Barbara Todd grew up spending part of every August at her grandparents’ cottage on the shores of Lake Huron, describing it as the one consistent place in her life. Every summer she gathered stones from the beach, and also gems of speech from passing conversations and collected special bits of text. For the year 2005 she assigned herself the task of selecting one text for each day, letting the text prompt her to make an arrangement of small stones on a light table. The arrangements were made quickly and intuitively. She then photographed, Photoshopped and printed each day's stone/text onto vellum. The layering of these translucent images came to constitute the cumulative quality of presence, of memory dissolving into past days.
This daily practice resulted in a collection of 365 drawing and 365 writings. Using the 365 drawings as her vocabulary, she then produced a set of collage drawings, photographs, Flash animations, wall relief sculptures and appliqué quilts. Sometimes the stones are shapes; sometimes holes. The exhibition consists of a sculptural installation, 3 large quilts and drawings. The title of this exhibition references a short story and book title by Annie Dillard.
Barbara Todd is an interdisciplinary artist best known for her innovative, quilted textile works. She marries a minimalist aesthetic to a poetic and politicized sensibility. Her work is represented in museum and private collections, and in public commissions in Canada and the U.S. Born in Ontario, Canada, Todd studied fine art and art history at the University of Guelph. She received her BA in 1975. In 1981, she moved to the Alberta Rocky Mountains, where she lived and worked at the Banff Centre for the Arts for the next decade.
Todd’s early exhibitions included several photographic installations, and a series of drawings and cut-out silhouettes. These playful explorations of cultural identity used images of men and women’s clothing as subject. Her “Security Blanket” and “Coffin Quilt” series have been exhibited widely. Most notably, Barbara Todd: Security Blankets, organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in 1992, toured Canada for three years. These quilts were also included in Subversive Craft, the List Visual arts Center, MIT, 1993. In the same year Todd moved to Montreal where she began a series of dramatic, black-on-blue quilts based on dreams, poetry and children’s drawings. This work culminated in the installation A Bed is a Boat shown at Oboro Gallery, Montreal (1996), the Library and Gallery, Cambridge (ON)(1997) and the Museum for Textiles, Toronto (1998).
In recent years, Todd has explored drawing and sculpture in metal and glass to evoke elusive psychological and spiritual states. Installations include Heaven and Earth, at the Visual Arts Centre, (2000), du ciel at ArtMûr (2002) and “Bloom” in the exhibition Celan at Galerie Dazibao (2004), (all in Montreal). Her web project http://stonedays.ca was launched in June 2007.
Todd has benefited from consistent support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the
Quebec Conseil des arts et des lettres. She presently divides her time between Troy, New York, and Montreal, where she teaches Studio Art at Concordia University.
Simpler Shapes, times part of shapes – Sun Times article by Bill Henry Saturday, January 15, 2012