First Comes Love
Then comes marriage
Then comes Marion-Lea
with a baby carriage
It was 1974 and I was pregnant with my daughter Anna-Lea. I was suffused with a peace & contentment that I suspect is God’s way of ensuring women are willing to undergo what follows. I was in my final year of art school and joyfully producing a plethora of pregnant forms. My work was as round, expansive and shiny as my belly. I was fascinated with eggy shapes and anything to do with eggs.
Marion-Lea Jamieson; Broken Yolk, 1974; Sheet Acrylic, 36”h x 48” w x 30”d
I had just discovered how to take photos & had borrowed a camera from the Art School. The Egg Boxes were photographed in a number of configurations and locations.
Unfortunately, I had not yet learned to ensure that the lens was clean.
I also choreographed & performed a couple of dance pieces during this period. The first was called Egg-Hanger, a dance piece for 6 dancers that was performed at SFU as part of the dance student show. Though I don’t have a visual record of the piece being performed, I have images of the sculpture around which the dance was performed:
The New Era Social Club was an artists’ studio on Powell Street. Other artists working there at the time included Glen Lewis, Dave Rimmer, Taki Bluesinger & Chris Dahl.
I spray-painted everything silver at that time. Still do.
I also performed a solo when I was about 7 months pregnant in the dance space of the Western Front Artists’ Collective in Vancouver as part of an evening’s performance by Linda Rubin with whom I was studying at the time.
Called “Amnion” the dance piece began with me inside a large clear polyester sac that I had made with a large zipper that allowed entry & exit. The piece ended with my emergence from the sac clad in flesh coloured leotard & tights
During the pregnancy I continued to create images of the fecund female body with an interest in exploring the, to me, interesting paradox that the female body is universally celebrated for it’s sexuality while its amazing reproductive capability is almost an embarrassment. My theory was that reproduction is an instinctual process that unequivocally links humans to their mammalian natures and belies our assumptions of species separateness & superiority.
So in 1974 a series was developed made of vacuum-formed sheet acrylic in shape of a heart using the Vancouver School of Art’s fabulous Thermoplastics studio. This studio was amazing as it had a giant oven capable of hanging a 6′ x 8′ sheet of acrylic that could then be formed. For this there was a giant vacuum-form press where the heated acrylic heated could be either sucked onto a mold through the vacuum function or the direction of the airflow could be reversed so that the hot acrylic could be blown through a cut-out blue heart in this performance was made. Sadly, the enire Thermoplastics studio was not moved the the Schools new campus on Granville Island.
Here are some other photos of the big blown acrylic hearts. A big heart shape was cut out of 3/4″ plywood and clamped over a sheet of hot acrylic. Then the air was blown through the cut out & the heart shape bubbled into life.
I also played around with vacuum-formed female torsos in the form of heart-shaped boxes. As a pregnant woman I was interested in the concept of vessels – of things within things. These heart-shaped torso boxes were filled with various items and photographed in a number of locations & juxtapositions.
As part of the heart-shaped container series, I also made a series of heart-shaped boxes. LIke the torsos, these were photographed filled with various objects;
During this period I also made a heart shaped drop leaf table that was part of a series of red-painted wooden sculptures. These included Egg-Hanger, shown above and a piece called Brass Stand at right. Though Brass Stand was not strictly speaking a part of the pregnancy-inspired “hearts & eggs” series, it is included as it was part of the red-paint that seemed to be an important aspect of my work at the time.
Brass Stand was part of a project grant received from the Vancouver School of Art that allowed the recipient to explore beyond the capabilities of the Art School. Recipients were encouraged to pay outside trades to create all or part of the artwork. I choose to explore the potential for spun brass, and created a wooden mold to be used to form the brass. I then approached a metalwork shop and asked them to recreate the wooden forms in brass. The guys in this metalwork shop couldn’t figure out what I was doing there and why I was asking them for such outlandish work. A couple of them figured I was there because I was looking to get laid, (I wasn’t pregnant at the time) and became so unpleasant that I was afraid to go back and pick up the remaining work. I was shy & unsure of myself at that stage and like most women of that time, blamed myself for creating the unwanted attention.
So my baby, Anna-Lea, was born soon after I graduated from art school and the shock of no longer being an irresponsible, fun-loving artist set in. The birth was traumatic, and I cam home to an empty ground floor apartment with no money, no help and a husband who was away on a road trip. I collected welfare & wandered around this dank apartment carrying Anna-Lea with both of us weeping for the first three months. I hadn’t really understood that as a penniless female artist, I would not have the leisure or resources to create artworks once I had a baby. The isolation was also a shock as former friends came by, saw what a miserable state I was in and never returned. They couldn’t understand why I had done this to myself.
During this period, I did manage to do a couple of paintings that were exhibited in a gallery in Chinatown specially set up to show the work of artists on welfare (those were the days).
The first three months were the hardest and the above paintings were the only works created. I realized that there was no possibility of producing visual art with a new baby & no resources. So when my sister Karen suggested starting a dance company that would accommodate babies, (she was pregnant at the time with her first) it seemed like a good idea. But that is a story for another blog.
Six years later, I had a second baby, my son James, even though my marriage was shaky and we were no better off financially. My son just celebrated his 33rd birthday and I often say that having my two children was the smartest move I ever made. Along with my second husband Colin, my children and grandchildren and his children & grandchildren are the great blessings of my life and I thank the Great Creator for having given me the wisdom to choose love over good sense.