• Michelle MacKinnon

shifting practices from the studio to the home

This has been an interesting week in terms of making. Given the current state in Newfoundland/globally with COVID-19, the University has closed and therefore access to my studio space has been suspended (with my large drawings in it), so this post is going to be about what I was working on at the beginning of last week) and what I am working on now.

Lately, I have been working on a body of work titled in an absent existence for an exhibition with the same name at the Grenfell Art Gallery (that is, sadly and understandably, postponed for now). It started as a way to embark from, what I would classify for myself as, the comforting ideas of home and into the way that comforting objects can symbolize loss, mourning, and how we move forward with evolving ideas of home. I turned to a blanket that I own.

When I was eight years old, my grandmother, Maureen MacKinnon, crocheted a blanket for me. I would cover my bed with it, adding an extra layer of warmth, and then wrap it around myself as I moved from room to room, taking for granted the warmth this handmade item provided for me. Soon after, at the age of fifty-five, my grandmother was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and, to my frustration at the time, I was no longer allowed to use my blanket; it was to be folded neatly in the closet and saved for when I was older and could appreciate its sentiment. As my grandmother’s memory deteriorated, her hands remembered their motions long past many other things, and remained something she was able to do until she neared the year of her life. This blanket has become an object that connects me with the nostalgia and fond sentiments of home and childhood, and yet its ingrained delicacy has instilled a nervous hesitance around using it as it was intended.


The blanket is drawn in the ways I would have interacted with it when I was younger and was without the nervous hesitation of accidentally injuring it. The figure is suggested, allowing the afghan to be eloquently and eerily draped by an absent body. Within the drawings, I am working on creating a juxtaposition between a feeling of comfort and the uncanny, which may mimic the way one remembers, or think they remember, a childhood home.

I want the work to speak to what we remember from that time in our lives, but also to what we do not remember, pretend to remember, or what we convince ourselves to be true. Of happy and comforting memories, of loss, of nostalgia, and of where we cannot return. I am currently working on the fourth of these drawing with only a 12x12” section to go, and I am longing for the time that I can return to the studio and finish it.

But alas, we must become adaptable in these times, and therefore I am taking this opportunity to begin working on a project I have had in the back of my mind for a while. In continuing along the vein of loss and nostalgia, I have started to knit many tiny little white socks that I hope to create a wall installation with – I am aiming for 200+ right now (surprise – another labour-intense project!). I’m thinking of the idea of lost socks in the home and the loss of people/objects/home…but as you can tell, it’s a new idea I still need to formulate my words around. Perhaps my next post?

I am also thinking about a performance piece I want to do and trying to find a way that it could be done virtually. I’ll keep you posted! For now, stay inside and make or take a break – whatever soothes your mind and keeps you moving forward.