Stewart makes things
she gets rid of things.
Statement, Autumn 2018
I work with objects and I tell stories. I am an artist, a curator, a collector, a collaborator, and a community activist, currently living and working in Baltimore, MD.
I am the caretaker of two centuries worth of my family’s things that have trickled into my life over the last 25 years culminating in an avalanche of six households when my parents moved to a retirement home several years ago. Memories of the objects in situ made it difficult for my parents to do anything but keep everything, and over time, unimportant objects became precious things, mysteries to be solved. Now, the weight of this stuff is no longer a metaphor, whether through misuse, or genetics, or a lucky draw, I have degenerative disc disease a failing spine, and chronic pain. Since the birth of our son, I have been driven to create work with and about my family’s objects, trying to discover the way to make room for the lives lived by our ancestors in the lives we are living now. There is a revelation in creating this work that shares the pain, loss, and humour of our collected memory. Recreating, un-remembering and recontextualizing are all part of how I consume and present discomfort, collection and nostalgic obsession.
The degeneration of my spine has lead to years of surgeries, procedures, metal rods, chronic pain and a perpetual longing for relief. This genetic quirk or hereditary flaw could be a repercussion of family possessions and the weight of obsession leading to the need to balance, lift, prop, strap, truss, buffer, embellish, stuff, cushion and pad objects and spaces - ever searching for comfort and the perfect place to settle.
It has been engrained and I have grown to be enamored with old things, these also tend to be heavy.
For my Father’s 80th birthday, he and I engineered a steam locomotive on a narrow-gauge railway. This was not a reach for my Dad as he has been designing and working on trains his entire life. When it was my turn, somehow, I knew exactly what to do though I’d never done it before, how easily I adjusted to the cadence and tick of the hundred-year-old engine. I nestled in on the right side of the boiler and put my hand on the throttle, even now I am uncertain how to explain the convening of ancestors and genetic memory. I alone was driving a quarter million-pound locomotive down a track with a tender and six passenger filled cars behind me. For once in a great while I felt no pain, no loss, I felt only light.
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