Tara Wells at Visitors
By Christiana Myers
The work of Tara Wells is the stuff of a breezy summer day on the Tantramar Marsh, when the sauntering conversation between friends dips out of playful banter into the deeper, darker stuff—art, the planet, life, and grief.
Beginning Thursday, August 13, Visitors will be carrying two bodies of work by multi-disciplinary artist Tara Wells—her Equilimbria series and a fresh selection of her well-known flower miniatures. Wells, who is based in Sackville, uses found and recycled materials including textiles, buttons, and plastics to build narratives that are colourful, animated, and, at times, morbid. Recognizable in their use of botanical imagery and anatomical curiosities, her whimsical sculptures strike a harmonious balance between playfulness and dark humour. The flowers, made of household plastics and buttons, have discarded guitar-string stems that allow them to sway and bounce with a cheeriness befitting their aesthetic. Similarly, the Equilimbria series features flower-petal bases, but in place of pistils are the disembodied hands and feet of dolls—hence the punny title. Whether it is through her stop-motion animations, prints, drawings, quilts, or sculptures Tara Wells draws upon a sense of play that connotes joy—not a joy that is void of hardship but one that is felt despite it.
Penelope, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons and hardware, 4.5" tall with a 2.5" wide base, 2020 | $125 — SHOP
In an effort to make as small an environmental impact as possible, Wells prefers to work with recycled materials, or as she says “breaking down the broken-down and building with the bits.” For this series of flowers, which are smaller than her previous iterations, she has used kitchen cabinet pulls as bases and guitar strings, often those broken or discarded by her musician friends, as stems. The strings grant the flowers a buoyancy not typically seen in contemporary art or fine craft, and the recognizable materials, like buttons and the plastic from shampoo bottles, make the work visually accessible while also inviting welcomed interaction from the viewer. This lively engagement is what makes Well’s work unique. She has stated that she wanted to recreate the sensation of daisies blowing in the Sackville wind, the feeling of an eternal summer, and a sentiment familiar to many as seasons continue to slip by.
Stephanie, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons, deconstructed doll parts and cotton, 8"h x 6"w x 5"d, 2018 | $140 — SHOP
Naomi, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons, deconstructed doll parts and cotton. 9"h x 6.5"w x 10"d, 2018 | $140 — SHOP
The Equilimbria series, initially begun in 2014, was a combination of Wells’ ample supply of doll limbs and her bouncy flower sculptures. Their cheeky title comes from Wells’ intention to capture the balance, or equilibrium, of life and death. The limbs appear as though they may be entering the world for the first time through the birth canal, while the flowers protruding from fingers and toes act as a strangely cheerful memento mori, an artistic reminder of the inevitability of death. In art historical representations of memento mori, flowers are often used as a symbol of the precarious nature of human life—beautiful in their prime but destined to wilt. The conceptual framework behind this series combined with Wells’ commitment to the use of recycled materials emphasizes the cyclical nature, not only of life, but of objects and their components.
Through her thoughtful use of media, sentimentality, and surprise, Tara Wells allows those who view her work to reflect on their pasts and their futures. Simultaneously playful and dark, accessible and complex, active and firmly planted, her pieces are a refreshing and joy-inducing respite from the heavy world we inhabit, without feigning ignorance. With the exhibition of these pieces, Wells has proven, once again, that her works extend far beyond representation, beyond their size, and beyond the sum of their parts. ✿
Zazou, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons and hardware, 10" tall with a 3" wide base, 2020 | $125 — SHOP
Marlene, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons and hardware, 8.5" tall with a 3.5" wide base, 2020 | $125 — SHOP
Raven, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons and hardware, 11.25" tall with a 3.5" wide base, 2020 | $125 — SHOP
Crystal, Recycled plastics, guitar strings, buttons and hardware, 8.5" tall with a 1.5" wide base, 2020 | $65 — SHOP
Christiana Myers is a curator and artist, born of settler ancestry, from Saint John, NB, Canada. She holds a BFA in painting and printmaking from Mount Allison University and an MLitt Curatorial Practice from the Glasgow School of Art/University of Glasgow in Scotland.
Her practice explores human form and function, specifically physical and communication-based limitations. She has exhibited her work in Canada and parts of Europe and has completed residencies at FoFA Gallery in Montreal and the Arteles Centre in Finland.