Site icon Susan Barton-Tait

preserved: field, specimens, road

My work is multidisciplinary, incorporating sociopolitical ideas that respond to environmental issues, memories attached to objects,  women’s issues, and the fragility of family dynamics. My practice has evolved around the creation of work from basic/minimalistic materials within a formal structure that stimulates viewer reaction. I manipulate a variety of fibres through weaving, knitting, crocheting, felting, making paper, building with wood, sawdust, and other industrial materials to create series’ of forms that are relevant to my hypothesis. Working with my hands inspires my creative process. I love the intimacy and pleasure in the repetitive movements required to make objects. I enjoy the transformational changes in creating new work; the production of the artwork and the serendipitous discoveries that emerge during the process.

For many years I have been investigating the theme of “home” as it applies to my life and the memories that I carry with me. Ideas of fragility, impermanence, tradition, nostalgia, repetition and monotony in the domestic environment are central to my art practice.

In “Field,” a new body of work, I continue to explore these themes. Through the use of molten wax, I have cast cabbage leaves to create a field of translucent, ephemeral forms. Each object presents a delicacy that resonates with current social and political concerns. Political and environmental unrest in the world today is a constant reminder that all life exists in a delicate balance whether it is in the natural world or the constructed world.  It may shatter at any time.

A “Field” of fragile translucent forms cast from molten wax and cabbage leaves speak to the tenacity of Canadians to persevere despite adversity, to strive for success in an unforgiving landscape, and to celebrate their achievements with humour and humility.

As a vegetable, cabbage crosses geographical and cultural boundaries. Many diverse cultures for nourishment and is well known for its adaptability to different growing conditions.   As a result, cabbage was a necessary plant to grow when Europeans first came to this land where rocks and trees were abundant and poor soil was the norm. It was preserved in many forms to last from one harvest to another ensuring there was nourishment against the harsh realities of life in Canada

“Specimens,” a second piece, uses wax in a timeless manner to envelope vegetables completely.  The process preserves the vegetables, locking their nutritional value in the moment. My process involves dipping the entire vegetable into molten wax for several days in a row, allowing the unspoiled vegetables to become encased in wax where they develop a thick impenetrable skin. This further makes the original material difficult to recognize’ obscuring the object while protecting it.  These specimens endure over time, with the kernel untouched by the realities of the world outside its skin.  “Specimens” is a celebration of our ancestors who thrived in a harsh environment. They embraced their surroundings by living from the land, foraging and preserving edible bounty with simple methods that have stood the test of time.


“Road” is a series of fragile wax castings of celery sticks which directly alludes to one of the food items grown to sustain life in this difficult country  It is also a  reference to the corduroy roads of our forefathers where logs were placed  across a clearing lengthwise to form an impenetrable surface for travel by foot or vehicle.

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