by Lex Barrie
Compelling is the journey we take through Propeller’s current exhibitions: Edith’s Album by Ruth Maude and Mind & Soul by Lauri Maitland. In an array of mediums, materials and colours, visitors should be prepared to venture through space and time. In Mind & Soul, we see the tangling of the mind with the colourful display of the soul. While in Edith’s Album, we encounter familial ties via photographs and material objects. Though different in story, both exhibitions speak to life’s journeys and endeavours.
Propeller Intern Lex Barrie chats with Ruth Maude and Lauri Maitland about their exhibitions.
Lex: Ruth, can you explain the process of making these pieces?
My work is Encaustic. It is a process of building up layers of wax medium and scraping away. Each layer is fused using heat—I use either a blow torch, a heat gun or an iron depending on the effect I’m trying to achieve. For some pieces, I digitally combined my own photographs with the photos from Edith’s Album, I then worked directly on top of the photograph using encaustic, collage, and other mixed media techniques. For others, I added the photos on top of encaustic using photo transfer or embedding a photo printed on rice paper into the wax.
Lex: Lauri, I’ll ask you the same question. Can you explain the process of making these works?
My work is fused glass made of a series of clear glass panels that are either painted or altered with the use of additional coloured glass. The black and white figures are all hand-painted. The layers are fired in a kiln to fuse together to make a solid block of glass with the image captured inside.
Lex: Lauri, do you feel there is a connection between your exhibition and that of Ruth’s? If so, what connections do you draw?
I love Ruth’s work and I think it plays so well against my own, it has a lot of the same elements of figurative forms played against colour and shapes. Although her work surrounds connecting the present to the past and mine is more seeded in the here and now, I think both draw on the beauty of connecting to a part of someone’s soul, seeing an expressive more personal aspect in human nature.
Lex: Ruth, can you also speak to the connections between your work and Lauri’s?
Lauri and I didn’t plan to exhibit together but it was a happy alignment of the exhibition schedule. As Lauri said, we have noticed that our works complement each other on several levels. Lauri’s images are beneath layers of glass and mine are in layers of wax. Both Lauri’s glass and my encaustic paintings are fused with heat. Glass and wax both reflect and refract light. Glass and wax are both natural materials. We both use black and white images on colourful backgrounds—even our colour palette is similar.
Lex: Lauri, as an artist, why the shift from charcoal and pastel to glass? What made you want to shift mediums in such a way?
I tried glass on a whim and loved working with such an amazing material. It has life before I ever touch it. I liked the idea that the medium and I are partners, that we work together to try and elevate what is already so beautiful on its own. Glass also has a mind of its own and sometimes a piece will go in a totally opposite direction because of it, so it has been a wonderful challenge in learning how to work with it, not necessarily control it.
Lex: Ruth you have made similar comments about encaustic, haven’t you?
Yes! Interestingly, I say the exact same thing about encaustic. As much as I’ve learned to control the medium it does often have “a mind of its own“. There can be an interesting call and response dynamic between what the wax chooses to do and my intention as I paint. Encaustic often does its own unexpected, wonderful things that I get to take credit for.
Lex: Ruth, let’s talk about the backgrounds you used to set off the vintage photos. Is there any significance in the letters or texts within the pieces? What was the importance of the addition of colour and “fire” within the pieces?
Some of the old hymnbooks and poetry books came from the family, but I’m not sure if they were Edith’s or not. The text included in the piece “Jimmie do you know who this is?” was written on the back of the photograph. A few of the photos have postcards on the back. I used my photos of rust and peeling paint to represent the slow passing of time. Adding vivid colour to the black and white images creates a contemporary feel, connecting the past and present.
Lex: Lauri, you are using black and white figures layered with splashes of colour to represent the mind and the soul in your works. What draws you to demonstrate the balancing of the soul and mind in your exhibition?
I have always found it interesting to see the personal struggle people have between the rules of structure “mind” demonstrated by my figure paintings and the freedom of creativity and expression “soul” seen in the free flow coloured glass. Sometimes the two constraints work well together almost like a dance and in others, there is a battle and only one can emerge but there is importance in honouring both.
Lex: Lauri, how do you feel the medium of fused glass conveys your ideas? Do you get the sense that the use of glass allows for a free moving sensation?
Absolutely, with the addition of heat the glass moves and flows in a way that is all its own, there is energy there, there is life. That energy is conveyed in my pieces and I hope that people can get a little lost in that movement.
Glass has the innate ability to play with light adding shadows and depth that is hard to replicate in any other medium. The natural beauty of glass and the idea of something so fragile can also be so strong I think works so well with the idea of taking a creative idea (something fleeting and delicate) and changing it into something solid and tangible.
Lex: Ruth, why the use of objects (the washboard, scrub brush, cookstove lid, etc.) as substrates? What drew you to these?
It began with the window. This past summer the log cabin that Edith and Harold had built was demolished to make way for a new building. We saved all the old windows out of the building and I painted a scene on one of them with encaustic. Then my partner and I were chatting about all the stuff we have in the house. He commented that if the things were in my art studio he would think of them as fodder for art—a light bulb went off for me.
I dug the old washboard out of the storage cupboard, and I paired it with the photo of the woman driving the car, others quickly followed. The images and the objects added a layer of deeper meaning to each other.
Stop by Propeller Art Gallery to view Edith’s Album and Mind & Soul in its final week. The last day to view is April 17th so don’t miss your chance to take a journey through time with us, Wednesday – Sunday, 1 – 5:30 PM. Closed Friday this week for Good Friday. Lauri will be present on Saturday and Ruth will be there Saturday and Sunday.