Howe sees connections in Salvaged Remnants
By Sue Tiffin
Tiffany Howe won’t be at her exhibition, Salvaged Remnants, at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery for the duration of the show, but with didactics on the wall showcasing her work the multidisciplinary artist told the crowd gathered at her opening reception that the unique way in which her art is displayed makes her feel “like I’m here in the gallery all month having a conversation with you.”
Howe said the collection of work is about seeing the potential that things have, about the sentiment behind found objects and random materials, and about how artists communicate with viewers looking into the “art world.”
Howe’s interest in following the behind-the-scenes stories of “creatives” that share their artistic process online as well as her appreciation for a gallery visitor’s potential intimidation by work left open to interpretation led to the didactics on the wall of her show, helping viewers understand both the evolution of her work and the process behind it.
“The exhibition is a slice in time of Howe’s day,” said curator Laurie Carmount. “Her public posts about her work leave as much of an impression as a paintbrush. Self-made videos of her creating her work connect with the viewer, and Howe offers approachable insight into her whimsical world, and encourages participation and involvement. Comments are added to the work like applique and become intrinsic.”
At the opening, a diverse crowd was taking in the exhibition, in which Howe explores, in part, how people are attached to inanimate objects while also being wasteful, and how we might transform or upcycle items to avoid adding more to landfills in a time of resource scarcity.
“I’ve always been hyper aware of the wastefulness of our society,” said Howe in her artist’s statement. “For as long as I can remember it’s deeply distressed me that we have industries that produce fast fashion, single-use products and planned obsolescence and the chemicals necessary to put out the massive amounts of these products and the environmental impact they have. It became an obsession to reuse any items in my life that were not recyclable.”
She notes that that idea has grown “to become more about reusing objects that invoke emotion in people, the idea of nostalgia.”
“So lately the pieces I’m exploring are about the emotions people attach to inanimate objects,” she said. “We go to great lengths to keep insentient belongings with us – to travel with them, preserve them, make memories with them. They have no feelings and the purpose they serve is ephemeral, yet we cling to them, squirrel them away and love them. This behaviour has driven me to attempt to reconcile the gap between wastefulness and the impulse to hold onto nostalgia by keeping recognizable elements of the original materials in my pieces.”
Howe said she has determined there are three reasons why someone might hold on to something: for the sake of the environment, preventing more garbage; resourcefulness because of the cost of new things; and emotional attachment.
“It fascinates me,” she told the engaged crowd. “Part of why I make what I do is because I relate to all three of these. In my materials explorations I’ve been investigating these ideas. It’s very personal but I also know I’m not the only one who has felt the need to keep stuff. Otherwise there wouldn’t be shows like Hoarders and [Tidying Up With] Marie Kondo.”
After the exhibition opened to the public, Howe posted to Instagram when she’d had a couple of days to “let it all sink in.”
“I’m so grateful to experience the privilege of sharing my work in this capacity,” she wrote. “This exhibition communicates to the public the inner workings of my process, my journey, the motivations and thoughts behind the art.”
Howe noted that the displayed didactics mimicking her social media feed invited the public in.
“Watching people read every one of them and interact with the work itself made my heart flutter,” she wrote. “Having people tell me how this was the first time they really felt like they understood the art in a public gallery or were uplifted by my artist talk... I have no words for that feeling... So it’s here now and the ideas of how to continue and grow this are racing through my brain a mile a minute.” She advised her followers to “stay tuned.”
Salvaged Remnants can be experienced at the Agnes Jamieson Gallery until Feb. 29. For more information visit www.mindenhills.ca/agnes-