A Short History of In Their Own Words

     In the year 2000, following a successful Toronto exhibition of my papier mâché tableaux, I decided to change the focus of my work (which had been whimsically naif, typical of the medium). I became interested in the idea of portrait sculpture - using papier mâché techniques for a more serious end.

     I began the experiment with a portrait bust of my husband, finished in acrylic paint as a faux bronze. Encouraged by the results of the first piece, I began a second portrait, this time of an older man with a characteristic face. As the piece developed, I found the patterns made by the newsprint rather fascinating. The problem was that the graphic nature of the text flattened the facial features, so I began shading and delineating in pencil. The results were very exciting.

     A family joke about making busts of newspaper tycoons in the pages of their papers gave me the germ of an idea: portrait busts of Canadian authors finished in their own words - a collection dedicated to the greats of Can-Lit. I stopped joking and began to work.

     Margaret Laurence was my first piece, chosen in part because I admired her work enormously and in part because I had met her often in my teens and felt a personal connection with her as a subject. I had just completed her bust at the time that Mordecai Richler passed away and because there were so many fine photo tributes to him in the press, I felt compelled to begin his portrait immediately.

     It was then that Alma Lee, founder of the Vancouver International Writers Festival, saw my work and offered me a show as part of the 2002 events. In the following fourteen months I created nine more busts, trying to achieve a fine balance between poets and prose writers, men and women, French and English, east and west: E. Pauline Johnson, W.O. Mitchell, Gabrielle Roy, Mazo de la Roche, Robertson Davies, Al Purdy, Gwendolyn MacEwen, Timothy Findley and Ernest Buckler.

     In Their Own Words has been much acclaimed as the collection travels the country and continues to grow - there are now twenty authors represented and more are in the planning stages.

     Susan Longmire.
July 2007
the_history.txt · Last modified: 2013/04/09 20:57 (external edit)