By: Kennedy Rooke
At The Fridge Door Gallery’s winter vernissage Kenzia Dalie exhibited her piece, The Art of Passing By. As her artist statement says, she “asked family members and friends to send me a list of their travels. I assigned each path a colour of yarn and mapped it across the world using string and nails”. I sat down to talk with her about the project.
KR: I was struck, when I first saw your piece, by how well it fit into the theme of this season’s show [Boundaries/Frontiers].
KD: I know! When I saw that I immediately knew I had to submit it.
KR: I know you were inspired by Michael de Certeau’s Walking in the City. Can you talk about that piece and how you came across it?
KD: The piece was originally a project for a class. We had to make up a creative piece of art and compare it to a reading from class. We were talking about the courses thesis; the idea of walking and walking in literature. This piece talked about the boundaries that cities have. I liked how Certeau talked about a god-like point of view. The article focused on Manhattan, but it inspired me to do it on a bigger scale.
KR: Where did you gather the information you used for the map? What was the process like?
KD: I had just posted on Facebook asking for a list of places people had travelled to, cities and countries, in order as best as they could, including repeat trips. About 20 people got back to me and I used all of them including myself and my family members at home. I started with mine and my family’s and went on to my friends. With the repeat trips I tried my best to get closest to wherever people had been. I did end up having to eliminate some, sometimes if people had been to places close together I picked only one, and sometimes I only went with countries and some with only cities. In Europe I would focus on countries for example, and in Canada focused on cities.
KR: How long did it take to make the piece?
KD: Two days. One day I spent six hours, the next day I spent two hours.
KR: Did you collect any stories to go with the paths?
KD: I mostly focused just the paths, but after I had done the project people reached out to me saying how beautiful it was and how it really captured their travels. Some people even asked me about the strings and how I used their favourite colour. Other than that, no, but it was cool to see the order of the specific travels and that was kind of a story in itself. It was cool to see where people went, and came back (most to Canada).
KR: Do you have a favourite path?
KD: One in particular I liked was my mom’s because she was born in Nicaragua but she has never travelled back there, so all her travels centre in Toronto and they move outwards, and kind of look like a star, out and back. There’s one string in Nicaragua as the origin and everything else is focused from Toronto. I was also glad there were travels to Australia and New Zealand, because it expanded the piece.
KR: Did anything surprise you, did you find anything interesting during the process?
KD: I was surprised how many people hadn’t been to South America. I had I think only one or two people. More people had visited Oceania, or Africa than South America. It was interesting to me because I haven’t been to south American but I have always wanted to.
KR: Do you work with other kind of artistic mediums? Do you have a favourite?
KD: I like painting but I don’t put as much energy into painting as with something like this. I like working with 3D objects. Once I did a piece with beer bottle caps. Recently I made a maquette for a show using barbecue skewers and Bristol board. I’ve made coasters out of cigar wrappers and wood. On average I paint more but put more energy into other forms of art.
KR: I know you’re a very busy person; you’re very involved in the theatre community at McGill and in Montreal. Do you ever feel stressed about making art? Or is it a stress reliever?
KD: Yeah, I’m directing two plays this semester, and I’m also producing another show and set designing for another show, but making art is definitely a stress reliever for me. I never find my recreational art stressful. Usually I will decide on a project and do it until I’m finished, but I don’t feel pressure to finish it quickly. And I’ll make time to do a project for myself.
KR: Do you feel that your love of theatre influences the visual art you create? Or do they feel separate from each other?
KD: I think a little bit of both, because when mapping out an art project I have to see the bigger picture before I start. I feel that’s the same as theatre; you have to have a goal, foresight. I definitely think I use that same mindset. What I find different is that I like that the art I do is on a smaller scale and more personal, whereas theatre involves so much collaboration.
KR: What have you got in the works now and in the future?
KD: Currently I have a show coming up in the McGill drama festival opening Wednesday, it’s kind of a post-modern take on witch hunting. I also have a show coming up this summer with Montreal Fringe Festival. And Richard III [is open] by the McGill English department, and I was the set designer.
A future plan that I want to do in terms of visual art is I really want to make some sort of sculpture with hot glue. Kind of like 3D printing but with glue. It will probably be very painful, but I want to try it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
All photos courtesy of Kenzia Dalie.