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Jenna Reid
Artist

Toronto
May 23, 2018

Jenna Reid is a PhD candidate in Critical Disability Studies at York University and a contract lecturer in the emergent field of Mad Studies at Ryerson University. Her academic research and studio craft praxis focus on artistic production as a site of critical inquiry, community organizing, and political activism. She has published in Canadian Art; Asylum Magazine; Intersectionalities: A Global Journal of Social Work Analysis, Research, Policy, and Practice; Studies in Social Justice; and the Journal of Progressive Human Services. Her social justice-oriented fibre art has been exhibited both locally and internationally. On May 29 she will co-facilitate the workshop “Mad Art and the Political Aesthetics of a Social Movement” as part of the #BigFeels symposium hosted by Workman Arts in Toronto from May 28 to 30.

1. Judith Scott



I had the opportunity to see the work of Judith Scott in person at the Brooklyn Museum in the retrospective exhibition Bound and Unbound. An iconoclast in the field of Outsider Art, Scott demonstrates a meticulous manipulation of fibre and an artistic process that embodies transformation. However, Scott’s work is often described as erratic, instinctive, innate, natural, and apolitical. I am troubled by the implications of using these concepts to frame the work of an artist who is never understood outside of her experience of being disabled. What does this say about how we understand disability? And how does this impact the development of and our responses to the cultural production within disability, d/Deaf, and mad communities?

2. Allison Cunningham



I’m lucky enough to have a lot of fierce women in my life; one of my favourites is my maternal grandma. From day one she declared me to be her person, and we have been ride or die ever since. Allison Cunningham is a fiery woman who has given life to all of my most cherished parts of my personality. All things that patriarchy has tried to fight out of me, my grandma has taught me to value and nurture. From her I’ve learned to honour my anger, to speak up for what I believe in, and to be unapologetically me. Yet perhaps most importantly, she has taught me that at the end of it all you must always demand a good glass of scotch.

3. Storytelling



Storytelling is an important element of many cultural and community efforts. A deeply complex practice, many of us take for granted the political power of our collective stories. Historically, the mad community has shared testimonies to reflect systemic injustices and organize for social change. Increasingly, the narrative around mental health has been commodified, flattening our experiences and promoting individualized and inspirational stories of recovery. This often positions mental health professionals as inherently benevolent and self-care as unproblematically therapeutic. I’m particularly interested in the limitations of these stories and how they take shape when we talk abut the relationship between mental health and art/ists, framing the purpose of our work as being primarily healing and curative.

4. Pie!



I could survive off of tea, good scotch, and an endless supply of pie. But if I’m being honest, I’m not interested in just any pie, but the pie that comes hot out of my own oven. Sometimes when the things I experience render me to the point of not functioning at the most basic of levels, I work my way through it by making “a fuck of a lot of pie.” Cutting the fat into the flour, submerging my hands into the dough, and kneading it just until it brings itself together is a process that materializes my memories of my papa, who once made a living as a Scottish baker. My favourite kind of pie is dependent on what is in season. Yet I will always have a secret love for the ease and balance of a salty honey pie, which transcends the limitations of a growing season and is perfect just about any day of the year.

5. Insects



I learned how to quilt from my Aunt Donna. During our time together she would tell me stories about my grandfather the beekeeper, which was the beginning of my obsession with all things insect related. In my current practice I work primarily with nature based dye-stuffs. My imprint on the world around me is not a one-way relationship and so in my practice I have to consider the larger ecological systems. In this way my process weaves into my aesthetic and informs the development of my conceptual ideas. This has me thinking through both the interdependent as well as individual aspects of our environment, our communities, and the complicated ways in which they form and function – bringing together and holding apart the spaces we hold to be both deeply personal and collectively political.

 

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