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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

Sharing a dot of love with Pamela Witcher

  • Article
  • PHI Foundation
By  Amanda Beattie
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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

On Saturday, November 26th, as part of an Open House event at the PHI Foundation, forty lucky people got to attend Deaf artist Pamela Witcher’s art workshop Share your dot of love. There were two sessions: a morning one in American Sign Language (ASL) with English interpretation, and an afternoon one in Langue des signes québécoise (LSQ) with French interpretation. Witcher began the sessions by sharing some background information on her art practice and interest in Yayoi Kusama’s message of spreading love and peace through art. Witcher was inspired by Kusama’s recurrent motif, the polka dot, as a form of connection, and specific hand gestures performed by the artist in photographs where she poses in front of her work. As Witcher communicates with her hands, these gestures stood out to her as being particularly noticeable and meaningful.

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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

The art workshop Share your dot of love was composed of four stations. One station involved tracing hands on a sheet of paper and filling them in using a pointillist style. Another station asked participants to manipulate pin art objects and experiment with the small dots of the metallic needles. A third station invited the participants to contribute their own designs to an image of Kusama posing in front of her artwork with various hand gestures. Finally, the fourth station was built around a digital work that Witcher created of Kusama from a photograph of her with her hands behind her head. The work is a colourful and active amalgamation of motifs inspired by the image of Kusama herself, and of course, the polka dot. Participants were invited to draw on the image, leaving their own trace. After each of the Open House groups, as well as after all other participating groups, the collective and interactive image was archived, and the participants’ marks erased. At the end of the exhibition’s run, all of the photographs of the image will be combined into a digital montage.

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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

Share your dot of love is set up in bleu de lieu, an immersive installation and art workshop created by the artist collective doux soft club, composed of Chloë Baril-Chassé, Pénélope Bourgeois, Marion Paquette, and Mariane Stratis. In their work, the artists explore themes like architecture, sculpture, body, and performance. In bleu de lieu, a light blue takes over the entire space, with soft blue sculptures that participants are invited to interact with by wearing them, building with them, napping on them, or sliding down them. Witcher was invited to create her workshop in conjunction with the bleu de lieu installation, and the two coexisted beautifully.

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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

Visitors used the soft sculptures to make themselves comfortable as they explored the various workshop stations, or tried the wearable sculptures in between stations. A video that doux soft club made with the four artists manipulating the sculptures was projected on the wall where Witcher’s interactive artwork was installed. As participants were contributing to this collective work, images of doux soft club in various poses and exploring various movements were intertwined with them—a perfect way of marrying doux soft club and Witcher’s responses to Kusama’s work.

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Photo: Marie-Hélène Lemaire

The Open Houses were both at full capacity, with waiting lists. They offered a wonderful opportunity for both hearing and D/deaf people to come together around art. Witcher’s workshop allowed people to create alongside one another in inspiring and supportive ways. Participants were open to exploration and focused on joint creativity. Kusama’s messages of love and peace that Witcher wanted to share with everyone through her workshop were felt and embodied during the time we all shared together.

Author: Amanda Beattie

​​Amanda Beattie is an Educator and Project Manager at the PHI Foundation for Contemporary Art, as well as an Art History teacher at Dawson College. Amanda has a Master’s degree in Art History from Concordia University on the topic of the intersections between Art and Nature seen in selected artists’ work from the 1970s to the early 2000s. She has a background in museum education from numerous institutions including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection (Venice, Italy), the Biennale di Venezia, The Museum of Modern Art (New York, USA), and The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. With an approach rooted in respect and discussion-based learning, Amanda is interested in making art accessible to all publics and to empower people in their understanding and appreciation of art. Amanda also works as a consultant, developing pedagogical tools for arts organizations, and as a freelance writer for art magazines and exhibition catalogues.

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