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May 25, 2019

Work of Art: Outfit for the Afterlife by Pamela Norrish

Calgary and its surrounding area is full of creative people and beautiful pieces of art. Here is just one piece you should know about.

Outfit for the Afterlife, 2010-15, glass beads and nylon thread, 67
Photograph by Ward Bastian

Outfit for the Afterlife, 2010-15, glass beads and nylon thread, 67″ x 30″ x 3″. On display June to August 2016, at Glenbow Museum as part of the exhibition One New Work – Pamela Norrish: Magical Thinking, curated by Nancy Tousley.

The artwork

The classic jeans-and-T-shirt combo transcends class and culture. It is the go-to choice for artist Pamela Norrish in daily life, and her speculative selection for the afterlife. This bespoke attire with built-in aura radiates with the brilliance of half a million tiny glass beads, yet gives the appearance of a comfortable, well-loved garment – frayed knee, whiskering, faded colour. The material: Japanese Miyuki Delica cylindrical beads. The technique: bring the needle and nylon thread through each bead twice to construct netting. Five years in the making, the repetitive process absorbed both hand and mind in focused rhythm. The finished work, numinous, imbued with care and attuned to a slow pace, invites quiet contemplation. It’s a remarkable web of references and ideas: traditional French beaded mourning wreaths; the root of the modern word bead in the Old English word for prayer; American artist Liza Lou’s to-scale beaded Kitchen, which put beading on the art map; and the open discussion of art, craft and dissolving barriers.

Photographs by Ward Bastian

The work’s beading shown in detail.

The artist

Pamela Norrish, born in Summerland, B.C., graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2009, participated in several residencies and has shown work in various venues including Illingworth Kerr Gallery and the Art Gallery of Alberta.

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