Curating the Exhibition

by Mary Sullivan Holdgrafer

This essay is a part of a continuing series which describes Mary's experiences as she participates in a collaborative art process entitled "Inside the Dress".

Last month I realized that this Inside the Dress process would be coming to an end soon. Granted the exhibition is many months away but the work must be completed in February to allow time for photography and catalogue preparation. My awareness shifted from the immediacy of creative work to my curatorial responsibilities.

I received the first formal reports about what each artist plans to submit for the exhibition. I had heard some of this information when we met in Sorrento, B.C. in October. However, these reports constituted the first official commitment to completing the work. Each artist will produce a three-dimensional piece describing her interpretation of the theme.

As the November 15th deadline approached I had visions of nine women describing the same plan but of course that didn't happen. In fact the diversity of plans is notable. Each woman has found her own way to describe the concept of "inside the dress."

The reports also included a description of the completed exercises. Again the responses are as varied as the participating individuals. Some of the exercises will be included in journals while others will be grand explorations. The personal journals that will accompany the work will take a variety of forms as well. I marvel at the diversity of thought.

I now have the pleasure of fitting the pieces together to make a cohesive presentation. I find myself thinking about placement and lighting. How will I honour and respect the work of each individual while remembering my responsibility to produce a strong exhibition?

The artists have been asked to reveal themselves. They have agreed to strip away their protective masks. We will see aspects of them that are not ordinarily disclosed. The themes they have chosen are personal yet universal. They will reveal issues familiar to all of us in our humanity.

One thing I know for sure is that I have developed an inordinate fondness for this group of remarkable women. I respect their willingness to be vulnerable. I recognize their wisdom and skill. I appreciate their humour. And I love their humanness that I have been privileged to witness during the past eleven months.

Inside the Dress will provide a snapshot of the internal processes of nine mature women. We will see vulnerability and strength, fears and courage, disarray and groundedness. What a privilege it is to participate in this great adventure as an artist and as the curator.

The project is entitled, "Inside the Dress." It is a process that will culminate in an exhibition at the McMullen Gallery in 2005. My colleagues, Jean Brandel, Judy Villett and Jayne Willoughby-Scott and I conceived the idea as a means of creating an opportunity to work deeply. The process will take more than a year to complete. We envision the result of collective personal work will be a remarkable exhibition.

Mary Sullivan Holdgrafer is an artist and creativity coach specializing in work with textile artists.