VISUAL ARTS - TORONTO STAR
Michelle Forsyth’s way of being transformed after she was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease. She wove that transformation into her art.
By Deborah Dundas
Transformation and reinvention. They are constants in our lives. Whether voluntary or forced upon us, we adapt to changes — in our surroundings, our health, our age. We are forever growing into, changing into, our selves.
“Our relationship is beautiful due to the distance.” This is the title of artist Michelle Forsyth’s new exhibition at the Corkin Gallery. She works with textiles to tell a personal story. Forsyth was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s 10 years ago. She has previously worked with textiles, the gallery notes, “using clothing and patterns found in her own closet, referencing personal memories. (Forsyth’s) earlier sculptural works took the form of wrapped fabric bundles, sewn or woven together and presented on plinths painted to reference the textiles used.”
This new body of work, completed within the last five years, features garments made to “accommodate her body and her gestures as she navigates the effects of Parkinson’s disease. The finished garments are displayed on custom-built hangers alongside performative self-portraits photographed against painted backdrops.”
Her craft is a blend of old and new; of traditions learned and interpreted. Her mother was a Canadian immigrant from a Norwegian family; she combines those traditions of weaving and knitting with other self-taught skills: sewing, screen printing, pattern making.
Forsyth recently underwent brain surgery to implant the second of two electronic stimulators to modulate the Parkinson’s symptoms. This procedure, she writes, has resulted in a recovery of physical capability.
And so, for the series of works titled “Improvisations,” of which the image above is one, she designed “newly made garments that celebrate my newly augmented body.”