The show is on for another week..check it out if you have the chance, thanks.
Laura Kenney hooks a Maritime woman's world
Truro artist Laura Kenney finds her own voice in the enchanting iconic and fictional Maritime woman Judy in her comical, issue-oriented, multi-coloured hooked rugs in Surfing The Ironing Board at the Mary E Black Gallery, Halifax, to July 10.0
Kenney is concerned about out-migration, the collapse of the fishing industry, the loss of lighthouses and the domestic life of women.
She does not like housework and she names her first major solo show for her mother, who is a “fanatical house cleaner” and has always hated ironing shirts, says the Truro artist.
“My dad was in the military and she had a million shirts to iron and she'd be so cranky. When the ironing board came out, everybody ran.”
Kenney releases her mother by letting her fictional character of Judy surf on the ironing board in just one of many playful images in a story told through the voice of Judy.
This fictional character is becoming so popular that friends of Kenney's dressed up as her for the opening. “Who doesn't relate to Judy?” said Susan Charles, director of the Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design, which runs the Halifax gallery.
The iconic Maritime woman is a lean Modigliani-like figure in red boots with a black dress, a red bun and a blank face that expresses volumes.
Judy represents a hard-working Maritime woman and a mother who is bound to housework but who dreams of other things, a woman whose values are traditional — family, hard work, roots — but whose love of life is expressed in whimsy, humour and colour.
“I didn't intend to make her. She just came to me,” says Kenney. “She speaks to people, it's mostly women but men too. People are drawn to her.”
Kenney, who has a degree in chemistry, started hooking in 1998 through the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova Scotia in Truro. Three years ago she was looking for new subject matter for the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival when she stumbled upon this character.
“I did three rugs, one after another, with the black dress, red boots and red hair and I went, 'What's this?'
“It's like she's riding the boat now.”
The exhibit reads like a story starting at the opposite wall with a swirling, gorgeous, red abstracted rug that leads into Judy's life as a woman.
She gets married in her black dress holding a bouquet of fish and with a belly bump, which a gallery visitor had to point out to me as she laughed.
Two side-by-side rugs express the duality of motherhood. “Motherhood is a wonderful bonding thing but it is also a very restricting thing,” said Kenney.
As a stay-at-home-mom, Judy is literally under the house like the Wicked Witch of the East under Dorothy's house in The Wizard of Oz. The artwork, Judy ... she is a mother, is a simplified, evocative image of a female figure bent over a girl with streaming felted red hair in a river of unspun wool. The background is done in ribs of white showing off the sculptural, iconic figures.
Kenney, whose kids are now 15 and 12, says she has never found that elusive balance of vocation, housework and motherhood. “I wouldn't say balance, I'm just kind of doing it. I'm doing my best but often you feel like you are not doing anything well.”
The gallery's back wall is the “domestic chore wall” where Judy tries to avoid ironing, drinks while she washes the floor and escapes to a bath in a clawfoot tub. The rugs' backgrounds are rigid vertical lines in greens and golds that carry a sense of entrapment.
“It's meant to be like wallpaper. When she goes out, there is the whirling sky.”
Kenney, in the third section, puts Judy outdoors with the gorgeous van Gogh-esque skies in saturated colours.
She expresses her concern for a vanishing way of life in the Maritimes as Judy hangs buoys from trees and her arms, moves her house on a trolley and has dinner with a lighthouse.
“My roots are here and I've lived here for almost 20 years and I feel this place, it seems like we're on the brink of extinction but we're surviving,” said Kenney.
Inspired by rug-hooking artists Nancy Edell and Deanne Fitzpatrick, she finds her artistic voice in a medium that is both traditionally female and a domestic art which suits her message.
Catalogue essayist and fellow artist Steven Rhude suggests she also speaks through the voices that exist in the used cloth she finds at Frenchys and Louis's and in sari ribbons.
“Clothing speaks to the person who wore it – I see a small red blazer and I think Nancy Regan,” said Kenney. “You think what happened to the person who wore that and then the sari cloth tells its own story. Inanimate objects have a certain voice, I think it adds something to the final piece.”
Kenney feels the introduction of commercial patterns killed the individual voices of women rug hookers.
“Before patterns came out, women were just putting whatever was on their minds on the burlap. What would happen to the world of painting if everybody did paint-by-numbers?”
This exhibit includes a station for trying rug hooking. Let's just say it will not be a second career for me. However, the attempt leaves one amazed at Kenney's patience and skill and at a wonderful, joyful show rooted in deep thought and feeling.
Surfing The Ironing Board is at the Mary E Black Gallery, Nova Scotia Centre for Craft and Design, nestled between Pier 21 and the Seaport Market, to July 10 and open Tuesday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The centre's art and craft shop reopens in July across the street in the former Seeds Gallery space. This exhibit also goes to the Craft Council Annex Gallery in St. John's, N.L, in August 2017.
Kenney is back with over 50 folk artists at the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival on Sunday, July 31, noon to 4 p.m., at the Lunenburg Memorial Arena and is in the group show, The Very Best Folks I Know: Storytellers and Satirists Group Show, opening July 30 at Harvest Gallery, Wolfville, and also featuring the work of Geoff Butler, Ian Gilson, John Neville, Steven Rhude, Barry Colpitts, Ed Bernard, Richard Crowe and the Naugler brothers, Bradford and Ransford.
Kenney had two rugs selected for Terroir: A Nova Scotia Survey, the new exhibit of works by 29 Nova Scotia artists at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to Jan. 15.