Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Good news! My pioneer prairie women will soon have two places to settle for a short while and tell their stories. The Jackson Power Gallery, a new artist-run gallery in Edmonton, has accepted my exhibit The Sisterhood of Longing. The exhibit opens April 25, 2014 – more details to follow.

I am also curating a concurrent exhibit at the Jackson Power Gallery titled The Memory Rooms. More details to come on that too.

An exhibit of my Saskatchewan prairie women beeswax transfer prints has also been accepted into the Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Gallery in Val Marie, Saskatchewan, and will be on exhibit there from May to September 2014. More details to come on that as well!

The Edmonton exhibit will include my encaustic paintings and mixed media installations.

Marlena Wyman - The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back

The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (installation by Marlena Wyman)

One of my installations for the Jackson Power Gallery is titled The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back. This piece was inspired by quotes from the diaries and letters of pioneer women who spoke of working on the homestead from the wee hours of the morning until late at night, with little time to sit. When they did sit, it was often after everyone had gone to bed, and then they would sit and sew, spin, knit, weave, and mend. They made clothing for the family, curtains, bedding, and whatever else was required. They also sewed for many “Ladies Aid” types of organizations to help provide for those in unfortunate circumstances.

IMG_1424The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (detail of installation by Marlena Wyman)

As Dr. Nanci L. Langford observes in her 1994 University of Alberta thesis, First Generations and Lasting Impressions: The Gendered Identities of Prairie Homestead Women:

The day was a much longer one for women than for men. Once the farm work was done for the day and the sun had set, women still had to do the household and food production work…”

Early women immigrants to the rough prairies longed for the finer things in life that they had left behind in their previous modern homes in Europe, Eastern Canada and the United States, so on rare occasions they also indulged in “fancy work”; embroidery, lace making, crochet.

IMG_1281The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (detail of installation by Marlena Wyman)

Here are a few of the quotes about sewing that inspired The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back:

I did my sewing after I got the children off to bed at midnight.  Mabel Barker oral history interview and transcript (Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1981.279/20). Mabel Barker came to Shepard, Alberta from Ontario in 1891.

She owned just two dresses, made of flour or sugar sacks, one for work and one for Sundays and dances, always snow-white and spotlessly clean. Aprons were made from gunny sacks.  Margaret Charlotte Falkson Thompson memoir (Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1984.156)Margaret Charlotte Falkson Thompson came to Fort Assiniboine, Alberta from Germany in 1919.

Hard job to keep enough clothes made and washed. Don’t suppose you have any old things that would make clothes that you could send? Even old underwear…I make everything I can out of flour sacks but they [the children] need something warm in the winter.  Letter from Gertie Chase to her mother, October 28, 1922. Gertrude Chase came to Harcourt, Alberta from Washington State in 1918.

IMG_1389The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (detail of installation by Marlena Wyman)

The longing for a more genteel life was also expressed through planting a few flowers among the vegetables in the garden. As I mentioned in my Prairie Gardens post of April 8, 2013 the garden was an important source of food and family income, and although they were capable, skilled vegetable gardeners, flowers were what their hearts longed for.

As Dr. Nanci L. Langford observes in her 1994 University of Alberta thesis, First Generations and Lasting Impressions: The Gendered Identities of Prairie Homestead Women:

Music, dance and flowers became so important to women on the prairies because they were the few things from former lives that survived immigrations.

IMG_1397The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (detail of installation by Marlena Wyman)

Here are a few of the quotes about gardening that inspired The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back:

… some bulbs and some lovely daffodils are now in bloom. I have to be very careful with them and set them near the heater at night. I had a geranium coming on a treat when we went to meet Sarah, but it froze while we were away… it was 40 below zero, Marvin, poor kid, thought he would take care of my bulbs and put 10 down by the heater and the cat chewed them all off. Six were “Rainbow Tulips: and coming up just ready to bloom! Gee I was mad.  Letter from Barbara Alice Slater to her friends in England, January 28, 1912, about flowers that she was growing in the house in winter. (Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1978.79/13-14). Barbara Alice Slater came to Stoppington, Alberta from Colchester England in January 1911.

A broken collarbone, a badly mangled left arm and bruises from my nose to my foot! …It’s the last place in the world for an invalid…The thing that disappointed me the most was having no garden…I am a hindrance enough without bothering my old man to make me a flower garden. Some sweet peas are struggling up and nasturtiums and I have loads of seeds that I shall keep for next year. The garden is on raw land and the vegetables are growing like wildfire. Letter from Barbara Alice Slater to her friend Lily Anna in England. June 11, 1911 about a severe injury that she sustained when she was helping her husband to build a curb around the well. (Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1978.79/11)

IMG_1401The Sewing Chair and the Garden in Back (detail of installation by Marlena Wyman)

Many thanks to my family and friends who answered my call for vintage wooden thread spools, thimbles and sewing notions with which I decorated the chair for the installation: my Mom Doreen Wyman, my cousin Lee Pinault (who gave me my late Aunt June’s notions and flour bag quilt piece for the chair seat), and my friends Merrill Kemp, Vince Roper and Shelley Chebry.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

Advertisements