Work by Amanda McCavour, a York alumna, on exhibit at Harbourfront

York alumna Amanda McCavour (BFA ‘07) is already making a name for herself in the world of visual arts with her unique thread renderings featured in Harbourfront Centre’s biennial exhibition Update, until March 2.

As one of 10 artists-in-residence at Harbourfront’s Craft Studio since June 2007, McCavour has continued to hone her textile skills to create her latest project, Untitled 2008, currently on display. Untitled 2008 consists of two life-sized figures, fashioned out of thread, pulling each other apart.

Right: Untitled 2008, by Amanda McCavour

McCavour’s work, which links the fragility of thread with the potential for human vulnerability to unravel, is crafted from thread she sews, knots and weaves onto water-soluble fabric. The fabric is then dissolved leaving behind just the stitching to create a three-dimensional work of art.

"I think of them as drawings, but I make them on a sewing machine," said McCavour. "I draw the image using thread and then dissolve the base so the drawings are made entirely of thread."

It was when she was taking a course with York visual arts Professor Michael Davey that McCavour says she really started to experiment with different forms of drawing. "In Michael Davey’s class we would explore drawing as something more than the traditional. It really changed the direction of my work. I started thinking of thread as a line."

Left: Amanda McCavour

Although sewing the renderings can be a long and tedious process, McCavour says it’s when she dissovles the base of water-soluble fabric that the process becomes more interesting. "Dissolving the base is really exciting for me. That’s the best part. Everything gets a lot looser and it becomes its final self. It softens in water too and becomes a lot more vulnerable."

Her work mimics the fibers found in the human body and in the natural world in general. Often there are threads hanging down from her art, looking like one pull would unravel the entire piece, and that’s exactly what McCavour wants people to think. She wants to illustrate the fragility and vulnerability of life.

"Thread is so fine and breakable it seems to me to be so temporary. I thought thread was a really fitting way to talk about the body, its vulnerability and how it’s this temporary case," McCavour said. "There’s a delicacy to the body and we have an intimate relationship with textiles. It’s right next to our skin. We know textiles through our body and through touch."

Untitled 2008 was what McCavour calls a really challenging piece to create because of its size. It was the first time she had worked on a life-sized piece. "It was really challenging in ways I didn’t expect."

McCavour, though, hopes to do more large pieces in the future. She has already participated in a number of solo and group exhibitions in Toronto, including the Gladstone Hotel’s Big Fibre Little Fibre art exhibit, where her delicately threaded Hands 1 and Hands 2 were shown. Some of her solo exhibitions include Threadbare at the Niagara Gallery in Toronto in 2007, Tangled in 2007 and Simplicity in 2006 both at York’s AKASA Gallery, and I Mean at the Eleanor Winters Art Gallery at York. McCavour was also curator  at the Eleanor Winters Art Gallery from September 2006 to May 2007.

Right: Hands 1, by Amanda McCavour

While at York in the Visual Arts Program, Faculty of Fine Arts, McCavour received the Creative Arts Student Association Initiative Grant in 2006 and the Creative Arts Student Association Cold Beverage Award in 2007. She was also featured in the student-run Mondo Magazine’s February 2006 issue as artist-of-the-month.

Harbourfront’s Update not only features textile works by McCavour and her fellow textile artists-in-residence, it also includes new and original works of glass, ceramic works and jewellery, highlighting the diversity and accessibility of contemporary craft.

Harbourfront Centre’s artist-in-residency program provides an environment for emerging artists to develop their skills and ideas, while benefiting from professional development opportunities, mentorship, exhibitions and other resources. It also challenges the artists to create works that push their artistic boundaries in new directions. McCavour says that is definitely true of her work.

The gallery at Harbourfront Centre, 235 Queens Quay W., Toronto, is open Tuesday and Thursday to Sunday, noon to 6pm, and Wednesday, noon to 8pm. The craft studio is open to the public Wednesday to Saturday, 10am to 8pm, and Sunday and Tuesday, 10am to 6pm. For more information about Harbourfront, call 416-973-4000 or click here. For more information about Update, click here.

By Sandra McLean, York communications officer.