MICHELLE FORSYTH



EVERYDAY OBJECTS EXHIBITION
South Vitrines, Harbourfront Centre
, Toronto, Ontario

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Vitrine #1, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

Text on the above panel reads:

When I was young, I spent a lot of time looking at a home decorating book that belonged to my mother. It was a large coffee table book with pages filled with images of beautiful homes. Each colourful room, decorated with things, arranged neatly by colour, provided me a place to escape when I desired relief from the tight confines of the boat we lived on then. Over the years, I have thought a lot about that book, and I have since collected design magazines that promise me a similar type of escape. I collect them in numbers and place them in tall stacks throughout my home. I take pleasure in perusing their glossy pages. The spaces contained within them are chambers of possibility for me, and I work to arrange my things to reflect them.

My objects hold stories for me. When showing my things to others I often recount these stories. Tales of love and companionship are often expressed, however some objects not only hold memories of good times, they sometimes remind me of things I don’t want to mention. I am not talking about family scandals, although my family does have its share of those. What I am trying to convey are those small things that don’t amount to much on their own, but when combined, become overwhelming, and sometimes even unbearable.

I have an unusual relationship with my things. Nine years ago I was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease. This affliction has changed the way I interact with nearly everything I own. Delicate items are carefully placed away from edges of shelves, and objects with clasps or lids now hold things that are off limits to me most of the time. So, for the past year I have been stitching some of these items up in patterned textiles in order to keep them safe, while other belongings have become the subject for woodcuts.

As I work to arrange and store my things, I have found solace in revisiting the pages of The Decorating Book once more. In fact, the work in these vitrines document, in the form of page layouts designed to mimic this book, is an attempt to catalogue my belongings, a way for me to keep track.

Vitrine #1, top right:
Wrapped Teacup and Saucer, 5.25x5.25x3.25 inches, 2018
This teacup was given to me by a drag queen named Keith. Honestly, I shouldn’t say he gave it to me, exactly. I did, in fact, pay twenty bucks for the mystery item, which was wrapped up in paper at the time of purchase.

Vitrine #2:
Everyday Objects (Chapter 1, The Bedroom), animation, duration 20 minutes, 2017
For three years I have been writing a book. The plot traces the movements of an unnamed protagonist—an artist in her mid 40s—as she prepares her home for a party to celebrate a one-year anniversary after receiving a deep brain stimulator implant to help control Parkinson’s tremors. As the narrative develops, the reader is invited into the intimate world of the protagonist as she describes her changing relationship with the objects and the spaces of her home. The belongings featured in the narrative trigger memories of relationships, both past and present. It is predominantly autobiographical. Everyday Objects (Chapter 1: The Bedroom), is an extension of this book. It consists of a 20-minute narrative animation, illustrated with line drawings, detailing my relationship to the objects in my home.

 

Vitrine #3, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

Vitrine #4, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

Text on the above panel reads:

Vitrine #3, left (around corner):
Wrapped Family Photographs, hand stitched sculptural objects, 3.5x5x1 inches, 3.5x5.5x1 inches, and 6.5x4.5x1.25 inches, 2017
This cluster of wrapped family photographs includes the photograph of me as a child depicted in the animation in Vitrine #2. There are several memories locked up in these packages. In fact, these packages hold all of my family photographs. The largest one holds a black and white photograph of my grandparents walking down a street in Vancouver in the sixties. In it my grandmother is wearing heels and is holding an elegant handbag.
My grandmother always slept in a bit longer than my grandfather. When she did get up, I would always hear the sound of her coffee grinder, followed by the smell of fried liver and onions, which she made almost every morning. These smells were accompanied by the pungent aroma of overripe cantaloupe. My grandmother loved cantaloupe. She would serve it to me, and although I hated it, I would force each thick orange spoonful into my mouth until I finished it.

Vitrine #4, top:
Glass Cake Stand with Dome, woodcut, 10x9.5 inches, 2018
This woodcut depicts a cake stand that I bought from a gas station in Washtucna, Washington during on a road trip with my friend, Toby. I lived in Pullman then.
Pullman was picturesque, sure, but it was the kind of place where everyone knew your business, where you had to drive at least an hour to get a root canal, or go to the neurologist, or to buy a new dress. It had a population of twenty-four thousand, which dropped to a meagre six thousand when the students left for the summer. It was not the kind of place where I ever planned on ending up. I had always planned on getting to New York City. I had spent my entire life trying to get there. I did do it, but it only lasted four years because I couldn’t live there on 5 jobs and still make my Canada student loan payments. So, when I got offered the one job that could cover everything I went for it, even though it was out in the sticks.

Vitrine #4, bottom left:
Pillow, woodcut, 10.5 x 8.5 inches, 2018
This woodcut depicts a pillow, temporarily given to me by my sister, Jen. The pillow is woven with red cotton thread and decorated with white stitching, which is unravelling.

Vitrine #4, bottom right:
Madeleine Pans, woodcut, 9.5 x 7.5 inches, 2018
I own Proust’s seven volume novel, but have given up reading it. Every time I try, I get distracted. I made it to the second book once, but now I have forgotten it all. If I do try again I will have to start from the beginning. These madeleine pans have had a similar fate, for although I collect them, I have never made any madeleines in them. Perhaps I should do both together, when I have a bit of time.

 

 

Vitrine #5, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

Vitrine #6, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

Text on the above panel reads:

Vitrine #5 left:
Wrapped Lamp, hand stitched sculptural object, 10x12x6 inches, 2018
When my grandfather died, I was asked if I wanted any of his belongings. I chose this lamp. It is very old and has a cast iron base. It has a frosted glass plate that is cracked. The image on the glass has two people on it: a man and a woman. They are sitting by a fountain. When lit the fountain appears to be moving. My grandfather collected many things including: plants, dressers, clocks and lamps, which he kept in the living room. All of his plants had small sculptures of birds attached to them with wires, and his collection of clocks would all chime in unison every hour. For me, this lamp was the centre of his collection, as it would hold my attention for hours when I was a child.

Vitrine #6, top:
Wrapped Rock, hand stitched sculptural object, 2.5x2x2 inches, 2018
A couple of years ago I subleased my apartment to an actor. The actor had subleased it for five months. It was longer than I had wanted to lease it, but I thought it would be okay. It turned out to be a bad idea. My friend Kathleen says I am really good at coming up with bad ideas. When I did finally return to my apartment I found two new objects. This rock was one of them. I think it looks like the moon.

Vitrine #6, bottom left:
Teacup and Books, hand stitched sculptural objects, 5x4x3 inches, 7x5x.5 inches, 7x5.5x1.5 inches, 2018
These three items were shown in these vitrines a little over a year ago. These are the first items I stitched up into packages for safekeeping..

Vitrine #6, bottom right:
Cards and Folding Robot Puzzle, hand stitched sculptural objects, 1.75x1.75x1.75 inches, 3.5x2.5x.5 inches, 4x2.5x1 inches, 2018
I have two bookshelves in my apartment, which are filled with all of my books. Both are full, and above each row of the neatly organized books are several extras, tucked in where I can get them to fit. Each shelf is only two rows high due to the fact that I live in the basement. My wrapped items sit on top of each shelf, organized by shape. The objects pictured here generally sit nestled amongst a group of puzzles and games. All are rectilinear. I used to put together a lot of puzzles with Heidrun, but I grew tired of having them occupy my kitchen table. Heidrun and I find puzzling a good way to relieve stress. The activity also seems to generate a different kind of conversation for us. A conversation much like one you would typically have when on a road trip. It is a sporadic one, filled with long passages of silence.

 

Vitrine #7, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,

 

Vitrine #8, Photographic Print mounted on plexi on shelf, 26 x 26, 2019,