Keirartworks's Blog

hmmm. hmmm? Observations, actions and connection points through art.


1 Comment

Hamilton Residency 4: rhythm

The overwhelm subsides into a kind of rhythm as I begin to understand what my new job is; what feels unfamiliar but is actually okay.

img_1976

As the illusion clears – of pitfalls and boobytraps at every misstep – I can see that the floor I walk on every day is sturdy, reliable… and beautiful. The walls are well built and practical, the beams and posts resilient and strong. Built to carry workers, materials; to support dreams of steady slow progress in reward for daily, hourly persistence.

img_1989

So many have carried their private stories through here, many more will do so, now that this factory has been so lovingly snatched from the jaws of disuse and abandonment, launched like a ship into the ocean of now.

img_1777

The big building loves industry and honest work; I can feel it.

I imagine, self-indulgently, that it loves the current industry more than the one that built it, and to some extent Hamilton, in 1901. These bricks were laid, these beams milled and bought thanks to the labour of slaves from the south who laboured daily in cotton fields barns and shipyards. A different daily, hourly persistence from that of the workers who laboured here. Did the industrialists ‘own’ them too, I wonder.

img_1722

The Portrait Project grows, here.

In the research process I hold careful space for the stories of what I now call ‘my eight’. I am quietly astonished, again and again, at this meeting place of diversity in story and self awareness, and how each disclosure connects, through my own experiences and oh so gently to another from someone else.

img_1992

They are strangers to one another, my Eight, but they are all here in the studio with me now, as I listen again to what I’ve been shown and told, and form the larger story that is ours together. From this I will make eight pieces that each speak to the other across difference. I’ve never felt more challenged by a visual art project, have never welcomed a challenge more than I do now.  So many languages to learn; listening is good work.

img_1986

I’m grateful to have been able to extend my stay by finding permanent studio space here, at the marvellous Cotton Factory in Hamilton. Not only will this give me the time to do justice to these portraits and my Eight, but also to build strong ties with the people who work here. A new kind of family.

 

 


Leave a comment

Hamilton Residency 3

My new middle name is Curiosity.  Like a little kid, mouth open: wow. huh? how come? really? Wow, really. Who?

img_1965

Strangely, it feels like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, living my brand new daily life in an arts hub in the old rather broken, semi-forgotten industrial sector of this big city where my Grandmother raised her children. Memory cells light up each night with twenty new names and connections, emails fly out daily from my computer to people I’ve just met, or want to meet. The work on the walls of my studio changes before my eyes as I try things I’ve never tried, make mistakes I’ve never made, sort through which ones to keep and which to release.

There’s a lot of trust in the air.

I’m deeply aware of my solitude, my autonomy, and grateful beyond measure for the opportunity to stretch myself well beyond what has become comfortable. In the sixth day of the first full -time week I’ve lived here, I can feel my thinking, my painting, my writing and my awareness shift as old belief systems dissolve. There are seven weeks left of this residency, and every one of them is glowing with promise.

img_1954

From school to studio; books to paint. It’s a complex shift in awareness and perception, I find.  The road from left to right brain is populated with circus performers and street musicians, frequented by students seeking their masters of illusion, lined with bright market tents full of tempting diversionary tactics. You quickly discover that only tourists stop at these, that it’s important to stay mindful and moving forward.

img_1956

It has taken a while to sort out who actually lives here, in the space between things predictably linear and things … shaped and sounded differently.  I’m finding that this right brain work is more about releasing what I think I know than applying any learned structure and experience to what I do, since the objective is to change and expand my understanding of what’s possible.

img_1967

Often the return to people and conversation is a shock. I’m happy to be reading the reader’s edition of Carl Jung’s Red Book (2009, Shamdasani, Ed.), which is providing some context for the conscious choice to enter transformative space, and be changed by it. A good ‘bridge’ book, as is Once Upon a Time, a short history of Fairy Tale (Warner, 2014), and The Heart of a Peacock, a collection of short pieces by Emily Carr.

img_1970

It’s been useful, occasionally, to dip into Art Lessons, Meditations of the Creative Life (2003, Haynes), or a bit of Emerson. Also to shut the whole thing down, go sit in a big chair at the Jackson Square cinema, eat popcorn and watch Aquaman.

Art heals, writes Sean McNiff. I agree, wholeheartedly. Nature heals too.

Now I’m surrounded by human nature, not my beloved lake and forest from last summer, and we humans are complex. Thank you Nora Bateson, for this 8 minute video, which inspires me to make my own, about what art work makes possible.

img_1971

In this place of broken sidewalks and boarded up warehouses we grow art, like sprouts push up asphalt. Slowly, bit by bit, but as surely as the sun rises in the east, artists take places like this and clean up old toxic abandoned soil, growing impossible things in impossible places because it is their nature to do so.

It is a reclaiming of health; I’m grateful to be part of the process.

 

 

 


Leave a comment

Cabin stories 6: learning human

There is not a tree here the species books would call perfect. They are bent and twisted, storm-broken and shallow-rooted. They share a mere skiff of soil, what sunlight they can reach and make the best of what they have. Ironwood, cedar, birch are the oldest. Sapling maple and ash have found space too, and tall twisting rowan that drop bright orange berries in the fall.

Birch is the tallest, and shortest-lived – they fall first, in piles where green moss and mushroom speed the process of rot. Seeds from any species take root there; everywhere I look death feeds life.

cedarhugsironwood

Here companionship is visible – a staying with, through weather and change. All around I see slow and deliberate acts of steady-ing and support. These beings share their vulnerabilities – a trunk too thin to support straight growth will lean on another, older and stronger. They live this way, making room, sharing strength, all their lives. They stretch their roots beneath the skiff of soil, to connect with their own mycelial network. This community  of flora and fauna knows who among them is weak, starved or injured – and they send nourishment or honour death, if death it must be.

leaningcedar

This morning’s brief scan from my tiny access point into the world-wide-web offers me news from Rebecca Solnit (a major hub of the human mycelial network ), who scans today’s news and puts all in context of sanity, who treks through the away-ness of Tibet, brings solar lights, medical teams and menstrual kits with her for giveaway.

I see elsewhere that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: 1984 team has partnered with the Anti-recidivism Coalition (ARC) in California to raise awareness and funds in support of formerly incarcerated men and women.

Also a broad spectrum of successful Go Fund Me campaigns (Thank you Amanda Palmer), Avaaz squaring up against Monsanto, great new restaurant downtown, free umbrellas if you need ’em, looking for recommendations….

joined trees

These trees teach me to reclaim my love for humans. Contrary to what we hear or read in the news, we do help one another, genuinely and reliably. We do what we can to keep ourselves and each other laughing-strong so we can withstand together the ever more serious blights that threaten the world. We Stay with the Trouble, we collaborate across knowledge fields to study the warm data that inter-connects systems, we learn, we notice, we support, we link arms as companions, we resist the fear that would divide us.

Universal companionship requires a proactive sensing of signals that is not possessive, but compassionate. For me, this is a learned practise that extends beyond simple emotional sensitivity.

My humanness requires a conscious determination to crack the carapace of whatever restricts my self-awareness, to reveal the vulnerability that connects me with all vulnerable selves. To honour and sing with the voice only I have, to speak my claimed insight – gently, firmly, assertively, especially if it goes against the well-promoted grain. To pay attention, through my uniquely human skin, to the other species around me.

To see and understand pain, for what it is.

IMG_1307

Nora Bateson:

The revolution, the evolution is not going to be found in conference centers or seminars in 5 star hotels. It won’t be definable in righteousness or sanctimony.

The resonances will be and are where the pain has been–where there was no choice but to become unbreakable.

Where the scars are generations deep and sculpt into raw, sassy, funny, sexy, harsh, confusing.

IMG_1316

Nobody’s ever ready for real change. The tree snaps in the wind, the hurricane rips through an island, a city. The bullet misses, or finds its mark, your heart breaks, suddenly and without warning, in a new place. The army invades and you become a refugee, the American Government takes your child from your arms, someone who has been raped himself, rapes her. A diagnosis, a move, a new job, you fall into swooning, impossible love….

Not one of us is ever ready. But if we are human, if we allow us to fill with compassion and laughter we can claim our pain and learn how to keep growing; life from death.

We can choose to play our pathway out of trouble, learn to think differently, to haltingly, hilariously, try out a new language.

IMG_1300

Unconditional:

  1. without limits
  2. unrestricted by definition, requirement, or compulsion


Leave a comment

Cabin Stories 5: death and life

In right now there is reverence

deep prayer, an endless, thunder-throated,

steady dripping Love.

The shore waves sing a slow ballad in 7/8 time.

IMG_1305

Good deaths are soft. A miraculous easing of release.

A shedding

a moulting

a fall, then surrender to moss and insect

to beautiful, fragrant rot:

With my body I nourish thee.

IMG_1306

Or with a scream, to announce the end

before the snapped neck, the severed jugular

The feed, even as last breath releases:

With my body I nourish thee.

IMG_1311

There are other deaths.

Reactive, angry, resentful.

Only humans die this way,

non-compostable, ungenerous

like broken plastic buckets

that can feed no one.

IMG_1307

another death I can find no mirror for,

here among the trees, or in the song of the lake:

A human distortion again, since

This One is badly injured, but still alive.

You miss your mark, wound, then walk away?

IMG_1309

You dishonour Love?

It is impossible to nourish anything with this

if you won’t claim it as yours, if you deny it release.

There is only hush and hesitation then. Wrongness.

The crows cannot gather the shining story.

growth stops.

IMG_1308

So. I see her.

I will take my sharp knife

with proper gratitude and joy,

and release She you could not see

from the living, breathing world.

Since you cannot, I will make a good end for her.

IMG_1310

She is willing, graceful.

With this body, I nourish thee.

NOTE: When I was a kid I used to catch and keep caterpillars in jars. I wanted to watch them be, save them from being stepped on as my grandfather used to do with righteous conviction.

The moment of this morning in the deep thunder rain was one in which I understood that nothing is static. Release through death is nourishment, which is then decomposition, integration back into the world – lessons from a lifetime deepened, woven back into the ecosystem. We are only small in this system, but we are many. There is in fact no use in the forest for glass jars, or plastic buckets; you can’t, even with philosophy and romance, separate death from life. To try is to distort, and cause harm.

Thanks for reading this.


Leave a comment

Cabin Stories 4: weather

The tarps work well. Easy to pull out and put away, which is required since sometimes rain comes unexpectedly at 3am. I am quietly and ridiculously proud of this.

IMG_1229

It occurs to me that I haven’t been myself for some years now. That the strong, creative me, fully open to possibles and wonder is only just now beginning to stand up, be seen and look around again, in these past few weeks of Cabin.  She sings, draws and writes every day now.

IMG_1259

There was a glimpse of this me in 2014, but it was chewed up and diverted by small town commercial gallery egos (abetted by my own stubborn naiveté about the way things work in that world), by painful/ joyful diversions into and out of romantic love and by the increasingly heavy requirements of paying for culturally prescribed things. Things that, from here, I’m not sure I needed.

IMG_1239

Many of the things I did need then I don’t need, now. In retrospect, the psychological distance between those needs then and these now is a lot like the distance from the top of the dover cliffs to the rocks below them.

Down is where you look when fear runs in your veins. Down to the meeting place between Forever Sea and Rocky Shore (while your friend the little white dog tugs at your leg to pull you back from the edge).

And then if you look up, where fear has no place, you can see your old, embedded practicalities for what they are: just a few small options among a big-sky-full of others.

IMG_1256

As I surrender to the last hours of Day 29 after The Leap of Faith, I can see what I could not have imagined before I found my courage. 

My ‘friend the dog’ is the cat who joins me to watch the sun set each night. The place where rocky shore meets the endless water has expression as vast and diverse as any behavioural spectrum, but this inspires fascination, not fear. On every level I know I am stronger. 

When the beauty around me reaches impossibly generous levels of gentleness, I stop drawing/writing/reading/singing, and just witness.

Gratitude.

IMG_1261

There is strong emotional weather, to be sure. Beauty without shadow is nothing you can build a good path from. I welcome it – there’s always room for change. Change is all around, here – dancing with life. 

IMG_1260

During and while all of the storms pass over and through, the spiders spin, the birds forage, The butterflies do their impossible, the waves sculpt the shore, and the trees drink both sun and rain, stretch themselves steadily upward and down. 

The clear sky remains the same, regardless of weather, full of options. I trust the sky.

I’ve landed well.

 


Leave a comment

Unplugged yet more connected

Story Cake first instalment is coming – never fear.  It has been delayed by some time-sensitive physical and academic tasks, which have taken precedence over all else:
I’ve been packing up the old and building the new.

To the point where I’ve got twenty days left here:

IMG_0966

during which I find places for all this house-ness,

and incrementally move my work here:

IMG_0958

Where I can collaborate with the lake, the trees, the critters, the rocks, and the folk who come to drink it all in.  There’s often wifi connection from across the water; I have some solar panels and a battery.  I have paint, paper, books and simple recording equipment.
What a great big enormous blessing.

It’s been a life-long dream, this.  Ever since I first read about Emily Carr and her cabin.

Postscript:  For the next three weeks some paintings from #Selfie and Five paintings at the River are available for a reduced price, fully instalment-negotiable.  Tomorrow I will post a list with sizes and suggested prices, and my contact information.

 


Leave a comment

Resplendence

A multitude of tasks and their stressor partners slow-dance around my house like dust motes in the sunlight; I am happily, if overwhelmingly engaged in the actions of living.

IMG_0819

Every so often pressures collide with sensibilities and swirl the dust mote dancing into a frenzy. Through and over all of this a thin cicada song of anxiety – I’ve mostly learned to ignore this, like the writer who works beside a busy train track.  Some days are better than others.

IMG_0821

I am doing my utter best to lay solid groundwork that will take me/us somewhere new, satisfying and truly relevant in these times.  To connect need to need in a way that can reveal surprising, intersected solutions.

To make functional use of art and music, in valuable and valued service.

IMG_0836

Need to need, like bee to flower. Then honey, more flowers, a resplendent spring.

I seek nothing less than an active, challenging, collaborative peace.