Alexandrya Eaton

Becoming: The Stories We Tell

  • March 12 - April 30, 2021
  • Saint John Arts Centre
  • Saint John, New Brunswick

Becoming, a series of thirty paintings and hooked rugs, debuted in a solo exhibition at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, in Fredericton, New Brunswick, in 2018. It then travelled to Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre, in Saint Andrews, New Brunswick, in 2019. In 2021, Becoming: The Stories We Tell was on view at the Saint John Arts Centre from March 12- April 30, with many new works added. The series has since also been shown as part of Eaton's larger exhibiton Everything in Between at the Owens Art Gallery, curated by 3E Collective, in 2021, and at the Hooked Rug Museum of North America, in 2022.

Eaton's work is deeply personal, and at the same time it amplifies and exalts the experiences of women that feel they need to be doing it all, while keeping it all together. The work suggests empowerment to the viewer. It is playful and represents connection and empathy. Eaton's work prompts the viewer to think about the women who have impacted their lives, including mothers and grandmothers, and to look to matriarchal systems as structures of strength and joy. In her work, women are leaders, decision makers, providers, teachers and healers, and our greatest symbols of strength.

Emma Hassencahl-Perley — 3E Collective

Installation view
Installation view

Women and flowers thrive in Alexandrya Eaton's paintings. For over 25 years, this Sackville-based artist has worked with vibrant imagery that brings her both joy and strength while expressing feminine power. Her work addresses cultural and personal experiences of gender identity and gender expression. Becoming references Simone de Beauvoir's statement that 'One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.' Eaton's work explores the phases of womanhood as shaped by cultural pressures and personal choices through the story of her late grandmother, with whom she was very close. Eaton chose the soft and sturdy traditional medium of rug hooking for the portrayal of her role model, and relished the slow and gentle transformation of memories into images. She creates iconic Pop-art figures that actively move through fear and sorrow with resilient courage and love. Her paintings and rugs are a memorial, yet also provide motivation to embody qualities that lead to fulfillment and strive for transcendance.

Christina Thomson

Becoming: The Stories We Tell

For the past two decades, my studio practice has concentrated on a body of work titled ‘Busy Woman’, which began as an exploration into self- identity yet evolved over time into a playful social commentary, documenting a contemporary woman’s attempt to come to terms with typical female roles.

My paintings are constructed slowly and deliberately by building layer upon layer of vibrant acrylic colour. This way of working, always adding incrementally, is a very female way of working and identifies closely with other forms of women’s cultural production such as rug hooking and weaving.

This series of work, ‘Becoming’, was originally inspired by my grandmother, and involves both painting and rug-hooking. This body of work is a testament to the powerful force that exists between generations of women and draws from my own life as I navigate the complexity of having daughters ready to leave home, the grief encountered after the passing of my beloved grandmother, and the deep sadness surrounding my mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s, and her recent passing.

‘Becoming’ speaks to both personal and cultural experience. French philosopher, Simone de Beauvoir, stated that “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” My work aims to explore phases of womanhood, incorporating time-honoured rug hooking techniques with contemporary imagery, offering a modern interpretation through a traditional method of women’s cultural production. The works are displayed in a grid formation to suggest a story quilt, or the telling of a life story.

Rooted in Pop-art, with a feminist twist, the interplay of imagery between the paintings and the hooked rugs, results in a positive affirmation and portrayal of love and resilience.

‘Becoming’ was first shown at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in 2018 and Sunbury Shores Arts & Nature Centre in 2019. ‘Becoming: The Stories We Tell’ references the new works that have been added for this third showing at the Saint John Arts Centre in 2021.