Freezing Antarctic air recently brought sub-zero temperatures and snow to parts of Queensland's far south. The ABBE (Artist Book Brisbane Event 16-18 July at Griffith University Southbank Campus) coincided with this so-called 'Antarctic vortex'. Braving blustery winds, overcast skies and sporting a new super-warm jacket, I ventured south to attend this smorgasbord of book art delights and debates.
The program for ABBE included academic presentations from 19 leading critical thinkers in the Book Arts feld, as well as keynote addresses from Brad Freeman (American-based artist and founder of JAB), Dr Sarah Bodman (Senior Research Fellow at CFPR, UWE in Bristol UK) and Dr Lyn Ashby (Australian-based artist and founder of thistoopress). Attached to the event was the 'books by artists' exhibition, a comprehensive display of book-based artworks in the Webb Gallery, including two of my own pieces. Co-ordinated by Dr Tim Mosely, the exhibition included works by Victoria Cooper, Caroline McKenzie Craig, Fiona Dempster, Hesam Fetrati, Anniqu Goldenberg, Judy Macklin, Christine Mellor, Tim Mosely, Adele Outteridge, Geln Skien, Doug Spowart and Wim de Vos ... to name just a few.
I came away with a head overflowing with information and ideas for future projects. After time to reflect upon the experience, I can honestly say that the best part of my trip to Brisbane was connecting with the people. There are times as an artist working alone that you think there is no-one who shares your interests, passions, self-doubts and insecurities. It is part of our nature to want to belong and it is the associations and friendships that create the joy in life on whatever level they may be. I am very grateful for the new links made and the old ones re-established.
As part of my ONE DOG solo exhibition, I asked my two dog owners to describe their relationship with their canine best friend. I wanted to explore the notion of memory re-invention. This is the story of Floyd, as told by Kimberly Rigley.
“Once you have had a wonderful dog, a life without one, is a life diminished” – Dean Koontz
You always cherish your first dog. They’re the dog that teaches you what it really means to have another life depend on you and what it means to be loved unconditionally, even when you’re at your worst. They’re the dog that teaches you patience and understanding, and that if you leave things on the floor, they will get chewed. I had no idea just how much my life would change when I got my very first dog, Floyd.
From the day I brought him home, life suddenly became like a sitcom with Floyd becoming synonymous with a canine version of ‘Dennis the Menace’. He was extremely determined in every ‘task’ he undertook, whether it was the removal of our garden’s underground irrigation system, the delicate stripping of individual leaves off almost every tree and plant in the yard or the destruction of the front fence covering in order to gain a better view of the outside world.
Floyd was also extremely insecure and needy. His separation anxiety saw him scale 6 foot high fences and chase after the cars of his leaving family members. Driving away from the house required strategic planning and SAS-like skills of stealth and non-detection. Floyd was a force to be reckoned with and could proudly chase family cars for great distances and at top speed.
There were times I thought I couldn’t keep Floyd, that he would be better suited to someone else, someone better, someone with a larger yard and a higher fence. But no matter how bad things got or how much trouble he caused, when the commotion he caused had subsided, Floyd would always come and sit down beside me, look up at me with his big brown eyes, his unusually long tongue hanging out and smile. I loved him more in those moments. He looked at me in an almost knowing way, so certain that he would never be going anywhere. And he never did.
No one was ever going to love or be as patient or be as understanding of Floyd as I was and, putting all his flaws aside, he was a great dog. On walks I was always within his eyesight and he made sure I never wandered off or got lost. His favourite game was catching a ball and having you chase him around the yard trying to get it back off him. His manners were non-existent – he would stand on your feet and burp in your face as often as he felt like it. He wasn’t an overly affectionate dog either, but he would follow you into every room so he could lie at your feet and be near you.
You never forget the day you lose your first dog, especially if it’s sooner than it should be. For me it was Valentine’s Day, 2013. Floyd had been struggling with us recently moving house and was constantly escaping to go back to the old house. That morning after I’d left for work, Floyd jumped the fence and inadvertently hung himself. I came home that afternoon with no wagging tail to greet me ever again.
Floyd was never a perfect dog, but that’s what made him so special. He reminded me that you don’t have to be perfect to be worthy of love. Floyd was my best friend, my protector, my family. I wouldn’t have exchanged him for all the well-behaved dogs in the world. And all those moments where Floyd’s chaos and destruction made me want to pull my hair out… they are the memories that now make me laugh and appreciate what a great dog I had.