Through the Body
in collaboration with Caitlin McGuire
Jessica Wiebe and Caitlin McGuire bring together a body of work that explores their shared cultural heritage, and the ways they attempt to connect to the culture, place, and migrations of their families. Both are descendants of the Russian Mennonites, a pacifist agricultural religious group who settled in Ukraine in the 1700’s. Both Jessica and Caitlin’s families immigrated to Canada during times of hardship; Caitlin’s family at the end of the Russian Revolution and beginning of the Soviet Union, and Jessica’s family post WWII.
The title of the show, Through the Body, comes from conversations they have had about their families histories, knowing we pass trauma through our DNA – are there other aspects of our lives that get passed down through the body? This question arose after Caitlin discovered the work of artist Margruite Krahn, an artist from Manitoba, who uncovered floor paintings in early Mennonite settlements. Floor paintings were done in winter, while the other seasons were devoted to farming and harvesting. This practice was familiar to Caitlin, who grew up with her mother gardening in the summer, and painting the floors, ceilings, and walls of their home in the winter. Their mother did not grow up knowing of this practice, as they did not grow up in a Mennonite community in Canada. Yet the connection to the little known practice remained.
As Jessica has seen first hand upon returning to Ukraine, the Mennonite colonies post WWII were broken down and taken over by Ukrainian farming communities. It is unknown if the practice of floor painting was engaged with in the old country. However, finding it in the early settlements in Canada seems to indicate it was not a new practice. Jessica and Caitlin honour the temporality of this with their site specific floor installation, and engage with their shared history through video, paintings, and drawings which explore the location of the place, Soviet symbology, agriculture, and domestic craft of their families.
Through the Body, Gallery Installation, photograph. Hermes Gallery, March 2022.
Jessica Lynn Wiebe & Caitlin McGuire, Site-specific floor installation,Vinyl on hardwood floor, 2022.
McGuire and Wiebe each created six vinyl patterns to merge into a site-specific floor "painting".
Tulips (video below) documents a sequence of four performative gestures at four specific locations in Ukraine and Canada. This work recognizes a tradition embedded in the land through farming and the transference of intergenerational experience of the Russian Mennonite diaspora in the Canadian Prairies. Two tulip seeds are planted at each location, symbolically connecting land and tradition, and loss thereof. The video was played on a loop for the duration of the show.
Jessica Lynn Wiebe, Tulips, video documentation of performance, 14 minutes 18 second, 2019.
Jessica Lynn Wiebe, Nothing Goes to Waste, installation, 7'9" x 7'7", Cardstock and vinyl scraps, 2022.
Jessica Lynn Wiebe, Agriculture and Collectivization, 12" x 12", Vinyl on matte board, 2022.
Jessica Lynn Wiebe, Soviet Floral Motifs, 12" x 12", Vinyl on matte board, 2022.
Left to Right:
Caitlin McGuire, Spring Hymnal I, 12" x 12", Acrylic, cotton thread, gouache, and paper on canvas, 2021.
Caitlin McGuire, Spring Hymnal II, 12" x 12", Acrylic, cotton thread, gouache, and paper on canvas, 2021.
Caitlin McGuire, Spring Hymnal III, 12" x 12", Acrylic, cotton thread, gouache, and paper on canvas, 2021.
Caitlin McGuire, Ruby Throats and Brown Eyed Susans, 9" x 11", Watercolour on paper, 2021.
Caitlin McGuire, Bleeding Hearts, 9" x 11", Watercolour on paper, 2021.
All Documentation of Gallery Installation Photographed by James Arthur Maclean.