June 16 - August 10, 2023
Opening reception: Friday, June 16, 7-9 PM
artist talk: a video tour led by artist Becky Thera will be available to view on-demand, online June 22, 2023.
Embrace, an exhibition of embroidered textiles depicting the Endurance Antarctic expedition, videos of bodies in water, embroidery, and sound draws unexpected parallels between the ill-fated Shackleton expedition and artist Becky Thera's experiences as an artistic swimmer (formerly known as synchronized swimming) to locate non-gendered models for tenderness and touch.
The experience of social isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic caused the artist to reflect upon the three years that crew members from the Shackleton expedition were stranded in the Antarctic; she likens the pandemic to "the idea of being adrift on an ice floe, disconnected from a world you once knew." In Shackleton's memoir South!, the artist discovered descriptions, particularly Shackleton's tender recounting of how the crew, continually wet and cold in their small craft, huddled together for warmth to inspire her exhibition, Embrace.
Conceiving of stitching as caring-in-action, Thera has embroidered silhouettes reinterpreting photographs by Frank Hurley, the Shackleton expedition photographer, on rippling waves of fabric. Through the long and intimate process of embroidering, the artist translates her care to those shown in the images as her hand repeatedly caresses the fabric with each careful stitch.
Admitting troubling aspects of stitching traditions, Thera's exhibition also touches on restrictive gender norms and the devaluation of traditional "women's work." The artist's great-grandmother's embroidery patterns — child-like imagery of puppies, kittens, and flowers — represent ideal womanhood. Drained of their colour and frayed at the edges, Thera's embroideries seek to tear apart binary gender division and restrictive ideas of performing one's gender well and productively.
Water is a malleable motif throughout the exhibition, threatening to drown, offering the freedom of flotation and enveloping bodies in a liquid embrace. A soundtrack of swelling waves and whale songs lightly echoes through the gallery, reminding us that we are not alone, tempting us to let go of what weighs us down.
Becky Thera is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in Edmonton, Alberta on Treaty 6 Territory. Thera completed her MFA in Art and Design at the University of Alberta in 2018. Her MFA research, which explored trauma in relation to personal, intergenerational and systemic gender-based violence, was awarded a SSHRC (CGS M) grant.
Thera works in video, photography, embroidery, drawing, and performance. With an extensive history in synchronized swimming, Thera has been working as a coach and choreographer since 2007. This experience influences the involvement of performance and water in her artistic practice. Thera’s work explores themes of empathy, intimacy, and feminist politics, situating herself between poetry and activism. Thera’s work has been featured nationally and internationally, including notable exhibitions at Nuit Blanche Regina and Feminist Art Fest in Toronto, ON. She is currently pursuing her Juris Doctor at the University of Alberta.
The Art Gallery of Regina gratefully acknowledges its core funders and community sponors.