Martha Eleen‘s work is concerned with human geography and the way that social and political life affects the landscape. Her practice is less concerned with developing technical skill than in increasing her ability to be present, in order to convey the experience of being in a place, not merely the way it looks.
I, Huck (2012) articulates the landscape of the experience of knowing my adult son, Gabe, who is disabled. Gabe collects analog audio technology and listens to several recorded versions of Huckleberry Finn. He likes to call himself ‘Huck.’ It’s an expression of his pride that allows his spirit to expand. Perhaps he identifies with Huck Finn’s particular combination of innocence and intelligence.
Gabe is a pioneer of inclusion. He can never be alone and for his whole life I have advocated for individualized funding to hire people to support his good life and prevent his institutionalization. I began these paintings in a deliberate attempt to use my painting practice as a means to focus in on resolving his situation, to be available during studio hours to his advocacy and to access my creativity in the political process.
My Space (2014) is a series of paintings of my own personal landscape. This space, between my skin and the outside world, while it is where I relax, is also saturated with the relentless and mind numbing advocacy tasks for Gabe’s support. During the four years of production of these two bodies of work the advocacy continued to produce no results. But some alchemy was at work below the surface, because the opening of My Space at Loop Gallery, Toronto in April of 2014 coincided with an announcement of new funding for Gabe’s full time support. I am no longer a caregiver. This work marks the transition to a new and autonomous relationship with my son. The outcome of the time spent making these two bodies of work is our dream of a good life coming true.