Close immortalizes her family’s farm

Rug hookings reconnect artist with her rural Canadian roots

In her exhibition titled “Documenting the Farm,” Nova Scotia-based artist Joanna Close uses rug hookings and other textiles to celebrate her family’s old farm.

Close’s family had owned the farm since 1858, but sold the property to a gravel quarry in 2011 due to the  financial challenges of farming. “Documenting the Farm” is Close’s tribute to the titular place and way of speaking to the rapid changes in maritime farming culture.

“I wanted to make portraits of those buildings, and since I don’t really work in painting, my next thing naturally was to work with textiles,” said Close. “[I did this by] dyeing the wool and working as a painter would, but with a fabric instead.”

Close said that she worked intermittently on each rug, taking three to four weeks to complete each one. She added that taking her time with each piece was an important part of paying tribute to her family’s farm.

“The time I spend rug hooking gives me time spent with each of those places, so that was important to me,” said Close.

Each of the rugs portrays a different building on the farm property, including Gram’s House, The Garage and The Barn.

Two of the rugs show locations inside of her grandmother’s house, namely the living room and the kitchen with a wood stove. Close said that she has many childhood memories and stories associated with these areas.

“My little sister and I used to pile the wood in the basement,” she said. “And in exchange for doing that, [my grandmother] would give us her money jar. So over the whole year she would put loonies and quarters and stuff like that. So we would get the jar and roll it and bring it to the bank.”

Two pieces in the exhibition, Recipes and Farm Map, are screen-printed on flour sack cotton. Recipes shows a collection of recipes from Close’s grandmother, printed on cottons in a variety of patterns and colours. Farm Map depicts the farm’s layout, complete with an index to indicate fences, grass and other features.

“I have printed the recipes on feedsack fabric, to show the resources that farm wives would have had available to sew and make quilts and clothing,” Close wrote in her artist’s statement.

While the exhibition specifically reflects rural maritime life with a nostalgic lens, Close said that viewers from urban communities can just as easily connect with the sentimentality behind the pieces.

“I think in Canada, people still have some kind of connection,” said Close. “Even if you’re from an urban center, you still have a connection with farms.”

“Documenting the Farm” will be on display in the Owens Art Gallery until Feb. 28.

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