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carl stewart belated

Memoria, 2008, cotton: cross stitch, 15” x 19.5”, photo: Lawrence Cook

On the afternoon of Saturday, September 19, 1970 my three-year old brother, Owen, was struck by a car and killed in front of our house. Apart from the driver, I was the only witness to his death. I was five years old.

Since Owen’s death more that forty years ago certain objects associated with him have taken on an iconic status in my family; a wooden toy, a small tweed cap, a tiny pair of baby shoes but most particularly a photograph; the photograph my mother included in Christmas cards mailed the same year he died; the photograph that was trimmed with tinsel and given pride of place on the Christmas tree each year; the photograph my parents always held in family snapshots; the photograph my siblings prominently display in their homes and that sits on my shelf.

 November 14, 2006 would have been Owen’s 40th birthday. To honour his memory and to celebrate what is a milestone in everyone’s life my gift to my brother is belated, a series of forty portraits based on this iconic family photograph.

 icon, the first group of twenty, is a series of hand-woven portraits. The colours are bright, bold and almost child-like in their combinations. The work references Warhol’s Mao portraits, some of the most iconic images of late 20th century art, creating for the viewer a sense of familiarity despite not knowing the child depicted.

The second group of twenty, memoria, is a series of cross-stitch portraits beginning with navy-on-white and working through a gradation of progressively lighter colours to a final white-on-white portrait. The inherent qualities of the heavily sized fabric used for the portraits are exploited as the fabric is folded, creased and crumpled in the more high-contrast portraits, a recent memory rich with detail, and less manipulated as the colours fade to white suggesting the fragility and fallibility of memory.

 People who have seen the work-in-progress assume I am the child in the portraits. And I easily could have been. What if the car had been traveling a little faster? What if he had been running ahead of me? It is the arbitrary nature of these “What Ifs” that resonate for me, not out of regard for my own mortality, but out of curiosity, and mourning, for the person he would have been, the life he would have led and the fraternal relationship we might have had, had he lived. It is this loss of possibility that drives the work. 

Icon, 2010, woven: wool, 28” x 36”, photo: Lawrence Cook

 Belated Exhibition Tour Schedule

Centrepointe Theatre Gallery

January 13-February 15, 2012

Ben Franklin Place

101 Centrepointe Drive

Ottawa, Ontario K2G 5K7

T: 613-596-5783

W: www.ottawa.ca/rec_culture/arts/gallery_exhibit/centrepointe_en.html


Belleville Public Library and John M. Parrott Art Gallery

March 01-28, 2012

254 Pinnacle Street

Belleville, Ontario K8N 3B1

T: (613) 968-6731

W: www.bellevillelibrary.com

Rotunda Gallery

August 1-31, 2012

City Hall, 200 King Street West

Kitchener, Ontario N2G 4G7

T: 519-741-2712

W: www.kitchener.ca/en/livinginkitchener/RotundaGallery.asp

Carl Stewart gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Ontario Arts Council.

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