The University of Lethbridge Art Gallery is pleased to present this new performance video by Lethbridge-based artist Kylie Fineday. We commissioned the artwork as part of a mentorship in social practice with Alana Bartol, associated with her project Processes of Remediation: art, relationships, nature. The structure of the mentorship had to change drastically due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Creating the relationship between Fineday and Bartol took on added importance during the isolation and emotional pressure of lockdowns and lack of in-person contact.
With our gallery closed to the public, Fineday made the brilliant choice to create a private performance in which she explored materials and concepts and then documented this process to create a work for online audiences. Earth blanketis deeply personal, but the performance documentation also provides a powerful engagement with the social implications of land and a sense of home.
I am a nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman) residing in Southern Alberta, and while I often find myself longing for my home: my family and my reserve, it is a blessing to have access to this landscape. Through this work, I sought comfort from the landscape by making a blanket out of it.
When I was young, my grandmother taught me how to sew and how to bead, as she was taught by her mother. I carry these teachings and practice them in my own life and work. I’ve sought to expand upon these ways of working, incorporating them into my art practice.
I made beads with clay that I foraged from the banks of the Old Man River. I crafted a large-scale bead loom with which to craft my blanket out of the beads. Beading on a loom was the first beadwork technique that my grandmother taught me. My grandfather made my sister and I each our own simple loom out of pieces of wood and nails. I recreated the same type of loom, but on a significantly larger scale, for the purpose of this project.
A blanket is not an object that would traditionally be made of beads or have beadwork, however I imagined the weight of the clay beads would offer some comfort, similar to a weighted blanket. I’ve often received comfort from mud, soil, dirt, clay, and sand. From childhood, playing in and with these materials, and even in adulthood, enjoying the textures and smells during moments of nostalgia. I feel a sense of intimacy with the earth when I fill my hands with it and feel it move between my fingers and against my body. Covering myself with the blanket of clay beads offers a nurturing and comforting sort of intimacy.
Knowing that the earth doesn’t belong to me or anyone, but I to it, I never planned to keep the beads beyond the completion of this work. I didn’t fire the clay, as I wanted to give back what I borrowed. Thanking the earth for sharing this comfort, and offering it back was always my intention.
Making of Earth Blanket
This is video documentation of the process of making the blanket. From the gathering of the clay from the river bottom, to the sculpting of the beads, then the weaving of the beads into the loom.
Camera – Kristin Krein, Kylie Fineday
This video depicts the gathering of some plants (dogbane), and then the extraction of the bast fibres from the dried stalks of the plants. This material ended up not going into the final blanket, as I quickly realized just how labour intensive the processing of it was going to be. It was a learning experience that came alongside the completion of this project.
Camera – Crystal Bauman, Kylie Fineday
Earth Blanket Photos
Earth Blanket Progress Photos
These photos depict still images taken during the process of making the blanket and working with the materials that went into (or were planned to go into) the completed project.