Artist Talk: Cheryl Wilson-Smith, 21 Pillows

by Shelby Smith and Sophie Lavoie

On October 29th we opened 21 Pillows by award-winning glass artist, Cheryl Wilson-Smith. Cheryl Wilson-Smith created 21 Pillows as an interactive exhibition “… that would express [her] anger at what we do to the land, and the water, especially here in the north, supplying the south with minerals and money but at a large expense to us that often goes unseen.”

As former resident of Kenora, Wilson-Smith has a strong connection with the water and land of our northern Ontario landscape. Having made Red Lake her home for decades, she has integrated the conflict between a pristine wilderness and a gold mine.  

21 Pillows is a recreation of this rugged land in glass, a medium that is at once fragile and strong. Dark blue painted walls create an atmosphere of dusk or early dawn. 21 large format pillows adorned with ten thousand hand crafted glass stones are to be handled, tinkled (made for sound) and moved amidst the call of ravens on the wind. “… there is a moraine north of Red Lake that I love … miles and miles of those perfectly round rocks in a winding heap through the bush … its one of my favourite spots. That was my inspiration … it evolved slowly from there…”

Visitors are encouraged to touch and move any or all of the stones and pillows as they are inspired, leaving their trace on the landscape. “To realize by moving a rock, throwing a stone in the water, I am altering the environment. So in my show, by moving the stones we are all altering the environment, for better or worse, we are all participating.” 21 Pillows is organized and circulated by Thunder Bay Art Gallery with the financial assistance of the Ontario Arts Council.

View the video below to hear more about Cheryl Wilson-Smith’s inspiration and process.

To see more information about 21 Pillows, click the link below to read about the exhibition.

Cheryl Wilson-Smith, 21 Pillows

Did you know?

The name “Kenora” is a portmanteau of the names of local towns Keewatin, Norman, and Rat Portage— KE from Keewatin,  NO from Norman, and RA from Rat Portage.