In conjunction with her CCBC gallery show, Joanna Rogers writes about her perception of living on borrowed time and her frustrations with the way our environment and other living things are treated in our world.
Exhibition will be on view in our gallery from february 23 – april 20, 2023.
I started making things when I was very young. My mum taught me to sew and knit and I made clothes for my toys as well as all kinds of other little things. My Dad painted as a hobby – large abstract land and industrial scapes, which I loved. I grew up in Southampton, in the south of England. The city had a wonderful art gallery. My dad and I used to go there on Sunday afternoons when I was a child. I had particular paintings that were my favourites. Most of them featured dogs. Wherever we went in the UK, we would always visit the local museums and galleries. This was an amazing introduction to art.
I started making collages when I was at university in Peterborough, Ontario and this was my main creative outlet for about ten years. After graduating, I became involved with a group of people who were establishing a campus/community radio station and we explored radio as an art medium. It was new and very exciting. I was also involved with the artist run centre in Peterborough and created a couple of performance pieces. I moved to Vancouver in 1989 and a few years later enrolled in the Textile Art course at Capilano College. This completely changed my direction as an artist. I fell in love with textiles and have been creating and exhibiting textile-based art since 1994. I was taught surface design by Lesley Richmond and weaving by Ruth Scheuing and what amazing teachers they were as well as being incredibly talented artists of world renown.
“I have always had a sense of living on borrowed time in a beautiful but doomed world.“
I started creating my first installation just before I left Vancouver for Pender Island. Under Wraps – Redressing History attempted to rewrite history to include women. I replaced the iconography on emblematic historical garments with traditional quilted panels made out of melted, painted bubble wrap. In 2002 I started work on my second installation: Darwin’s Wardrobe; The Fiction of Documentation. This was very much a product of my move to Pender Island. The premise of the exhibit was if Charles Darwin were still voyaging around the world, these would be some of the items that might be found in his collection of specimens and gifts. These pieces, however, represented lost species and lost worlds rather than “new” ones. They also told stories, some real and some imaginary and some a bit of both. Darwin’s Wardrobe consisted of a series of medieval-style copes, armour and shifts as well as six full size quilts. These pieces explored ideas of loss or change brought about by adaptation and extinction as a result of the human impact on the land. The quilts are mourning quilts documenting the extinct, extirpated and endangered species of Canada.
I have continued making copes and armour out of found and collected objects and materials. These form a collection called The Robe Ward; Discomfort Zones, which subverts the idea of textiles offering comfort and protection by presenting prickly pieces that not only needle but expose. This exhibit propounds on a world in crisis while presenting a mythology of, and manual for, survival. In 2018 I decided I wanted to weave Morse Code and The Chorus started slowly to take shape. In 2020 I started work on the first piece in the series, Save Our Souls. I learned how to dye with natural dyes, which was time consuming but very satisfying. Taking Maiwa’s online course in 2021 really helped me gain a better understanding of the process. I learned how to weave at Capilano College and acquired a small floor loom after graduating. I was initially interested in pattern and painted warp weaving and experimented with these for a while but then put weaving to one side for ten years while I concentrated on creating my cope and armour. I started weaving again in order to make a piece of armour out of woven cassette tape. Working sporadically, this took me 5 years but I did finally finish the piece in time to enter it for the 2017 Salt Spring National Art Prize and it was one of the pieces chosen to be in the finalists’ exhibit.
I have always had a sense of living on borrowed time in a beautiful but doomed world. I started making collages to vent my anger and frustration with the careless way living things are treated. Creating art is cathartic. Being able to share my thoughts with others through the social commentary contained in my art is very important to me. I really enjoy observing and capturing the absurdities of everyday life and turning them into much bigger, surreal subjects. Making art alleviates my anxiety and stress levels while engaging my brain and hands. It is not really a choice but a necessity for me.
People often first react with bemusement when they see one of my pieces from a distance. As they come closer, they are intrigued by the components and construction. If they read the accompanying statement they either laugh at the shared joke or weep because of the underlying message. Most people really want to touch my pieces. Textiles have this effect on us. They bring out very strong emotional responses.
I aim to devote at least 2 hours every day to creating. It’s not always easy to carve out this time. I have two part-time jobs – bookkeeping and administration for local community groups. I have a very active little dog who needs walking for at least two hours each day. And I garden. I grow vegetables and am slowly cultivating plants to dye with. The walks and gardening feed my practice. I collect objects to incorporate into my art when I’m out on my walks; leaves, shells, bones, feathers, plastic and I use this time to work through and solidify my ideas. Just being outside in the yard is an incredible inspiration listening to the birds and observing the trees and shrubs change with the seasons. I also read a lot and listen to podcasts and these feed my creativity.