Skip to main content

Clouds and Storms
Amber Lee Williams
Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery

On display from 15 July-29 July
Closing Reception Sat 29 July 4pm-8pm

Clouds have been described as ‘airy nothings’, but really they are more like watery somethings, bodies of water in the sky. There’s also water in our bodies down here on earth. Sometimes it leaks from our eyes when we are sad. What’s that saying, something about how we all look up at the same sky? Another saying, dust to dust, but maybe it’s really water to water.

This work is about my relationship with my mother, and how that connection is mediated through objects, specifically objects she left behind after she died. One of those objects is a book. I am attached to this object because it is one of the few possessions I have of my mother’s. So this work is about clouds, and my mother, and grief, and time, and memory, which is really to say it’s about temporary states of being, about being here one moment, and then gone the next. I turned to this book as a source because of a Polaroid I took of some clouds at the end of the day in the summer of 2020. The image reminded me of my mother’s pocket guide book called Clouds and Storms, and as I flipped through its pages I thought about how ‘weathering a storm’ is a phrase used to describe getting through hard times. My mother was an artist and she died by suicide in 2011. Many of her watercolour paintings were landscapes and she used this book as a reference for the skies in her paintings. I have a few of these paintings and some of them are left unfinished.

This series of Polaroid emulsion lifts shares the same name as my mother’s book. Both suspend and disrupt time: the cloud’s time, my mother’s time, and my time all becoming one. They converge into a single moment. There is process of distortion and concealment within my manipulations of the medium, which alludes to what is lost in time. I do not know who took the original photos, or any details about the days the clouds were photographed. Did the weather turn darker, or was the sky clear moments later? The images, however, remind me that weather is part of our daily lives—something that we all experience even though we can’t control it. And this element of unpredictability in the weather is echoed within the emulsion lift process, an alchemy that is akin to grief—how sorrow quickly moves to joy, and then back to grief (all within a few heart beats).


Amber Lee Williams is an interdisciplinary artist living and working in St. Catharines, Ontario. She has a BA in Visual Arts from Brock University (2020), and an MFA from the University of Waterloo (2022). Family is at the center of her practice. Her research resides in and around the home: observing and photographing the daily lives of her children, as well as drawing inspiration from the possessions and photographs left behind by deceased loved ones. Bringing the past into the present, navigating the inevitable shifting of relationships, and thinking about how everyday objects can serve as prompts to remembering are important methodologies in her work. Amber not only explores the way in which we are remembered, but also all that is lost.