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Home » Publications » Catalogue Excerpts » Bodies in Translation: Age and Creativity

Bodies in Translation: Age and Creativity

Anna Torma

Artist Biography
Born in 1952, Anna Torma grew up on a farm in Hungary, where she learned the techniques of hand sewing and embroidery from her mother and grandmother. She enrolled at the Hungarian University of Applied Arts in Budapest in the late 1970s, at a time when censorship constricted many aspects of cultural expression. However, as textile arts were treated as domestic craft rather than a recognized artistic discipline, Torma and her contemporaries enjoyed unusual creative freedom. Tormaís hand-stitched pictorial surfaces reflect the artistís rich family history as expressed through a matrilineal needlework tradition. Torma immigrated to Canada in 1988 and since 2002 has lived and worked in Baie Verte, New Brunswick.

Torma has exhibited her work internationally and is represented in public collections including the Museum of Art and Design, New York, Foreign Affairs Art Collection, Ottawa, Ontario, New Brunswick Art Bank Art Collection, Fredericton, New Brunswick, and Mint Museum of Craft and Design in Charlotte, North Carolina. In 2007 MSVU Art Gallery presented an exhibition of her embroidered and printed wall hangings entitled Anna Torma: Needleworks. Torma holds the New Brunswick Lieutenant- Governor's Award for High Achievement in Visual Arts.

Artist Statement
I am fascinated by the textile material, hand embroidery and sewing, often telling stories with hand-stitched, salvaged textiles. I make assemblages and installations.

My attention recently turned to observe and revisit fragmentation and its manifestation in nature, cultural symbols, human body and embroidery patterns.

This subject became important on a personal level also; I see immigration, aging, loss and generational differences as fragmentation of life.

A few years ago I lost my dear family member in Hungary. We lived separate lives divided by my immigration. She became an elderly person without feeling the close warmth of immediate family. This fact disturbed me greatly, and I figured out an embroidery project that could be conducted over distance, built on occasional personal visits.

The traditional cross-stitch patterns with red yarn are well known in Hungary, a common language; we all learned the patterns and technique as kids. I encouraged her to make new pieces, even after a stroke when she barely could move her hands. When my friend turned 90, she moved to a long-term care home. She was determined to adjust herself to the change. The handwork came again to help, occupying her hand and soul while her thoughts were with us.

My installation work, RED FRAGMENTS, records this collaboration and also revisits my immigrant past through my folk art heritage. I want to point out with this installation the tension between coherent designs and fragmented pieces, the beauty of unfinished works. The embroidery fragments clearly show the persistence and try-again attitude until the prepared small canvas with the red-threaded needle runs empty, unable to be touched by her hands anymore.



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