Little Flower Sanatorium

Michele Karch-Ackerman

May 24 - June 21, 2014

Little Flower Sanatorium

Michèle Karch-Ackerman is an installation artist who lives in Buckhorn, ON. She is a graduate of the Ontario College of Art and Design, and has taught at various institutions including Halliburton School of the Arts, Loyalist College, Trent University and the Royal Ontario Museum. Karch-Ackerman's work is known for its provocative and touching mining of the '"smaller" and often tragic histories of Canada's past, commemorating those who died in sanitoria, the plight of unwed mothers, the sad childhood of the famous Dionne Quintuplets, and the children lost to pioneer mothers.

In 2010, she completed a month-long residency at the North Bay Regional Health Centre, which involved hospital patients directly with the theme of her work. She conducted a series of communal stitching ‘bees’ in which participants learned the process of ‘tatting’ and stitched the curtain in the open air atrium of the hospital which allowed for a thoughtful discourse between artist and caregivers/patients as they responded to her collection of vintage handiwork. 

Little Flower Sanatorium is Karch-Ackerman's most recent travelling exhibition, and it will debut at the WKP Kennedy Gallery's Main Space before moving on to the Clarington Art Centre in March of 2015 and the Art Gallery of Algoma in September of 2015. 

From the Artist:

For many years I have been haunted by a vision of rows of hospital beds (separated by brown curtains) in the tuberculosis sanatoriums that were prevalent in Canada in the early twentieth century. This image has led to a period of research involving literature written by authors who died of tuberculosis and novels where the theme of tuberculosis figures prominently. Drawing from the writings of such diverse authors as Thomas Mann, The Bronte Sisters to Jack Kerouac and St. Therese of Lisieux (who died an agonizing death of tuberculosis) I have conceptualized a new body of work that I hope will offer solace and grace to those who have experienced profound illness.

I will hand stitch a ‘hospital room’ out of hundreds of vintage handkerchiefs edged in tatting (a form of handiwork historically employed as occupational therapy for T.B. patients). Beyond the room and covering the walls of the gallery will hang five hundred vintage plates (healthy meals were important for healing in TB sanatoriums) featuring rose patterns. ‘A shower of roses’ is an image connected to the miraculous healing powers of St. Therese of Lisieux (Jack Kerouac prayed to her before he wrote and Edith Piaf’s childhood blindness was cured by her). Every rose on every plate, every stitch on every handkerchief will convey a blessing of love and healing for those in need. 

- Michèle Karch-Ackerman 

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