It’s that spring morning when you awake to feel the strengthening sun tingling on your skin. It’s the first time the weight of your newborn child is placed on your chest or the way your mother’s fingernails twirled across your scalp as she shampooed your hair.
Laurel Terlesky is interested in all of these moments. The Squamish artist is exploring the notion of the memory of touch; how it lingers in our bodies, in the very fabric of our cells.
“I’m looking at how experience links in our bodies, not just our minds,” she says during an interview with The Squamish Chief in her downtown apartment. “These kinds of memories are deep. They travel with you for a long time.”
The Calgary native’s journey with art took her to Berlin and New York while studying for a Masters of Fine Arts Degree with the International Creative Practice from Transart Institute, accredited by Plymouth University in the United Kingdom. She always knew art was what she wanted to do. Working with your hands is a big part of communication, Terlesky says.
“For me, that is my language.”
In the beginning, art poured out of her in the form of paintings, but her interest in how people communicate led Terlesky to explore installation pieces – mixing drawings and sculptures with the modern world in the form of audio recordings and electronic light pieces. As a program advisor for Emily Carr University of Art and Design’s continuing studies Design and Transition course, Terlesky is constantly delving into the relationship behind new technology, like smartphones and social media, and how people interact with the pieces through touch.
This year, Quest University Canada hosted Terlesky as an artist in residence. She created a piece she called Hallowed Winds. The installation featured a mound of snow white, knotted bed sheets in the centre of the room. Behind them were two white walls covered with pencil drawings of Terlesky’s bed sheet which she photographed and sketched every morning for a year. Terlesky wanted to see how the body leaves its trace in the world around it.
“I wanted to understand the language in the sheets,” Terlesky says, noting sleeping patterns can reflect what is going on in our lives.
Hallowed Winds included audio narratives that participants had recorded about other individuals’ memories of touch. Terlesky left a book for viewers to share their stories. Her latest project, Surface Rupture, has spawned out of those tales.
“I took the book and I read through all the stories,” Terlesky says. “I feel so gifted that people have shared these things.”
With a grant from the British Columbia Arts Council, Terlesky has already started work on the new piece. She wants to incorporate porcelain sculpture, wool and felt on a wall structure, that will feature audio capsules of the stories collected in the journal at Hallowed Winds.
Starting such a multi-media project is an overwhelming feeling, Terlesky admits. Art can build a safe place for people to share intimate details of their lives. But with that comes a sense of responsibility, Terlesky says, as she juggles the different components and fits them together. “I am finding my way with all of those pieces. Art is where we can have these kinds of conversations,” Terlesky says, adding she hopes the work will encourage people to reflect and live in the moment.