I just would like to write a quick tribute to the garage in which I spent the past summer (June through September- until my fingers and materials both began to freeze in the unheated air). When I finished my residency this past spring, it became apparent that it would be quite difficult to work on my portrait series in my closet-sized studio, especially if I wanted to be creating at least some kind of process record all the while.
The Thursday open studio nights I had hosted weekly in the spring also served to strengthen my belief in the value of creative spaces where individuals from multiple disciplines can join together in quiet parallel processes or full-on interactive co-creation. This, however, requires more space than a little nook for one can provide.
Fortunately, I was able to move into the bay of a garage, taking the place of friend’s in-law’s camper van while it went off to explore I’m sure what was more beautiful and exciting territory.
My first encounter with the space brought me something quite expected & true to the nature of the garage that it was- dust, cobwebs, old plywood, winter tires, concrete slabs and a multitude of other objects from baby to camping to sports paraphernalia. But with some elbow grease and the skills, resourcefulness & generosity of my friend Marc Moreau, we were able to create a functional, clean(enough) comfortable white-box-workspace. It is truly amazing what some lighting, curtains and paint can accomplish.
This space went to serve me for the rest of the summer, during which I worked on a couple painstaking, slow, and thankless portraits, as well as some silly in-between hope-building projects to fend of the feelings of discouragement and impending doom. I was also fortunate enough to have lots of visitors stop by, either to say hello and keep me company for a tea break or to work on their own projects. During my undergraduate degree I took a course in theological aesthetics where this process of being “alone together” was explored. Although common imagery conjured by this tends to take place in the more overtly spiritual context of monasticism, I truly feel there is power & beauty in drawing upon this even for us plebs & degenerates. My visitors sometimes came at just the right time with distraction or encouragement or the perfect kind of energetic presence.
When the summer came to a close, and I moved my things out, I couldn’t help but turn back to look at the stark white wall I was leaving behind. It wouldn’t make much sense to take the panels down even though I had installed them in the first place. Instead, I saw the perfect opportunity for a last bout of fun* in the space. The day I returned the key I invited my friend and fellow artist Shawn Zinyk to come by and we created a mural. With no plans, and just one afternoon to get something made, and we ended up with this ridiculous beauty:
Anyway, as I think about the time I spent in that space, what comes to mind with the most salience is the people that surrounded and occupied it during my stint there. Thank you to the generous and admirably chill family who let me work on my projects in their garage all summer, sometimes late into the night (or morning!). Thank you to the people who helped me move, set up, tear down. Thank you to the Edmonton Arts Council for supporting my project. And most of all, thank you to the amazing friends, family and sometimes even strangers in my life who remind me what it’s all about, and who make this feel worthwhile.
*See also: Silliness. See also also: “Maren wuz here”
This String Portrait Project is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.