As I'm sitting in my booth at an art festival I am often asked two simple questions. "Where are you from?" and "How long have you been doing these?" They seem like simple questions, but I'm never sure how to answer. I'm from Victoria, and Duncan, and Cowichan Bay, B.C. Canada, or at least I was. Now I'm from a little town in the middle of Georgia, halfway between Atlanta and Macon. Occasionally someone has heard of Jackson, because of the prison, the lake, or the famous Fresh Air Barbecue.
But the next question, "How long have you been doing these?" is slightly more complicated. I began these dress paintings sometime in the mid 1990's. I found the photo above in a catalogue from a show in 1994, I think this was the first time I exhibited a dress painting. The model is my sister, Cindy. I had her wear the dress that I later used in the painting. This piece sold, but I have lost track of where it is, Toronto I think, but I'm really not sure.
This piece, which I still have, is from 1995. Its title is "Don't Look Back"
This time I was the model, an awkward moment. My long hair is half wadded up on one side of my head and looking very odd. I wore the dress that is on the canvas just long enough to snap a few photos. (Just a side note, another comment I often hear is "Oh, so THIS is what you do with all your old clothes!" No, these paintings are not an alternative to the Salvation Army donation box, thank you very much.)
I think this is the first time that I used text in a piece. Although barely visible, those little black lines are letraset, six point type, rubbed down one letter at a time. It was the some of the small print from a separation agreement I signed a few years earlier. Before tongues get wagging, no I wasn't married, but I was living "common law" with a fellow in this house. I wanted out bad enough that I signed away. He still has the house, and I'm not looking back.
I think it was a year or so later that I had my first (and so far, only) museum show, The Sooke Regional Museum is a tiny space just outside of Victoria. This was a few months before I moved "down South."
It was when I moved to Georgia that I tucked the dress paintings away, onto the back burner so to speak. I wanted to take a real run at being a full time artist. That is, one without a real job, or a net for that matter. Lino block prints became my media of choice, and I later moved on to acrylic still life paintings. Both of these skills are now incorporated into my dress paintings.
So how long have I been doing these? Does the time they were hidden from view as I was working on new skills count? They still include photography, but I've added reasonably realistic painting, tons of text in many different forms, stitching, lino block prints, charcoal, graphite, pretty much whatever it takes to get the piece to sing.
Perhaps the answer should be "all my life?"