Natalie Hunter, Artist – Hamilton

Natalie Hunter’s practice is concerned with the transformation of materials, objects, and images in ways that evoke an emotive or psychological response in the viewer. In her installations, photographs, and sculptures, she challenges the boundaries between mental and physical spaces, time and memory, material and immaterial, light and motion, and presence and absence. She often produces experiential installations using photographs on transparent film, light, and other fragile materials that engage with the poetics of time, memory, the archive, perception, and the senses.

She holds an MFA from the University of Waterloo, and a BA in Visual Art with a Concentration in Curatorial Studies from Brock University. She has shown her work in Canada and the United States in numerous exhibitions including the Hamilton Supercrawl, the University of Waterloo Art Gallery, the Thames Art Gallery, Hopkins Centre For the Arts at Dartmouth College, the Art Gallery of Windsor, Centre 3 for Print and Media Arts, and Museum London. Her solo exhibition Staring into the Sun, curated by Marcie Bronson, is on display at Rodman Hall Art Centre until April 28.

1. Quiet spaces

Light casting latent imagery from stained glass windows in Rodman Hall while installing my solo show Staring into the Sun.

Like many children, I read books by flashlight in my closet just because it sounded better in there. In Gaston Bachelard’s seminal text The Poetics of Space, he discusses the house as the child’s first universe and the corners of rooms as active spaces. I confess that I love ruins, old architecture, creaky floors, abandoned forts, small hidden cupboards, the safety of corners – the kind of spaces that the body remembers more than the mind. The traces of memory that linger in these places are layered and multidimensional, involving all of the senses.

2. The act of making

The act of making takes courage. It is a deliberate act to make something from nothing. Or something from raw materials and labour. Sometimes it is quiet, slow, and takes time. At other times it is rigorous, feverish, loud, and happens in an instant. I understand labour and the act of making best through witnessing my father build a replica model ship in his basement for over forty years. I’ve watched this object slowly grow and transform my entire life. This might be why I enjoy the act of making with my hands. I am a contradiction: I make images, but I also love materials. And my work combines both – often at the same time.

3. Reading

Flipping through Susan Sontag‘s On Photography.

I am addicted to stories, both the written kind and the kind that are told over coffee or overheard randomly waiting in line. Lately I’ve been reading dystopian and historical fiction with strong female characters. Storytelling is a really powerful medium for empathy and memory. Literature written by women weaves untold or overlooked stories into literary culture so that a diverse range of voices are heard – which is probably why I feel a connection to authors like Lois Lowry, Rebecca Solnit, Kristin Hannah, Dianne Ackerman, and Peng Shepherd.

4. Touch memories

One of my mother’s crochet blankets, drying in the sun.

I have fond memories playing with many patterned and colourful fabric shapes. Gently rubbing the fabric between my fingers and layering them up on a felt wall. My grandmother was an avid quilter. My mum makes beautiful crochet blankets. To watch my mum’s hands move through precise motions along a single thread of yarn is mesmerizing. Quilting and crochet involve many senses besides touch. Participating in these activities is akin to breathing with your hands. A kind of manual breath or bodily memory. They involve touch, repetition, and labour.

5. Industrious

Plumes of vapour emanating from Hamilton’s bay permeate my memory. Many generations of men in my family wore blue. And now a woman wears it too. The heat, sweat, and labour in these mills built a lot of Hamilton before my time. Now gentrification, high-rise condominiums, the promise of prosperity, and hot real-estate fuel its furnace.