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  • Michelle Sirois Silver

do not disturb the water

Viewing art in a gallery is one experience, making it is another.

Like some of you I’m a gallery goer who likes to view the finished work and bring my life experience to the narrative. I’m also the artist who explores concepts that are supported by the materials and techniques I use. And I’m the maker who has mastered her techniques and has a deep connection to the materials and the process.

Expanded square hand hooked. Detail. #4 cut.

I keep coming back to one of my favorite lines from the movie version of J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” when Merry and Pippin are throwing stones into the lake. Aragorn grabs hold of Pippin’s arm and says, “do not disturb the water”. Before we know it, a giant squid appears from beneath the surface and all hell breaks loose.

You might wonder what a giant squid and the creative process have in common? Let me explain.

Expanded square block print on paper.

It begins last summer at an artist residency where I was exploring a concept for new work and like Merry and Pippin I dismissed Aragon’s tome and disturbed the familiar waters to see what lay beneath the surface. Did all hell break loose? Truthfully there was no giant squid… however along the way there was disappointment and frustration. There were issues with attachment and letting go. And then there was the pressure of the looming deadline.


The piece I am currently working on explores the ways we mentally and physically expand and contract to accommodate change. I wanted to see if I could create two works, a diptych and a triptych, then integrate and attach the panels together to create one large single piece that would physically expand and contract to accommodate the space. I tampered with form and materials, and experimented with methods for attaching together and detaching the panels.


Several months later the work is complete. My studio looks like the morning after a big dinner party. I look at the remnants of the expanded square design I explored last summer and have since discarded.

Block print expanded square on linen substrate.

Expanded square block printed on linen.

Bits of the printed design, which initially expanded across four panels, extend beyond the hand hooked surface on the backside of one of the hit and miss panels. An entire block printed panel remains unhooked and is stored in a plastic bin not unlike the last doughnut on the plate that no one can bring themselves to eat.

Expanded square hand hooked. #4 cut.

Another printed panel has since been reversed hooked and covered with a hit and miss motif and a hand stitched selfie.

Expanded square beneath the hit and miss and selfie motifs.

My lament for this discarded pattern takes me by surprise – oddly it’s become an integrated and yet unseen part of the narrative, a record of the creative process. The new art deco inspired repeat pattern that replaces the expanded square was designed in a couple of hours. Even though it appeared to come together quickly, in fact it is informed by the creative process that came six months before it. People who view the completed work in the gallery will never know what lays beneath the surface of this work.


What lays beneath the surface is the discarded pattern I began last summer. It tells the story about a journey of process, attachment and letting go, and challenging myself to consider a different path. It’s about creating space in one’s art practice where a new idea can germinate while others are put on the back burner for a time. I discovered that when making art what I want is not necessarily what is best for the work. When I let go of my preconceived ideas, the work will tell me what needs to happen next.



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