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JENNIE CLARK

jc12

“The Healing Dress” – “Missing”
Diptych, each panel 28” x 30”
Block print, paper assemblage
NFS

Statement:
It is hard to write about this project, as there is so much that I really don’t know. I met with Rob at his home, and he shared his painting of a “Jingle Dancer” with me. He explained colours and symbols and played a recording of a song he composed to accompany the work. He showed me a drum he had made and stained with berries. And so the New Year began with Robert’s painting on my studio wall, a week of reading, daily sage cleansing (to the best of my ability), preparing my space to create, and then the daily work.

During that time I read an account of a woman who as a young girl was sent to a residential school. Her aunties and mother made her a new dress of which she was very proud. They lovingly braided her hair and she went forward on this frightening adventure. When she arrived at the school, her dress was taken and burned and her hair was cut off, a painful loss of pride and identity. I cried as I read the story.

Robert’s painting of the Jingle Dancer refers to healing feminine energies, and so I was inspired to create a Healing Dress for a child. It ismade of red paper, block printed with simple hand carved designs of the traditional healing herbs – cedar, sage, tobacco and sweet grass – printed in yellow-gold ink. When I cut the positive shape of the circle and the dress out of the printed red paper, a negative shape remained which became the absent dress, symbolizing the lost child. The layers of paper are sewn with invisible threads together to the leaf paper, which is representative of fallen leaves, detritus and earth. Shell buttons are traditional closures made from abalone and mother of pearl, and each button represents an artist in the circle. In this work I view the buttons as symbols of water (life). As they reflect light in rainbows, they are also positive and hopeful signs. The large buttons at the “throat” represent the voice – turquoise for healing and black for loss and pain. The colours and shapes in my work also have symbolic meaning. The black ground is bible paper used in the flysheets of bible construction. It represents the “black robes” of the church and foreign authority. The circle stitching is bold with heavy thread but remains unfinished, which represents the task ahead – listening and understanding. I then met with Clayton King to pass the feather.

Every element of this artwork has taken on greater meaning as I listen and learn. I am grateful for the privilege of working on this project and thank everyone in the circle for sharing their creativity and insights. To me this project represents working in harmony and sharing a narrative that is difficult, challenging and invaluable, leading to a hopeful future of mutual respect and most of all friendship. 

Bio: 
I am an active visual artist, art educator, student of natural science, a member of the professional artists’ collective, “Gallery 111,” Barrie, and currently curator of the pop-up gallery, “Summer in the City”, Toronto.

I worked professionally as a graphic designer, art director and illustrator for twenty years following graduation with honours from Ontario College of Art (now OCADU). In 2006 I expanded my knowledge of contemporary art practices and graduated with honours from Georgian College Advanced Fine Art program, receiving awards for printmaking and sculpture. My imagery is inspired by natural phenomena and an innate connectivity to the natural world, often revealed through layering and use of organic materials.

My work was included in an exhibition of printmaking at Joshibi University of Art and Design, Japan 2006, at the De Gravura do Douro 2012, in Portugal and at the University of Belgrade in 2013. I have created site-specific artworks and outdoor installations for MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie and for the city of Markham. My work is in many private collections in Canada, United States, Portugal and Great Britain.

I am the originator of the Simcoe Watershed Art Project, an artist collective focused on bringing artists together to express their interest in the beauty, diversity and concern for the lands and waters encircling Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching. The group is currently in the process of generating a collaborative exhibition with Orillia Museum of Art and History and Lakehead University, entitled “watershedsci”.

She offers watercolour and printmaking workshops and classes and has enjoyed presenting at the MacLaren Art Centrem Barrie Art Club, Quest Gallery, Mid-and, the Town of Innisfil and Orillia Museum of Art and History.