The Antiquarian’s House, 2020

Early in 2019 I was thinking about a new series of beaded works, which I had titled Beaded Baroque. The original concept was to bring contemporary beading into conversation with the Baroque period of art history. I’m interested in the Baroque period as it is a time when European nations were accumulating great wealth from the colonial project, which fuelled the artistic production of the time. I was thinking a lot about how the Métis fit into this, but have somehow been erased from the visual record of the time. Being close to Venice, where beads prized by the Métis originated, when I thought about what my Grandmothers and Aunties would want me to bring back from this place, the answer was beads, lots of beads, and my stories. These where the first thoughts about this series of work, which has evolved considerably since I’ve begun.

My first task was to search for a studio space. There are areas of Italy that, despite incredible beauty, are under recession, becoming depopulated as the youth leave for the cities and other countries in search of work. The space in which I’m completing this project is one of those places. I was searching for a studio space, and by pure serendipity, stumbled upon an old country house that had been closed for over a decade. The house was inspiring to me from an artistic perspective in that its last inhabitant was an antiquarian who had amassed an amazing collection of objects. The house had remained unoccupied for many years, slowly undergoing the natural process of decay, reclamation by the land, and occupation by thousands of insects. I’m living in the house while I create a new body of work and allowing the objects, history and insects it contains to fuel my artistic practise. I’ve now begun to see parallels between the process of beading and various activities undertaken by insects. The project has become more about relationship to the the site, the insects, the objects, and the process of beading and less about the Baroque peroid. I’m now referring to the project simply as The Antiquarian’s House.

Some of the objects I’m working with can be considered instruments of violence, in one way or another, others are related to loss. They are authentic objects that I’m reimagining with beadwork. Some of the objects will be encased in beads while others are providing the support material onto which I’m beading. Can encasing an instrument of violence in beads change its nature? Will the destructive history of such objects contaminate my hands as I work? These are questions I’m asking myself as I work.