closing time

It took the better part of two days to install.

Just over an hour to take down.

The weeks in between were a sheer loveliness of spending time with my own couches in a public space and meeting people and having conversations start out of the thin air of upholstery.

The woman who told me her grandparents were happy as clams all their livelong lives together and maybe not in small part because of the mickeys of hootch they kept down the sides of their respective armchairs.

Another who said her first couch was an old door on top of bricks (for legs) and a slab of foam with fabric wrapped around it and several pillows propped against the wall.

The couch someone had forgotten but suddenly remembered hauling from a curb in Whistler and how much they loved it for the year they lived there.

The people who left me postcards.

And the strangers who sat down and talked as though we were old pals.

The kid who told me that sleeping on a pullout feels like a vacation.

And the kids who came on the last day to play the lava game and the scavenger game and ran around looking for things in the photos… a fire hydrant, geese, a porch, leaves, a rock, curtains, stairs, a dog wearing sunglasses. I loved their names— Violet, Autumn, Pandora, Audrey, Lucas, Madeleine, Maxine, Susie… I’ve forgotten some, but not the boy with the glasses and the girl who was so painfully shy.

The friends who brought me greenteacoconutmilkmachalatte, and those who were there when wine was on offer. Friends who travelled a distance to see this show and those who couldn’t come but were there in spirit. (I felt that spirit!) To friends who gave up part of a Sunday afternoon to hear me talk about how underwear affected furniture design. And to friends I missed seeing… sorry I missed you! Thank you all for coming and making this experience exactly what I hoped it would be… a stirring of memory and invitation to story.

Above all, thanks to The Robert McLaughlin Gallery, and the amazing gift that is Gallery A, for allowing me and my orphaned furniture this time and space.

Putting rubbish to some good purpose is my whole thing, after all.

That, and writing mystery thrillers set in art galleries…



I have a thing for graffiti.


It feels like compressed expression.
DSC05425Or maybe I mean repressed.

Like there’s so much more to say.

Too much for available public space.


So it’s done in this amazing code.


The messages there, clear as day for anyone to see,


…at the same time hidden among the chaos against those who can’t.


one of ‘those’ places…

“It’s a different time and it’s one of those homes for girls, a place for pregnant girls to go away to and have their babies quietly, a convent-type thing where it is hoped that all the hushed holiness will keep the girls from heaving and grunting too loudly. One of those places. You know. You’ve seen the same movies I have. It’s a home for these pregnant unweds and an institution for children with Down’s syndrome, a kind of catch-all clubhouse for the lost and stigmatized, for all these wounds received during the passion. What difference does it make what the name of the place is? Something French. Sacre Coeur or Notre Dame de Grace or something. Somewhere in Quebec. Imagine the Plains of Abraham minus the canons and the general war aura. Then imagine that orphanage in Oliver. Now put that orphanage on the Plains of Abraham—lots of green and land stretching out, prop up a cow or two, a wire fence that always needs fixing, and a gardener named Jacques-Louis who likes to rub their pregnant stomachs with his rough, muddy hands, and maybe he’s just a little slow, a bit retarded, so the girls can fantasize that he is a violent monster, but when that calf gets caught under the wire fence and the Mother Superior wants to slaughter it, isn’t it Jacques-Louis who saves the animal and nurses it back to health? And maybe there’s a mangy German shepherd, half blind but steadfast loyal to the Mother Superior to the point where these girls in trouble, these girls with reputations, are starting rumours. The English girls give the place a Native name. They call it Shegoneaway. When they see a new face, bloated and tired, thick waterlogged wrists and ankles, they say: Hello, and welcome to Shegoneaway.”

~ from ‘A Well-Imagined Life’ and the collection Can You Wave Bye Bye, Baby?  by Elyse Gasco  (1999, McClelland & Stewart)

I found this story especially powerful as I recalled the recent installation Foundling, by Michele Karch-Ackerman, at the Art Gallery of Peterborough—an homage to the memory of young girls sent away to homes for unwed mothers. Karch-Ackerman used, among other items, long tables set only with teacups and saucers, and rows and rows of hanging baby pyjamas made from 1960’s style drapery fabric. Lovely write-up here. She has a retrospective coming up this year at Tom Thomson Gallery. Making a note…

Michele Karch-Ackerman, ‘Foundling’ (detail)