Carole Sabiston - Textile Artist
Public Installations in Victoria BC
Christ Church Cathedral, The Forest Primeval
Golden Jubilee Reredos dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II, in 2002.
and Advent Altar Frontal completed in 1974.
Iona Campagnolo, 27th Lieutenant-Governor of BC (2001-2007) commissioned
Reflections in Government House from Carole Sabiston in 2007. The five textile panels mirror the spectacular views of the Olympic Mountains and Salish Sea visible from the Ballroom.
The University of Victoria has over 30 Sabiston originals in its collection
and several commissioned textiles in public spaces.
Take Off: Point of Departure and Mode of Travel shows an imaginary map of southern Vancouver Island. The mode of travel is a magic carpet and the artist offers these instructions: “Quick, hop on this flying carpet, to travel our local oceans to far away or within yourself.”
Martin Segger teaches Canadian Art and Architecture at UVic.
From 1979-2010, he was Director of the Maltwood Art Museum and Gallery. Segger envisioned Sabiston’s Take Off: Point of Departure in UVic’s new Administration building and requested ultraviolet glass to protect the artwork.
“Carole is a major Canadian and international artist,” says Segger. ‘We are very fortunate to have her in Victoria.” Segger believes her large scale installations and layering techniques have expanded the genre of textile art. He describes Sabiston as a West Coast artist and an early environmentalist, who illustrates both geographic and inner connections to place.
In 1984, Jim Munro purchased an impressive heritage building on Government Street.
During restoration, Sabiston’s wall hangings and banners filled decorative wall alcoves.
Jim Munro stands in his main-floor office with Reflections on Handel's Royal Fireworks Music by his wife Carole Sabiston.
Now 84, Munro still comes to work every day, taking pleasure in the world of books and business. Carole was already a successful artist when we met in 1976, explains Munro, supporting herself and her son. Jim’s first wife, short-story maestro Alice Munro, received the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature.
"I only marry famous women,” quips the cheerful bookseller.
Pat Bovey, former director of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria (AGGV), teaches cultural policy at the University of Winnipeg. In 1990, when Bovey was director of the AGGV, she curated an exhibition of Sabiston’s work called Flying. In January 2014, she guest curates a major retrospective of Sabiston’s work at the AGGV. Titled Everything Below All of the Above, it covers five decades of activity by the prolific ever-evolving artist.
Both women share a passion for art education.
Pat Bovey recalls her first conversation with Sabiston in 1979. “We talked about music, dance and art as international languages,” recalls Bovey. “As a newcomer to Victoria, I was happy to meet a like-minded colleague.”
Sabiston sums up her artistic process as concept development through
stream of consciousness thinking, often aided by word and image association.
In 2000, Carol Shields moved to Sabiston’s neighbourhood in Victoria. The two creative women became friends, having many in-depth conversations about artistic process and inspiration. Sadly, Carol Shield’s cancer returned, and she died in August 2003.
During those trying times, Sabiston coaxed Shields to keep on writing. Unless, Shields’ final book, was published shortly before the author's death. In turn, Carol Shields encouraged Sabiston to write a personal story for Dropped Threads Two, an anthology of mini-memoirs by Canadian women.
In “Connecting Threads” Sabiston inherited some of Carol Shields’ clothing, and collaged the materials into a serene sketch of Shields, complete with blond hair. The colours are created with silk thread knotted in a tailor’s stitch. The bands of colour match the spools of thread incorporated into the left-hand area of the artwork.
“Carol loved Paris,” says Sabiston, “and the labels on each spool have a Parisian address." Sabiston re-imagines her fondly by adding details like special buttons, labels and a variety of colours and textures. Their relationship, now ended in life, continues on through shared memories and mementos stitched into deeper layers of existence.
The award-winning Pacific Forestry Centre was completed in 1984.
Carole Sabiston worked directly with architect Terry Williams during the construction.
"Three Tree Banners" (each 10 x 2.7 metres) represent western red cedar, yellow cedar and sitka spruce.
Carole Sabiston installed her textile assemblage "Interact" in the McPherson Theatre in 1984.
Carole Sabiston served on the Board of Directors of the McPherson Playhouse Foundation from 1979-1984. During those years, the refurbishing of the Royal and McPherson theatres took place. Sabiston assisted architects John Di Castri and Alan Hodgson with decor details such as paint selection, still visible today.
Lloyd Fitzsimonds praises “Interact” as a perfect title for an artwork in the lobby of a theatre. “It is here the audience interacts with
each other and mingles between acts,” he says. The curtain-like patterns on the surface remind the director of wavelets on a sandy beach. “There is a gentle moving energy in the textile,” he adds.
To create the carefully gradated colours and knotted effect in “Interact” the artist used knit fabric cut into eight-inch strips. Each wrapped strip contains five different colours. She hung the completed strips side by side on a large rack. “The process was laborious,” she recalls, “and meditative."
“Locate” by Carole Sabiston (1997) enlivens the lobby of the Saanich Police and Fire Stations.
Sergeant Steve Eassie (left) is the media spokesperson for the Saanich Police Force. He stands with “Locate” (1997) in the lobby of the Saanich Police and Fire Stations. “We find the Sabiston textile very welcoming” he says, “it softens the impact of coming into a public service building.”
Visitors enjoy looking closely at the artwork, comments Eassie. They discover a stylized map of Saanich complete with sailboats on Cordova Bay and windsurfers on Elk and Beaver lake. The wheels are an interesting feature and represent “wheels of justice” to some, or modes of travel, including wagon wheels. For Eassie and others, the four wheels show the four zones of Saanich: central, east, west and north.
“Arbutus Coast” (1986) and “Continuous Rhythms” (1999)
share space at First Unitarian Church on West Saanich Road.
Reverend Melora Lynngood feels fortunate that her congregation can experience each artwork for six months of the year.
The Unitarian Church embraces a wide range of theologies. “But we are united by our belief in the worth and dignity of each person,” says Lynngood, ”and our mutual interdependence on a web of existence.” The abstract nature of “Continuous Rhythms” fits perfectly with out faith, comments Reverend Melora. Through contemplation, each person draws meaning and sustenance according to their needs.
Sabiston often refers to “Continuous Rhythms” as “Our Beautiful Blue Planet”, expressing her profound respect for the miraculous turquoise jewel that sustains humanity. The rhythms echo Sabiston’s belief that "the only constant is change." The kinetic zig-zag patterns around the sphere symbolize this state of flux.
"Our Islands in Fabric" at City Hall was an Arts-Expo '86 Project.
Sabiston worked with 30 secondary school students over a two-year period.
Each student designed and collaged a portion of the artwork using the "island" theme.