Dawn Knight is an interdisciplinary artist and art educator. She was raised in the back of a family restaurant in a tiny town in rural Manitoba. Her fascination with place, comfort, the dynamics of social interaction and connection, intimacy, and gender roles developed as she spent hours every day observing the restaurant’s patrons.
Over the last 20 years she has developed work in a variety of media, including poetry and spoken word performances, video, photography, drawing, painting, printmaking, textiles, costuming, hand-made books and zines, and found object sculpture.
Although she identifies as a multidisciplinary artist, her passion lies in conceptual art, performance and installation works.
Heterosexual Cultures, 2017
Plywood, petri dishes, laser prints, adhesive
In 1515, Albrecht Dürer created a woodcut of a rhinoceros. Although he had never actually seen one himself - and his rendering was wildly inaccurate – it was widely regarded as a true representation of the creature, and shaped public perceptions for more than two centuries.
My grandmother read over 400 Harlequin Romance novels in the last 30 years of her life. Represented on these book covers are rituals of romantic attraction, desire, and courtship - particularly, acts of physical connection. These scenes are mesmerizing - part sensational performance and part meticulous didactic, reproducing and propagating notions of possession, control, and uncontrollable lust. I study these images with a pseudo-scientific curiosity.
In this piece, I document a taxonomy of heterosexual expressions, gazes, and interactions.
I detail an imagined beast.
Dirty Laundry, 2007
Harlequin book covers, paint, fabric, string, rag papers, clothespins, lint, mannequin
I have always found Harlequin Romance novels to be curious relics.
The kitschy book covers, featuring men and woman in the throws of passion, represent the ultimate in sensationalized lust and desire.
My grandmother, who had never presented herself as a sexual being, has read over 400 of these books. I used her collection of melodramatic, outlandish romance books as stimulation for my installation called "Dirty Laundry". It is a piece about lust, desire,
and the conflict between a woman's dual roles as proper domestic matron and desirable sex object.
For thirty days, everywhere I went, I carried cards cut from rag paper in my pockets. Every time I had a lusty daydream or 'impure' thought, I wrote it down in detail on one of the cards. I put each card, with a load of my dirty laundry, in the washing machine and through the dryer. I collected the lint from the dryer lint trap, and sewed myself a matronly nightdress, using the collection of 'tainted' dryer lint as stuffing in the large flowers which embellish the dress. I created a space to house the dress, by creating wallpaper which included a selection from the over 400 Harlequin covers, and hung my (laundered) dirty confessions on clotheslines overhead.
This installation was featured at Cre8ery's After Hours show.
Peepshow: How Lovely to Be a Woman, 2001
Performance / Installation
Exercise bike, television, speakers, mirror, found photograph in frame, plastic plants, lipstick, candy, photographs, pantyliners
In this three-hour performance, I created a peepshow for the general public. I painted a small room pink, and used adhesive pantyliners to create a wallpaper pattern. I hung pink dollar-store frames on the walls (still featuring the stock photos of handsome men which came with the frames) and decorated the room with with a large mirror, pink doilies, flowerpots, and other found items.
Rather than paying money to watch, viewers were asked to choose a piece of Valentine's candy from a dish in order to start the 'peepshow'. Peering through gauzy pink curtains, the audience could witness me riding an exercise bike in a pink dress and high heels, while watching an episode of the television sitcom Friends (where Chandler and Monica finally get married), on video. After each playing of the videocassette, I stopped to inspect myself in the mirror, smooth out my dress and reapply my lipstick.
This performance was featured at the emergence show at 290 McDermot Ave (what is now Urban Shaman Gallery).
Wading for Godot 3, 2006
Encaustic, collage and acrylic on canvas
6" X 8"
This piece, a part of a mixed-media triptych, was inspired by the potential futility of cautious choice-making when salvation (deliverance?) is expected from an external entity (i.e. God). I was questioning my own evasion of self-introspection and responsibility-taking for my actions.
The Seven (Pride), 1999
Gelatin silver print
8" X 10"
This photo was part of a series of artworks exploring our natural inclination to sin and how faithfulness to a religion might or might not affect our choices. The series included two public performances (The Seven (Gluttony) and Lo, What it is to Love) and a number of black and white photographic self-portraits.
Thank you to King's Fellowship Church for hosting the site-specific performances.