Liz Magor, talking about the work Sowing Weeds in Lanes and Ditches
Wooden shelf, seeds, grass, envelopes, boxes, garden gloves, clay pots, books, tools, trays, other garden materials
195.5 × 195.5 × 27 cm
Collection of the Canada Council Art Bank, Ottawa
Photos: Richard-Max Tremblay
This work with the green shelf and all these little envelopes is called Sowing Weeds in Lanes and Ditches and it’s from 1976. So this work and Bird Nest boxes are the earliest works in the show. And both these works, Bird Nest Kits and Sowing Weeds, almost are before I identified myself as an artist, almost before I identified these things I was making as art. Because I wasn’t working from the academy. Because I didn’t go to art school. I was working from discovery, self-discovery, or for self-discovery. And I was trying to find an activity. I didn’t want to find an activity that was entirely eccentric, or out of any kind of category. I wasn’t trying to be nutty or anything like that. But I hadn’t seen exactly the profession or the activity that suited me. In art, I thought it was painting all the time. Everyone was painting when I was young. For sure I didn’t want to do that. I looked for a long time at thinking of writing because I read a lot and I admire good writing. And I am a good writer. But again that wasn’t complete enough. That’s so intellectual. Writing is all in the brain. And I am quite physical. I like material. I like touching things. So these two works, Bird Nest Kits and Sowing Weeds, are kind of like literary sculptures or novelistic sculptures. This one especially, because it comes from an invented idea, of maybe a character who has a job that isn’t regular. It might be the character that organizes the things that we think are disorganized, like weeds. Weeds do just grow wherever they can. But if you imagine that maybe that is not just left to nature but there is some hand of organization in it, these would be the tools. The tool and the site and the place for that activity. All the envelopes are full of seeds. So it’s not a prop. It’s not theatrical. It’s kind of real. So even then I was interested in the difference between the real and the not real.
And I collected the seeds over one season on the coast in B.C, as an activity that became pretty compelling. I wanted it to be really complete. And I collected seeds and I identified them in a colloquial way, not in a scientific way. So it is amateurish, it’s like an amateur collection. But amateurs are often more dedicated to their projects than professionals are, because amateurs can direct it themselves. They are doing it only for themselves. So there’s a kind of nice focus than an amateur can have that sometimes in professions we are not able to do because we are pleasing other people. And amateurs can stay on one activity for their whole life but they never professionalize it. They don’t hire themselves out, they don’t take other people’s projects. In a way artists are amateurs forever, ideally.