Michelle Forsyth

Our Relationship is Beautiful Due to the Distance

October 15 – December 19, 2020

Improvisations is a suite of process-rich photographic artworks that document my performative engagement with mimesis, pattern, repetition, and reproduction. This new work is the subject of my first solo exhibition with Corkin Gallery, Our relationship is beautiful due to the distance.


Ten years ago I was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s. Since this diagnosis, I have documented the progressive impact of the disease on my body by exploring the creative potential of the tremor in dialogue with the fine motor skills of my hand. At first glance, these artworks appear decorative, abstract, even baroque. The image elements however, are deeply informed by narratives embedded in my source materials and approach to craft, including: handwork, textiles, sculptural objects, painted surfaces, and contextual notes. The patterns I have created are representations originating in the recesses of my clothes closet, collections of ephemera and accumulations of memorabilia. These prior artworks have featured garments fallen into obsolescence as my body and physical capacities have changed under the influence of the disease. 


I inherited my approach to craft from the traditions of my mother, a Canadian immigrant from a working class Norwegian family. I combine northern traditions of weaving and knitting with self-taught skills involved with sewing, pattern making, and screen printing that I have acquired along the way from workshops, how-to manuals, and YouTube videos. 

I am interested in craft as it pertains to irregularity, inefficiency and as manifestation of tacit knowledge. The physical rhythms of making are time-consuming. Progressive disease highlights the preciousness of time. I have recently undergone brain surgery to implant the second of two electronic stimulators to modulate the Parkinson’s symptoms. This procedure has resulted in a recovery of physical capability. 


For Improvisations, I designed newly made garments that celebrate my newly augmented body. To create these artworks, I screen printed fine textiles with designs that I painted as exploration of the nuances of the body in motion. From the screen-printed textiles, I constructed accessible garments that accommodate and amplify the body’s capacity to accomplish small tasks and gestures once taken for granted, such as buttoning, clasping and zippering. Inspired by Rebecca Horn’s body extension sculptures, I will accessorize the garments with prosthetic appendages sculpted with papier mâché from hand printed-paper to dialogue with the garment patterns. I donned this new wardrobe and staged private performances back grounded by similarly patterned hand painted backdrops. The camera focused on small gestures that picture the body engaged in singular tasks associated with the prosthetic appendages.


Michelle Forsyth