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Vita Plume


  • born in 1955 in Montréal, Québec
  • parents left Latvia after the Second World War and immigrated to Canada from England in 1954
  • diploma in fabrics from Sheridan College, Mississauga, Ontario (1977); B.F.A. (1982), M.F.A. (1993), Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Halifax, Nova Scotia

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Of Latvian heritage, fibre artist Vita Plume has used her art to look at the problem of culture loss that results when a massive emigration, such as the post-World War II Latvian emigration, occurs. She has been concerned with the sensations of displacement and duality that are a part of living two cultures simultaneously, and although making Canada her home, Plume has returned to Latvia on numerous occasions beginning with a brief trip in 1988, and including an exhibition of her work there in 1992. Plume's textile work is informed by traditional Latvian language, techniques and symbols, yet she refuses to adhere to strict traditional dictations on colour and pattern because she believes the changes occurring in a culture over time are necessary to its vitality. Often combining traditional shirts and belts with the disturbing contrast of barbed wire and other metal, Plume comments on the darker side of cultural preservation, on culture as a belt or constricting device, a signifier of identity, and also hints at the cultural oppression that has been particularly present in the history of Latvia and other eastern European countries. Works along these lines have included Back to the Wall (1985-86), a series of traditional woven belts hung on rows of barbed wire, and A Foreign Anguish (1990), a piece woven of cotton, wool and barbed wire, and incorporating Xerox, markers and slide projections. In 1994 she fastened text to a shirt using hundreds of straight pins in Rescuing the Fragment from Triviality, creating what Ray Cronin (1995) referred to as a hair shirt or symbol of self-martyrdom. The combination of textile, metal and language she continued in her 1995 installation, Traces of Translation. Combining Latvian blouses, including Rescuing the Fragment from Triviality, with video of Latvian textile work being done, this piece is best described by Plume’s own explanation of her aim: "Although I access historically correct techniques, colours and patterns, I distort, destroy and despoil these aspects to accentuate the political and social dilemmas that Latvians the world over face" (quoted in Deborah Hickman, 1990). Plume has instructed at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and Concordia University, and was the coordinator of the Fibres Program at Concordia University from 1995 to 1998. She also spent a few years as gallery planner for the Mary E. Black Gallery at the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture (1989-92). She has written in numerous catalogues, including an essay on the issue of textile as art/craft in Textile/sismographes: Symposium fibres et textiles 1995, in which she commented on how she sees textiles functioning within the art world: "The simultaneous intimate and social meanings connected to how we use textiles, allow it to cross from the most intimate, personal and private, into the domestic and public sphere. This allows exploration of both the intimate specificity of individual expression while simultaneously addressing a multiplicity of social structures."   Plume is currently Head of Textiles Studio, New Brunswick College of Craft and Design in Fredericton and is Artist in Residence for the academic year 1999-2000.



1995 Traces of Translation
Gallery Connexion, Fredericton, New Brunswick


1993 Atceries/ Remember
Latvian Cultural Centre, Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1992 Vita Plume
Iisalmi Gallery of Crafts and Art, Iisalmi, Finland

Starp svesumu un majam/ From Away
Cesis Museum, Cesis, Latvia;  Museum of Jekabpils, Latvia; Madona Museum of Art, Madona, Latvia; Bauska Museum of Art, Bauska, Latvia; Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia (travelling)

Political Textiles
Anna Leonowens Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1991 Texstil - 91
Kristiansand, Norway


1990 Some Women Artists in Nova Scotia Now
Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia


1989 5th Exhibition of Latvian Fibre Art
Peter's Church, Riga, Latvia


1988 Two Cities/Two Countries - Lublin/Halifax Exchange
Biuro Wystaw Artystycznych, Galeria Labirynt, Lublin, Poland; Centre for Art Tapes and Eye Level Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia

Out of Canada
Curated exhibition, International Gallery, San Diego, California


1986 Visual Facts '86
Dalhousie University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Continuing Thread
Eye Level Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia



1997 Retaining . . . desire
Observatoire 4, Montréal, Québec

Exhibition at the National Action Committee on the Status of Women National Conference, Ottawa, Ontario

Reconstructing Identity: Latvian Women Artists (participant in the symposium held in conjunction with the exhibition titled: Siting the Self: Some Conversations about Post-Colonial Cultural Identity)
MacKenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan


1994 Eau infinité des possibles
Curated exhibition, Galerie Occurence, Le Vieux-Port, Montréal, Québec


1993 7th Montréal Biennial of Tapestry
Centre d'essai et de diffusion de l'art contemporain, Montréal, Québec


1992 Speaking in Tongues: Ethnic Influences in Contemporary Tapestry and Fiber Art
InterArt Centre, New York, New York


1985 Diverse Perspectives: A Selection of Work by 37 Members of the Slide Registry of Nova Scotia Women Artists
Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Halifax, Nova Scotia



Latvian Cultural Centre, Toronto, Ontario
Museum of Decorative Art, Riga, Latvia
Nova Scotia Art Bank, Halifax, Nova Scotia



Barber, Bruce, and Melodie Calvert. Two Cities/Two Countries: Halifax, Canada/ Lublin, Poland. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Centre for Art Tapes, 1988.

Beatty, Greg. "Hope Nest." Border Crossings 16, no. 1 (Winter 1997): 52-53.

Bentley, Allen. "Traces of Translation." Arts Atlantic 14, no. 1 (Fall 1995): 4.

Brunner, Astrid. "Requiem of thorns: The textile work of Vita Plume." Arts Atlantic 11, no. 1 (Fall 1991): 34-36.

Cronin, Ray. "Vita Plume." C Magazine 46 (Summer 1995): 40.

Evans, Jane. A Joy Forever, Latvian Weaving, Traditional and Modified Uses. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Dos Tejedoras Fibre Arts Publications, 1991.

Gladwell, Brian. Beyond the Object. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: Saskatchewan Craft Council, 1987.

Hickman, Deborah. Some Women Artists in Nova Scotia Now. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 1990.

Hiscox, Diane. "Artifacts, Vita Plume." Vanguard (November 1985): 40.

Lotz, Jim. Head, Heart and Hands: Craftspeople in Nova Scotia. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Breamer Publishing, 1986.

Ming-Wai Jim, Alice. "Vita Plume and Buseje Bailey." Parachute no. 87 (Summer 1997): 48-50.

Perron, Mireille, Janis Jefferies, Anne Ferrer, et al. Textiles Sismographes: Texts from the Colloquium. Montréal, Québec: Conseil des arts textile de Québec, 1995.

Plume, Vita. "Canceled icons, Pamela Ritchie." Metalsmith Magazine (June 1984): n.p.

---. "In visible center." In Textiles sismographes: Symposium fibres et textiles 1995. Montréal, Québec: Conseil des arts textile de Québec, 1995.

---. "Susan Wood." Vanguard 16, no. 5 (November 1987): 40.

---. "Traces of Translation." Parallelogramme 20, no. 3 (1994): n.p.

---, and Martha Glenny. Memoranda: Jewellery by Martha Glenny. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 1986.

---, and Robert Anderson. "Charles Lewton Brain, solo exhibition." Metalsmith Magazine (January 1984): n.p.

Shatford, Elizabeth, and Mern O'Brien. Diverse Perspectives: A Selection of Work by 37 Members of the Slide Registry of Nova Scotia Women Artists. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, 1985.

Townsend-Gault, Charlotte. "Some contemporary art in Nova Scotia and the Weldon tradition." Hearsay (Fall 1989): 35-38.

---. Visual Facts '86. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Dalhousie Art Gallery, 1986.

"Vita Plume, Leslie Sampson, Ruth Scheuing, Mindy Miller." Naoko Furue Senshoku Alpha no. 114 (1990): 28-42.

Williams, Carol and Ana Chang, Angela Somerset. Langues, Torsions et Noeuds. Montréal, Québec: La Centrale, 1994.


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