Wendy Toogood’s textile work is on exhibit at Wallace Galleries

Wendy Toogood’s left-handed textile self-portraits are whimsical and child-like. 

Toogood began this stitched series after she moved to Nakusp in 2006. Each document vivid memories from her everyday life. She has completed over a hundred; 18 of which will be on display at the Wallace Gallery until June 19.

“I complete each fabric collage before I start a new one,” says Toogood.

Illuminated in stitch, weave, and appliqué; the Nakusp narratives memorialize recollections that relate to life, friendship, and humanity. “I work intuitively documenting everyday events as I want to remember these experiences and make them special,” she says. “The central image in each of the units is a stylized figure which represents me. Some of the themes I employed are: gardening; … thrift shop purchases; volunteer work; activities with friends and family; cooking dinners or special dinners I attend; common household activities.” 

Toogood starts her portraits by drawing the piece with her left hand. “I am right-handed but using my left hand forces me to simplify the drawing and I really enjoy the exaggerated shapes which result from this approach. These drawings are rough but they have an energy I enjoy.”

She then creates the textile works based on those drawings. “The initial drawings are done very quickly but after that the process is somewhat obsessive and time consuming,” she says. Toogood works on her fabric constructions daily.

Thrift Store Find is celebratory — a jubilant figure holds up the dye pattern summer dress with long arms; her face glows pink. Glitter is air borne and her eyes are full twinkle. The dress has black beads, or it’s possible the orbiting spheres showcase the garment’s cosmic alignment. Her feet lift off the ground as tension hangs between the new dress and her old orange jumpsuit.

‘Ray Gave me an Amaryllis… I hope I don’t kill it’. Text sewn onto the piece indicates that it was the variety Red Pearl. She holds the colour-spotted, many-tendrilled shape with both hands and surrounds it with a golden globe, as she walks on sparkles and sequins. 

In No Power, Toogood’s self is small and appears to shiver, surrounded by an embroidered web of darkness. Her figure clearly concerned; face furrowed and frowning, holds a candle that burns low. 

Mushroom Season shows our hero content in a land where she and the mushrooms are larger than life. Wearing green eyeshadow and a black jumpsuit with white and gold polka dots, she smiles, carrying distinctly different fungus under each arm. 

Toogood graduated from the Alberta College of Art, taught in the fabric department for decades; and received an Alumni Award of Excellence. She also received the Alberta Achievement Award. No surprise, Toogood artworks are found in several provincial art collections, and the National Gallery of Canada has also toured her work.

Wendy Toogood: Narratives, at  Wallace Galleries, 500 5 Ave. S.W., June 1 to 19, wallacegalleries.com