“CIty Squares” is a collaborative presentation by three artists on one related theme: the relationship between contemporary urban layout and its content. From antiquity onward, cities have been planned and layed out in blocks with streets intersecting at right angles. This is seen from as far back as 2600 BC in the Indus Valley, to ancient cities from Rome to China to Mexico, to more recent times such as the Renaissance and the early colonial settlement of North America. New York City is renowned for its rectilinear layout, for which hills were flattened, valleys filled, and wetlands drained.
With the arrival of steel in the construction process, the grid continued upward, creating the massive highrises we see today and resulting in the overwhelming rectilinearity of our urban surroundings. We inhabit a three-dimensional matrix. Yet within these rigid formats, the necessary messiness of human occupation and natural processes continues to affect the contents, eroding, decaying, or growing in unbidden ways.
In “City Squares,” we wanted to look more closely at the contrasts between the framework and what happens within it. We started to look at the small scale disorganizations that emerge within the bigger views: the movements of people;
the erosion of bricks; the multiplicity of textures and colours; the deterioration of surfaces. From the perspective of the map, the city is orderly. From the perspective of the street, it can be confusing and random.
Our presentation is a metaphor for this contrast. We have arranged uniformly sized units of art into a rigid grid; yet looking more closely, we see tumble-down walls, peeling paint, people in movement, spills and grafitti. Footpaths and
shortcuts have emerged. Suburbs have grown outward. The rules aren’t always followed. The imprint of time and human occupation goes against the proverbial best-laid plans. As in a living city, the content does not always obey the form.
Judy's Artist Statement
For me, moving to the city to study fine art at university was a huge shift in perception: rural to urban, quiet to noisy, isolated to crowded, nature to technology. Now, as a mature artist who has lived in cities since that time, I still have a fascination with these dichotomies and a love/hate relationship with cities. Textures and details tell me stories of aging and decay. How does man’s labour withstand time, hard use and weather? What change of light or my own mood and perception will allow me to see beauty in a place that I may have passed many times, oblivious to the subtleties of line and composition and colour?
Happily, with modern technology, I can use my iPhone X to take instant pictures wherever I suddenly see something magical. The result has been the birth of a series that I have called Public Works, since I focus on details of urban construction. When the idea of City Squares came up, Public Works seemed ideally suited for inclusion in the three-way collaboration.
My process begins when I edit on my camera or computer, usually doing very little to change the carefully thought-out composition. Digital images are emailed to a fabric printing company to be precisely copied onto fabric of my choice. When I approve the clarity and accuracy of the images, the yardage is sent to me. I can then cut up and arrange the images in any number of ways.
In the Public Works pieces that I have selected for City Squares, I have spray glued layers of the printed cotton, cotton batting and muslin. The next step is a quiet study to determine what the piece requires for machine quilting. This is my opportunity to enhance the design, direct the eye to certain areas and add actual texture. Thread colour is important. My domestic machine is set for free-motion quilting and off I go in a dance with each image that may take, on average, six hours. The quilted piece is fused to a stabilizer with the edges folded to the back, ready to hand stitch to another piece of stabilizer around all four sides.
With this amount of machine quilting and stability, these pieces are made for durability. They resemble tapestry and satisfy my need for tactile complexity. Mounting each finished piece on a prepared artist canvas gives them greater presence, while allowing a purchaser to remove and remount them in other ways if desired.
It is a great joy to be able to combine my love of art, craft and photography. It is an inspiration to work with two artists who share and expand on my experience and perceptions to make something bigger and more complex to share with you. This exhibition is a celebration of the complexity and the beauty in my chosen urban environment.