Inheritance | Magic For Realists — Lindsay Celeste
As part of the convergent program upholding one another
GATHER:PLACE Gallery — Inheritance
George Sawchuk Gallery — Magic For Realists
Through work in fibre, video, installation, and sustained performance, artist Lindsay Celeste explores the complex legacy of inter-generational relationships.
During the creative residency associated with this exhibition, Lindsay will be on-site at the gallery working on sewing, mending and open to giving tarot readings:
Reassurance | 2019 – 2022 | 1m x 1.5m x 35 cm | Wool, cotton, thread, plaster + armature | Technical assistance: David Lawson
What is left after death? What do we make of the remnants left with from life and love?
My paternal Grandmother died while I was struggling with the end of a deep life-dream and relationship. I combined the legacies and grief in this quilt.
From my Grandmother, with whom I have early quilting memories, I was left with a pile of scrap fabric. The design was inspired by the pieces she had pre-cut in the favourite shape we share: hexagons. From my love, I was left with clothes, both theirs and mine, that were unwearable, either because they were too worn to mend, or too heavy with memories to wear. To me, this is a real traditional quilt: made of scraps, sewn entirely by hand, and with an old wool blanket as the middle layer batting.
I spent years of intermittent dedication working on this quilt during which my grief changed timbers and my romance took different shapes. When all the stitching was done, the quilt was complete but not finished. The story continues as creases tell of each cozy night, and stains bear testament to humanity. The quilt was never made to be displayed. It was made for the evenings when my bed feels cold, for the times when I fear I might be going insane. I need it on the nights when the little girl who still lives inside me feels so lost and scared. I’m learning how to take the remnants of my past, stitch them beautifully together, and use my own strong adult arms to reassure myself and others: Here, my Love, take this and be warm. You are loved and not forgotten.
Three Generations | 2022 | 20cm x 27cm x 5mm | Photographs | Credit: Essence Photo Studio
Three women, three dresses: Grandmother, Mother and Me. Being inside each of their wedding dresses helped me imagine what they might have felt as young brides. I could also feel how I Creative residency associated with the exhbitionhave inherited some of their physical traits and how my body knows how to sit like them. I feel conflicted about my genetic, cultural, and emotional inheritance. My heritage is integral to who I am and I’m grateful for what I’ve been given. I also feel deeply angry and my grief feels yet unfinished.
In what ways were these women sitting and waiting for me? In what ways have I become my ancestors? What will I leave behind?
Inheritance | 2023 | Video | 13:40 min. | Video assistance: David Lawson + Tom Elliott
When I began to dismantle my Mother’s and my Grandmother’s wedding dresses I didn’t know what I would do with the materials, I only knew that the dismantling was part of my personal emotional process and healing. Working with the physical dresses they left me was one way for me to process my feelings around these women and what I inherited from them. We each have multifaceted inheritances: parts we’re proud of and feel like dancing about, and others we need to dismantle, destroy, or perhaps re-imagine. Let me show you some of mine.
Blood Stained | 2014 – 2023 | 170cm x 121cm x 7cm | Silk, copper, dye, photograph, clothespin, paper, embroidery thread, zipper, cotton + pin
When I inherited my Grandmother’s and my Mother’s wedding dresses, I knew I needed to work with them as a way to process my complicated feelings about what these women had passed down to me, especially as it related to my own sense of being a woman. When I ripped Grandmother’s wedding dress the fabric let out a distinct silky howl, distressing but satisfying, sacrilegious and relieving. I was more careful with the eyeleted cotton of my Mother’s wedding dress, unstitching the very lines she had sewn herself.
The photograph in this piece is from almost a decade ago when I brought my Grandmother’s wedding dress along for a journey and asked to be called by her legal name (a name she never used). She was long deceased, even then, but I felt kindly towards her memory and wanted to inhabit her beauty. Now I feel more complicated about my heritage, more like these words I embroidered on the silk of my Grandmother’s wedding dress. I learned this John Mayer song long after I’d begun to try to understand and transform the matrilineal patterns I perceive to be dysfunctional. My Grandmother was hospitalized at least twice for “nervous breakdowns” which were never talked about because of the stigma at the time around mental health. My Mother also lives with unstable mental health, and I am familiar with my own “insane to some degree.”
My Mother didn’t tell me much about her bodily experience of being a woman but she did teach me how to braid my hair and how to wash out menstrual blood. I can imagine her leaving me a small note like this one since almost daily in my childhood she left me notes in my school lunch, on my bed, on the counter to explain she’d gone out for a walk. She did, in her own way, honour my passage into womanhood. I can imagine her making me a pouch like this one to hold my hygiene products. Some of what these women passed on to me has helped me be a kind, loving, socially adept and resilient woman. They also left me hanging with questions: What does it mean to be in a body that bleeds with the moon? What do I do when my heart is ripping apart? Is there any pattern to follow to create a beautiful, sane love? Will I have to teach everyone who comes close to me how to tend my wounds? Are blood stains permanent? Is this cloth relieved not to have to maintain its purity any longer? Is crimson the most beautiful colour? Will enough cold water swims wash me clean?
Words My Mother (never) Taught Me | 2023 | 43cm x 49cm x 3mm | Cotton, leather, ink + ribbon
Both my Grandmother and my Mother were teachers and for a few years I attended the same school where my Mother taught. I would often arrive early with her and enjoy helping with the bulletin board. With the primary colours and carefully shaped letters, this piece mimics one of her displays. My sister helped with the brainstorming of this particular alphabet. It was funny, poignant, therapeutic and fascinating for us to discuss. Often my art has been a solitary endeavour, but in this process I also felt how my own artistic process was a gift to our sisterly bond and our mutual effort to understand, accept, and transcend our childhoods.
This alphabet is mounted on the cotton liner of my Mother’s wedding dress, framed by lace and ribbon that were also part of the outfit she designed. The juxtaposition of what I learned from her (Capital Letters) and what I had to learn on my own (lowercase), spells out the distance between us. I was fascinated to find that some words, like “Judgement” or “Attached”, could belong in either list. When I finished this piece, I gasped. My printing, naturally, even looks like hers. Here I see the evidence of my childhood as a skillful teacher’s daughter, and the emotional illiteracy I’ve been trying to graduate from ever since.
Magic Capes | 2021 – 2023 | Various sizes | Polyester, cotton, wool, buttons + embroidery
A long time ago when my father asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up I said, “A Magic Cape Maker.” The dream of making garments that are customized, playful, and magical has stayed with me. One of the fascinating parts of being human is how we can attribute meaning to objects and then benefit from their significance. A cape becomes magic when it’s crafted with love and care, and also when we decide it is.
Capes are legendary. We all know what they are, and yet we rarely get the chance to wear one. Like my Mother, I love re-purposing fabric. The design and distribution of my magic capes have gone through many different iterations. These are some recent pieces. Please feel free to try them on, spin around, and see how you feel.
MAGIC FOR REALISTS | INTERACTIVE INSTALLATION
Magic For Realists | 2023 | Installed interactive work: variable size | Chair, table, carpet + lamps
Tarot Cards | 2021 | 14cm x 22cm x 1mm each | Mixed media on paper
I was first introduced to the Tarot in my early 20s. The images and meaning fascinated me and somehow snuck around my Christian upbringing’s aversion to anything related to divination. I find overconfidence in the prescriptive use of Tarot off-putting but I do believe these ancient symbols can offer powerful insight into our own psyches.
I wanted to create my own Tarot deck with a more playful feel than the traditional ones I learned with or the sombre modern decks I often see. So I searched, and snipped and arranged and glued, to make these collages that honour the ancient symbology, while also adding modern and imaginative imagery. In keeping with the archetypal spirit, I’ve intentionally masked the faces of the figures. I’ve also removed the rigid genders of the old format while maintaining some of the polarity I feel is important for the language of the Tarot.
I’ve long been drawn to the beautiful shades in paint-chip samples, and used those as the backbone of the colour gradient of this deck. I hope the surprising details in each image inspire people who are familiar or unfamiliar with the Tarot to play with it. My main guideline for doing so is to remember: it’s only helpful if it’s helpful! Take what interpretations resonate and leave the rest.
LINDSAY CELESTE | BIOGRAPHY
I’m a multimedia artist who loves combining materials and ideas in creative and playful ways. My work often originates from a desire to understand and integrate disparate parts of my psyche and experience. I’m fascinated by the intersection of our internal world with outer materials and how the two can inform, inspire and heal each other. My formal education includes study in psychology, religion, art and literature, though most of my learning has come from a variety of interesting lifestyle choices, library book loans and relationships with people and places.
I express my creativity in the lived poetry of everyday choices and recently built a short school bus into a tiny home for myself which feels like living in a 3D mixed media quilt. I work out of a studio space in Courtenay where I also give massages and solve sewing/mending tasks as my “day job”. I share my time between Courtenay, Denman Island and visits to the Sea to Sky.