all the ways we don't say

by Lucia Wallace

Exhibition essay by Adrienne Scott

Gentle jokes for friendly ghosts

Care and humour in the works of Lucia Wallace

How do you know if you’ve seen a ghost? In cartoons and pop cultural imagery, you don’t see a spectre so much as its clothing- often, a draped sheet with the eye-hole cutouts. Casper’s physicality is hinted by a sheet, but his body and spirit float somewhere in the ether. In Wallace’s show ‘all the ways we don’t say’ at Between Pheasants Contemporary, there’s hints of body and spirit between stones, ceramics, fibres, and the hand of their collector and caretaker. 

Viewers will find several interrelated series in this show, which includes ceramic fragments installed in the windowsill of the gallery, crocheted tracings affixed to the walls and roost beam of the coop, and a series of Swaddled Stones sitting in a straw nest like cuckoo eggs. These eggs are imposters, but their preciousness is sincere. Wallace says that her first instinct when approached with the opportunity to show these works at BPC was to treat these objects like little ‘eggs’ in the pheasant coop. This turns out to be an appropriate salute to the coop’s usual residents, as after a Zoom conversation between Wallace, BPC orchestrator Alexander Rondeau and myself to talk about the show, Rondeau followed up to mention that in some ways the coop itself is empty-nesting because of the avian flu this year.[1]

The Swaddled Stones enmesh their host stones with crochet, but in the Tracings series the original object is removed, leaving the crocheted exterior like a shed skin. Wallace describes an interest in the idea of tracing in both physical and emotional ways, and indicates that these objects are a labour-intensive casting of vessels in the artist’s personal collection of objects. The bodies of the traced vases softly echo the mass of the original vessels, but take on a body language and behaviour of their own from the individual tension and weight of the fabric. Wallace describes one form, installed draped over the roost beam in the gallery, as being ‘exhausted’. Another tall cream-coloured Tracing situated in a corner of the coop leans slightly over, dipping its spout sleepily.  It’s as if the ceramic fragments are bones, and the crocheted tracings are the external muscle and skin, left to slacken their posture without the discipline of their skeletons. These bodies are porous, light, and drowsy - they just need a few more minutes to wake up.

These combined series of works are additive, while implying a quotidian kind of loss; fragments are rescued and visibly mended with ceramic paint, and the forms of crocheted fabric are an accumulation of effort either capturing or describing something dear. Wallace links her relationship to fibre as a continuation of her grandmother teaching her how to crochet, and Wallace’s visual lexicon is tied up in the language of care, in the cradling of the hatchling-rocks, and the nuanced observations needed to create crocheted outlines. Making a sweater (for a person, or a rock) creates a doting record in circumference and form. It’s a loving document, but one that’s also kind of doomed - seasoned knitters and crocheters know about the ‘The Sweater Curse’, a crafter superstition that warns if you make a sweater for a significant other, it’ll lead to the demise of the relationship. Still, Wallace’s objects hold on to their sense of humour - the palette of these works is bright, ranging from a warm cream to grass green and polymer-glo pink, and the tactile and soft materials alleviate the sting of missing or damaged matter. One of the Tracings spills out with flowers like a joke on memento mori still lifes, while the Swaddled stones peek out of their coverings as if to say hello. 

Wallace ties these objects to the experience and idea of grief, but emphasises that these sentiments are fraternal twins with affection and levity. Loving something might mean a commitment to being affected by its inevitable loss, but it also might mean enjoying the eventual company of being haunted. Even if you can’t see the ghost, you can feel if something’s missing. The works in ‘all the ways we don’t say’ intimates this; in the absence and presence of various bodies, we’re left to see the quirk and significance of the in-between. 

[1] The avian flu has killed an estimated 1.7 million poultry livestock in Ontario this year. (Source: CBC.) Rondeau writes: “due to the avian flu…we've decided to not raise pheasants this year. We have a healthy flock of chickens on the farm that have been thriving here for the last three years, and as we get our pheasants as chicks from Southern Ontario, we've decided to forego the risk of introducing the avian flu to our flock here up North.” - email correspondence May 24, 2022

Lucia Wallace is a queer artist/writer based in Toronto, Ontario and recent graduate of OCAD University’s Contemporary Art, Design & New Media Art Histories master’s program (2021) . With a BFA in Drawing & Painting (2018), her studio and research practices span textiles, contemporary ceramics, creative writing, and painting. Focusing on tactility and materiality, she strives to intertwine her making and writing processes.

Adrienne Scott (she/her) is an artist and writer based in Toronto, Ontario. She is a graduate of the BFA program at the University of Ottawa (2016) and a recipient of the Edmund and Isobel Ryan Scholarship in photography. Her work often explores themes of forgery, natural history, and fantasy. She has shown work throughout Ontario, including at the Karsh-Masson Gallery (Ottawa, Ontario), Idea Exchange (Cambridge, Ontario), and Gallery 44 (Toronto, Ontario). She has also been a collaborator on interdisciplinary projects through programs such as the 2017 Montreal Contemporary Music Lab (LMCML), and participated in the 2020 Roundtable Residency as a member of Emergensies collective, a 3-person collective founded to explore the connections between music and animation.

Using Format