Friday evening, H. and I enjoyed a show of Miriam Rudolph’s work at Fleet Gallery, featuring some of her autobiographical work — her “visual diary,” she calls it — including scenes of Paraguay, Winnipeg, and rural Manitoba. It was the closing reception of the show, and the artist was in attendance from Minneapolis, where she currently lives. We’d met her before, at the launch of her book, David’s Trip to Paraguay, and I’d viewed her work at her website, but this was a chance to see it “for real” and also to chat with her again.
Rudolph grew up in Paraguay, then moved to Canada to study. Her overarching theme, she said in an interview at Branch, is “the experience of places.” She develops a deep connection with places where she lives, but is “also always an…onlooker or outsider.” In her work, one gets a sense — sometimes whimsical, sometimes deeply serious — of what it means to leave places one loves, and to come to love the places where one arrives.
Since H. also grew up in Paraguay and we lived there with our children for some two-and-a-half years, we enjoyed the many references to the Chaco (a region of Paraguay with a number of Mennonite settlements) that enter her scenes of Winnipeg. If I were a visual artist and had to paint my move between countries and my relationship to both places, the references would be portrayed in the opposite direction. I tried to feel at home in that intensely hot and colorful place and discovered “home” was always complicated by my being a stranger to it and away from my Canadian prairie roots. But isn’t this the story for so many of us, on so many levels, as we move between places and roles, as we make and miss and seek home?
I’m a fan of Rudolph’s work for another reason as well, and it’s because her painting, “Holding On,” is featured on the cover of my book of short fiction, What You Get at Home. The cover isn’t about the book, of course, nor vice versa, although the character Liese in the collection’s seven connected stories moves to Canada from Paraguay. It’s just wonderfully evocative of themes of home, leaving or landing (the viewer can take their pick, I think), and the “all kinds of things” that short story collections turn out to be.
(Aside to Miriam: Yesterday, at a signing event at McNally Robinson’s, someone came by, picked the book and said, delighted, “It reminds me of Chagall!”)
I’ve got to close with one of my favorite prints in the show, “Waving Goodbye,” (right) but there’s much more to see at her website.
You may also enjoy this post about the cover art of This Hidden Thing.