Piece of My Heart

Collector  Bill Staubi, Ottawa

Artist  Michelle Wilson

The Work  A 2009 digital print on newsprint of the artist’s body hair from a chastity vow by the artist. Purchased at La Petite Mort Gallery.

 Photograph by David Kawai


What attracted me to the piece was a general interest in religious iconography, but what sold me was the back story. Michelle’s boyfriend had moved away and, as part of the chastity she imposed on herself during his absence, she let her body hair grow. A brief reunion occasioned her to trim that hair, which she then let regrow until his permanent return. The clipped hair went into the reliquary pictured, and it was enhanced with found objects.

“I found this incredibly romantic and surprising in a young person in contemporary times. I respected that she was willing to open herself and share such an intimate emotion and action. It reminded me of the Victorian hair pictures memorializing loved ones and especially the dead. And it harkened to the power of religious relics in fortifying one’s faith.

“I enjoy supporting the arts. If one wants to live in a city where there is a vibrant arts community, then one either has to produce art or buy it, 
and since I don’t make art, I support local artists.

“I enjoy being surrounded by art in my home, where my walls are covered salon-style, floor to ceiling, with art. The art has been a balance to a career in the correctional service and was a useful reminder that, while there are dark things in society, there is also beauty. Now retired, I have more time, if less money, to spend at galleries and visiting artists.

“About a year or so later, Michelle and her boyfriend left Ottawa and I had the chance to visit her apartment for a sale of her inventory. I spied the actual assemblage that is in the image I purchased. I pointed at the reliquary (and) in the end she let me take it, knowing that I, better than most, would appreciate its significance.”


Piece of My Heart is our regular feature on Ottawa collectors and a cherished piece from their collections. If you want to be featured, or know someone who should be, email psimpson@ottawacitizen.com.


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