Mentor: Dani Restack and Sheilah Restack
Mentee: Emma Delaney
Please find below a Q&A about the work and mentorship experience!
SR: Where did you feel your greatest difficulty was in making these works, and how did you deal with it?
ED: My greatest difficulty creating these works was becoming comfortable with being lonely. I started making these videos at the beginning of the pandemic. It was and still is a tough time for many. My mind was very clouded; I was coming out of my BFA, my graduation and grad show both cancelled, all this work felt like it had stopped dead in its tracks. I mourned the old way of living for the first two months of lockdown. In between eating potato chips, drinking too much beer and watching reruns of every sitcom under the sun, I would venture outside to take some videos. That was my first hurtling-getting off my ass.
From then on, everytime I left the house, my camera came along, my camera bag became my new purse. I left confident in the action of going to make these videos, but the second I realized I was doing it alone the momentum subsided. Eventually, a routine was made receiving footage weekly and for some of it daily.
Much of my practice involves the nude form, and more specifically my own nude body. I do not find it challenging to document myself within the confines of a home or private place. But the challenge was established when attempting to document myself in open spaces and in this video; at the beach. I would use natural barriers like foliage or fog to create a mental space in which I felt safe and comfortable to be nude. I was also very mindful of finding places that did not have much traffic, placing myself far away from any person. I was fortunate to have a rural backdrop to play with.
SR: Who are you making the work for?
ED: My work is a workshop, it is an aid for my own understanding of person, body and place.
My work doesn’t exist solely for a white wall gallery or a fine art institution, my work is rural, it is odd. It is possible through this thinking, I make the work for myself. In an attempt to understand my own position within a rural community, as a queer, woman, puppeteer, maker and person.
I am not a private person, and neither is my work, some may say this is over sharing but to me it is figuring it all out.
DR: Based on the videos you made I believe you are committed to being an artist. Being an artist is one of the most difficult fields to choose from. Why would you decide to be an artist?
ED: Although I am young, I still understand the commitment I have made to my relationship as an artist. This is for my own good. I was fortunate enough to realize at a young age that I am not an academic, and moving through this academic world would be non-traditional. Making something is fulfilling, no matter what it may be, and those fulfillments are necessary for my contentment. I don’t see this as selfish, but as survival.
DR + SR: Please share about your complex relationship with the puppets you make? Describe how you make them and their multifaceted personalities that you animate.
ED: My relationship with puppets began when I was a young child, through television programs, but more specifically with the puppet club I was a part of in elementary school. Roughly around age 12 I lost interest in the concept of puppets, and it was only a few years ago that I revisited the idea within my practice.
My relationship with the current puppets I make and use varies in its complexity. I would like to think I know the meaning of this relationship inside and out, but I do not. I began by making a set of marionette styled puppets back in 2018. I was desperately lonely at this point in my life. Although I am still very young I felt as if my life had catapulted into the thick of adulthood. So maybe puppets helped me feel young, or maybe they filled a space I very much needed. Nonetheless this reintroduction was crucial to the development of my practice.
These puppets are still some of my favorites. They are named Ruth & Baby Ruth, and they are two characters I have been building upon for quite some time now. They began as drawings, then drag performances and then puppets. This body of work was titled THE LONELY DISCO.
I was very interested in the clubbing scene, in particular sexual assault and drug culture. The effects of this culture can make discos and clubs unsafe for women, LGBTQIA+, femmes, BIPOC. The Lonely Disco was a space where my puppets and I could exist untouched and less in fear. While trying to feel the same enjoyments of a disco dance hall/club. I made more puppets within this body of work, including two large size “puppets” that acted almost as dummies. I displayed them both in a traditional marionette style position, and then again as two figures piled on top of each other, which I found more effective.
Featured in these videos is one of my newer puppets, her name is LemonDrop. She is mostly just a head, created from foam, needle felted with wool and human hair, that I have collected for a while. Her character is large, and seems to ground me as an artist and person. Her role in my practice is similar to my other puppets, but Lemondrop has been through many experiences. Maybe she is wise or maybe just tired. Nonetheless she doesn’t take my shit. No, LemonDrop is a companion, she will walk with me, and listen to my queries. But as an artist I never have to acknowledge that I am just talking to myself.
ED: As collaborators, what are some of the biggest struggles in making?
DR: Like you Emma, I know the experience of deep loneliness. One reason to collaborate is to find understanding with another artist, because, like you, making art is where I can be and become my truest self. Working with Sheilah obliterates my loneliness. I learn of her truest self, then we come together which is sometimes like a tender touch, other times like a crash and burn. However, when we push through the difficulties, something is transformed into an unexpected/expansive beauty – which is why we continue to push through.
SR: I totally agree with what Dani has said — and for me collaborating is like having to face myself in the most profound way. Instead of the art practice being a place to run away and be private, I must allow the vulnerability of making with another. I love that the work is a place to process and propose fantasy as a solution to some of our real world problems.
ED: What other mediums have you worked with in your practice, other than Video and Photo?
DR: We have built immersive installations, live performance that includes fabricating shapes and words out of neon. We write together, construct sound experiments and we are working toward silk screen book making.
Emma Delaney is a queer female artist from rural New Brunswick, whose work fits within a conceptual art framework. She has recently completed her Bachelors of Fine Arts from Mount Allison University, and works throughout the Bay of Fundy region. She has a multidisciplinary practice focusing on performance, installation and daily drawings. Her practice incorporates personal investigations surrounding physical and mental health, past traumas, queerness and gender identity. Her daily drawings translate her inner thoughts into developed characters which then inform her larger installations, murals and performance. Recently, she has been focusing on documenting her intimate thoughts, through videos, physical movements and audio. Through her work, she is interested in talking about the issues that can arise from poorly taught sexual education, the enforced gender binary, and a lack of representation of LGBTQIA+ people in rural places.
I am a rural person, I am a woman, I am queer.
I document myself in these landscapes as an attempt to create a place to understand myself and my identity with more clarity.
It may never be uncovered, this place but I hope my efforts show.
It is through puppeteering that I build community, these puppets are companions and lovers of sorts.
They hold space, they hold me.
ED: The Timeshare Mentorship program has been a great experience to mend the gap between completing my Bachelors of Fine Arts to working as a visual artist. It has made me accountable for my practice, and created an urgency to make work that delivers a message. I have learned to be open and experimental with my practice as a whole, leaving these videos up to interpretation.
This project has spanned over the past 6 months during a global pandemic and a major isolation period. These events influenced my final body of work greatly, and has changed my thoughts about making work in a rural community.
Artist Run Centers are communities within themselves, and the people that form them are so crucial to the development of arts enrichment, especially in Atlantic Canada. I urge people to visit these spaces, (whilst following COVID-19 mandates) become a member, volunteer and overall participate however you can.
I would like to thank Struts Gallery and Faucet Media Center for supporting this project, and to Dani and Sheilah Restack for mentoring me as a person and as an artist, this has been a wonderful experience and one day I will come to Ohio.