Woven Woods | City Gallery | September 8 – October 27, 2023
In the top six inches of the forest floor lies a vast and flourishing communication system as old as photosynthesis itself. This is where we find an exquisitely balanced symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and tree roots which provides a network of channels for resources and messages between individual trees. The resulting plant chatter is as complex and efficient as our own worldwide web. In recent research, biologists have discovered the existence of Mother trees: larger, older specimens that, with the help of their fungi, serve as system hubs in life and as nutrient sources in death. This mycorrhizal network thus connects and stabilizes the forest, and by extension, our entire planet’s biosphere.
Fascinated by this current research, I applied for an Ontario Arts Council Grant to travel to the University of British Columbia and meet Dr Suzanne Simard who is a leader in this field. Together with her and some of her gracious Grad students, I toured her lab and field facilities on campus and through the mountains to Kamloops. It was an amazing experience.
The resulting exhibition, entitled Woven Woods, is a collection of twelve circular quilted wall hangings, measuring 36 to 45″ in diameter, each depicting twelve trees of varying types, seasons and stages of growth, and portraying a different aspect of their connection with the mycorrhizal net. Each circle encloses the story of a thriving ecosystem, where all individual elements contribute to support the whole.
The circle, which is a shape symbolizing infinity, also happens to be the shape of the earth, a cross section of tree root and even a single spore. We use circles to describe the flow of our seasons, our measure of time, and the movements of biological systems through their cycles.
Since fabric is itself a plant or animal product, it is an ideal material for expressing and capturing the attributes of natural forms, and the techniques I use mirror processes that bring order to diverse and humble materials. For materials, I used fabrics of all kinds, mainly dyed and printed cottons, some silks, a variety of synthetics and sheers, and cotton batting. In a few of them I also used acrylic paint. They are all machine appliqued and quilted, and hang freely without frames.
“Like many women of my generation, I was introduced to the fabric arts at the earliest opportunity, at my mother’s knee with a needle and thread. This was the start of a long creative journey that led to a full time career in art textiles. I have been working as a professional artist in the textile medium since the mid 1980’s.
For my formal education, I earned a BSc in Agriculture, Majoring in Ornamental Horticulture, and have been studying developments in tree research since graduating in 1978. In my work I draw upon my background in science to create images in fabric which evoke the strong connection I feel with the natural world. Most of my wall pieces are inspired by the biology, mythology and symbolism of trees, classic emblems of the communion of earth and spirit.
I create my wall hangings and framed textiles using raw edge machine appliqué techniques and embroidery, using an old light industrial Bernina.
On a half-acre of property on the Niagara escarpment, I have a self-standing studio and gallery surrounded by natural and herb gardens. I participate in local open studio events, and visitors are also welcome by appointment. You can also see my work at any of my representing galleries. My Facebook Page is the best way to keep up with all the latest news.”