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Behind the scenes: The Makings of an Exhibition

(RE)Emergence: Unravelling a journey of resilience and change, Solo Exhibition, Quest Art Gallery, Midland Cultural Centre, June 29-August 5 2023.



I'm a multi-disciplinary artist working mainly in public art, installation, sculpture, painting, drawing and printmaking. Influenced by my past career as a Park Superintendent and archaeologist, I create art that celebrates change, growth and transformation as it relates to breaking free from one's past to focus on hope. In my recent exhibition (RE)Emergence, I presented hand-built ceramic sculptures of chains to explore the theme of burdens of responsibility, the power of release and the symbolism of butterflies as agents of change. The centrepiece of this piece features a sculptural ceramic chain hung from a ceiling, carefully unraveled to evoke the act of shedding self-imposed limitations. The delicate ceramic butterflies emerging from the chain mirrors the fragility and resilience of the human experience, offering a poignant reflection on the transformative journey we all undertake.


The genesis of (RE)Emergence lies in a heartfelt call to mothers on social media. During a period of personal introspection and mental health challenges, I asked mothers to take a moment for themselves, capturing a selfie with closed eyes and a single word describing their innermost feelings. The response was overwhelming, with over a hundred intimate messages pouring in, sharing the untold struggles of contemporary motherhood. This powerful connection propelled me on a transformative journey of self-discovery and artistic expression, culminating in the creation of this exhibition.

I knew I had inspiration with the reference photos from mothers and all I had to do was to start creating. I picked up a paint brush and starting to experiment, make bad art, start over and have fun with my hands again. I did collage, encaustic, oil painting, printmaking, drawing (I tried everything!). Then, I had this flash of an idea to create a room filled with hand built clay butterflies and I knew I had something. I took that idea and initial sketch to my local public art gallery and pitched an exhibition to the curator. I didn't quite know what I was going to do, but I just knew I had to do it! I was fortunate enough to have had a wonderful curator who believed in me and paired me with a mentor, Rodrigo Moreno, under the RBC Arts Incubator program. As a social documentary photographer and social worker, he was a perfect fit for the subject matter of my project, forcing me to dive deep into my inner feelings and question what I was doing. I constantly pushed myself to new heights and new ways to approach my subject-matter.


I then found working with clay a perfect way to express myself in a visceral way, going back to a craft that is usually associated with women's work. I've always loved pottery and wanted to do everything I could push my practice in a new way. I got dirty. It was messy and all over the place, but then I started to make butterflies, one by one and this repeating pattern started to be meditative and calming. I was finally going towards my vision, one butterfly at a time. I was happy to have been invited to work in a friend's home studio for a couple of months before I found out I was awarded a grant to complete this work from the Ontario Arts Council. I was able to rent a studio with a fellow artist and went to work on creating a body of work that brought together ideas of resilience, love, protection and the burdens we carry as women, as mothers.


One of the main pieces of this exhibition is the immersive installation "Letting Go" where I explore the power of release and the symbolism of butterflies as agents of change. The centrepiece of this piece features a sculptural ceramic chain hung from a ceiling, carefully unraveled to evoke the act of shedding self-imposed limitations. The delicate ceramic butterflies emerging from the chain mirrors the fragility and resilience of the human experience, offering a poignant reflection on the transformative journey we all undertake.

The use of India ink adds a striking contrast to the ceramic chain and butterflies, representing the interplay between light and dark, and life’s inherent tensions. This symbolism invites viewers to contemplate the delicate balance between opposing forces - darkness and light, good and bad, and the complexities of the human experience. We often emerge from the darkest of places.


The choice of monarch butterfly imagery in this installation holds deeper significance. Monarchs are considered keystone species in their ecosystem, their well-being an indicator of the environment's health. In parallel, the installation reflects on the vital role of mothers as keystone figures in our society, nurturing families and communities. When I fell into darkness as a mother,

I turned to creating art that reflects my own journey of resilience.

Calley, one of my subjects of this exhibition came to visit the show and shared with me that her Anishinaabe name is Butterfly Women which became a special story in my heart. Since the opening, I've spoken to visitors of the show, especially women and mothers, who felt seen and heard through my installation. This subject matter is not something that is regularly shown and discussed in the public realm. I've been moved beyond words from the response to the show.



I hope to be able to share this exhibition experience beyond the walls of this gallery so that more can experience this installation first-hand. It truly changed my life.


Keep finding ways to be creative. Trust me, your future self will thank you.

Cheers,

Camille Myles




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