October 23, 2014 - January 18, 2015
Michèle Karch-Ackerman tells the story, stitch by stitch, of her family history. She has built an art practice around acts of caring: using art to soothe the physical and psychological suffering of others, suffering that often occurred many years before she was born. She has honoured the often-brief life of pioneer babies (Sweet Breath of Trees); offered comfort to the young men who met violent ends in WWI (The Lost Boys); and asked forgiveness of the Dionne Quints for their stolen childhoods (Springtime Story of a Little Flower School for Girl Saints).
In 1929, at seventeen years of age, her grandmother became pregnant and was sent to an institution in Montreal called Misericordia – a home for unwed mothers run by an order of Catholic nuns. There are few details. She was given a new name. She wore a black veil over her face. She had to look down when walking in the halls. Her initials were cut out of her handkerchiefs.
In Foundling, Karch-Ackerman strives to make the world a more understanding and sympathetic place. This exhibition honours the secret lives of unwed mothers who fled to institutions like Misericordia across Canada from the 1920s to the 1960s. One hundred sleepers from a vintage 1950s pattern form the curtains that once hung in the living rooms of these girls’ homes have become the central element in this installation.