Archive for September, 2011


September 20, 2011

Slipstitch, Jackie Frioud and Judy Robertson exhibit, September 2 to October 4, Circle Craft Gallery, Vancouver

by Janet Nicol

Jackie Frioud’s stitch-design ceramics complement narrative hooked rugs by Judy Robertson in a show called Slipstitch, at Circle Craft in Vancouver. “I was attracted to pottery as a functional form,” says Frioud, “even though my fine arts degree is in printmaking and sculpture.” She began by creating jewelry boxes, plate sets and other functional forms of white pottery. With a slip-coloured clay, she’s added a blue ‘stitching’ motif on each form. “I’ve sewn in the past and I always liked the stitching pattern used in printmaking,” she says, adding that her designs are influenced by a minimalist, Japanese aesthetic. “I began making multiple slabs to form one piece,” Frioud says. “I realized my pottery, based on function, was now becoming sculpture.” She shares a childhood in the Okanagan with Robertson, and says the muted colours of Robertson’s hooked rugs complement her white porcelains. “Words are embroidered into the fabric before she hooks,” she says. “The text has hidden meanings, giving a subversive element to the rugs.”

Reprinted from Galleries West magazine, Fall, 2011

Cold War Artefacts

September 20, 2011


Gil McElroy and Peter Dykhuis, Cold War Artefacts: Logroad: The Baldy Hughes Project, July 15 to October 9, Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George

By Janet Nicol

“I was an army brat,” artist and writer Gil McElroy says. “My father was one of the ‘cold warriors’ in the 1950s.” The Pinetree Line was one of three cross-country arrays of manned radar stations guarding against Soviet attack, and McElroy’s father worked on bases from coast to coast. Some buildings and artefacts of the period remain — including the Baldy Hughes Air Station in Prince George, and now McElroy and collaborating artist Peter Dykhuis have created installations about the Station, the second in a series of four Cold War exhibitions. “A wall of text provides a timeline of the history of the U.S.-built and manned site,” McElroy says. “It was a boring history until the Cuban Missile Crisis came along and things got exciting at the station for a very short time.” The exhibition also includes collages, maps and drawings. McElroy says many bases were either dismantled or simply abandoned and left to decay, and only a handful, including the Prince George site, were re-purposed. “Nobody remembers this time or wants to remember,” McElroy says. “But these military sites existed and shaped the fabric of our communities.”

Re-printed from Galleries West, Fall, 2011.

Baking as Biography – Book Review

September 20, 2011

Baking as Biography, by Diane Tye. McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2010 , 280 pp, $24.95

Reviewed by Janet Nicol

Diane Tye, a folklorist rooted in Atlantic Canada, frequently writes about hidden meanings found in everyday life. In Baking as Biography, she turns her critical gaze inward to examine the custom of passing down recipes through family. The recipes of her mother, Lauren Tye, provide the focal point of this memoir, revealing valuable and universal stories.

Lauren died in mid-life from cancer, a tragic family loss also giving insight. And so, although Tye’s son grows up without his grandmother, he is reminded of her when Tye bakes.

As part of a health-conscious generation, Tye confesses she doesn’t prepare Lauren’s butter and sugar laden desserts for social functions, as was Lauren’s constant obligation, as a minister’s wife, beginning in the 1950s. But Tye does share these sweet delights with her own family.

“When we do follow Mom’s recipes, it is largely to remember her and the family we were when she was alive,” Tye writes. “It is a present reminder of her nurturing and of the sense of family identity she passed on to us.”

Lauren’s recipes are sequenced throughout the book. All are standard for the times and reflective of the family’s Scots heritage, which includes oat cakes, as well as baking trends, such as recipes with graham crackers. Besides cookies, squares and breads, there’s a recipe for mustard pickles. “It is the smell of vinegar cooking on the stove that helps recall earlier autumns,” the author writes. “This is what ties me to my great grandmother, whom I know only by a few family stories, her photo, a glass plate she once owned and the taste of her pickles.”

Tye’s father and brother also find meaning in Lauren’s cooking, as Tye sensitively portrays, based on her interviews and observations with them. Her sister, born with a hearing impairment, has had a sense of life-long alienation from her family of origin, Tye comes to understand, so her connection to her mother’s recipes is different again.

The reader glimpses the lives of women past through this study of the post-war generation, as well as their attitudes toward domestic chores, family and public gatherings. Tye also includes telling details about food and baking. White sugar takes over from molasses, “the poor man’s food,” on kitchen shelves in the Maritimes, for example, and a bounty of specialty ingredients in a woman’s baking once marked her social status in society.

Despite an academic-style detachment and frequent referencing of sources, this is a seamless and nuanced narrative, lovingly told. Also included are black and white photographs of Tye’s family—and food—captured within domestic and public settings. After reading Baking as Biography, the family recipe box is guaranteed to take on new meaning. The value of women’s work, performed out of duty, tradition and maternal love, shines through.

Re-printed from Room magazine, Issue 34.2