Art tricks, artistic influences, art news & observations

This heat comes in waves, filtering in like photons from behind my awareness then becoming so heavy it squeezes out through my pores. I’m sweating out old belief systems, as the climate changes, the rents soar, the stolen children are found, the thunder rolls in. Deep sea changes all around, and us in old boats designed for different waters.

One step at a time, move like the water does. Attend to what’s in front of you, what feels right. Everyone’s got the thing that feels right to do, or they’re looking for it.

I made art, these past 18 months, for us out here on the sea of isolation. Like a canoe made of notions that can help us get ourselves and each other across the alarming, changing waters of right now. You make another canoe, she makes another, they make… and this is how we are okay together through all the change.

For context around this art canoe I made for us I’ll give you a story.

…I get covid for Christmas, the non-lethal version. What with quarantine and the later distribution of presents to front porches across Ontario, that stretches to the end of January.

February lockdown means no studio access and pause the commissions, again. I’m extremely conscious of the fact that this is the third and final? year of my artist residency and I haven’t come close to achieving what I’d aimed myself at in 2019. This is to be the year I generate a reasonable income from my work, launch two shows meet new makers, thinkers and new art, develop a series of artist duo talks – HA! Covid lessons come from behind: the old ways of working are no longer working.

Do SOMETHING, then. I pull out my dad’s old watercolour travel kit and doodle on the paper lying around the apartment – a good way to regulate body trauma I’m not truly conscious of.  

Just do what feels right. Make two more large cathartic messy drawings then tear them up. In the evening or the morning draw what’s in front of me onto the torn pieces. Feels better than numbing out. Interesting tea set, I think – good challenge with eclipses over and over again and how limited can I keep my palette (ultramarine, yellow ochre, burnt umber, raw Sienna). Welcome diversion from the databases and grant applications, the proposals, the news, the concern, so I find more diversion. In between drawings I tuck into research about European porcelain. 

Follow the internet trail of the stamp on the bottom of the sugar bowl to J.C. Maier Co, Porcelain factory in Poschetzau, Germany, made between 1938 and 1945. Except it says Czechoslovakia on the stamp. Scratch that mystery like a mosquito bite; what’s the story, here. Draw the eilpses, paint the sunlight through the cup that makes me think of strong light through my hand. It glows red and I can see my bones.

Three blank torn pieces fit into the previous six on my dining room table, which is when I realize I want to put the parts back together, rejoin them, see the larger context, reclaim a sense of this nearly forgotten whole. I can feel that in doing this I reconstruct myself, I reconstruct us, separate and still together. I notice that feeling, the warp and the weft of it.

Covid lessons around the great puzzle of us, separate, uncomfortable, yearning for touch we cannot have, and yet undeniably parts of a whole. Bodies of water that cannot move in synch as naturally as water does because we carry the inherited, present, perpetuated trauma of our ancestors in our bodies.

Like plastic in our oceans, chemicals in our rivers, but still and still we make beauty. We make care and deep surprising love.

Sometimes when I check in I feel nothing but a big shadow in the dark aquifer beneath. I regulate that by drawing elipses. Other times I feel more and I name it as well as I can. What is this empty space here, where conversation could be? What kind of conversation would best fill it? Who and what do I most miss, in all these lockdown isolation months? Who would I choose to listen with over coffee, now, in the midst of all these covid lessons?

I choose us. All of us.

George Floyd. The founders and organizers of BLM, Resmaa Menakem, Stacey Abrams. I choose uncomfortable conversations.

I choose you.

Emily Carr, and Mary Pratt together, about isolation and freedom. Vaclav Havel, Paolo Friere around dignity, power and empowerment, the strength you learn by being exactly where you are, right now.

Margaret McMillan, about her grandfather’s Lloyd George’s story of inherited, perpetuated generational trauma, as it played out in Paris, 1911. When J.M. Maier Co became German instead of Austrian/Hungarian, even though the factory never moved.

I choose anyone who knows anything about the trauma we all carry, about how to name it in our bodies, love it, and release it for our Selves, and so each other. No. More. Perpetuation.

It’s not heavy after you name it. There is a great deal of laughter in these conversations. Relief, joy.

I made something for us, and for the three partners who founded J. M. Maier Co in Poschetzau, Austria in 1890. For their descendants and the jewish workers they employed died in Nazi work camps. For the German replacement workers who gilded the coffee set I now paint with deliberate attention and care onto torn pieces of paper in my apartment. Their world and this world changes, utterly, and still we make things of great, deep beauty while it does: the thing in front of you that feels right to do.

Each of us a piece of the covid puzzle, a navigational map for ourselves and each other. May we find relief and joy together.

I can’t reach everyone I’d like to share this work with in person, though I am trying as many things as I can think of to do so. You may get a PM or a note or an email or a phonecall or a text from me but if you don’t, please know you are welcome: I’d like you to be there for the opening.

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