Saturday, April 30, 2022

Isolation Relics 2020 - ongoing

 As the pandemic progressed, I delved into personal research: I began a genealogical search for ancestors, rummaged through my late mother's collection of handwritten recipes and recipe books, and foraged through family photos. At the same time, I was cleaning through years of collected papers, handwritten notes, cards, and documents. I began to photocopy notes, recipes and photos onto the blank backs of these documents. I painted some with vivid colours, others I soaked in solutions of strong tea or coffee. I didn't quite know where this was headed, but it became a mission to recycle and reuse these materials in my artwork.

Another daily activity was blind contour sketching the fresh bouquets I began buying to brighten my mood during isolation. I used these sketches as the basis for a new series of miniature collage pieces.

In this series, neutral backgrounds mirror the blandness of isolation, but hint at memories and experiences hidden, forgotten, emerging into the present. The dynamic compositions reflects the chaos, confusion and uncertainty of the time, and finally, the bright, vibrant colours of the flowers remind us of the joys of new discoveries: new or renewed interests, friendships, relationships, awareness, and meaningful moments of resilience and joy. 

The pandemic returned us, for a short time, to simpler lives, to shared experiences, to historical lessons. It was a time of remembering, of reckoning, and of renewal. And these Isolation Relics are a testament of that time. 

The following works are some of the first pieces in this ongoing series.

All images ©2022 Joanne Dero

isolation relic 1

isolation relic 5

isolation relic 11 - unfinished

Body Feelings

Inspired by Maria Lassnig's 'body sensation, body awareness' paintings, during the first months of the pandemic, my morning sketches became a journey into my body. Eyes closed, I began to draw the feeling of my body contours. It became an immensely calming practice in an unsettling time. Here are some sketches, and the first mixed media painting from that process.

All images ©2022 Joanne Dero

Neighbourhood View

 I was living on the third floor of a small Chinatown apartment building. Early mornings, sipping coffee, and drawing blind contour sketches of the view out of my living room window, then writing my response to the view, to the drawings, to my feelings in the moment. This was my practice, my ritual, before the pandemic brought so many twists in the road. 

Back in the studio, wondering what direction to take, I began a  series of watercolour and ink paintings based on those early morning sketches and poems. 

All images and poetry © 2022 Joanne Dero

Sunday, December 15, 2019

where the wings grow 1

It's been a busy few months. This past September, the amazing Take Up Space dancer/choreographer Elizabeth Emond-Stevenson invited me to collaborate with her on a contemporary dance piece she was working on. Based on a short clip of a piece she had previously choreographed and was converting to a longer work, I created an art installation and wrote a poem that became the introductory performance to her dance.

I was privileged to attend rehearsals with dancers Lois Chan and Sarah Hopkins in order to see the work in progress and do some quick sketches while I was there. Elizabeth, Lois, and Sarah made this joint effort so easy and creatively satisfying. I appreciate their generosity and encouragement throughout.

We presented the works at Academic Hall, Ottawa on December 6th and 7th and were very pleased with the results and the positive response we received.

Below are some of the sketches and finished works I created during this collaborative process. More information and photos of the installation and performance will follow.

For more information about Elizabeth and Take Up Space, you can visit:

Selected sketches:

©Joanne Dero 2019

©Joanne Dero 2019

©Joanne Dero 2019

©Joanne Dero 2019

©Joanne Dero 2019

Monday, August 5, 2019

Exhibition Invitation

Stone School Gallery
28, rue Mill Street
Portage-du-|Fort QC

Gallery hours:
Friday opening: 6:00 to 8:00 pm
Saturday and Sunday 11:00 am to 4:00 pm

Saturday, December 15, 2018


My series of photographs called 'Reflections,' delves into the ambiguous issues of self-hood and attachment.

I explore what reflections tell us about who and where we are in a specific moment, how we fit into our own story and the world around us. The images provide a mosaic of layers and texture.

My process is simple, my images personal. I use my Ipad and Iphone to take photographs of my reflection at home, or in my daily outings around my neighbourhood. The only technical manipulations I apply are cropping and light adjustments.

My images are multilayered, a personal and creative exploration of the meaning of identity, how we see ourselves and how we fit into the world.

 Selected images:

Friday, September 7, 2018

Reflection: Production Process Collaboration

This summer was the second time I participated in the Venice Vending Machine installation, which offers participants an artwork in exchange for a dialogue about art. The first was at the 2015 Venice Biennale, and this year it took place at the Tate Exchange Liverpool.

The theme this year was Production, Process and Collaboration. Working on my pieces as they related to the theme challenged me to be much more aware of these issues. It clarified what I'm seeking in my own practice and where I want to go from here.

There's a lot of focus on art making being a business venture, and artists being entrepreneurs who need to learn the ins and outs of the business world to make their practices successful. This is difficult for an artist like me, who's never been interested in business or becoming a business person. Business plans, networking, marketing and promotion sends shivers down my spine. I've taken an array of classes and workshops to improve my skills in this area, but I still approach all of this with apprehension and a lack of confidence in my abilities as a business person. 

I don't view my creative practice as a business or a production line. I don't create art primarily to sell, though it's nice when it does. Creating art is a way for me to make sense of the world. It's the way I address themes that preoccupy or trouble me. It's how I challenge my preconceived ideas and make peace with myself and the world. And by sharing my art with the public, it's how I participate in and contribute to the current conversations taking place in my community and in society at large.

My process is a contemplative exploration: trying things, experimenting with ideas and materials, examining and evaluating the results, and lots of starting over. It's questioning and decision making, observing and accepting. It's letting things rest, incubate, ripen and then returning to them to continue the journey.

I love to collaborate. I love sharing ideas and working with other artists on joint projects. But I've begun thinking about how influence and assistance are also part of a collaboration. Who influences me, how is that influence impacting my art, and is it necessary to credit this inspiration? Who helps me in my process, either intellectually, creatively or practically, and should they be noted as partners in my work? It's an interesting question, when throughout history, and in current practice, successful artists have regularly hired studio assistants and these workers, to this day, remain anonymous collaborators in the creation of  works of art.

I find it interesting that in film, another creative industry, even a stage hand is mentioned in the closing credits. And in music, every background singer, instrumentalist, and technician is credited for their contribution to the work. It inspires me to do things differently. 

I saw a painting by Atsmon Ganor at the Toronto Art Fair a few years ago: Untitled 2015 - black horizontal lines painted on wood. Simple, yet profoundly beautiful, it still speaks to me today. And that's where my interest in working with basic neutrals began. 

Alice Kunzli, my mother, taught me how to embroider, knit, crochet and sew. And although I haven't mastered the last three as she did, my love of embroidery, hand work and working with textiles, stems from her influence, and that of all the aunties and cousins who took part in the weekly sewing circles of my childhood; evenings spent stitching, story telling, laughing and building female fellowship and bonds. 

Below are the works I submitted to the Venice Vending Machine Tate Exchange Liverpool. 

For more information about Venice Vending Machine:

And to browse the current VVM7 catalogue:

Material; 3.81cm x 3.81cm x 1.5cm, 2018, raw canvas, graphite

Layers; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Things My Mother Taught Me; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Intuition; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Gathering; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Memories; 3.81cm x 3.81cm x 1.5cm; 2018; raw canvas

Elements; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Inspiration; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Perseverance; 3.81cm x 3.81cm; 2018; raw canvas, graphite

Emergence; 3.81cm x 3.81cm x 0.75cm; 2018; raw canvas