We are proud to have Diane Connors' upcoming exhibition titled Entanglement at the Drawing Room from February 10 until 27. Donations go to the artist. Please pay what you can.
Art provides a way to engage with concepts and ideas intuitively - for this reason, I orbit around art that conveys complex social and environmental justice themes in simple ways. Topics that address consumerism, feminism, oppression, well-being, social psychology, biology, identity, and politics have held my interest since I started exploring them artistically for conceptual drawing projects in university. I see my art-making as a way to express and engage others on what can be complicated subjects - usually I begin with a very intentional message or thought about a particular issue that I’m trying to convey, and try to create it in such a way that it is easy and elegant to understand. I often reflect my work off my myself to own my personal connection to the culture being commented on or critiqued - I find this allows the viewer the space to reflect on themselves as well, and removes some defensiveness that art-as-social-commentary can provoke. As the personal is political, I think these personal reflections are key to meaningfully connecting to larger social issues.
My hair was long, curly, and beautiful. It would catch in crevices, tangle in chains, hold my head in place when trapped under pack straps and chair backs, and wrap around my neck and face, obscuring my view and inhibiting my movement. I wanted to cut it for years - but something held me back. I came to realize my hair was a marker of my identity as a woman, and my feelings of physical entanglement had social and emotional parallels. The way that femininity was woven into my life was beginning to become more apparent and more structured. My hair suddenly became very political to me - I was beginning to understand what was meant by the feminist assertion that “my body is a battleground.”
In an act of personal political subversion, I chopped my locks. For a time, I wasn’t sure what to do with them. I decided to keep the hair and ruminate on a way to use it to express these complex feelings I had about my identity and the press of expectations and limitations imposed on me because of it. After disconnecting myself so violently from this part of my body, I wanted to engage with my hair in a way that was thoughtful and intimate. I wanted the finished piece of art to be the result of a deliberate process that embodied minimalist ideals and respected the hair in its own materiality.
I began to do what came naturally - I started to braid it, in the same way I had done since I was a young child learning to make friendship bracelets. I can’t even remember when I learned to braid; it feels like a childhood skills that came with the package of wearing dresses and playing with dolls. I used to braid my long hair for comfort when I was feeling bored or anxious - many collective hours pulling greasy strands into backwards french braids while writing university papers, countless tiny braids slowly coming undone after thoughtlessly fingering them together around the base of my neck. And so braiding began my process - a meditation, a space to think, a time to heal, an opportunity to reflect on my identity and the society that shaped it.
As I braided, I thought about the labour I was doing and how it connected to women through the generations and across the world. I thought about the intersectionality that this part of my body represented - not just gender, but race, class, health, sexuality, age - and how hair is so diversely symbolic in human society. During the process, I took time to listen to the voices of people who talk about oppression and social justice, and sought out the knowledge of strong women, non gender-conforming individuals, and men who challenge social norms by simply existing and speaking their truth.
After many hours, the braiding was finished and I needed to decide the actual physical shape of the piece. Within the theme of facing femininity I chose two paths: to seek out someone who could spin the “cast-off” loose strands into a useable thread or yarn (that I would later crochet), and to sew the mass of tiny braids into different patterns of my liking. It was during this time that I began to appreciate how undervalued “traditional women’s work” can be. The attention, skill, patience, and perseverance required to spin, weave, knit, crochet, or sew anything by hand is something I might not master for years. I was fortunate enough to become acquainted with a friend of a friend who is a skilled spinner; it was a distinct pleasure to connect and discuss the work, comparing our experiences as women from different generations.
In all, the piece is an embodiment of a journey that I started and will continue will continue on for the rest of my life. Knots done up, knots undone; I will never be fully disentangled.