January 23, 2018 to June 3, 2018
On Constructing Identities
Persimmon Blackbridge uses mixed media wood carving with found objects to question how disability is framed as a fracturing of ordinary life rather than a normal, expected part of it. Her exploration of each figure begins in disability, but necessarily complicates itself as our embodied identities intersect and overlap.
Here are excerpts from the artist statement of Persimmon Blackbridge:
Tangled Art + Disability wishes to acknowledge the valuable discussions with select members of the Anglophone and Francophone disability communities. For this 2018 exhibition of Constructed Identities at Âjagemô, the English word “disability” will be translated in French to “handicap(é)”. As an organization that centers disability-identified, Mad and Deaf folk, we seek to continue the evolving and necessary conversation within these communities as to how we identify ourselves and are identified within a dual language country. You are welcome to email Tangled Art + Disability with any reflections or thoughts on how we can further this conversation.
I used to make art out of a passion to tell a particular story, a long complicated story, years in the telling: about when Sheila was locked up, or when I worked at Woodlands, or those long, brutal arguments about porn. By 2009, I was working on an art-story about the dead bodies and political posturing of war. Then my young friend Tempest Grace Gale was murdered. Soon after another friend, Catherine White Holman, died in a plane crash. Then my girlfriend, Della, had a series of small strokes and a fall that fractured her back.
Funerals and medical tests were suddenly the order of the day. My time horizon shrunk down to today, do this day today to day to day. Working on my art, I couldn’t tell the war story anymore. Instead, it became all about what was in front of me: this piece of driftwood (drowned like Tempest was drowned); these wings (like Catherine falling from the sky); this broken hinge (like Della’s fractured spine).
This body of work is built of overlapping splinters of meaning: disability, the femme gaze, dead friends, racism, endless rain – all at once, as these things act on us all at once in our day to day lives. These layered meanings are reflected in the phrases spanning the edges of the panels – not defining a single piece or grouping, but opening questions and evoking alternate understandings of the series as a whole.
“flicker doll” from Persimmon Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities
Photo Credit: Della McCreary
This is a close up photograph of a sculpture - a carved wood doll mounted on a white wall. The doll is constructed from multiple materials. The head is comprised of brown wood and is slightly smaller in proportion to the rest of the body. The head is smooth with no face or features. The torso and lower body are an irregular grained red-brown wood that has been carved to have thick thighs, asymmetrical hips, and differently shaped breasts. A bellybutton has been carved into the wood. At the left shoulder, the wood ends and is attached to a short black bird’s wing with red highlights on the feathers. Black wires cascade from the right shoulder to form the right arm. The wooden legs both end at the knee. The lower halves of the legs are bone spikes.
“lacewood doll” from Persimmon Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities
Photo Credit: Della McCreary
This is a close up photograph of a sculpture mounted on a blue background. It is comprised of three pieces that, together, form a human figure with differing proportions. The head, shoulders, and left hip are made of a solid brown wood, carved smooth and featureless. The left arm is a long piece of translucent plastic. The interior of this piece is cut in two straight lines, forming a partial rectangle that frames the remaining two pieces of the body. The torso is a carved light brown wood, richly grained, subtly giving details of breasts, bellybutton, pubic region, and knees. The left foot is a tiny black plastic doll’s foot, and the right has four toes. The right arm is a black plastic doll’s arm that has been fixed to the straight edge under the right shoulder. The right hand rests on the wood of the jutting right hip.
“liminal barbie 2” from Persimmon Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities
Photo Credit: Della McCreary
This close up photograph of a sculpture of a human figure is mounted on a white wall and suspended in the air to appear floating. It has been constructed from wood and a white Barbie doll. The Barbie head remains intact, with the eyes scratched out and her blonde hair is braided. Her arms have been constructed out of wood with plastic hands and reach above her head, at different lengths. The doll’s head is tilted to look upwards, towards her hands. The Barbie doll ends just above the bust. Beneath the bust line, the doll has a curved piece of corroded sheet metal, cut to look like a flat rib cage. The lower half of the body, attached by a pole, is a solid piece of carved wood, featureless except for a bellybutton. The hips are emphasized and larger in proportion to the rest of the doll and have a gap between the thighs. The wooden legs end at the knees, and the remainder of the legs are constructed from dark wooden sticks. The sticks meet in a point, like a ballerina pirouetting.
“relay doll” from Persimmon Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities
Photo Credit: Della McCreary
This is a close up photograph of a sculpture suspended on a white wall to appear floating. It is constructed from multiple materials: carved wood, parts of a Barbie, and what appears to be an internal piece from an electronic device, and forms the figure of a person with no arms. The head and shoulders are a solid carved piece of brown-red wood, smooth and featureless. Beneath the shoulders is a small square piece of plastic with crisscrossing metal and wires that makes up the torso. It is attached to the lower half of the body by several short poles. The lower half of the body is constructed primarily from a solid piece of brown-red wood, also smooth and featureless, except for a bellybutton. The belly is narrow and grows into curving hips and thighs. The right leg ends at the knee in a sharpened point. The left leg continues to the knee, where the solid wood ends, and is fastened to a white Barbie doll’s leg.
Audiences engage with “soft touch”, a tactile work in Persimmon Blackbridge’s Constructed Identities
Photo Credit: Steve Kean
This is a photograph of an individual touching an artwork mounted on a white wall. The individual is on the left side of the photo and only the right side of their body is visible. They are expressing a slight smile. They are photographed waist-up. They are wearing a black leather jacket and grey cross-body purse. They have shoulder-length brown hair and are wearing black-framed eyeglasses. They are extending their right arm and touching the artwork, which is on the right side of the photo. The work is a sculpture of a wooden human figure on a plank of wood. The face is featureless. The top half of the figure’s body is split apart from the bottom half at the waist. The two halves are made of different kinds of wood. The arms are made of a different material from the rest of the upper body. The individual is holding the figure’s left leg.
About the Artist
For the past 40 years, Persimmon Blackbridge has worked as a sculptor, writer, curator and performer. She has also been a fiction editor, cleaning lady and very bad waitress. Blackbridge’s art, which has earned her the Lambda Literary Award, the Ferro-Grumley Fiction Prize, the VanCity Book Prize, the VIVA award for visual arts and the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design Distinguished Alumni Award, has been shown across Canada and the U.S., and in Australia, Europe and Hong Kong. She currently lives on Hornby Island, British Columbia.
About Tangled Art + Disability
Tangled Art + Disability is boldly redefining how the world experiences art and those who create it. A not-for-profit art + disability organization, it is dedicated to connecting professional and emerging artists, the arts community and a diverse public. Its mandate is to support Deaf, Mad and disability-identified artists, to cultivate Deaf, Mad and disability arts in Canada, and to enhance access to the arts for artists and audiences. Through this work, it aims to create a new standard of excellence in the arts by prioritizing inclusivity through accessible curatorial, programming, and art making practices.