Essays, exhibition texts and other writing from 2005 to present. All text authored by Mackenzie Kelly-Frère, © 2017 all rights reserved.


Touching AbsenceExhibition essay for Laura Vickerson‘s The Between at the Nickle Galleries, University of Calgary, January 29 to April 2, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta


“… it is hard for us to live with the dead, not knowing what to do with their clothes, in which they still hang, inhabiting their closets and dressers; not knowing how to cloth them ….”[1] Peter Stallybrass

The Between conjures an uncanny space within which absence is palpable. A canopy composed of hundreds of pieces of empty clothing is lit from within, looming above walls covered with hand woven carpets. Conversations, children playing and noises from the street are audible. Fading in and out of earshot, disembodied voices are reified with a nebulous corporeality in a space lined with somatic cloth(ing). Skirt, carpet, blouse, t-shirt – each is different in typology yet all speak to and of the body. At once intimate and overwhelming, Laura Vickerson’s The Between invites the contemplation of loss both personal and communal.

Vickerson’s body of work is woven from strands familiar and strange. Fascinated with “the stuff of life” [2] the artist has always worked with the materials she finds at hand. Ticket stubs, flowers from the garden, clothing, wax and thread are transformed through accumulation and careful reconfiguration. With patience, Vickerson will pin, stitch or string many smaller elements together to create a form or alter a space. This methodology is labour intensive, involving odd practicalities like collecting bags of flower petals or painstakingly stitching paper detritus to cloth in a pattern drawn from a Ming dynasty robe. The artist’s work requires equal measures of complex planning and intuitive material sensitivity. Vickerson’s artworks evoke an immediate intimacy, partially because of the familiar, everyday quality of her materials. Following recognition and the corollary comfort it elicits is often the sense of something new, less familiar or even unsettling. (PDF)

[1] “Worn Worlds: Clothes, Mourning and the Life of Things,” in The Textile Reader, Editor Jessica Hemmings (London/NewYork: Berg, 2012) 76.

[2] Artist statement,




“My studio practice is rooted in a contemplative approach to cloth construction using natural materials and plant-sourced colour. I favour compositional strategies where both the duration of and intervals between pattern elements are based on random numerical sequences, measurements taken from my body, and antique winding tools made irregular with time and wear. In combination, these methods produce complexity and variations that echo patterns found in nature and the irregular symmetries of the body.  As I engage with layers of complexity driven by factors over which I have little control, intervals emerge in which apparently random sequences coalesce into visible repetitions or patterns.

There is a gestural logic to the rhythmic and cumulative processes of textile construction in which the ancient human impulse for pattern, order and cohesion is embedded as much into our idea of cloth, as it may be in the cloth itself. The intimacy of cloth made by hand, and our centuries-old familiarity with it make cloth not only related to the body, but itself (an)other body. In my recent work I am compelled by the way in which cloth may intimate both human presence and absence (often simultaneously) and have begun to explore the notion of embodiment as it relates to the praxis of making cloth by hand. As a material aggregation of dedicated gestures, breath and thought enacted through an interval of time – cloth tacitly communicates the immaterial and enmeshes the intangible.” 



© 2014 Bill Morton, used with permission

TinctoriumExhibition essay for Bill Morton’s Tinctorium commissioned by Stride Gallery, Calgary, Alberta


“Bill Morton has dedicated his career to investigating aspects of the natural world, perception, and the emotive power of colour and pattern on cloth. Morton’s exhibition TINCTORIUM ii at Stride Gallery provides a rare opportunity to contemplate the artist’s recent dyed works alongside a selection of his meticulously hand-cut stencils. These artifacts of process span four decades of Morton’s career, and are compelling not only for their beauty, but also because they provide a key access point to the artist’s studio practice. In these stencils it is possible to apprehend Morton’s hand in motion as he draws and then cuts sinuous curves and delicate motifs that are later embedded in silk. Although he works within the traditions of silk dyeing, Morton’s approach retains a technical and aesthetic pragmatism that allows him to incorporate new influences and approaches. In the studio Bill Morton engages in an intuitive process in which technique, material, and colour are points of departure toward works that possess the quiescent stillness and beauty of the landscapes that have inspired them.” (PDF)



(im)material beauty, MFA Thesis statement for the exhibition (im)material beauty at the Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax Nova Scotia, March 1 to 12, 2005


An object is not an object, it is the witness to a relationship.
A thread is not a thread, but a thousand tiny fibres entwined.
– Cecilia Vicuna

“A gift of handmade cloth resonates with the accumulation of breath, care and time. These are the ineffable materials of compassion. In cloth, care becomes tangible. Cloth wraps and enfolds us, warming and protecting our bodies. The ancient legacy of this utility and its substantial social history make cloth the most familiar and intimately personal material construction in human history. The development of textile technologies closely parallels our own; with each innovation in structure, equipment or material reflected economically in the rise of industrial production, and culturally in terms of methods of social organization and the fluctuating styles of personal adornment. Handweaving is essentially a material practice born of human necessity and aesthetics that, in its mindful application, offers a compelling conceptual model for sensorial consciousness. In a meditation on the immateriality of thought, Hannah Arendt wonders whether thought and “other invisible and soundless mental activities”, are fit to appear at all, “…or whether in fact they can never find an adequate home in the world.”1 Handweaving may provide a non-linguistic, bodily expression to these “invisible and soundless mental activities,” as the accumulation of hundreds or even thousands of nearly identical movements of hands and feet in weaving constitutes a gestural thought process, enacted through an interval of time, imprinting the appearing object (cloth) with the temporal. Thus, cloth woven by hand becomes a tactile analog of the invisible phenomena of thought and perception.” (1 Hannah Arendt, Chapter I, “Appearance” in The Life of the Mind, pp 23) (PDF)