Nicole Kelly Westman
The Main Gallery . October 23 – November 28, 2014
Opening Reception: October 23, from 8 pm – 10 pm
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton
A green tupperware arrived addressed with my name nearly nine years ago. The contents within the rubbermaid were heirlooms, curled photographs, and identification cards; fragmented evidence of narratives I had verbally experienced. At that time, my grandfather had passed away and his widow placed the responsibility of visual preservation on me. Engraved in the surgical stainless steel hanging from my neck is his name, a name we share, a phone number, and the indication of a replaced heart valve. Years had passed and I had unintentionally disregarded the contents I had inherited.
It was in the summer of 2009 that my parents and I ventured to the north to deliver some southern supplies to my Aunt in Fort Smith. Turning off the paved road at Hay River, we ventured down the Fort Smith highway, a desolate stretch just wide enough to accommodate a freight truck but modestly lacking modern features. Twice we stopped, waiting for a large harem of buffalo to remove themselves from the center of the gravel road, a sanctuary for the herd during the summer as the bugs travel in dense swarms. It was somewhere during these moments of waiting, that conversation interrupted the suspense of the wilderness. My father began talking about Pine Point and how the entire town was relocated after the mine shut down. He had moved there in his teens with his family and Comino Mines issued his first pay cheque. At the time, he was changing oil on heavy-duty machinery used to extract the iron and zinc. It is on this stretch of highway where my histories collide.
During this trip I attended a pancake breakfast in Fort Smith, I sat beside a stranger from town. Our conversation remained mainly banter until she inquired about my history, mentioning that I looked familiar but unrecognizable. “Are you a Mercredi? Or are Lafferty? Or a Cummings? Wait you must be a Burke?” All were true. In this pause, I felt a strangeness of being in a home I never knew.