I also had my exhibit installation photos omitted, or deleted from the Mercer Union archive,
re: ’54/84′ – ‘HOMMAGE A GUIDO MOLINARI’ . . !!
culture wars, alert !!
the visionaries vs the losers.
who’s winning, now.

it was very deliberate, I remember being told by a ‘friendly’ Mercer Union member, a few years later, that my ’54/84′ 1984 archive had been deleted or otherwise . . obliterated.
I had no install photos of my own, I was already 4 years settled into NYC, and couldn’t travel back re: immigration issues, the border between Canada and the US had become increasingly complicated.
I just felt, if a community-driven / artist-run space had online archives . . they should, at the very least be inclusive, and a real historical record ???

NANCY SMITH, ‘PAPER QUILT’, ca 1980. Montreal.
oil pastel on hand cut-out construction paper units, based on Amish ‘Baby Blocks’ quilt pattern / almost wall-size.
image via MERCER UNION archive: ‘NANCY SMITH – PAPER QUILTS’, 1980.

but, I had had an earlier showing, at this artist-run space.
titled ‘PAPER QUILTS’, I exhibited one of my very first (& last actually), large scale, paper quilt ‘construction’ projects, 4 years earlier, in 1980.

exhibited in the small front room, of the old Mercer Union, it was arranged by ANNA-MARIE COBBOLD, a friend from grad school, Concordia University in Montreal, where we had both studied with the famed, color theorist / painter GUIDO MOLINARI.

there’s a black & white archival photo of it, on the Mercer Union archive, (don’t fall off your chair !!),
but I also have some of my own install pix, in color (!!!), because at that time, I was able to attend & actually did install the project.
see: NANCY SMITH, ‘PAPER QUILTS’, June 28 – July 11, 1980 / Mercer Union, Front Room
the exhibit statement reads: “hand-colored paper constructions improvised from traditional Amish designs.”

NANCY SMITH, (moi) with her ‘Paper Quilt’ construction / at MERCER UNION, Toronto / June 28, 1980.
it was pretty much, a very much . . . color theory project, to my mind, at least.
I took ‘Amish’ . . . & turned it, TIBETAN TANTRIC !!!

installation view.


so, I had hand-cut paper units from standard, heavy-weight construction paper using a template / & leaving about a 1/4 inch border, to fold back (for later attachment) and, then hand-colored them all – with oil pastels. even doing some, in what we now call, fade (!!) & . . then stapled them all together,
in such a way, as that the completed piece retained a somewhat, shallow, but perceptible, 3-D effect.
so, it had some ‘cloth-like’, give & take . . illusion.

making these little color ‘units’ first, helped me to . . envision the final composition.
but, it didn’t really make sense, on a very ‘real’ functional / level !!
it also made me really curious, about just how these wonderful, highly visual, even ‘kinetic’ quilts . . were put together, in the first place.
and so, newly minted M.F.A. in Painting, be damned !!
I put the crafts materials down, the watercolors, and charcoal as well,
and picked up the lowly . . needle & thread.

by then, 1981, I was in NYC, (there was NO quilting tradition in Montreal, the early French settlers had used furs !!) & I started buying second-hand quilts, that were then, readily found in the local Lower East Side thrift shops, deconstructing them, and very quickly moving onto repairing them, some with strict archival intent, but most – in a very creative manner / artist-head space ruled me . . always.
and, most were too ragged to work to archival standards, anyway / esp outside a museum-resourced workshop.

. . . and all by hand-stitch, all self-taught !!

me, who had never picked up a sewing needle before in my life, here I was . . hand-stitching, like crazy.
I probably have over 50 old quilts, well probably even more (!!) lying about, and stashed away – in stacks.
talk about walking into a thrift shop, and turning a $1 buck .. into $10, if not more !!

but more important, the Mercer Union ‘Paper Quilt’ project, definite put me on track, to ‘track’ . . the ‘crafts’ & skills-based artwork of this current generation, & having a deeply rooted / quilting framework, based on practical hands-on knowledge, definite gave me the ‘edge’ – to enable me to cover, the slowly building / quilt craze of today !!

PHOTOS: NANCY SMITH, unless otherwise noted.