Authors don’t always love the covers their books are put behind, for ultimately the cover is the publisher’s decision. But it’s easy for me to say I like the one given This Hidden Thing. Thanks to designer Karen Allen at CMU Press for that, but huge thanks as well to Agatha Doerksen, who granted permission to use a detail from her painting, “Seasoned Offerings” (1998).
I would like you to see the entire painting! And here it is, below, sans its plain wood frame, and here too, something about the painting via the artist’s statement about work she was doing in that period:
My work is a detailed mapping of places I have been and remember and places I still want to explore. These journeys, plus memories of years living and working in India and Mexico are documented in the colours, textures and diversity of materials.
Working intuitively, combining paint with broken ceramic, papers, sand, wire, copper pieces, I search for balance between colour, image and texture. I keep the conclusion in suspension as long as possible as I layer the textures and paint. At times I scrape back into the material, until I sense completion. I remain attentive to the process of creating each painting that evolves from a collection of fragments and ideas into a work which at its best surprises me.
Agatha tells me the painting also references the patchwork of quilting and gardening — activities she was surrounded with growing up. In 1998, she was “still fresh and figuring out” her style, she says, and recalls placing objects in a sequence as if there was graph paper on the canvas, “a kind of burial of ideas, feelings, attachments and then layering them with paint colour and fine papers.” Although she resisted embellishing a painting with gold, “there was definitely a religious component to this work,” she says, “which allowed me to ‘live with’ using the gold paint.” A temple paper called joss paper, gifted by her daughter Alison who brought it from Cambodia where she was working at the time, stayed throughout the process.
This painting happens to hang in our living room now, where it delights us with its rich colours and evocative layers. I feel that it also reflects to me something of my autobiography, in ways I can’t articulate, though the painting does. I’m grateful a piece of it also speaks for my book.