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(em)brace, a response by Jane Walker


I think of an em dash

I wonder why it’s called an em dash and look it up

“The em dash is a dash that is the width of an M”

An M could fill that space, if it wanted to

I think of Ms and then I think of Xs 

Variables and spaces left open for them 

The way I look at these drawings and fill in the spaces

With my mother or my mother’s mother 

Suddenly mine


MacKinnon leaves space for us to insert ourselves in her work, to consider the impact of human presence and domestic labour in our experience of home and comfort. Twisted knitwear holding the shape of those who made it, held it, folded it, wore it. Each stitch individually rendered and pulled into the next, the consistent tension of the pencil mimicking the experienced knitter’s needles. Somehow soft, stiff, warm and cold. 


To make drawings of knitwear is to offer a platform to read our relationships to knit objects from new perspectives. Suddenly a pair of bundled mittens is striped of its function and can only be observed on the terms of its meaning and intricacies. You, the mitten-wearer, become the mitten-reader as your eyes move stitch-to-stitch, assigning personal meaning as you go. Maybe you think of the dangling bits of snow clung committedly to stretched fibres, or the smell of the hot wool as that snow melts on the baseboard heater. Or you work out the pattern in your head – knit one, slip two, knit four, slip two. Repeat. I think? You think of the aunt who tried to teach you how to knit, the mittens you loved and the sadness when you lost them, or that time your partner made socks for you on your birthday but only the left one fit. You fill in the blanks that MacKinnon left for you because you have no choice. 


My favourite artworks always incorporate this negative space, an intentional place for the viewers’ experience. An artist takes a leap-of-faith that varied and personalized readings will give the work its strength. The jump lands when the work has openness without being too vague, and specificity without being exclusive. A static drawing that keeps moving in our collective imagination of it, each twist independent but interconnected. 


(em)brace sits between craft and technical drawing in a way that holds skill and meaning on equal and approachable grounds. Through her quietly social drawings, MacKinnon commemorates the knitted object as a site of personal and collective memory. There are no wrong answers to the equation, the variable M is what holds or held you.  



I think of a brace

A strong case holding fragile parts together

Knitwear hardened in graphite

Unassuming armour

Formulaic and specific 

Not unlike my body

Or the body to my right



JANE WALKER  is an interdisciplinary artist, arts organizer, and researcher based in Bonavista, Newfoundland and Labrador. She holds a BFA in Visual Arts (Memorial University, 2015) and a Masters of Research in Creative Practice (Glasgow School of Art, 2017). 

Her work has been exhibited in Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Singapore, and she has published reviews and essays in Canadian Art, Art North Magazine, and Visual Arts News. Walker is the Director and Co-founder of Union House Arts, a new artist-run-centre in Port Union, NL.