Carly Slade is a Canadian artist who grew up in “Big sky Alberta” and spent her working life in the trades, from carpentry to concrete she is most at home in a shop. Her work is heavily influence by her childhood in a blue collar home where work ethic and craftsmanship were highly valued. Using a mixture of materials from ceramic, to embroidery, to industrial building supplies, Slade creates dioramas of labour sites. Through a feminine and whimsical lens, her work celebrates the labour and systems that keep our modern world running.
Slade received her BFA in Ceramics at the Alberta College of Art and Design (2010), and her MFA in Spatial Arts from San Jose State University (2016).
Slade is currently the Ceramic Artist in Residence at the Lawrence Arts Center in Lawrence, Kansas, USA.
“My work investigates the gendering and ownership of labor and space. I create egalitarian worlds in which all types of labor are celebrated equally. My scenes center on meticulously created ceramic buildings that have been made to scale using Google Map images. Sourcing images in this way allows me to travel back in time, in some places up to 5 years, to choose the specific moment to depict the building. I recreate places of blue-collar work, typically spaces where I as a woman do not fit in, regardless of my years working in those fields. Google Maps allows me to be a voyeur of these spaces from the safety of my studio.
I soften the buildings with embroidery, while showering them with tender attention to detail. The buildings then become “mine”, allowing me to place them in a romanticized world where the working class dream is sincere. I create the buildings three-dimensionally using two-point perspective thus the building looks normal from one vantage point but as the viewer begins to move around the building becomes skewed. This fun-house effect coupled with the noticeably absent people; hints that although this world I created seems to be real, it is a utopian dream that is out of reach.
My materials are chosen carefully for their content and baggage. First clay to make the focal point: ceramic buildings that have been pierced to allow me to embroider directly into them. I treat the clay like a carpenter would a sheet of lumber. Angles must be marked, and measurements checked twice before I cut and bevel. I toil for hours in my studio carefully handcrafting these buildings using similar tools and techniques to those who erected it its actuality. Their landscapes are created for the buildings from mostly found materials that I have altered in some way. Each found the material speaks to a time and place; industrial foam speaks to mass production and construction sites, embroidery feels like the comfort of home and woman’s work. The found objects are carefully chosen to add to the context in which the building will exist, like alters for holy relics.”