“Before I Look Back” by Amanda Ewanyshyn in the KAC Vault Gallery
Thursday, May 4th, 2022 – Tuesday, May 30th, 2023
Before I Look Back
As I sit to write this, I am acutely aware of a sense of irony: I’ve gone out today for a chance to write positively about my children, yet in this moment I am angry with them. This morning they wouldn’t eat even after Chris and I spent an abundance of time and care preparing a nutritious breakfast in hopes that they might like it. This frustration is common to many parents. Additionally, my three-year-old has been weaving in and out of a rebellious phase wherein she oscillates from being impatient, disagreeable, and argumentative—about EVERY little thing, to being one who helps our family immensely through the love and care she displays toward her two younger siblings. During the latter part of this phase (which I pray is what remains), she brings a kind of unity to our family that no one else can, and when she’s being cooperative she serves as my most beloved muse. Anyway, I digress.
My purpose right now is to say something—perhaps apologetically—about this body of work.
It’s all too common these days to see images of children. Most people are not having as many kids now as they might have been a generation or so ago, but in the world online there is no shortage of places where one can find themselves barraged by the gleaming, happy faces of children belonging to aspiring socialites of the digital media world: individuals who are more than happy to put their polished joy on display for all to see. I speak hypocritically here, as I too have a social media account, and often will happily post full–faced photos of my family.
So, the purpose of this work is obviously not to criticize people who choose to reveal their kids’ facial identities over social media, nor is it to reprove individuals who conceal anything besides highly edited versions of themselves—I don’t blame them actually, as open digital criticism is increasingly rampant and cruel right now. Rather, this body of work seeks to put on display pain.
Though there are many variations of pain, there are two pains in particular that I will share now.
The first is the pain that I experience when I see the beauty of my children. [By “beauty” I mean: their purity—their innocence—their thorough and brazen joy—their scarless unflawed bodies—their unaged skin—their nascent features that have yet to change and morph into adult versions—their unabashed love for me, for others and for the world around them. That kind of beauty.] That beauty, in all its purity, gives me glimmers of the Divine, yet at the same time I’m also often overcome with a crushing and terrifying awareness of their vulnerability, fragility, and the undeniable inevitability that this beauty is merely a transient and minute phase in their lives (may the Lord grant them longevity).
The other kind of pain comes from the fact that I am missing much of this fleeting period in their lives. Without directly pointing fingers, I have found that “this world” has become a place where families frequently find themselves under attack. These attacks range from the active punishment of those who have children, to the passive ignoring of the existence of families. The implication being that they are less important now than in previous times. This pain derives from a systemic problem, but its effect is amplified when parents express their concerns only to find them subverted or ignored, in favour and in praise of lifestyles with more freedom and time to invest into the workforce (as if that were the sole worthy endeavour of one’s life-hours). This is not to say that there is a complete absence of caring individuals, I certainly do know some—each a lifeline—but this pervasive lack of compassion, butted up against the need to earn an income, has provided me with my greatest pain, which is that I have missed most of the baby-years of my children’s lives.
The photos here on display are personal and precious documents to me—each one pricks my heart. They record some of the moments I have actually been able to be with my babies over the last year and a half. They are a record of time I can never get back, and despite the grief of knowing this, I am so thankful to have had these moments with my kids, to capture (and freeze) them when they are (/were) at their tiniest.
Photography and the passage of time: to me, there is no truer match, no worthier discourse. The analogue (darkroom) photography on display here is by no means perfected. I would have loved to have had time to fine-tune my images: dust-treat them; further refine my skills with split-grade printing for better contrast; dodge and burn more etc. I also just wish I had been able to capture some of these moments more clearly. But alas, my children’s bodies—in all their energetic zeal—fly past me as quickly as this time.
Amanda has always been passionate about fine art and has maintained a creative practice since her childhood. She completed two undergraduate degrees at York University in Toronto, and then an MFA specializing in Printmaking from the University of Alberta, Edmonton. Although she has recently been focused on darkroom (analogue) photography, her artistic practice is usually interdisciplinary. Typically, her areas of interest span printmaking, photography, sculpture, and book arts.
She shows her work nationally and internationally. Locally, she exhibits most often through the KAC, as it remains an organization that welcomes artists who are at various phases in their artistic careers/lives. Her artistic vocations range from teaching to mentoring to liaising between art communities. She firmly believes that art is most truly expressed when it brings people together.
Amanda’s show will be exhibited in the vault gallery from May 4 to May 30, 2023.
View their upcoming show in our online gallery here!