courtesy Megan Slater

Putting scars on display

Publication YearIssue Date 

Recent Alberta College of Art and Design graduate Megan Slater’s Stretch is showcased in Stride Gallery’s +15 Window space in the Epcor Centre for the Performing Arts until July 18.

At a glance, Stretch is an intricate and interconnected web of nylon fragments, but the exhibit hints at the contrast between flexibility and delicacy, a contrast shared by nylon fabric and the human constitution. When pushed to their limit, both the fabric and the human psyche will react in unforeseeable ways. Both the fragments and the memories that inspire them seem unpredictable. The result is simultaneously chaotic and compelling.

“You can make [nylon] do a lot of things, but if it doesn’t want to do it, it’s not going to,” Slater says. “It fights back. It’s weird material.”

Slater works with every-day leg accessory variety of nylon. Much like human resilience, the nylon is both flexible and fragile, baring the scars of its exposure to pressure and change. As a material for conveying meaning, the nylon serves to react and amplify those reactions when exposed to stress and tension.

Slater discovered nylon to be an apt medium for emotional release and catharsis after drawing inspiration from such visual artists as Quebec-born Nadia Myre — Myre embarked on an experiment in 2005 to document human scarring. Participants in Myre’s project were asked to document their physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual scarring on a piece of linen, while providing an accompanying written narrative of their experience.

“I think about the scars, events and experiences that have happened to a person,” Slater says. “How do you go about accepting [them] and dealing with them?”

Slater says she wasn’t sure why she liked working with nylon at the beginning but that it helped while she was going through a tough time.

“Before I graduated from high school, I had two grandparents die very suddenly and very traumatically. It was a hard time,” Slater says. “I was really interested in how that affected me personally and the way those experiences had transformed how I existed as a person in society.”

For Slater, working with nylon became an emotional release that allowed her to escape from the loss of her grandparents.

“I had trust issues,” Slater admits. “I questioned how I was conducting these feelings into the world. I guess that’s what my work is to me now. It’s this strange, therapeutic thing.”

Slater says the process of developing her art is like an extraction or surgical removal that frees her of painful memories.

“When removed from the body and placed on another object, [a scar] doesn’t have the same power. It holds power, but it isn’t solely on you,” Slater muses. “Looking at the art, even if people don’t get the specifics of the events, they can still sense the feeling and raw emotion and walk away with something.”

Stretch is on display at the Stride Gallery +15 Window at the Epcor Centre until July 18. Viewing is free of charge.