By This Means

January 29 - April 23, 2022
Reid Gallery

By This Means

Rachel Yoder


Drawing on a career in carpentry, By This Means resituates the building trades within the constructs of gender, identity, and art history. Rachel Yoder takes the tools and her daily experience of construction to make paintings and prints by incorporating individual components, accumulation, structure, repetition, creation of space, addition, and layering into her work. Common symbols of construction – hammers and ladders – are repurposed as a means of escape and self-examination. The work in this exhibition began as a deliberate investigation of Rachel’s experience from 25 years spent working as a carpenter building houses in the West Kootenays. It starts with a literal use of hammers, houses, and ladders as visual components and draws on many of the ingrained skills and techniques of the trades: modular components are repeated, there is a commitment to the use of straight lines and grids, and the materials and palette are familiar.

There is a casual skillfulness to the construction of this work that can only come from years of practice. The recognizable use of vernacular architecture simultaneously grounds it in the real world of day-to-day existence and elevates it within the gallery context. In revisiting the workplace, with its tools, components, and structures, the ladder emerges as the dominant symbol. But why did it emerge and what does it symbolize? It starts as a tool that is used in many ways: to climb up onto the structure, to pass from one level to another, or to provide access. Composed of a grid of blocks and itself a structure, it can be a bridge, providing a place to start, becoming a way to symbolize or convey what it enables you to do. The ladder allows ascension, transition, perspective, departure, escape, access, egress.  It provides a way to approach a different (and difficult) platform. It denotes transformation.  

For Rachel, negotiating the gendered workplace of the construction industry as a woman had a complex psychological aspect. Regarded as either an affront and a threat to masculinity or conversely as a heroic (if slightly incomprehensible) role model and example for the future, a career in the trades required confidence, self-reflection, and commitment to hard work. By This Means turns the imperatives of the construction industry around – process, consideration, and exploration have more value than production here. As you progress through the exhibition, what initially appears as regular and repetitive reveals intentional irregularities. The work provokes questions about our underlying assumptions about how we work and live, how we make meaning, and how we reconcile and interpret these often-conflicting components of life.