The newest exhibit in the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum’s (EAGM) Gallery No. 1 uses cowhides to look at such issues as life and mortality.
A reception was held for Mindy May Miller’s Seeing but not Seeing on Nov. 22 at the EAGM. May Miller discussed the exhibit, which is on display for the first time, and answered questions from a large crowd that gathered.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” she said. “I started doing this cowhide work when I moved to Saskatchewan, because I never lived anywhere before that was rural.”
May Miller previously resided in the Toronto and Montreal areas, where she didn’t see a lot of cattle. When she moved to North Battleford, she worked with concepts in relation to the body, such as human hair and clothing.
“Somehow it seemed like a natural progression to start working with things that had to do with farming,” May Miller said.
She also works with textiles and she teaches structures such as weaving.
“It’s an area that grew into sculptural practice, and so these are actually based on weaving patterns,” she said.
Each of the cowhides are measured with a ruler and cut with an X-Acto knife, then woven through with Plexiglas slabs. Much like her previous work, it’s a labour-intensive process, but she tries to work it as quickly as she can. May Miller views it as a way of taking care of the animal, even though the animal is already dead.
“My work has a lot to do with life and death and mortality,” said May Miller. “All of my work has to do with that. It’s embarrassing … but it keeps happening over and over again.”
When she is working with the hides, she has things she is thinking about. May Miller is a vegetarian, and the work started with the difficulty of using the remnants of animals that have died.
“The title, Seeing and not Seeing, really encapsulates for me what I’m thinking about. It literally has to do with the materials. You can see the hides, but you can’t see the Plexiglas.”
But it also has to do with what humans choose to see and not see.
While this is the first time she has had her work displayed in Estevan, Miller has some familiarity with the Energy City. A friend of hers in Montreal, Donald Dunbar is a descendent of the Dunbar family that owned the Estevan Mercury from 1905 to 1944.
She also knows David Dyck, who was the curator at the EAGM a few years ago.
Seeing and not Seeing will remain on display until Jan. 10, 2020.