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Dancing at the Edge of the World, 2023 (ongoing)

Title after book of the same name by Ursula K. Le Guin

Series in progress and ongoing

Egg tempera (egg, vinegar, water) on polished homemade gesso on board

12” x 12” each


Interactive element: Can be paired and configured in groupings as desired


This series was inspired by the writings of Ursula K Le Guin in her book of non-fiction essays called Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on words, women, places

Dancing is a collection of talks, essays, and reviews written between 1976 and 1988. Le Guin prefaces her book by saying that "writing is the only thing besides housework that I really know much about." She writes on topics that "might do some good ... lest silence collude with injustice" and warns that a number of the essays will bother people. As her goal is always to "subvert without hurting feelings", she generously coded the Table of Contents with four symbols indicating: feminism, social responsibility, literature/writing, and travel. 

Le Guin's ideas were influenced by her prominent anthropologist father Alfred Louis Kroeber. Along with Frank Boas, they developed cultural relativism in the late 19th century. It says we live in diverse cultural worlds shaped by language, which creates institutions, aesthetics, and notions of right and wrong. With cultural relativism, societal culture is reproduced through teaching and learning. It challenged social Darwinism of the time, which linked culture to evolution and ranked societies on an evolutionary scale. Le Guin's father said that the only reason someone would insist on innate differences between human populations would be to preserve racial discrimination and colonialism. It's no wonder Le Guin's writing plays with identities—race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, or class—in a way that makes us think about how cultural prejudice forms our views of other people.

The spirals in these paintings dance around with an eruptive feeling that echos the universes in Le Guin’s essays--a yearning for feminist utopia, a new universalism, devoid of inequality, domination and exploitation, and full of the feminine. At the moment, the pieces are ongoing explorations, growing in number each day, gaining momentum and speed.

Spirals are one of the earliest known shapes. They represent our never ending journey of knowledge, which harkens back to cultural relativism: with each idea we learn and grow. The spiral represents the cycle of life; birth, growth, death, and re-incarnation. And indeed, it is like Le Guin's book Dancing, whose essays also take us through life's stages.

Egg tempera was used in ancient times as a medium prior to plastics and today's manufactured mediums. It allows for transparent layers to build up lucid colours that emerge from the interior of the piece. In this series I prepare the rabbit skin glue to seal the wood surface. Next I make gesso from rabbit skin glue and calcium carbonate, and apply several coats while polishing each to a marble shine. Finally the paint itself is created by mixing egg yolk with vinegar, water and pigment.

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