“Will You Be My Hands?” and “You Take It From Here”

Collaborations between Kate Collie and Mia Weinberg

We have been working collaboratively since 2000. We met in 1997 at the Atlin Art Centre in northern BC, where Kate was a visiting artist, instructor and finally assistant director between 1993 and 2002. Our first major exhibition together, called Signs of Confluence, took place near Atlin, at the Yukon Arts Centre in Whitehorse.  Since then, our joint exhibitions have tended to be in the cities where we live, Edmonton (Kate) and Vancouver (Mia). Our most recent collaborative project is called ‘Will You Be My Hands?’

It is unusual for two artists to work together on the same paintings. There were times during ‘Will You Be My Hands?’ when there were four hands on one painting: Mia’s strong hands and Kate’s hands that have been weakened by nerve damage. The idea behind the project was that Mia would ‘be Kate’s hands’ to help her realize creative visions beyond her current physical ability. We worked on this project during a five-month period when Kate was in Vancouver on leave from her job in Edmonton.

‘Will You Be My Hands?’ took us into terrain that represents an overlap between Mia’s artistic iconography and Kate’s lived experience of disability. When Mia creates photograms and digital scans of fading flowers, she sees that blossoms become more animated and translucent as they wilt. Petals crinkle and curl; they bend and twist like dancers. The uniformity of freshness gives way to unusual new shapes, each unique and revelatory.

Kate experiences something like this in her life as a person living with a disability and also in her current profession as a psychologist and art therapist working with people affected by cancer. She sees that illness and disability do not have to diminish a person and that often the opposite occurs. New strengths get activated, coupled with new clarity.

We enjoyed the first year of ‘Will You Be My Hands?’ enormously. Kate could be an artist again, which was part of the plan and a great joy, and she also started to be able to walk again, which was a complete surprise. Every hour of art making gave her more physical strength. Mia had the extraordinary experience of seeing through the eyes of another, more experienced artist.

The resulting pieces are made of paint, botanical illustrations, and collage. All three layers offer opportunities to see in and through. The drawings show inner structures of plants, revealing evocative shapes that are usually hidden. The collage pieces are Mia’s scans of fading flowers.

For two years leading up to ‘Will You Be My Hands?’ we collaborated by sending images to one another by mail and email. For ‘You Take It From Here’ Mia created prints in Vancouver and mailed them to Kate who painted, drew and printed on them with an ink jet printer to create the final images.

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