The Spice-Box of Age, Women’s Art Resource Centre, Toronto, Ontario, 1997
This installation work was made specifically for a long narrow exhibition space opening onto a large divided window. The piece 25 framings constructs one image from the amalgamation of two commercial picture puzzles. The resulting image was then divided into 25 segments, each one framed. Through the ‘mutation’ of two dissimilar pictorial entities into one image, this work speaks about hybridity and processes of transformation. In the context of the overall installation and the exhibition site (a women’s resource centre), this piece must be read from a women’s position and with some sympathy to the aging process. This site-specific work explores the notion of middle age as a rite of passage. In some Eastern societies women gain respect as they mature and reserve the right to slow the pace of their lives. For myself, the pace of life has quickened and there is no end in sight. With dry humour, this exhibition comments on the changing energies that come with women’s ageing bodies.
In the 1960’s, Leonard Cohen, an already famous Canadian author, published a poem entitled “When I Uncovered Your Body” in his collection The Spice-Box of Earth. For the second work in this exhibition, I presented the satirical re-writing, which titles this work, over the image of a burned house. A stack of plates and plentiful seeds mark a place, a time and the possibility of many beginnings.
WHEN I RECOVERED MY BODY, I WAS 40 YEARS OLD
When I recovered my body
pink-grey shadows fell uncomfortably,
urging memories of unsung rhyme.
I thought I must withhold beauty
Like a taboo sex act and that my half-dark flesh
could meet no joy or prayer.
I thought I understood that face
because I had seen it twisted once
or a hundred times, until I
saw through to touch my self.
With soft breath, only vague turning,
uncovered shadows move
more deftly than I have flesh,
and the real and violent proportions of that being
make obsolete old treaties of excellence,
and clamour with an uncovered joy in personal beauty,
which I (re)interpret and sing with praise:
it must be kept.
By chance one day
I pickup an old volume
that for a period in my youth
had divided me.
Writing now heals as it buries the measure, to tell
reclaiming the territory, given,
ironically, through my ageing body.