2021 Artist-In-Residence Exhibition
The Main Gallery: October 15 – November 27, 2021
Identity is an ever-changing dance. Despite this, cultural patriarchy is a choreography of categorization that enforces static hierarchy, such as masculine/feminine, good/bad, self/other. The patriarchal hierarchy creates disconnection and individualism, as identity is complex and defies categorization. In the grey, liminal space of identity, there is loneliness, frailty, failure, loss, and struggle. In a series of new work created during the 2020-21 Artist-In-Residency Program at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, Becky Thera wants to envision a queer, feminist, maternal world where we can disrupt the choreography, and embrace our infinite potentials.
In his memoir South!, Ernest Shackleton recounts his Antarctic expedition aboard the Endurance from 1914-1917. The expedition failed its objectives and resulted in the crew being trapped in the Antarctic for almost 3 years. Shackleton describes moments of tender intimacy as his crew embraced one another to survive:
“When we were not on watch we lay in each other’s arms for warmth … whispering each to his companion our hopes and thoughts”.
Becky Thera’s exhibition Embrace is the culmination of her 2020-2021 artistic residency at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre. Drawing upon imagery from the Endurance expedition, the exhibition Embrace balances loneliness and connection. These are images of hope, and disruptive, genderless care.
Embrace uses Thera’s own experiences in artistic swimming (formerly called synchronized swimming) metaphorically to address the choreography of categorization, and the idealization of gendered characteristics. Artistic swimming fosters a community of strong feminine sisterhood, but also enforces strict aesthetic ideals of “good” feminine bodies and behaviour. Thera wants to create a new choreography that embraces feminine power, while refusing boundaries.
As Becky Thera says: “… So much pain and loneliness come from failure to embody all the expectations of cultural patriarchy. Could we instead embody empathy and embrace a collective skin? Could we suffer, heal, and love, together? I believe we can. We can embrace our infinite potentials and hold each other for warmth. What remains when we have torn down the structures around us? Hope.”
Becky Thera is an interdisciplinary artist living in Edmonton, Alberta on Treaty 6 Territory. Thera completed her MFA in Art and Design at the University of Alberta in 2018. Her MFA research was awarded a SSHRC (CGS M) grant. Thera works primarily in video and embroidery, exploring themes of empathy, intimacy, and feminist politics, situating herself between poetry and activism.
Thera is currently the 2020-2021 Artist-in-Residence at Harcourt House Artist Run Centre. Her work has been featured nationally and internationally, including exhibitions at Nuit Blanche Regina and Feminist Art Fest 2020 in Toronto, ON. Thera is currently pursuing her Juris Doctor at the University of Alberta.
This project is supported by the Edmonton Arts Council and the City of Edmonton.
Top Image: What Remains (detail), suit jacket, embroidery thread
Image courtesy of the artist