This week at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Stephanie Rybczyn hung her show in Gallery Space 2B. Her work titled Cheated: Mourning and Movement in Cloth displayed her final work for her graduating year at NSCAD University.
Rybczyn’s work is textile-based and woven. The fibres move within each other, and create depth and space, while leaving areas open to exposure. Her work is hung from the ceiling and draped around the space in a circular motion. With fibres hanging down, and beginning the disintegration process, one feels the aura of decay hang in the air.
Guests were welcomed to walk around, through and into the work to get the full experience. Touching was encouraged. To be embodied into the work, and to understand the emotional premise of the work, the artist felt that this was a necessary way for the audience to engage with the work.
Rybczyn based this work on the recent passing of her father. She found herself feeling confused, and cheated — in the sense that someone so close to her was taken too soon, leaving her in this awkward state.
With such an emotional project, Rybczyn worked through it and found ways of coping with her father’s death. Channeling her emotions into the cloth, each piece became a separate feeling and stage of mourning. As she wove each piece, she was constantly reminded of the hurt and ache that comes with such devastation.
The main emotions translated into the work were vulnerability, protection, grief and healing. Rybczyn would imagine those feelings and begin to weave them, figuring out if they were soft, hard, dense, heavy, light or transparent.
“The work was always about transition through loss and moving forward, despite the weight of the past,” Rybczyn said.
With any loss, it would be hard to return to those feelings, and Rybczyn continued to pursue her project, even though admitting her frustration would sometimes get the better of her.
“It made a lot of sense that the work wouldn’t last forever, and I’m really drawn to the idea of impermanence and ephemerality,” she said. “Just as with the grieving process they represent, these cloths will change and deteriorate over time, becoming more worn in and less bold in their presence.”
With something as powerful as cloth, to let it deteriorate, in itself is a performance and beautiful.
“They’ll never be the way they were when they were fresh,” Rybczyn said, “and I could never force them back that way without sacrificing the natural beauty and necessity of the process.”
Rybczyn’s work was on display last week. She gave an artist talk on Thursday of that week, explaining her process and thoughts behind each piece.
Rybczyn said that she feels that closure is on the horizon with the completion of this body of work. She added that she believes that through this experience, she has gained a better understanding of the mourning process.
Rybczyn will continue with her textiles at NSCAD University, and hopes to start focusing on the fashion side to textiles, and the making of functional works for the body. She is excited to announce that she will be leaving Nova Scotia, and heading to Thailand with an NGO called Warm Heart, to develop a sustainable fashion micro-enterprise.