Updated: Nov 5, 2021
Connie Morey is a fibre artist who’s art negotiates the practices of marginalization. At present her work is concerned with the permeable genres of installation, sculpture, contemporary craft, performance, artist’s books and critical-creative writing. As well as being an artist, she’s a writer, teacher and practice-based researcher. She received her BFA (Visual Arts) from the University of Lethbridge in 1995, an M.Ed. (Art Education) in 2007 and recently completed a PhD at the University of Victoria.
Connie’s work is thought provoking, challenging, dynamic and imaginative. She takes her artistic practice to exciting depths, using elements for performance art. Recently we interviewed her about her latest endeavours. We hope you will enjoy this discussion as much as we did.
How did you discover fibre? When did you understand your passion for it?
My mother was a maker of many different things, and I think if born in a different time period may have become an artist. I developed my love of fibre and making from both her and also from my Dad, who came from a family of masons and affected my interest in combining sculpture and fibre together.
I first starting exploring fibre and its sculptural potential during my BFA at the University of Lethbridge, however, it wasn’t until about 5 years ago while pursuing a studio-based doctorate at the University of Victoria that I started to pursue it with new focus and intensity. About 5 years ago, I was introduced to felt and realized how many intersections there are with it (in terms of how it handles as a material) with some of previous work with clay. Needle felting is fascinating from material, gestural and conceptual points of view. Through poking a sharp barbed needle repetitively into loose fibre the fibre comes together to make bonds that in many cases are irreversible. These seem like contradictory actions but they also mirror life experience which is at times involves actions which wound or are very difficult in order to open us up and bring new possibilities into our fields of vision.
In your artist statement for your exhibition: “Antebody” you talk about placing the body at the forefront and the gestural processes of creating art as well as the body’s vulnerability to invasion. How do you marry these contrasting ideas in your work?
A considerable amount of my work is motivated by what I refer to as the politics of marginalization, particularly in relation to gender. I am interested in how categories of “hard” & “soft”; male and female and inside and outside are formed and inform each other. I see the membranes of these categories as porous in a way that is similar to the membranes of the body or of the individual.
For “Antebody” I created work which explored the way that bodies are interdependent and how that interdependency can at times be nurturing and other times smothering. Human beings are fully dependent on everything else in the world; living with that type of porous awareness requires vulnerability, and vulnerability requires courage, I think. My felted works for “Antebody” play with the tension of interdependence as something which at times is overwhelmingly beautiful and other times threatening and difficult.
In your work, you often incorporate tools and fibre. Often the tools are shrouded or wrapped. Can you tell us about this concept?
I think my interest in tools comes from an interest in disrupting gender disparity and my family background with masons (builders) on my father’s side and textile traditions on my mother’s. As time goes on this topic fascinates me more and more. Covering tools with felt feels abundant to me, and ironically decadent as an act of nurturing in extreme, building communities of organisms around tools that almost eradicate the original form.
Can you tell us about your new work in “Threaded”? What are the themes that you are investigating here?
My works for “Thread(ed)” combine tools that would often be used in spaces just outside of the home with felted wool. The wool is often combined in such a way that it appears as if small eco-systems or organisms are growing on top of the tools, at times in symbiosis and at times as if one might take over the other. Traditionally many of the tools would have been used more by men and fiber was traditionally used more by women, but these boundaries have always been porous, are constantly being redefined and are ecologically independent.
My work involves a great deal of play with traditional materials, tools, gestures and ideas as ways to question and sometimes subvert the way we identify ourselves as individuals in the world.
There is a performance aspect to your work. Can you tell us about this?
Performance has become more important to my work over time. I teach post-secondary courses and workshops and I am intensely aware of the role process plays in making and also how the gesture the artist makes is often the first thing we see in a finished work. At one time we saw sculpture as needing to be made out of solid materials like marble or bronze, materials that were thought not to change overtime. Ephemeral materials were seldom included in the canons of art. The intersections of ecology, gender and art changed our views of which materials could be used and how they could be presented.
Performance reflects both the temporality of our existence, gestures and moments of significant exchange between us and the world. It is an ephemeral medium that is present with its own process. It also engages the audience in a way that objects do not; it brings the artist in front of the audience while in process and at times invites a more engaged response. I hope to continue both my fibre-based work with performance and sculpture in the future; I appreciate the way the two practices inform each other.
What are you working on now? I’m spending more time on my studio practice these days, taking greater risks and working towards being able to practice as a full-time artist. I have a studio at arc.hive (an artist run centre and gallery that I help to manage in Victoria, BC). Arc.hive is located in Rock Bay, an industrial area of Victoria, and is rich with gravel pits, cement trucks, recycling, building products and… artists. Practicing in this environment has renewed my interest in tools and building practices and I find myself stopping with pause and inspiration every time I see a construction site. I am brought back to days when my father and his brothers were laying bricks with cement on small building sites. I am currently experimenting with how to combine cement, bricks and basic materials and processes of construction with felt work to create eco-systems that merge the textiles traditionally found on the inside of the home with materials and practices that are used to build its exterior.
To learn more about the work Connie is doing visit: conniemorey.com