THE Gynocratic Art Gallery

value the brain & cut the priviledge

Claire Ellen Paquet

Claire Ellen Paquet grew up in Orleans, Ontario, before following in her mother’s footsteps and making her way to Sackville, New Brunswick to complete her BFA at Mount Allison University. She is named for her paternal great-grandmother, Claire, and her maternal great-grandmother, Ellen, but never had the chance to get to know either of them. She is a founding member of the Ditch Witches, a Sackville-based girl gang with aspirations of world domination and making a passable frosting flower. She currently calls Montréal home.


May 1st, 2016

I first met Claire Paquet in the fall of 2015 when she was artist in residence as part of Handmade Assembly in Sackville NB (cohosted by Struts Gallery and Faucet Media Arts Center & The Owens Art Gallery). The project she was working on was called Habit, a plan that Paquet described on the assembly blog as follows,

       I am not a disciplined person. I’ve been meaning to sew this one particular dress for over a          year now. I think of it as my ideal dress, but I can never get around to making it. As punishment I’ve decided to make myself sew the same dress, once a day, for 30 days. In doing so I hope to examine my relationship to making and to my self-image.


Paquet is an artist who is at once smart, articulate and funny. In another blogpost for Handmade Assembly, where she is outlining her basic preparations for the project, Paquet describes an assumption she had made regarding the quantity of black thread that she would need to complete the project as being just one spool. She confesses that she assumed spools of thread were “bottomless like bottles of nail polish”. (I love that.)

Now, Paquet didn’t have twenty-one dresses on the day I first met her. Habit, which had commenced twenty-one days before the official start of the Assembly in Sackville had, rather, produced thirteen little black dresses (with three more cut and ready to sew). This fact Paquet described as “unsurprising to me, but pretty disappointing as well.”  This is something else that I noticed about Paquet; she can be unnecessarily hard on herself. This ‘perfectionist’ quirk is something that many of us share with her and yet, ironically, the project is interesting in large part precisely because of where, and how, she flounders. Who hasn’t experience the struggle of attempting to turn a desire into a ‘habit’?

Paquet described one  particular sewing mishap where she, “managed to sew a sleeve into the neck of a dress, instead of the arm hole. It was like a turtleneck for someone with a very tiny head.” (personally, I like to imagine a giraffe even though I recognize that the sleeve isn’t long enough..). I can not say how Habit turned out as the blog trails off and perhaps it doesn’t really matter for neither can I say what happened to my new year’s resolution to get into the habit of keeping my fridge clean of expired food, and only drinking wine on Friday and Saturday nights.. In the end it’s the faith which I hold that my power to conjure new habits that counts!

       Claire Paquet’s work which we are featuring this month at The GAG involves two related bodies of work. The first exhibition is Trappings, an installation that was held at the Niagara Artists Centre Flea Market Gallery in 2015, and leads into a second body of work titled Tabernaculum . To introduce Trappings I am sharing Paquet’s project statement here:

       I am fascinated by the daily rituals that govern our lives and the coping mechanisms we use to feel in control of our existence. I imagine that there is a little bit of magic in every repeated, nearly unconscious action that helps us get through our days, and I am compelled to try and exist in this area between the daily and the spiritual. Trappings represents the beginnings of an exploration into an everyday ritual space – the bedside table. Through collection, craft, and reflection, I am building up the trappings of a world that revolves around the bedside table.

This installation  was on view at the Niagara Artists Centre Flea Market Gallery  – a gallery within a real flea market – located in St. Catharine’s, Ontario. Trappings was on view every Sunday starting January 25th, 2015 and ran for a number of weeks. For this installation Paquet created a small cabinet-of-curios style table, paintings, a small AV work and a textile-based drawing which reads “sedentary”, which Paquet executed in hundreds of pink french knots.

My experience of Paquet’s work is that it whispers to us rather then screaming at us. Her pieces are often smaller, yet they pack a ideceptable wallop up close.  (Check out her map (“not exhaustive – updated as necessary”) PLACES I HAVE CRIED.. if you need confirmation.) This piece, Trappings, causes me to think more deeply about our private spaces, quiet moments, and alone times..

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The experience of creating Trappings led Paquet to her following project Tabernaculum. (Now, personally, I always knew the word as a ‘swear word’ during my early days of french immersion in elementary and middle school in New Brunswick, however). The free dictionary online defines the term ‘tabernaculum’ in four ways:

1. often Tabernacle Bible The portable sanctuary in which the Jews housed the Ark of the Covenant during their years in the desert.
2. often Tabernacle A case or box on a church altar containing the consecrated host and wine of theEucharist.
3. A place of worship.
4. A niche for a statue or relic.
      What Paquet has done for this body of work, Tabernaculum, is to ask people to send her photographs of their nightstands. Interestingly, a quick google search of ‘nightstands’ seems to suggest that nightstands are spaces which function merely as extensions of any well decorated (curated?) bedroom decor. However, it would seem that real images testify to a space that acts like more of a ‘visual-diary place’ for many of us. At least, something very different from the places of “worship” and/or display as proposed by many  magazines and blogs such as Apartment Therapy. (“Fascinating” note, I also discovered today while researching this series that if you “Place on the night table a bowl or glass vase with 3 lemons [it will] attract love. Change when matching yellow or black.” Amazing..truly…!?!)
       Tabernaculum is the sort of project that challenges me think about what is – for me – a very raw place in my home. At various different times, it can either display, or conceal: abject residue of our physical realities, evidence of our deepest hopes and/or neuroses, objects of worship, machines to distract us from the realities of wake or sleep. Whichever, whenever, they are potent spaces for examination, and ones that I feel are in thoughtful hands with Claire Paquet.
The GAG would like to thank Claire Paquet for sharing her work with us over the month of May.
        (*More thoughts? We would love to hear from you. Please send us your comments below.)


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Download a pdf. of Claire Paquet’s CV: CV_jan-2016.

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