Gut reaction

Many artists get inspiration from their gut, but Lyn Fabio literally turns guts into art. In her second solo show, Verdant Veerings, the Whitehorse based textile artist continues her exploration of pig intestine as an artistic medium.

Many artists get inspiration from their gut, but Lyn Fabio literally turns guts into art.

In her second solo show, Verdant Veerings, the Whitehorse based textile artist continues her exploration of pig intestine as an artistic medium.

“Even after ten years I’m still learning things about it,” said Fabio. “It has a nature of its own.”

On a trip to Alaska in the late 1980s, Fabio became fascinated with the traditional work of indigenous people of the western Arctic who, for centuries, have used the intestines of sea mammals for everything from windows to raincoats.

“I came home and realized that I don’t live near the coast, and I don’t have access to seal or walrus intestine, so I sort of gave up on that for a while,” she said.

In 2001 Fabio discovered that artists in the United States were using pig intestines to make baskets. She took a course and has been making art from guts ever since.

Pig intestine is much more fragile than walrus or seal, so it can’t be used for anything utilitarian, said Fabio.

“A single layer of gut is sort of a cross between tissue paper and silk,” she said. “It’s very thin, so most of my hard work is multilayered.”

While hog intestine is relatively commonplace – Fabio gets much of her material from butcher shops – it’s a unique artistic medium that generates a lot of public interest, she said.

“People can’t imagine what art would look like from it if they haven’t seen it.”

Last fall, Fabio spent six weeks at the Ted Harrison Artist Retreat developing much of the work for this latest show.

“I was experimenting with different techniques, combining gut with the textile work that I have done most of my life,” she said. “This show is basically a result of that.”

Part of that experimentation included incorporating dyes in her work.

“In a way, it goes back to my printmaking background,” she said. “I find myself looking at the surface of the gut almost as a printing plate.”

Because it is a natural medium there’s always a chance that it will react in unexpected ways, said Fabio.

“When I go to stain them I never know what’s going to show up,” she said. “Every length of gut has it’s own personality, like every person or every pig.”

While it may seem strange to the uninitiated, Fabio has found her work widely accepted both in Canada and abroad.

She has had pieces displayed at the Vancouver Olympics, and at the Cheongju International Craft Biennale in South Korea.

Fabio was also chosen as one of five Yukon artists to participate in an artistic and cultural exchange with Russia.

In the spring of 2008 she travelled to Siberia, where she tried to teach local artists to use reindeer guts as a medium.

“It didn’t quite work,” she said. “The intestine was too small.”

The failure did not stifle her curiosity.

In this show one piece uses cow and pig intestine, and Fabio has corresponded with artists as far away as New Zealand who are experimenting with other animals.

“To me, there is a certain life to it,” she said. “The quality of light that passes through it.

“I don’t think it could be achieved with anything else.”

Her show, Verdant Veerings, runs until May 4 at the Yukon Art Society Gallery.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com