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Amber Lee Williams
Dennis Tourbin Members Gallery at NAC
Wed 27 Oct - Sat 13 Nov 2021
Reception Sat 6 Nov 1PM-4PM

Polaroid Emulsion Lift Workshop / Sun 7 Nov 1pm

// Sign up for the workshop here

Motherhood begins with a severing. The physical connection ends and an emotional one begins. Tethered implies a connection that is no longer there, and paradoxically, the connection that remains.  

This series is an exploration of the connection between mother and child and the inevitable lessening and undoing of that connection. I am drawn to the simple moments or everyday parts of motherhood: nourishment, growth, story time, change, the home (turned upside down), time passing (the days and nights), rest, illness, washing, all the washing, washing of bodies, washing of clothes, the folding, the time spent on the floor next to the tub, and reflecting on my own childhood and sometimes feeling like my own mother. Within the repeating daily cycle of raising children, mundane everyday occurrences often give rise to beautiful special moments.

Each image in this body of work began with a Polaroid photograph. They are then irreversibly altered with the Polaroid emulsion lift technique. Through experimentation and physical manipulation, I peel away the layers and create a composition. Some photographs were taken with intention, and through the process of altering the images, while they moved and existed in the water, a new meaning sometimes emerged.

I digitally photographed the emulsion lifts while they were in their fluid, temporary state, allowing the process to conceal parts of the image, treating the photograph as a veil that folds in on itself. Photographing the Polaroids in the water, they take on new forms, intertwining, almost breathing, as though they’re alive. A new intimate relationship is formed between myself and the work, as the physical subtleties in which I influence the placement of the photograph isn’t controlled. I wait and observe the changing form before capturing the image in its fluidity—reminiscent of a child in the womb. The photograph becomes bodily, as it floats in the water, just as one begins their life. As this process yields unexpected results, the emulsions may dissolve, come apart and separate. The photograph is irrevocably changed, like the mother’s body.

Through self-portraits, photos of my own children, and other mothers with their children, Tethered is part observation and part documentation of daily life. This work is about moments in the home, feelings, intangible things, emotional struggles, balancing emotional and physical labour that comes with motherhood, unpredictability of children, and how little control we have sometimes. – Amber Lee Williams

Amber Lee Williams is a Canadian interdisciplinary artist living and working in St. Catharines, Ontario. Following the birth of her first daughter, she decided overnight to return to school and completed an undergraduate degree in Visual Arts at the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts. She is a current MFA candidate at the University of Waterloo. Her work explores themes of motherhood and loss; life and death; absence and presence; and is often drawn from the details of everyday life. She makes work from small discoveries found in the home, such as leftover food, decaying flowers, old photographs, fridge magnets, dishes, tea bags, clothing, etc. Amber’s areas of art include analog, digital, and experimental photography, drawing, sculpture, assemblage, painting, and more. Her art practice involves a number of different approaches and processes happening simultaneously in the same space, moving from one idea or medium to the next. Often beginning with meticulous planning, Amber gives in to spontaneous experimentation and allows the process to redefine the work.