01 May 2016

Linda Strowbridge's New Chicago in SAQA show

New Chicago (detail) by Linda Strowbridge

SAQA Atlantic Canada member Linda Strowbridge recently got news that her artwork, New Chicago, was juried into the SAQA exhibition Concrete and Grassland. The call for entry asked artists to submit works that explore either the soft lines of nature or the hard lines of urban structures—or a combination of both. The focus was to be on the contrasts of both color and line, and the ways in which the natural world has been altered.

We asked Linda to tell us about her piece.

Moving from tranquil Nova Scotia to the heart of Chicago a few years ago, I felt like I had been catapulted into another world. There were crowds and grit and noise. But there was also architecture – captivating, diverse, boundless architecture. I walked the city, soaking up the features of historic buildings, modern structures, industrial sites, homes with character, and even properties that were falling into rack and ruin. Many of the architectural features I adored were embodied in the city’s bridge tender houses – those tiny structures that contain the mechanisms that operate the lift bridges along the Chicago River. Ornate, historic, modern, decaying and fundamentally industrial, they succinctly depicted this new world that I loved.

New Chicago by Linda Strowbridge, 2015, w 31" x h 48"

What prompted you to enter Concrete and Grassland?

Concrete and Grassland was the the first all-SAQA show that I entered. In fact, Structures was the only SAQA show I had entered previously. When SAQA announced the theme, I was equally delighted (because most of my artwork focuses on the built environment) and terrified (how could I possibly create a worthy entry?). I set out to make entry pieces and, over the next year, wrestled with the full range of excuses of why I shouldn’t enter:

  • the designs weren’t sophisticated
  • the pieces weren’t cohesive 
  • a critique of one, half-constructed, piece drew negative comments, and, finally, 
  • the photography was done in a rush and with all the wrong equipment. (Although that photo session made me a fan of Methuselah lamps – the wildly adjustable lamps with multiple lights on goose necks.)

I quashed each excuse in part because a very close artist friend had asked me if I was entering the show – and asked in that tone of voice which indicated ‘yes’ was the only acceptable answer. I couldn’t imagine telling her I wimped out, so I submitted the entry, figuring at least my entry fee would be a small donation to the work of SAQA.

I was both shocked and totally delighted to receive an acceptance e-mail!

What have you learned from this experience?

The whole experience prompted me to embrace a few new art rules for myself:

  • Don’t just do the work, finish it! At one point, I abandoned New Chicago because I felt it was too flawed to spend time finishing. Digging it back out, deciphering the problems, dismantling and remaking sections taught me a lot.
  • If you have completed, relevant pieces, enter the show! My experience of entering SAQA and non-SAQA shows has proven that I am incapable of predicting jurors’ decisions. So if you have work, take the shot.
  • Pushy art friends who nudge – even catapult – you out of your comfort zone are incredibly valuable people.

To learn more about Linda Strowbridge, visit her website at lindastrowbridgequilts.raystrow.net/

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