Using weighty historical and personal references, and created with the intellectual permission and material assistance from the niece of the subject of the work, "Wiwcha" addresses the profound impact, both provincially and personally, of the widely publicized and prolific unsolved murder of a young nurse in my hometown that occurred in 1962.
The work directly speaks to themes of legacy, addressing the concept of memorialization through digital means (the internet) and the impact that stories continue to have in shaping a cultural landscape long after their initial happening.
An abstract work at first appearance, Wiwcha in fact contains multiple images of the subject of the work, appearing as “swipes” of paint. At the bottom of the painting are two stretched images that utilize a technique called Anamorphosis, an illusion that only allows the subject to come into clear focus upon physical movement around the painting itself, at which point the viewer is able to fully witness the work and its intentionally illusive nature. The clarified images presented within these swipes of paint depict the well-known image of the subject of the work in her nursing uniform, the other image displaying a interaction with a fellow participant during her crowning in a beauty pageant. These swipes are being “pulled” towards the bottom right side of the painting in a movement similar to that of a closing computer window. The physical shape of the painting follows this movement, with a sharply cut angle emphasizing this irregularity. Presented in the centre of the work is an additional scatter of screenshots and abstract images of computer screen windows. The hidden nature of these images contribute to the deceptively complicated nature of the work, speaking to the larger narrative being presented within it.
Paintings have an unusual staying power in regard to documenting history. They serve a purposeful role beyond the aesthetics of the perceived beauty of any individual work itself, and that's never been more evident to me and in my practice than in pursuing this particular work.
As an artist, I try to look at creating works that document both a time and a place, perhaps often aiming to recapture a feeling more than a recreated environment. As a result, the work within my practice often speaks to the significant creative influence that lay in the hands of those whom we are closest to, allowing for personally significant work to take on layers of new meaning.
“Wiwcha” is the first time that I’ve directly pursued a painting that is tethered to a story and history not my own, and so it felt particularly important to get right. My hope was for the resulting painting to present a further opportunity for discourse on the legacy of the subjects life, while also providing a reminder of the importance of remembering a persons story beyond the circumstances of their passing, something that can easily be neglected in circumstances such as hers.
There are many direct and specific references to subject of the work in the painting, but the most important one sits at the top of the work, just right of centre, in the form of a crystalline star. I’d once read about how the North Star can be viewed as a tiny pin holding up the sky, a perspective that exists beyond the typical proverbial guiding light that most of us are familiar with. I like to think that the subject of the work had people in her life who viewed her in this way as well, and I believe it's quite likely that she did. This motivating idea anchored the work in its entirety, with the star in the painting sitting approximately where the North Star is often depicted amongst its place in the night sky.
The star also references the profound impact that the subject of the work’s story had on me personally as a child. Its shape and inclusion in the painting replicates an obscure object found in my childhood bedroom; the artificial, glow-in-the-dark star stickers that were stuck to ceilings of countless childhood bedrooms in the 80’s and 90’s. These were, in a literal sense, the stars that we fell asleep under every night. They are important reference points for how I felt then, tethers to memories of childhood and the stories that were responsible for forming my own history. In a strange way, the impact of the subject of the works story is tied to this memory in a visual sense quite completely, remaining true to this day.
The work represents a battle for the preservation of stolen memory, and a reclaiming of the narrative and legacy of a life in the face of a history of overwhelming darkness. The family of the subject of the work continues to take great efforts to ensure that the legacy of the subject of the work is not forgotten.
From a personal perspective, it was important to me that the painting didn’t reference the circumstances of the subjects end-of-life, and that the work existed outside of sensationalism or exploitation, bearing in mind the full weight of the topic and the life that would be on display. It focuses on an interpretation of who the subject may have been as a person, coming from someone who, in this case was born nearly 33 years after her death, never having had the opportunity to meet her. My intention in painting this was to honour both who she was and who she may have become. It's a direct message to the subject that she is remembered beyond the circumstances of her death and that her life has not ceased in continuing to inspire. I’m hopeful that on some level, the subject is fully aware that her life continues to have true impact, that she has lived on in the minds of innumerable people and over generations.
oil on linen
22 x 27 x 31"
Artwork comes framed in Maple wood, custom-built frame.
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