Among the Garbage & the Flowers / Fading Vestiges

Susan Avishai & K. Claire MacDonald

Artist Biography

Susan Avishai creates sculpture from deconstructed, discarded clothing. Her work evokes awareness of the exploitive nature of garment manufacture and the paradoxically enormous problem of textile waste. Susan has mounted 17 solo shows, won many prizes in national and international juried exhibitions, and is represented in several large corporate and museum collections. She was elected into the Ontario Society of Artists in 2015. Originally from Montreal, Susan has a BFA (1971) from Concordia University, studied as well at the Ontario College of Art in Toronto,and the Académie Julien in Paris. She received an MA (2002, Hollins University, VA) in writing and literature. Toronto is now home, after years in Jerusalem, New York, Boston, and Ottawa.

Her new work has been included in the book Dimensional Cloth, Sculpture by Contemporary Textile Artists by Andra Stanton; profiled in Fiber Art Now; and she was a featured artist in Australia’s Textile Fibre Forum. She was a presenting artist at the 3rd International Textile Symposium at the Mark Rothko Centre in Daugavpils, Latvia, was chosen for the 2016 Gardiner Museum’s Twelve Trees Christmas program, and is currently curating a show of 10 artists who also work with up-cycled textiles, to be exhibited at the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum in Almonte, Ontario. Recent work was shown at the Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax, NS and she participated in Fiberart International 2019. She was chosen twice for Excellence in Fibers and once for Excellence in Quilts organized by Fiber Art Now. Most recently she was invited to be a featured speaker at the 2023 SAQA Conference in Toronto.

M.A. 2002 Hollins University, Roanoke VA, English and Creative Writing
B.F.A. 1971 Concordia University (then Sir George Williams U), Montreal, Quebec
(includes one year at Ontario College of Art, Toronto, and one year at Académie Julien, Paris)


K. Claire MacDonald is a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design where she completed a BFA with a Major in Jewelry Design and Metalsmithing. She works primarily in metal, utilizing her technical training to explore both functional jewellery and sculptural objects. Over recent years, her interest in painting has led her to explore an interdisciplinary approach to her sculpture work that seeks to merge her painting and metalsmithing practices.

After graduating from NSCAD University in 2012, she spent a number of years living in Toronto completing a three-year artist-in-residency at Harbourfront Centre, and gaining experience working for several artists and designers including Kim Dorland, Matsu Jewellery, and Leif Benner Designer/Goldsmith. She has exhibited and sold work throughout North America, and has had her work included in several publications. Her practise is presently based in Halifax, NS.


Exhibition Statement

The Mary E. Black Gallery presents artists K. Claire MacDonald and Susan Avishai in side by side solo shows that explore memory, loss and transformation through the deconstruction/reconstruction of surface design. 
Susan Avishai’s body of textile works in Among the Garbage & the Flowersbegan with the deconstruction of her mothers clothing. Tenderly saving the patterned material by piecing the textiles back together to form soft sculptures; a tangible transformation of memory. Among the Garbage & the Flowers provokes a dialog about material use, to reuse before discarding and to think more consciously about the longevity of what we purchase or make to clothe ourselves. 
In Fading Vestiges K. Claire MacDonald applies a painted surface to metal then cuts and shapes it into delicate flowers. Gentle brush strokes and hues touch the surface of her jewelry merging these mediums of formal art and craft. Uncovering a flower press from childhood K. Claire MacDonald opened a small time capsule of perfectly preserved mementos sparking an exploration of Fading Vestiges. The artist draws on various flora as metaphors for memories of people and places. 
Both Avishai and MacDonald cross disciplines and explore the deconstruction of surface patterns. Each artist mirrors the other in their use of colors creating a harmonious dialog of personal memory and material exploration in the Mary E. Black Gallery. 
“I seek to embrace the intended state of uncertainty. It is in this ambiguity that traces of different disciplines can cross, tangle and dissolve, and move into a new context with greater clarity.” ~ K. Claire MacDonald

Artist Statements

Among the Garbage & the Flowers 
Susan Avishai

I began making fibre art from ‘pre-owned’ clothing after my mother died  and I was unable to part with her garments for the life, memories, and familiar scents still present in the fabric.  Eventually I boldly cut up some      of her things, creating a tangible transformation: memory into art.  So too did the clothes I began bringing home from thrift shops, have their embedded stories. These I knew nothing about. But the labels, Made in Bangladesh…Cambodia…Sri Lanka, told me some of the history. Our clothing was being manufactured in what had become a lightning quick cycle of underpaid workers living in miserable conditions, given inexpensive fabric and knock-off design, all in order to keep us Westerners supplied with cheap garments.  They are worn briefly and discarded quickly.  85% of it ends up in landfill.  That’s over 10 million tons of textile waste a year in Canada alone.  And although nearly all of it is recyclable, only a minute part gets baled up for resale in the Third World, or made into rags, shredded for upholstery fill and insulation.  

Textile waste is one of our most pressing problems, as landfill gradually takes over scarcer space, uses up resources, and adds toxicity to our natural environment.  We must do better.  But from this problem can come amazingly creative solutions, including artistic expression, as my diverted stream of shirts (infinitesimal as it is) tries to prove. 

Inspired by the materials themselves, and incorporating everything I’ve learned to date about making art, I am choosing cast-off clothing as my medium for surprisingly novel, edgy, and whimsical art.  And with it brings social commentary about ourselves, our relationship to our clothing, about climate change, impermanence, and reclamation. Upcycling stretches our imaginations when we play in the sand, experimenting with new uses and art forms, and seeing that life still resides in what we toss unthinkingly into those big metal bins.  I hope that viewers will leave a little provoked, a little delighted, and asking themselves, what else can we do with what we no longer want?  And maybe I’ve even shown you where to look, among the garbage and the flowers.


Fading Vestiges 
K. Claire MacDonald

“This body of sculptural works embodies my continued exploration of paint on metal, and investigates how certain traditional methods of both painting and metalsmithing are altered and/or appropriated in effort to merge the two disciplines. My process begins by applying paint directly on a flat sheet of copper. When the painting is complete, the imagery is deconstructed and obscured using traditional metalsmithing techniques to manipulate the copper sheet into three-dimensional forms. 

Several of the pieces in this exhibition are directly inspired by the uncovering of my childhood flower press from nearly twenty year ago. Inside the press I found pages of paper-thin flowers that were perfectly preserved, almost as if frozen in time. I became consumed by the way in which the contents of the flower press had remained relatively unchanged over twenty years while the world outside of it continued to change and transform. The notion of pressed flowers as mementos -markers of time and place- became deeply fascinating to me. In this body of work I draw upon various flora as metaphors to hold close people, places, and feelings from the past while exploring subjects of fading memory, loss, and transformation. 

The presented ambiguity between jewellery and object, function and decoration is amplified by the fragmented painted imagery that quietly masks the metal surface of each form. Although the mind may wish to untangle the pieces and restore order, I seek to embrace the intended state of uncertainty. It is in this ambiguity that traces of different disciplines can cross, tangle and dissolve, and move into a new context with greater clarity.


Published ©2021 by the Centre for Craft Nova Scotia All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher. All photography courtesy of the artist unless otherwise stated.