YAC continues our conversation with an artist who 'sews for ghost', discussing Michele Karch-Ackerman's inspirations and aspirations. 

Committed to creating “healing work through the energy of [her] stitches”, Karch-Ackerman’s solo exhibition 'Foundling' is a gift of acknowledgement and prayer for unwed mothers who were forced to give up their infants between the 1920s to 1960s in homes and institutions across Canada. 

An integral part of this exhibition involves the performance of tea ceremonies, conducted in silent memoriam to these young mothers and lost infants. These domestic rituals are reserved for five participants at a time, and will take place every Friday at 12:15 p.m. beginning March 28th until May 9th (with exception to Good Friday, April 18th). Each ceremony will last roughly fifteen minutes. If you are interested in participating in a tea ceremony, please contact jessica.vellenga@yac.ca. Participation will be determined on a first come first serve basis. Evening ceremonies will be organized if there is clear public interest. 

Foundling is currently showing in the Yukon Arts Centre Gallery until May 10th, 2014. 


Who are your favourite artists?

My favourite artists are many and varied.  I consider myself a weird hybrid of Joseph Beuys and Maud Lewis.  I love everyone from Annette Messager and Christian Boltanski to Betty Goodwin and William Kurelek...  Let's throw in Edgar Degas and Mary Cassatt and Mark Rothko and Cy Twombly and add a splash of Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh.  Season with Lynda Barry and Roz Chast and top with a sprinkle of Paul Cezanne and Frida Kahlo.  Oh and Modigliani!  And Paul Klee!  Oops, forgot Gustav Klimt.  Oh, and Egon Schiele.  Can't forget him.  Oh and then there is the circular water lilies by Claude Monet.  Now, that's a masterpiece...

What is your dream project?

I am very lucky because my dream projects are always the ones that I am working on.  At that given time.  I spend my life dreaming, really.  And then stitch those dreams into exhibitions.  In a couple of years I will have had forty solo shows in public galleries across Canada.  That's a lot of different galleries...different spaces...different communities.  Each one unique and wonderful in it's own way.  And always a delight.   One gallery I would love to be involved with is the Bronte house in England.  My current project would fit perfectly there because it's inspired by tuberculosis and Emily died of it.  But it involves so many little holes to hang hundreds of vintage rose plates that it would destroy the house!  Hmm...maybe it's worth proposing anyway...

What are you working on now?

The project I am working on now is called 'Little Flower Sanatorium' and it's inspired initially by tuberculosis sanatoriums but has broadened to provide healing and solace for those who have experienced life threatening illness.  It involves my hand stitching a hospital 'curtain' or room from hundreds of vintage handkerchiefs edged in tatting (which was used as occupational therapy for tuberculosis patients).  The show was inspired by my favourite saint 'St. Therese of the Little Flower'  (who died of tuberculosis).  Her saintly image is roses. She wrote ' I will send a shower of roses' in her memoir 'Story of a Soul'.  I've collected hundreds and hundreds of vintage plates with rose patterns (eating well was part of the cure for tuberculosis).  I plan to count every blossom and offer each blossom as a blessing to those in need.   At the moment I'm stitching the 'requirement list' for those who entered tuberculosis sanatoriums.  It involves three sets of pajamas, sweaters, socks and mittens.  Those sanatoriums were cold!

What inspired you to become an artist?

I think I was always an artist.  It seems very natural to me to have become one.  I come from a long line of artsy folk.  My grandmother (the one who inspired the Foundling show) won the watercolour prize at the Beaux Arts in Montreal, my grandfather was an architect.  My father made Jackson Pollock style amateur paintings in the backyard in the sixties and my mother dabbled in all sorts of painting and sculpting.  My favourite thing to do as a child was to read books like Little House on the Prairie and A Little Princess or look at my mother's art books.  It all came very naturally.  I do remember once when I was seventeen visiting the stone farmhouse of a family friend.  They took us across the road to a wonderful log cabin that was part of a studio tour.  In it lived two painters and their children.  They had their paintings displayed on the walls of the living room (which had been turned into a gallery).  I remember quietly saying to myself 'This is what I want'.  Now I live in the country in a board and batten house with a studio on the main floor.  I have two children whom I homeschooled and I make art for a living.  I think seeing the blueprint of that creative family helped me to create my own blueprint. 

To contact the artist, please refer to her Facebook page