In feminist care theory, the first phase of the caring act requires looking, that is, an orienting of your attention. This includes active observation, listening and noticing. Caring, within this context, is an act of connection to one’s surroundings, a cyclical process that multiplies and reflects back on oneself. To look, without judgement or fear, deepens our capacity to attend to the challenging task of continually maintaining and repairing ourselves, our relationships, environments and communities.
Sharl G. Smith is a Waterloo-based sculptor and former architectural professional, working primarily with bead-stitching as a means of exploring her identity, global themes of equity and care-based value systems. Bead-stitching is the act of creating objects by stitching beads together, one or two at a time. Smith sees parallels in the process of beadwork—the combining of discrete units into a whole, using a tension-based network—with diverse biological and sociological systems. Her artistic journey has been concerned with scaling up traditional beadwork techniques into life-sized public art. In recent works, she has incorporated mirror-polished brass and stainless steel spheres as beads and stainless steel aircraft cable as thread. The use of these striking and somewhat intimidating industrial material aims to bring a sense of monumentality and visibility to an art form that remains largely under-appreciated due to its historical association with femininity and ‘women’s work’.