Writing Workshop



thornton (2).jpg<—- Image


A drawing made from the absence of pigment, where the carbon paper has been pressed or punctured, light shines though.

Two disembodied hands use a needle and thimble to prick a new star into creation, a constellation could be being sewn together in this moment.

Question the connection of those hands to the background’s geometric patterns. What can a dot represent? Reflect on scale, question personal relations to the cosmos. Making charts to represent infinitely vast areas creates a human understanding of time and space.

Exploratory Project – Outline

Starting Point

Building off the Mapping the Territory project, look back on what where my main areas of interest, and influences to push my practice to be more challenging, professional and effective at communicating my ideas.

I am curious about; fictional archives, how I can create analogue work that also exists on the internet to increase accessibility and venture into a new medium, newHive, graphs and mapping information, cosmology and mythology associated with the stars, how that applies to everyday life and ultimately how the cosmos relates to the body.


Employ museological techniques to create fabricated artifacts and documents to tell the story of a fictional archive. This includes labeling, display and archiving. Possibly creating a website for the works to be documented but also link to the internet work.

Create an online work that accompanies drawings and other ephemera to explore new media. Pre-exiting platforms like newHive maybe the way to go.

Risks and Anticipated Challenges

Like always, failure – conceptually and in execution.

I anticipate the challenges will be in research – not getting carried away, sticking to my timeline and technically in the creation of an online work. If coding is involved that will take some time to sort out and learn.

Leave time for trial and error.


Week 1 February 19-25

  • brainstorm ideas/create timeline
  • planning and research phase
  • source needed materials

Week 2 February 26-March 4

  • take out needed books from Library/build online bibliography
  • begin sketching/making the work
  • start test on newHive
  • February 27 – Maryse Goudreau artist talk at Owens Art Gallery – also works with archives

Week 3 March 5-11

  • begin drawings on carbon paper – experiment
  • March 8 – send work for tutorial & post outline and images on journal
  • March 10 – Cyanotype Workshop at Imago (lead by me)
  • group crit this week?

Week 4 March 12-16

  • continue research – consider specifically how text will be incorporated into this installation – a book? labels?
  • begin to build light boxes for carbon paper drawings
  • Mon 12 Mar: Tutorial AR

Week 5 March 17-25

  • continue research and exploration of new mediums
  • Mon 19 Mar: Tutorial with visiting lecturer

Week 6 March 26-April 1

  • March 26 – Exploratory Project Progress Review
  • take feedback and apply to work by making

Week 7 April 2-8

  • continue to make and research
  • focus on newHive component this week and how it will fit with analogue works, how will they all be presented together? how do they exit separately?
  • April 7: Making Day

Week 8 April 9-15

  • Reflection period — use comments from making day to assess the direction the work is going according to an audience, adjust as needed.
  • April 18-21 in Vancouver for Museums and the Web – use as time for reflection, as it may not be possible to do much making this week

Week 9 April 16-22

  • aim for a group crit for this week
  • use feed back in work by making and editing

Week 10 April 23-29

  • test light boxes and make adjustments
  • editing period: look at all the work together and consider how it functions as an archive of my narrative – consider making more work, or leaving some work out

Week 11 April 30-May 6

  • continue making
  • Mon 30 April: Tutorial AR
  • book space with Struts Gallery to put up instillation

Week 12 May 7-13

  • install work and document — making adjustments as needed
  • 11 May: upload images for group evaluation

Week 13 May 14-20

  • May 14th: Exploratory Project Seminar / evaluation

*Meet in a small group at least twice throughout the project.

Professional Practice Plan – In Progress

Aims for one year ahead

Public Profile: update website, CV and instagram accounts with new work.

Financial: Continue in role as Curator of Digital Engagement at Owens Art Gallery and focus on becoming more active as a curator outside of work as well.

Apply for artsNB career development grant to help offset tuition costs

Apply for artsNB Creation or Travel grant to sustain summer projects or participation in events.

Community: Maintain activity in the community by sitting on selection committees, continue to be involved in festivals like Boardertown and SappyFest and attend art related events when ever possible, including artist talks, opening receptions, workshops and contemporary art festivals.

Apply for more opportunities to exhibit/participate in festivals and zine fairs – Third Shift (April 1), Art in the Open (March 31), ArtCity (March 31), ConnectionARC, Perish Festival, TCAF, Comic arts Brooklyn, Arboretum… to expand audience but also develop relationships with the institutions/artist run centres running these events.

To achieve this: set aside 3 hours each week to work on proposal and create a better file management system to make this easier/faster.

Aims for three years ahead

Have MA Fine Arts completed – do this by setting aside weekly time for coursework, research (Saturday, Sunday, Mondays and evenings)

Public Profile: keep website updated (create deadline to do so every 3 months) and social media active (aim for at least 3 posts a week).  

Community: Broaden by exhibiting work outside of New Brunswick by applying for residencies through artist-run-centres, build relationships out of province through participation in zine fairs or contemporary art festivals.

Curate exhibitions with other emerging artists in public galleries, online or artist run centre spaces.

Financial: Apply for first Canada Council for the Arts Grant, Emerging Artist Level to create a new, post grad body of work. Use the momentum that the MA creates to keep going.

Use time that was preciously for MA work to split between making work, continued research and aim to spend more time on writing applications.

find grant opportunities to support publications/printing costs for curated exhibitions and my own.

Aims for five years ahead

Continue website maintenance, social media presence.

Continue to apply for residencies through artist-run-centres (and hopefully start to get them) and exhibit across Canada.

Start thinking about developing relationships outside of Canada and what that will entail.

Start thinking about Doctorate in art history?

Apply for sessional teaching positions at the undergraduate/college level






Artist Talk with Chris Down

Chris Down, Beacon, 2018

The Owens Art Gallery puts on a series entitled ‘Our Town Artist Talks’ which invites artists from Sackville NB, intended to give audiences an opportunity to hear from artists living and working in the community.

This years artist was Chris Down. He has exhibited his work nationally, written features, reviews and catalogue essays for a variety of publications in Canada and is currently associate professor in painting and drawing at Mount Allison University.

His talk encompassed a lot of his career, and how he has come to conclusions about why he makes art. Focusing on art as a tool for navigating life, all of Down’s work is loosely biographical. Quoting Edvard Munch, Down explained his aesthetic theory as; “In my art, I tried to explain life and its meaning to myself. I also intended to help others understand life better.” and through Mattise’s quote; “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

I don’t know if I completely agree with these ideas myself, but understand the desire to reach those goals within art. Down said that if he wants to create political change, there are more effective ways than in a gallery. An idea that is quite disparate from his earlier work which focuses on themes of environmental destruction, news headlines and other global issues.

His recent work focuses on his relationship to photography, the way his sons experience the world and his surroundings, which are also my surroundings. Through this his process of creating art has become “about putting artwork out that breaks from your own cynicism and detachment.” under the media of painting and drawing.


Chris Down, Pile, 2012

Bodies in Abstraction

The 2018 New Generation Photography Award finalists were just announced, awarded by the Canadian Photography Institute and Scotiabank. Two artists caught my attention from the list, for the tension between abstraction with representational elements in their work.

 40 x 50 Inches  Silver Gelatin Print

Francis Macchiagodena, Eclipses in the Realm, 2017


Montreal based artist, Francis Macchiagodena‘s “practice explores abstraction and its relationship to materiality and the human senses. The work considers the use of the photographic medium as an interrogation of the tension in distance, tactility and forms of matter as visual and tangible injunctions in perception. His abstract photography uses sound, light, heat and other phenomena in a way that reflects force, the organic, and the cosmic. ” (https://www.visualartscentre.ca/francis-macchiagodena/)

Annie France Noël, Marees, 2017

From from Caraquet (NB), Annie France Noël‘s  “research is nestled in feminist photography. Interested in the complexities and plurality of others, the artist explores the human experience through portraiture. The object and the subject undergo a systematic deconstruction in order to break with the rigidity of social structures and embrace a redefined, reaffirmed and fluid expression of identity.” (http://anniefrancenoel.com/bio-fr/)

The tension in both their work between the recognizable and the unknown, leads to think about the work for longer, and try and find the ways in which my body might be represented in their work. The way the process affects the final result, creating loss of information, leaves room for the viewer and subjective interpretation.

Shary Boyle & Emily Vey Duke: The Illuminations Project

Shary Boyle, Bloodie Writes an Anthem, 2005, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, 50 x 43 cm
Shary Boyle, Bloodie Writes an Anthem, 2005, ink, watercolour and gouache on paper, 50 x 43 cm

On a quick trip to Halifax NS, I was able to see the new exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, The Illuminations Project, by Shary Boyle and Emily Vey Duke. Originally presented at Oakville Gallery, these are two artists I have known and whose work I find really interesting in terms of narrative and story telling, but I had no idea they were working collaboratively.

They both explore the relationships between feelings, drives and fantasies and mechanisms of shame and social control. The Illuminations Project,developed from 2004 to 2015 as they collaborated over several years to create a series of drawings and writings, also published as a book. The references to fables and fairy tales come through in both drawings and text, creating a world that is familiar but at the same time otherworldly. The themes of the surreal and grotesque lead me to think of Darger’s Vivian Girls works, which I saw in Paris 3 years ago, so I was excited to find this article which also made the comparison: https://canadianart.ca/reviews/shary-boyle-emily-vey-duke-oakville-galleries/.

Gallery Image

Gallery Image

I was also curious to know more about how this work came about, since I have seen other projects where Boyle collaborated with musicians, interpreters and other artists, but very little was written about how the project came about in the actual gallery space. I was also surprised there was no catalogue to accompany this exhibition, since it was being shown at the AGNS, so I did a little more digging online when I got home.

From the curator Jon Davies on their process of creating this work:

“Moved by the potential of combining words and images, they set out to test the communicative power of both with an improvised call-and-answer exchange in which Boyleʼs drawings and Dukeʼs texts responded to one another serially, embracing free-form ideas as readily as the intuitive drive for narrative structure. The rules governing their exchange were simple: Duke would write a text and send it to Boyle, who would then create a drawing in response. Boyle would keep that work private, while undertaking a second drawing that she offered back to Duke. Duke would subsequently compose two texts—the first kept secret, the second sent to Boyle. The exchange continued this way, with each artist keeping half of her output private and only seeing the totality of what her collaborator had made at the projectʼs culmination.

What began as an investigation into the nature of artistic inspiration and response became a decade-long collaboration that explored the vast range of each artistʼs tone and style. The richly imaginative results draw on philosophy, religion and fairy tales alike to explore the freedoms and dangers of the wild, the nature of desire and the brutalities of contemporary life.”

Its interesting to me that Duke is also most well known for her collaborative process with Cooper Battersby. As Duke and Battersby they have been working collaboratively since 1994 and teach together at Syracuse University in Central New York.

From these collaborations, come exciting sometimes unexpected products through multiple media explorations.




Mapping the Territory

For the Mapping the Territory assignment I chose to work in a book format. I had initially thought of making a large drawing, since most of my work has some element of drawing, but I realized that it also almost always has a book or zine component. Carrying a sketch book is natural to me, something I can work in anytime, add to, work out ideas in and get prepared for larger projects in.

The idea of a book is familiar, but also a collaborative act, between maker and reader, and an object that is always performed by the reader/viewer. The sounds, feel and smell all need to be taken into account. This idea of collaboration and performance, I think, is the direction my work is going, but still with a visual element, probably a book.

The accordion book as a format meant that I could add pages at any point, meaning it can be infinitely long. By moving the pages around different connections can be made between the main subjects and other artists/sources I am thinking about while working. These include the big name artists who I aspire to, but also my peers, educators, writers, philosophers, graphic novelists, graphic designers and illustrators who I think about day to day when I read, look at the internet and talk with.

Everything in the books fits in between the idea of starting with an initial idea and ending up with something that deals with the tension of presence and absence (between something and nothing). Inside those brackets are the mail themes/subjects and artists whose work is related to those. I then used the artists as a way of connecting to other themes, which being all my themes together. These themes include, monochrome, astronomy, cosmology, feminism, book making, illustration, collaborative projects, drawing, power relations, etc with a few pretty wide conceptual leaps in between that will need stronger connections soon.

Though all these ideas are sort of on the same plane, the flexibility of the book means that different subjects can be brought to the top, giving them a higher importance, or push them down below, representing how those ideas are always there in the back of my mind, connected, even if its not necessarily apparent in every work. All these ideas are there under the surface, all the time, but sometimes some are clearer, or the connections that link them are there, but not as important as what is on the top surface.

Ultimately, this is a work still in progress, and I wanted to create it in a medium that would reflect that ability and desire to continue to grow, observe and learn more complex connections.

The documentation is also on Youtube.

Digital Engagement and Discourse Analysis

I recently started a new full time position, after working multiple part time contracts at different galleries, working in education, administration, fundraising and communication, it feels great to have a bit of job security, something I think is still pretty rare among my peers and the chance to focus on one major aspect of the way museums and galleries interact with the public. It is also interesting to interpret this position within the themes of this weeks seminars and the asynchronous seminar conversations.

With the Owens Art Gallery, Mount Allison University I have begun work on the the newly created role of Curator of Digital Engagement. The position is fully funded by the Canada Council for the Arts under its new “Artistic Catalysts” program of support for public galleries and museums.

This position means I will curate the Owens’ program of digital engagement and interactivity, towards a complete reconsideration of the use and sharing of the museum’s resources. This includes the information that is produced, collected and used, and the contributions of users themselves. The goal is to share resources and prioritize visitor experience and visitor contributions in innovative, inclusive and informed ways.

Reading Chapter 8- Discourse and Analysis II, I was able to make links to the Owen Art Gallery with every point raised, about what we do and deliberately do not do to moderate audience engagement. My most immediate reaction was that this article was clearly published in the early 2000’s, and when the internet yet was not fully integrated into everyday life the way it is today.  Most of the analysis did not include the way galleries and museums function on the internet, and the way that the internet mediates how an audience experiences the work the institution presents. (see previous journal about Kasuma exhibit at AGO, Thoughts on VL4: https://wordpress.com/post/rachelthorntonjournal.wordpress.com/711).

In terms of public art gallery websites and social media, there are such exciting opportunities available in terms of data mining, open collection and education that go so far beyond promoting ‘hit’ exhibitions. Institutions like The Cooper Hewitt use their website to allow visitors to search through their entire digitized collection. Similarly, the current The Met Residency is also housed online, currently through a podcast by The Memory Palace. While the architecture of the physical museum doesn’t have much effect on this experience, the design of the website and the devices we use to access it, takes on the same importance.

When visiting the physical museums, the internet and social media, it is exciting to see the no touching, no photography rules are changing, and how that changes the way audiences have access to art.


In terms of no touching, touch tours are becoming more and more common in the aims of making galleries more accessible. However withing the role of most galleries is to conserve and protect artworks the sustainability, and authenticity is in the process of improving. To protect the works from damage through not touching, I have always taken the stance that if someone is going to touch a work that could be damaged, this is an educational opportunity. Don’t, just say ‘don’t touch’ but let them know why we don’t touch artworks (preservation, sharing, artist intent…), and then eventually it is no longer a ‘no touch rule’ but the gallery is just known as a place where works are cared for by not touching some of them. These ideas of conservation and the behind the scenes elements that goes along with conservation can be shared through social media. When it is not possible to have the public present for every aspect of the treatments it can be shared digitally (moma – matisse paper works) and thus demystifying the roles of conservators, curators and preparators and breaking down some of the preexisting power relations.



Going along with Rose’s initial argument that photographs as art and documents/surveillance are inherently different, the photographs taken in galleries of art are different too, possibly a new third category of photography. These photographs, primarily taken for social media, can be used as a tool for education and outreach. Through that outreach a broader audience is able to connect with the works in public galleries, which are for them, and feel a sense of ownership.

Through social media it is also possible to present new voices beyond that of artist and the curator of the exhibition. You get the preparator’s voice, the education team, the videographers, the interns, the docents – expanding who feel they have the authority to talk about art. I think this have the possibility to expand even further, allowing any one who comments to be validated and have a voice in the conversation.

Ad an artist how can I use these ideas within my own work’s presentation?

This idea of the internet as a site for education, outreach and the ability to connect with an audience even when they are not physically in the gallery are the top priorities for me in my work, and is starting to become integrated into my art making from the ground up.  As my exploratory project will have an internet based component, how can I ensure that the way it is viewed and interacted with, subvert or challenge the way objects are already classified in their scientific and objective principles. How do I make the audience feel that they are the ‘experts’. How will I use the internet as my technology of display to break down the power relation between viewer, artwork and institution?