Our Young Girls

Deborah Dumka + Claire Sanford

As artists, collaborators, mother + daughter, Deborah Dumka + Claire Sanford have given voice to uncomfortable truths about gender, power and workplace culture. Their material processes integrate fibre, light, colour, interactive technology, and multi-channel video installation to invite the viewer into a relational dynamic emerging from lived experiences.

Deborah Dumka
Our Young Girls / Addendum / Violet

As an artist with a craft-based practice, I focus on the materials, techniques and traditions of hand felting. Using a variety of wools, silk, dyes and blending tools, I create materials with textural and colour properties that become important elements in the development of my projects. The felting process transforms loose fibre into a substantial textile with an ancient history of utilitarian function and artistic expression that sits embedded within my work. Having lived most of my life close to nature in rural communities, I draw inspiration from the landscape to explore belonging and connection. The work at CVAG in the exhibition is from Resistor, an ongoing series based on my experiences, exploring issues faced by women studying and working as engineers.

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Deborah Dumka, born in Kitimat, British Columbia, has lived across Canada, mostly on the shores of an ocean. She received a degree in electrical engineering (1978) from Memorial University and a diploma in Textile Studies from Cabot College (the Anna Templeton Centre, 1994, St. John’s, NL). Her education and short career in electrical engineering have bestowed a problem-solving lens that carries into her interactive textile-based craft practice. The physical and emotional landscapes of rural settings are the backdrop to her exploration into belonging, place and connection. She completed a Craft Council of NL residency (2015) at Woody Point, Gros Morne National Park and has been supported through the CVAG residency (2020/21) in her technology explorations at MIZ, Courtenay, BC. She has served on the boards of the Canadian Crafts Federation and the Craft Council of BC. Deborah’s work has been exhibited in solo and group shows nationally and internationally.


Claire Sanford

Violet Gave Willingly / Textile Studio Labour

Violet Gave Willingly / Textile Studio Labour is a video installation and documentary with colour at its heart. Immersing us in the creative world of my mother, textile artist Deborah Dumka, the multi-screen film invites us to witness the unflinchingly intimate details of her artistic process and inner life. Nestled in a colourful textile studio by the sea, we witness an artist at work on a project that delves into a past unspoken. An intimate study of the nature of memory and how it can both harm and protect, the film lays bare the continuum and legacy of gender-based discrimination, sexism, and sexual violence. More than a portrait, the film is a conversation. As mother and daughter struggle to give voice to their experiences, power radiates from speaking uncomfortable truths. Violet Gave Willingly asks viewers to listen deeply and, in doing so, share in carrying the heavy load – the labour – of sexism and the status quo.

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Claire Sanford is a Canadian filmmaker, cinematographer and video artist working in two and three dimensional documentary storytelling. Her practice focuses on sensorial stories exploring the natural world, human identity, and how they overlap. Originally from Texada Island, British Columbia, Claire grew up immersed in nature and became versed in the quiet art of observation. She earned her BFA in Film Production from the School for the Contemporary Arts at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver (2009). Her work has been exhibited at film festivals and galleries internationally and she is a fellow of filmmaking initiatives including the Hot Docs Accelerator program (2014), the Points North Fellowship (2016) and the Redford Centre Grant Program for Environmental Storytelling (2016). She is currently creating documentary and virtual reality work that explores and distorts anthropocentric visions of the natural world in partnership with the Canada Council for the Arts, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec and the National Film Board of Canada. Claire lives and works on unceded land in Tiohtiá:ke/Montreal, situated on the traditional territory of the Kanien’kehà:ka, a place which has long served as a site of meeting and exchange amongst many First Nations including the Kanien’kehá:ka of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, Huron/Wendat, Abenaki, and Anishinaabeg. She recognizes and respects the Kanien’kehà:ka as the traditional custodians of the lands and waters on which she engages in artistic practice, collaboration and exchange.


The Comox Valley Art Gallery acknowledges that we are located upon the Unceded Traditional Territory of the K’ómoks First Nation. CVAG recognizes the enduring presence of First Nations people on this land.

CVAG is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with artists, guest curators, writers, cultural advisors, community partners, our volunteers, donors + members.

CVAG’s annual programming is made possible through the support of our funders: Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox, Village of Cumberland, Comox Valley Regional District, BC Gaming. This convergent project is locally supported by: SD71 Print Shop, Hitec Printing, Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, ABC Printing / community collaborators: MakeItZone – Julian Rendell (digital/interactive consultation + production for exhibitions), Muir Engineering Ltd. – Brian Muir (consultation + lighting design), Wachiay Studios (screen printing suppliers), Cumberland Village Works (digital playback equipment)