Heather Leier’s solo exhibition Coping and Care brings together several print-based works that collectively employ coping and intervention strategies to mitigate gendered and environmental violence. Notably, the coping mechanism of “looking down” is prominent within Leier’s artistic production: otherwise unnoticed discarded materials such as a broken flowerpot are incorporated into her artworks, which are themselves displayed on the gallery floor as an embodied positionality of coping.
My current work is centred on the coping mechanisms that I employ as I negotiate space as someone who has experienced a number of public and private violent traumatic experiences.
As a method for creative production and knowledge-making, I embody the coping mechanism of looking down. As I negotiate space, often looking down, I collect images, make notes, and collect objects that garner my attention. These objects, notes, and images are then used to produce many of my print and installation works. Compelled by the perception of young womanhood as joyous, carefree and vital, this work often incorporates stereotypically feminine jubilant embellishments such as confetti, sprinkles and sequins. This celebratory imagery also references the coping mechanism of outwardly projecting joy and often works to veil or “candy coat” the adverse, painful and vulnerable reality of enduring trauma.
Through this work I pose dichotomies of protection and vulnerability, openness and closure as well as internal struggle and outward projections of joy in order to create a complex viewing experience akin to my own of negotiating the uncertain world around me. I wish to ask what goes unnoticed and unattended to when we are merely coping and I present the opportunity for viewers to consider their own coping mechanisms, methods of endurance, and responsibility to aid in one another’s safety.
Further, through this exhibition I endeavour to present a reflection on the intertwined nature of personal trauma and environmental crisis. I draw attention to waste as both an embodiment of my trauma—as only noticed because of looking down—and as unattended to refuse. I also present how joy and care can be coping strategies which when personally exercised, can allow for survival through our individual trauma, and when applied to the environment, can be frameworks to, at best, aid in the crisis we are in, and at worst, cope with being in the end-times.
Heather Leier is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of Calgary in Treaty 7 region in southern Alberta, Canada. Through her art practice, she employs research-creation approaches to examine embodied trauma and problematize shared assumptions of socially constructed life-phases and identities. This work ranges from the production of printed ephemera to life-size site-specific print installations all of which draw attention to negotiations of space and endurance with violence. Leier has exhibited her work widely both nationally and internationally including exhibitions in Spain, China, USA, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Russia, Japan, Poland, Egypt, Mexico, and Taiwan. Leier has curated a number of contemporary art projects and was the 2020 recipient of the University of Calgary Sustainability Teaching Award. When she isn’t teaching or working on various print projects, she is likely tending to her growing plant collection or helping to facilitate gallery programming at Alberta Printmakers Society.
Union Gallery thanks the Provost's Advisory Committee on the Promotion of the Arts at Queen's University for supporting Coping and Care and affiliated programming through the George Taylor Richardson Memorial Fund.
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