Alexandrya Eaton at Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Fredericton
The thirty paintings and hooked rugs in Alexandrya Eaton’s exhibition Becoming hang in a grid on either side of a central corridor of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Bright colours, simplified female figures, and flowers are repeated along with texts that hint at character and narrative: she danced, she loved, she had a courageous heart, she felt sorrow. Visitors might be moved to ask: “Who is this mysterious woman and what was her life like?” The artist has subverted the vibrant palette and language of the sixties and used them with sincerity to evoke a particular character and personality. It is as if the Pop Art movement had started in Maritime kitchens and living rooms instead of New York lofts (with rug hooking taking the place of silk screening) and drew inspiration from strong women and mothers rather than pop culture and its stars.
Alexandrya Eaton, She Was Not Afraid, 2018, wool, burlap
In fact, Eaton found her inspiration in memories of her own grandmother and these words by Simone de Beauvoir: “One is not born, but becomes, a woman.” It is fitting that the work is installed in a passageway, that we walk from one end to the other as if through life and yet experience all the images at once, much like memories. Sometimes the figures multiply like cookie cutter shapes, leading one to think of kitchen scenes, paper dolls, suburbia, and its implied capitalism. The repetition of miniskirts and business suits reflect a feminism in transition. The flowers and rug hooking allude to quiet domestic spaces, which are then contrasted with brash bold images of women dancing. As in every life story, there is pain and darkness, but bold confident colour, strength, courage and humour prevail here. Eaton’s series shows us a woman who is always changing and evolving in the face of sorrow and joy, but whose character remains constant, authentic, and inspirational.
Jon Claytor is an artist living and working in Sackville, New Brunswick. He is the co-founder of Sappyfest and Thunder & Lightning Ideas Ltd.