Remember looking out that hotel window and seeing, for the first time ever, roof lines, balconies, fire escapes, even the chimney pots of Paris? Heather Dubreuil has studied roof lines, too, and a good many other straight-line intersections of storied light and narrow street here, there, and elsewhere. For her part, Anne Kelly remembers buttons, threads, bits of lace, sepia photographs, and grandfather’s waistcoat, as well as tales she overheard in the front parlour. The textile arts of Dubreuil and Kelly form an intricate interplay of story and point-of-view in STITCHED: A Homecoming, the current exhibition of the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum, Almonte, curated by Michael Rikley-Lancaster.
Anne Kelly’s materials are vintage fabrics, scraps of this and that, which she appliqués, embroiders, and stitches into densely layered metaphors of memory. Her collages are thick with imagery. “Woodland Walks Rucksack,” 2015, for example, was once no more than a plain rucksack. Someone threw it away, perhaps. Kelly retrieved it and covered it with stitched drawings of mouse, deer, birds, and trees, each appliqué edged with lace. Whose rucksack was this originally? Unknown. But, maybe one time, in the woods somewhere, there was an encounter with an owl.
Interactions with others are visual storylines throughout Kelly’s work. “Harvest Apron,” 2016, displays all the plenitude of a good year in a temperate climate. Centred upon the apron, we see a pile of apples, squash, and sheaves of grain. Surrounding all are a good many birds, even a mouse, all evidently complaining about the loss of their larder to a mere mortal.
Artist Anne Kelly has listened to the stories the kinfolk told. We see that in her attention to detail and visual narrative. Inside one display case are three objects – an accounts book, a heart-shaped pillow, and a sewing box. Each is layered, pasted, embroidered with the minutiae and detritus of what happened when, where, one hundred years ago when their men went off to war.
The subject matter of Heather Dubreuil’s artwork is the contemporary cityscape. Her piecework compositions are disciplined, quiet, almost Euclidean geometries, constructed from hand-dyed panels of flat colour cut and stitched carefully into place. For the most part, the artist uses her own photography to establish the grid of her architectonic compositions. Dubreuil has studied the streetscapes of North America and Europe closely as we see in the exhibition.
Curator Michael Rikley-Lancaster organized the display of Dubreuil’s work in terms of colour, not place. Greens and blues form one group of of her compositions, greyed whites and yellows another, for example. This arrangement is effective because it enables our eye to see the artist’s use of pattern meditatively as edge, line, angle and curve.
The perspective we see is very often a view from an upper-storey window. “Bishop Street,” 2013, for example, shows us the angled roof line of a row of old townhouses rendered in purple, blue, pink, and yellow. The row, however, is jammed in between a large, flat grey, many-windowed, tall rectangle at one end, and a greyed green, massive, rectangular slab at the other end. There is no sky left to be seen in this hard setting.
Port Clyde, on the other hand, is the site of two wonderfully lyrical compositions of linear swoops and curves, “Port Clyde #5,” 2015 and “Port Clyde #4,” 2015. The subject matter is the same in both: two tall telephone utility poles along a village street of small houses. Across the sky, a dance of wires waltzes every which way. Both compositions are identically sized and patterned, albeit differently coloured. “Port Clyde #5” features rose and yellow; “Port Clyde #4” is rendered in greys.
Almonte is an easy 40-minute drive west from Ottawa. The route is well-marked. Very near MVTM are two other fine contemporary art galleries—Sivarulrasa Gallery, 34 Mill Street, and General Fine Craft, 63 Mill Street. The exhibition at Sivarulrasa is “Figure—Sue Adams, Adrienne Dagg, and Caroline Ji.” Mill Street is Almonte’s main drag, with a host of good eateries, antique shops, and bookstores.
STITCHED: A Homecoming
Textile Art by Anne Kelly and Heather Dubreuil
Mississippi Valley Textile Museum
3 Rosamond Street East
January 19 to March 23
OTHER EXHIBITIONS OF INTEREST IN OTTAWA
Contemplations of Land and Sea
Photography by Glenn Bloodworth and Richard Robesco
(upstairs room in Thyme & Again)
1255 Wellington St. W.
January 16 to March 4
Land and Memory
Paintings and Photography by Leslie Hossack, Christine Fitzgerald, Manon Labrosse, Troy Moth, Patrice Stanley, and Rémi Thériault
101-858 Bank Street
January 11 to March 3
Living in a Parallel World
Paintings by Hamid Pirvali
St. Laurent Branch
Ottawa Public Library
515 Côté Street
January 4 to March 29