The Sisterhood of Longing solo exhibit

The Sisterhood of Longing exhibit by Marlena Wyman

and The Memory Rooms exhibit curated by Marlena Wyman

Jackson Power Gallery 2nd fl. 9744 – 60 Ave Edmonton

Exhibit dates: April 25 – May 4, 2014

Opening reception: Friday April 25, 2014 from 7PM to 10PM. Sound performance at 8PM

Closing reception: Saturday May 3, 2014 from 4PM to 7PM. Sound performance at 5PM

Exhibit description

The Sisterhood of Longing and The Memory Rooms honours personal and collective memory through a multi-disciplinary exploration of the concepts of heritage, family, remembrance, and mortality.

The Sisterhood of Longing continues my exploration of memory within landscape through my new encaustic paintings and mixed media installations, informed by my past work as an archivist and my research into the diaries, letters and photographs of the first women to come to the prairies. We interpret our memories and identities in part through the filter of stories told and through traces of past lives that we can feel viscerally when we hear the recorded voice of a loved one long gone, when we view with amusement family resemblance in photographs of ancestors never met, or when a handwritten passage in the diary of a long dead stranger creates profound personal connection.

The voices of early women settlers speak of loneliness and isolation, roughness and hardship, pride in work and new-found abilities, and the vastness and harshness of the prairie landscape. The sense of longing is a recurring theme in these women’s writings: longing for the home and family that they left behind, longing for the companionship of other women from whom they were separated by the vast distances of the prairies, and longing for the rights and freedoms that they were denied by the social structures and inequitable legislation of the time.

There are many omissions in recorded history and in the collections of archival institutions. In my former long-time work as an Archivist, I found that one of the significant omissions is that of women’s contributions to history. In particular, the voice of early prairie women settlers is largely excluded from mainstream history. Public collections tend to be populated by men’s history and men’s stories, which although unquestionably significant, omit a key source of our rich heritage. Historically, women worked individually, collectively, and alongside men to settle the prairies, and we need to collect, preserve and present more of these vital stories of our past.

In The Memory Rooms, I curated a concurrent group exhibit featuring the paintings, photographs, and installations of emerging Edmonton artists Caitlin Richards, Patrick Arés-Pilon, and Mallory Gemmel. I asked the artists to populate each of their rooms with their interpretations of the concept of memory. These interpretations were ultimately explorations of identity through heritage, material culture and family connection.

Caitlin Richards: As families break down and roles change over time, so do the modes of portraiture and the documentation of their histories. These portraits restructured this history and became increasingly fictionalized representations based on the artist’s interpretation of family stories.

 Patrick Arés-Pilon: This memory room was a physical reconstruction of the home and photography of the artist’s great-grandmother, Hélène Courteau née Hudon, who was born in St-Éloi, Québec in 1894, and settled in Zénon Parc, Saskatchewan.

Mallory Gemmel: Gemmel’s black & white photographs represented recollections of family experiences that expessed the emotion of being content and going back to moments of gratitude in her life.

The exhibit opening included an interactive vocal improvisation by sound artists V.I.N.E. Choir (Vocal Improvisation Network of Edmonton), facilitated by singer and instrumentalist Karen Porkka.

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I also commissioned V.I.N.E. Choir to create a an interpretive recorded soundscape for The Sisterhood of Longing, based on quotes from the archival diaries and letters of prairie women that Wyman provided as inspiration for the recorded improvisation.

 For the exhibit closing, I invited Edmonton sound artist Dave Wall to premier his sound work, “Lattice”, which used archival recordings in the form of the artist’s late father’s recorded voice. Wall altered the sound of his father’s voice by using audio programming to represent an ongoing activity of forgetting and remembering.