. My goal was to put the net into the rising tide of the Bay of Fundy and let the dark red clay of the ocean water tint the dictionary thread. This fairly simple action required the alignment of several factors: a rising tide, good weather, helping hands to carry the net and a camera person to document. In late August, I did a test run. Friends and students came and Todd Fraser from the Struts Art Gallery & Faucet Media Center where I was doing a two-week artist residency at the time did the filming. It was a beautiful day made ever-more special with meeting Suzie LeBlanc, a friend of friends and well-known soprano originally from Moncton who joined us on the outing. This meeting would lead me to an unimagined adventure in opera.
New experiences, people, places, ideas and techniques – this is what a good residency can offer. I’ve had many art residencies, but a two-year long residency is a first. There are so many other firsts for me in this residency: learning how to make a fishing net, making a super 8 film, unraveling my giant paper-thread ball on campus and through the town of Sackville and rolling it back up (5 ½ hours), having students work on my work, learning how to do the tumble turn (I’ve been swimming lengths in the pool for years, but never dared to try it) and lastly, design and make the costume and set for mouvance, the new contemporary opera produced and performed by Suzie LeBlanc. (more on this in a future entry)
Many thank-yous are in order. So many contributed to the richness of my experience as artist-in-residence in the visual arts departments of l’Univérsité de Moncton and Mount Allison University. Thank you to the secretaries of those departments who were always ready to find answers to my many questions. Gloria Belliveau, Monique Alain and Lesley Bonang, I cannot thank you enough. The technical assistants likewise always ready to assist in whatever project or quest suddenly became urgent. Carole Deveau, Diana LeBlanc, Dan Steeves and Paul Griffin, thank you. The department heads likewise, thank you Julie Forgues, Jacques Arsenault, Thaddeus Holownia and Erik Edson for your generous gift of time. Thank you to all my colleagues who made being on campus such a pleasure: André Lapointe, Gisèle Ouellette, Guillaume Lepine, Adriana Kuiper, Leah Garnett, Jerry Ropson, Chris Down, Anne Koval and Karen Stentaford.
Each session, I had new eager art students as interns. Suzanne Cormier, Fanny Rasoamiaramanana, Sarah Noonan, Bre Darlison, Claire Hunter, Samara Belhomme, Klervia Desbois, Kim Vallillee, Savannah Beaupré and Madeleine Hansen all contributed to the quality of my art making experience. Doreen Richard, the Indigenous Affairs co-ordinator at Mount Allison helped me find students: Laylia Bennet and Kiara Mazerolle, who worked steadily, helping with the construction of the dictionary fishing net. I was able to make several short videos and without the willing participants in the videos: the Moncton University music students and department head – Monique Richard, Nick Despres, Adriana Kuiper and daughter- Millie Suter, Andrea Mortson, Robin Love, Monique Leger, Suzie LeBlanc, Linda Rae Dornan, Sarah Noonan, Madeleine Hansen and Bre Darlison. Thank you to Samara Belhomme who stayed by my side during the 5 ½ hour-long performance of Do Undo Redo. Working last summer with Bre Darlison was an adventure I will never forget. She is a mind reader with great ideas and lots of love. What more could you ask for in a helper? Madeleine Hansen added to the mix in the fall term and the sweet adventure continued. Many thanks to Todd Fraser and Ryan Suter from Faucet Media Centre who helped make video documenting so easy. Thank you to Struts Gallery and Faucet Media Centre for allowing me to do a mini residency at the centre last summer. I was able to experiment with some installation ideas for both sculptures and video projections for an upcoming exhibition at Oboro in Montreal. Of course, I must mention that my partner, Paul Litherland made many of my video and photography projects all very easy. I can never thank him enough.
Lastly, I am so grateful for the power and the beauty of the land and the ocean in south-eastern New Brunswick. Their presence fed me constantly.