Heather Passmore: Roman Charity

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roman charity | heather passmore Vernon Public Art Gallery January 9- March 4, 2020

Roman charity Roman Charity refers to the ancient story of a Roman woman who secretly breast-fed her father who was sentenced to die of starvation in prison. The paintings in my Roman Charity project utilize casein paint I have created from natural pigments*, raw cow’s milk and expired breast milk that would otherwise be thrown away. In preparation for my project I acquired one gallon of outdated breast milk with which to make my own paint. I see milk paint as a medium that is uniquely reflexive towards the history of women’s care labour in the domestic sphere. Utilizing this material was important to me as it esteems the biological value of the milk, and the time intensive labour by which it is expressed. I aim to create aesthetically significant works in which repeating, overlapping forms hovers between pattern and disorder. I strive to affirm the capacity of motherhood and domestic labour to generate multifaceted meaning, grit, insight, and knowledge. Casein protein in all milk is a non-toxic substance that carries lime-proof pigments and permanently binds to rigid, porous surfaces. It is extremely durable, and one of the tests to identify milk paint is its immunity to paint thinner. Before the invention of chemical paints, milk paint was homemade as needed from curds of skimmed milk. Casein paint can be made in the kitchen and is a safe medium to use while simultaneously engaged in childcare. Prior to the casein frescoes of ancient Egypt, a 2015 University of Colorado study has revealed that milk paint was used 49,000 years ago. As this was before the domestication of animals, it possible that cave paintings may have been executed in breast milk paint. Indeed, complementary studies indicate that three-quarters of handprints in ancient cave art were left by women. My Milk Portraits series integrates silkscreen and milk paint to depict mothers who have covered their faces instead of their breasts while breastfeeding. The series includes three large self (effaced) portraits on fabric depicting the last time I nursed my daughter. The images are based on photographs that circulated on social media in protest to admonishment that mothers should cover up while nursing in public. Nursing covers remain the only instance in which western women veil themselves. Discomfort with breastfeeding may arise from the fraught nature of human milk as a substance that is both nourishing and abject, or an inability to view breasts outside the scope of sexual gratification. However, by exaggerating the disruption of mother and child feeding relation I intend to reveal an under-examined motive for discomfort with breastfeeding – that it is a powerful display of human interdependence. Although caring for others sustains life and culture, it is frequently trivialized or associated with shame. Second wave feminism has been criticized for a lamentable tendency to glorify the career woman and dismiss the ‘stay-at-home mom’ as a traitor to the cause. “Few tasks are more like the torture of Sisyphus than housework, with its endless repetition,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir in “The Second Sex”. In promoting the career woman as a means of emancipation, feminism inadvertently perpetuated the denigration of motherhood through the figure of the demoralized housewife. Yet, even without the work of caring for others, the rigorous interminability of domestic labour requires admirable reserves of perpetual self-direction, humility, care and forethought. House work alone, is a continual performance of bringing order out of chaos. In “Free Women Free Men” Camille Paglia bemoans the moral hollowness that sees children as “an obstruction to self-realization or as a management problem to be farmed out to working class nannies…The reward of being with one’s children in their formative years, instead of farming out that fleeting and irreplaceable experience to 2

day care centres or nannies, has an inherent emotional and perhaps spiritual value that has been lamentably ignored by second-wave feminism”. Indeed, pregnancy and motherhood raise all the biggest questions we know how to ask. Where do we come from? Why does anything exist? What is the relationship between mind and body? What is the relationship between self and other? It is said that pregnancy and motherhood is the entire history of philosophy and religion condensed into one. Despite the deep psychological significance of motherhood, anti-mom bias in professional spheres such as the art world remains part of a wider culture of ambivalence, denigration and devaluing of care labour. I believe that the affirmation of dignity and respect to domestic labour is possible outside the rhetoric of ‘left’ and ‘right’ which essentializes motherhood and distorts its work into a figure of total personal fulfillment or miserable drudgery. Without understating the real structural constraints of parenthood, I wish to highlight the cultural relevance and importance of this role in the development of my practice. I search to integrate “motherwork” into careful, meditative works which bear witness to its multifaceted meaning, grit, insight, and knowledge. Heather Passmore *A Note on Natural Pigments The visual effect of colours is dependent upon the physical characteristics of each pigment particle such as size, shape and translucency which reflect and absorb light in different ways. Natural pigments are composed of irregularly shaped particles of diverse size which maximize chromatic intensity and interest. Artificial pigments do not vary in size and their colour appears monotone and uniform as a result. Natural pigments also allow more light to pass through the paint film and reflect off the white grounds beneath.

artist statement My practice generally incorporates quotidian and discarded materials with painting, drawing and photography. I work intuitively, across a variety of media as needed. Many of my projects incorporate socio-historically laden materials which bear accumulations of labour and/or histories of taste. Over the past 15 years these have included such materials as outdated human breast milk, linoleum from demolished real estate, hand-notated sheet music, Enlightenment-era pornography, abandoned mattresses, left-wing t-shirts, yarn, rope, and art world form letters. Many of my projects reconfigure found objects with evidential historical value in a way which revises expected narratives. I am a founding member of Art Mamas, a Vancouver art collective composed of nine artist mothers with strong, diverse interdisciplinary practices. Our collective formed in 2015 in response to a practical need to counter the denigration of motherhood within professional spheres such as the art world. Without understating the real structural constraints of parenthood on our individual practices, the collective aims to highlight the cultural relevance and artistic contributions of mothers and take a positive view of the multifaceted meaning, grit, commitment, insight, and knowledge that this position generates in our work. 3

Milk Portrait #3, 2017, screen print and casein on panel, 14 x 21 in


Milk Portrait #1, 2017, screen print and casein on panel, 16 x 18 in


Roman Charity (triptych), 2018, casein on panel, 40 x 55 in


Breast Milk Painting (detail of 6 panel polyptych), 2018, casein on panel, 37 x 56 in


Heather Passmore, BFA, MFA (University of British Columbia) Solo Exhibitions 2020 Motherwork (upcoming), Powell River Public Art Gallery, BC 2020 Roman Charity (upcoming), Vernon Public Art Gallery, BC 2018 Roman Charity, White Water Gallery, North Bay, Ontario 2017 Enlightenment, Harcourt House, Edmonton 2014 Enlightenment, Malaspina Printmakers, Vancouver 2012 Gatekeepers, AKA Gallery, Saskatoon 2011 Form Letters, Populus Tremula, Akureyri, Iceland 2011 Form Letters, The New Gallery, Calgary 2009 Heather Passmore, Babel Art Space, Trondheim, Norway 2008 Mis-Takes, Struts Gallery, Sackville, New Brunswick 2007 Linoleums, Campbell River Art Gallery, Campbell River, BC 2006 Bikini Project, Gallery 101, Ottawa 2006 Bikini Project, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC 2003 In the Kitschy, Maple Ridge Art Gallery, Maple Ridge, BC 2001 In the Kitschy, The Odd Gallery, Dawson City, Yukon TWO PERSON EXHIBITIONS 2012 Reflexive Animals (with Carrie Walker) Simon Fraser University Gallery, Burnaby, BC 2010 Stories from a Flickering Plain, (with Janet Wang) Comox Valley Art Gallery, BC 2009 Bearing the Broken Utopian Promise, (with Roja Aslani) A Space Gallery, Toronto 2007 Remakes and Readymades, (with Sarah Massecar) The Khyber, Halifax 2005 Banlieusard, (with Jamie Hilder) Artspeak, Vancouver GROUP EXHIBITIONS 2020 PLOT: Art Mamas (upcoming), Access Gallery, Vancouver 2019 Uncover, Comox Valley Art Gallery, Courtenay, BC 2019 Global Print 4, Douro, Portugal 2018 9th International Printmaking Biennial of Douro, Portugal 2017 Quality Time, (with Art Mamas) Arbutus Gallery, Kwantlen Polytechnic U., Surrey, BC 2017 SHEILA: Women, Art and Production, (with Art Mamas), Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver 2014 Art Toronto; Toronto International Art Fair, Wil Aballe Art Projects, Toronto 2014 On Stage: Recent Acquisitions, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver 2012-13 Things’ Matter, Or Gallery, Vancouver


2012 Lademoen Art Nomads, Babel Art Space, Trondheim, Norway 2012 Never-Dying Worm, AHVA Library Gallery, UBC, Vancouver 2011 BY ITS COVER, Artcite, Windsor, Ontario 2011 Contemporary Histories: Intersecting Pasts and Futures, AHVA Library Gallery, UBC 2011 Monomania, Trench Contemporary Art, Vancouver 2010-13 FAX, touring exhibition curated by João Ribas, co-organized by The Drawing Center (New York, NY) and Independent Curators International (ICI) 2010 Socioplastics: Mad is Mad, Lapieza Junk Art, Madrid, Spain 2010 Carry On…, 24 hr exhibition curated by Matthew Higgs, The Banff Centre, Banff 2009 Take Your Time, Simon Fraser University Gallery, Burnaby, BC 2009 Flux, Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George, BC 2009 The Cast of Shadows, Access Gallery, Vancouver 2008 Slideluck coCAshow, coCA Centre on Contemporary Art, Seattle, USA 2008 Gifted, Deluge Contemporary Art, Victoria, BC 2008 Donkey Skin, Modern Fuel, Kingston, Ontario 2005 Classified Materials: Accumulations, Archives, Artists, Vancouver Art Gallery 2004 Lucky 13, Belkin Satellite, Vancouver 2004 Tickle Your Catastrophe, Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, Vancouver PUBLIC COLLECTIONS 2018 Milk Portrait#3, Douro Museum Printmaking Biennial Collection, Douro, Portugal 2015 Linoleum Painting, Vancouver Art Gallery 2013 Mattress Painting#3, Vancouver Art Gallery 2013 Mattress Painting#2, Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, BC 2011 Mattress Painting#1, Vancouver Art Gallery 2011 Sergeant Pepper, Amnesty International Vancouver, Vancouver 2008 Sergeant Pepper, SFU Gallery, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC 2007 Fjordhorses, Orivesi College of Arts (Oriveden Opisto), Orivesi, Finland 2005 Student Bodies and the APEC Affair, UBC Alma Mater Society Art Gallery, Vancouver AWARDS 2019 Project Assistance for Visual Artists Grants, BC Arts Council 2018 Explore and Create Grant, Concept to Realization, Canada Council for the Arts 2016 Project Assistance for Visual Artists Grants, BC Arts Council 2012 Project Assistance for Visual Artists Grants, BC Arts Council 2009 Assistance to Visual Artists: Project Grant, Canada Council for the Arts 2009 Project Assistance for Visual Artists Grants, BC Arts Council


2008 Professional Development: Travel Assistance Visual Arts Grant, BC Arts Council 2007 Project Assistance for Visual Artists Grants, BC Arts Council 2006 Visual Arts Development Award, Contemporary Art Gallery of Vancouver 2004 University Graduate Fellowship, UBC 2003 University Graduate Fellowship, UBC 2003 MFA Prize (Andrew MacIntosh Memorial Book Prize in Fine Arts) UBC 2000 Helen Pitt Award for Fine Arts, UBC 2000 Florence Muriel Smeltzer Scholarship for Demonstrated Ability in Painting, UBC PUBLIC ART --- (upcoming) Revolting Daughters, Port Moody, BC, (permanent display) 2019-2020 Portal, Oak Bay Outdoor Public Sculpture Program ArtsAlive, Victoria, BC 2017-2018 Portal, City of Nanaimo Outdoor Public Art, Nanaimo, BC 2012 Salmon are Sacred, Lademoen Art Nomads, Lademoen Park, Trondheim Norway 2012 Form Letters, AKA Gallery Billboard, Saskatoon 2011 Knitting Mural, VeggVerk, City of Akureyri, Ring Road, Iceland 2010 Sergeant Pepper, Amnesty International Vancouver, (permanent display) 2008 Sergeant Pepper, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, (permanent display) 2008 Disappearing Drawings, Burnaby Art Gallery Art in Libraries Program, Burnaby Library RESIDENCIES 2017-2018 Collaboration Residency, Malaspina Printmakers, Vancouver 2014 Collaboration Residency, Malaspina Printmakers, Vancouver 2011 Gestavinnustofa Gilfélagsins á Akureyri, Iceland (jury selected) 2009 LKV Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder, Trondheim, Norway (jury selected) 2007 Oriveden Opisto (Orivesi College of Art) Orivesi, Finland (jury selected) PUBLICATIONS Buller, Rachel Epp. The Social Discomfort of Mother’s Milk. North Bay, Ont.: White Water Gallery, 2018. Roy, Marina. Enlightenment : Heather Passmore. Vancouver, BC: Malaspina Printmakers Society, 2014. Manhal, Klara. Things’ Matter : Kika Thorne, Heather Passmore, Michael Drebert, Jen Weih. Vancouver, BC: Or Gallery, 2012. Abelsen, Margrete. Lademoen = Art Nomads. Trondheim, Norway: Lademoen Kunstnerverksteder; Trondheim, Norway: Babel, 2012. Andreyev, Julie and Culley, Peter and Jeffries, Bill. Heather Passmore and Carrie Walker: Reflexive Animals. Burnaby, BC: Simon Fraser Gallery, 2012.


Todd, Jeremy. Form Letters. Calgary, Alberta: The New Gallery, 2011. The Western Front: Front Magazine, Artwork. Volume XXII, Number 1, March-April 2011, 6. Le, Anh. Stories from a flickering plain : Heather Passmore, Janet Wang. Courtenay, BC: Comox Valley Art Gallery, 2010. Nichol, Todd. Vancouver Review, Cover, Centrefold and Article. Fall 2010, 20-21, 31. Jeffries, Bill and Sorenso, Vanessa. Take Your Time. Burnaby BC: Simon Fraser University Gallery, 2010. Siddiqui, Khadija. Bearing the Broken Utopia Promise. Toronto, Ont.: A. Space Gallery, 2009. Birch, Jessie and Zanjonc, Arthur and Taussig, Michael. The Cast of Shadows. Vancouver, BC: Access Gallery, 2009. Passmore, Heather and Au, Elizabeth. Heather Passmore : Linoleums // Eliza Au : Wreath, Wreathe. Campbell River BC: Campbell River Public Art Gallery, 2007. Anglin, Emmy. Donkey Skin – Haq, Passmore, Rousseau, Turnbull, Catalogue. Modern Fuel Gallery, 2008. Helm, Carie. Madeline Wood, Vanessa Kwan, Kristina Jaugelis, Jenny Ham : Something About Love // Heather Passmore : Bikini Project. Richmond BC: Richmond Art Gallery, 2006. Landry, Marie-Claude and Lacayo, Jessie. Yvonne Venegas : The Most Beautiful Brides of Baja California // Heather Passmore : The Bikini Project. Ottawa, Ont.: Galerie 101 Gallery, 2006. O’Brian, Melanie and Selcer, Anne Lesley. Banlieusard. Vancouver, BC: Artspeak Gallery, 2005. Selcer, Anne Lesley. Jamie Hilder, Heather Passmore, Anne Lesley Selcer : Banlieusard. Vancouver, BC: Artspeak Gallery, 2005. Khnsary, Jeff and Steinmann, Kate and O’Brian, Melanie. Tickle Your Catastrophe. Vancouver, BC: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery University of British Columbia, 2004. Passmore, Heather. Post Script 11 : Emergency Measures. Vancouver, BC: Artspeak Gallery, 2003. Todd, Jeremy and Passmore, Heather. Let’s Get Lost. Vancouver BC: Helen Pitt Gallery, 2003


This publication was produced in conjunction with the exhibition: Heather Passmore: Roman Charity Vernon Public Art Gallery, January 9 - March 4, 2020 Production: Vernon Public Art Gallery Cover Image: Last Nurse #1 (detail), 2018, screen print on linen, 60 x 60 in Printing: Get Smarter Copies, Vernon BC, Canada ISBN 978-1-927407-53-0 copyright Š 2020, Vernon Public Art Gallery All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system, except as may be expressly permitted by the 1976 Copyright Act or in writing from the Vernon Public Art Gallery. Requests for permission to use these images should be addressed in writing to the Vernon Public Art Gallery, 3228 31st Avenue, Vernon BC, V1T 2H3, Canada. Telephone: 250.545.3173 - fax: 250.545.9096 - website: www.vernonpublicartgallery.com The Vernon Public Art Gallery is a registered not-for-profit society. We gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Greater Vernon Advisory Committee/RDNO, the Province of BC’s Gaming Policy and Enforcement Branch, British Columbia Arts Council, the Government of Canada, corporate donors, sponsors, general donations and memberships. Charitable Organization # 108113358RR

Vernon Public Art Gallery 3228 - 31st Avenue, Vernon BC, V1T 2H3 250.545.3173 vernonpublicartgallery.com

The artist wishes to acknowledge the support from the Canada Council for the Arts.

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