And just like that, the snow is gone, and my time in Edmonton is at an end.
The final month of the Fulbright offered me all kinds of new opportunities–new studio resources with which to experiment, and new landscapes to see outside of Edmonton, with new friends made in a somewhat COVID-improved time.
All semester, I’d been watching University of Alberta printmaking grad students and faculty use a laser engraving machine, for all kinds of different purposes–cutting woodblocks (rather than carving by hand), engraving images onto printed surfaces, cutting designs into plexiglass, and more. Near the end of my time, I had the chance to use this machine to make a series of reductive graphite images, assisted drawings of a sort. I worked with my images in Photoshop, then coated paper with graphite, and then the laser engraved into the paper, lifting away the dark areas to reveal the image.
I also spent time during April working on a series of large-scale digital prints. These ten Winter Walking prints incorporate texts that I wrote over a course of ten weeks, thinking through connections between walking and listening, with human and more-than-human relations. I printed them on two different kinds of paper, a translucent Mitsumata and a heavier, soft and velvety Somerset Satin, which give remarkably different effects.
The Winter Walking texts, along with a variety of sounds I’d recorded on my daily walks, became the basis for a sound piece that I’d been thinking about all semester. I’m so grateful to the invitation from Scott Smallwood, head of the Sound Studies Institute, to create an 8-channel sound piece. We spent time together listening to other artists’ sound pieces, to give me a sense of the variety of ways one can work with putting together sound files and playing with the 8 surrounding speakers (when different sounds come out of different speakers). Once he showed me how to use Reaper, he let me loose in the studio to create, which was such a gift. I’m really happy with the finished piece, which is a little over 23 minutes long, and I have some specific ideas in mind about how the piece will be exhibited. And also, as a huge and unexpected bonus, Scott will be taking my piece to play as part of his sound stage at this year’s Burning Man festival!
I continued my daily walking practice until the day I left Edmonton, and along with that, a series of daily accordion books. I made 100 accordion books to represent the first 100 days of walking, and now that I’m home I will work on stringing them together into one long accordion, which I plan will be hung from the ceiling in an installation of a long circuitous walking path. Museum plans in the works – more news coming later on that.
As with the accordion books, I also spent part of my final month finishing up the letterpress work. The prints themselves had been done for some time, but I printed the portfolio title page and finished constructing the folders. I was able exhibit the portfolio for a few weeks as one of the FAB Gallery’s displays, and I’m so pleased that one copy of the portfolio is now part of the Bruce Peel Special Collection of prints and artist books at the University of Alberta. I made the portfolio in an edition of six, so now I need to think about where the remaining five will go.
I continued in a weekly writing group with my two Fulbright hosts, Natalie Loveless and Sheena Wilson, throughout my time there and I am so happy that we’re planning to continue supporting each other’s research even at a distance. We’ve formalized this feminist collaboration into a research group, Activating Care, Shifting Relations, as we each seek out the bigger picture and potentials of relational practices across disciplines.
But it wasn’t all work all the time. Over the long Easter weekend, a new friend took me to the mountains four hours west of Edmonton. We spent two nights in Jasper, staying right by the Athabasca River and going on some great hikes, and then we drove the Icefield Parkway down to stay in Banff, stopping at the Athabasca Glacier and Lake Louise, and even (briefly!) putting our feet into the icy waters of Beauty Creek. The Canadian Rockies are so different than the Colorado Rockies, and it felt great to be out in nature in a very different way from my river valley walks in Edmonton.
Some friends took me to Elk Island National Park, just outside of Edmonton, where we saw lots of bison, and a friend took me one weekend to visit her extended family up in northern Alberta, getting a farm experience with newborn calves that felt not so different from life in the US Midwest.
And since Edmonton has one of the largest populations of Ukrainians in the world, I had the opportunity to get just a bit of Ukrainian culture by spending an evening with friends learning how to make pysanky.
It was such an incredibly rich time, full of new thinking and learning and opportunities. I am so grateful to Fulbright Canada for giving me the opportunity (and would encourage any of my academic colleagues to apply!). I met some incredible artists and scholars and mentors during my time in Edmonton. But my biggest thanks go to my family, for supporting me even when it meant being separated, and to Sheena and Natalie for welcoming me into their family, neighborhood, and university communities and giving me a true home away from home.