Ella MacQueen-Denz

The Green Room

May 5 – 21, 2023

Memory is a space that evokes emotional imagery—that is triggered by smells, sounds, tastes—is a thing that causes physical responses: shutting eyes, lying down, walking towards, away. Past worlds become memory, which then occupies physical and mental spaces of the body where it both feeds and is fed by imagination. The Green Room explores how the artist’s visual language is influenced by childhood memories—in particular, those of playing with her sister and cousins in the “green room” of their grandmother’s home.

The larger paintings express themes such as the vulnerable transition of childhood to adulthood and unfolding sexuality, and depict variations of the “green room”, which is more than a room, but a symbolic space that continues to transform in the imagination and inform ongoing experiences of being. The smaller paintings mimic the nostalgia of postcards and the simultaneously close and faraway nature of memory, coming from a distant place to become a keepsake. The marionettes remind her of the paper-dolls they played with, yet are not to be played with—they hang on the wall like art. They move, but serve a different purpose, as though the child who played with them is in the painting and becomes the doll hanging on the wall. The wood-panel, shadows and dusty tracks of sunlight, the lush garden so near through the single-paned glass, gloomy Victorian oil paintings, hand-me-down toys and clothing—always punctuated with regular, familiar meals—hold the unstable and ever-changing state of growing up, and provide four walls as both a constant but evolving space of reference.

What did the “green room” mean to her then, and what does it mean to her now? What is the breadth of its folklore, now that she, her sister, and her cousins are older and the house it belonged to is demolished? Can the grief or shock of leaving childhood be captured in a painting of the room’s green carpet, and is it just as vivid as the emotions that it expresses, or as sensory as the carpet’s scratchy surface? With these works MacQueen-Denz wishes to elicit the relationships between a physical space, its memory, and its ever present occupants.

About the Artist

Ella MacQueen-Denz (b. 1997) is a multidisciplinary artist with settler heritage, who grew up on unceded Coast Salish Territory on Salt Spring Island. She received a certificate in textiles from the Kootenay School of Arts and a BA in English and Germanic Studies at the University of Victoria. She works with graphite and watercolour, is a graffiti artist, creates
paper puppetry, and teaches marionette-making classes for adults and kids. She enjoys watching how her diverse practices inform each other, and is greatly inspired by the illustrative and Surrealist styles of artists such as Leonora Carrington, Frida Kahlo, and Sybille von Olfers. She facilitated an art group at the Our Place shelter (Victoria B.C.) for three years that showed her the healing in creativity, and the empowerment of participating in inclusive spaces—which helped shape her philosophy and approach to her art practice. Ella delights in the discovery and invention that is possible in the creative process, and the intuitive search for understanding that emerges in the characters, forms, and compositions of her work.

You can find more information about Ella MacQueen-Denz’s art on Instagram at @ella.so_moves.

Opening night:

Friday, May 5, 2023, from 6 – 8 pm

Gallery hours:

Open every weekend from Saturday, May 6 until Sunday, May 21 from 11 am 4 pm

Xchanges gratefully acknowledges the support of the Province of British Columbia and the Capital Regional District for our gallery programs.

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