Artists: Karen Cornelius & Peter Tittenberger
This exhibition provides two reflections on childhood histories of displacement and the plights of displaced peoples. It is based on becoming unwanted due to political, economic, social, cultural or religious change. The exhibition also probes what migrants physically carry when forced to leave home. The emotional and spiritual baggage refugees bring with them in body such as memory, familiarity, cultural identity, grief, sadness and loss.
The prints of Karen Cornelius memorialize a small suitcase that, as a girl, she shared with her brother when they had to flee the Congo where they were missionaries. She remembers making difficult choices encountering conflicting emotions when deciding what to take with them. She put her favorite doll’s clothes into the suitcase but, in the tension of the moment, she had to leave the doll. Her brother chose small plastic farm animals but had to abandon his favorite painted metal barn that housed them. Each time they played with their treasured items, they were reminded of what they lost. Through this work, Cornelius connects with viewers who have experienced physical and emotional upheaval due to natural disasters, economic upheavals or physical danger.
Cornelius electro-etched eight intaglio prints of the items of clothing reminiscent of what her mother packed for her children. Each black and white print records the contours as metaphors of the emotional highs and lows of leaving home. The nuanced slightly out of focus, xray-like translation of the front and back of the clothing, records the physical outside and emotional inside, marking uncertainty, unpredictability, fear and trauma. In addition, her actual suitcase will be open on a plinth, spilling printed silk organza images of clothing. As well, Cornelius will screen a 17-minute performance video Dear Nana and Pop-pop about letters to her grandparents during the upheaval.
Peter Tittenberger’s mixed media installations reference his heritage as part of a family displaced by war that could never return to the familiar ancestral homeland. His family came to a new country, each carrying nothing but a suitcase. His is a story of sorrow and heartbreak for what he lost and incorporates fear and apprehension for the unknown. The journey from the old to the new is also the crux of Tittenberger’s methodology. He takes apart and rebuilds. He focused on discarded piano parts as a metaphor for his historical displacements. He salvaged these pianos from homes where they no longer made music. He stripped them down to their component parts, and then re-combined these into artworks.
Six of Peter Tittenberger’s assemblages will be on this tour. Most are wall hung at eye level and some can be displayed on pedestals.
May 2019, NorVA Centre, Flin Flon
August & September 2019, Burrows Trails Arts Council, McCreary
November & December 2019, Sam Waller Museum, The Pas