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Saturday 17 April, 2021

Thirteen tabs open on my browser, two of which have been up for weeks now. Why, I wonder. Two beautifully designed and printed Emergence Magazines beside me on the table, an accompanying ‘practice book’ over there which inspires me to make my own. From where I’m sitting now I can see two bookshelves and imagine four more, three in the cabin and one upstairs in my morning room where I paint. One row of philosophy and poetry, another of fiction, a third much longer one about ecosystem, natural environments, ecologies. Mythology, storytelling, folk tales, art, maps and symbols – interpretations of the natural world. Four volumes of the Indigenous Peoples Atlas of Canada.

Conversation Pieces pink sheet reconstruction; sugar and tray reference photos

The Norton Anthology of Western Music and other tomes like it are in a box, over there. They’re boxed because I needed to make room for books that explore Time. The books in the box are relics; we think differently now than when they were published. Many important things are missing from their pages, like music written and played by people who are not white men. This is an example of academic historic scaffolding that does not hold up – a one-legged stool.

Conversation Pieces silver sheet reconstruction photo: detail 4 panels, April 16

Notebooks with pens on every surface in my apartment – purple, green, royal blue, black, gold – all with drawings and writings, colourings and figurings, witnessings and energetic lines pointing and moving forward and up. Doesn’t matter where I sit, there’s a book and a pen there ready to catch a thought when it appears.

Out the kitchen window a female cardinal skips and chirps along the eavestrough, a little dance of worry. She and her partner are my alarm clock in the backyard tree every morning and I’m concerned now, too – that something has happened to him. Ah but there he is now, red and resplendent, supportive on the roof beside mine.

Conversation Pieces Silver Sheet reconstruction, corner view (silver appears dark)

We are in a third wave in Ontario now, and police have authority to stop me, ID me and fine me if they believe I’m in contravention of the new lockdown rules. I’ve spent my morning reading and listening to reports, and what appears to be true without any doubt is that Provincial Governments west of New Brunswick have failed to take the clear actions recommended to them by health experts, in favour of appearing to support the ‘economy’. Here’s a good rundown of that insight from a Justin Ling opinion piece published by MacLeans.

I am feeling real anger on behalf of all essential workers at grocery stores, Walmarts, meat processing plants, and Amazon warehouses who are getting Covid from their coworkers who cannot afford to stay home, because they do not receive paid sick leave. On behalf of all prison inmates, I am angry that even reasonable efforts to protect their health have not been made. On behalf of all physicians and healthcare workers who are facing the cost of all this in human lives, I am angry.

C.Pieces, Silversheet with late afternoon reflections, April 16

Once again my Friday list appears on a Saturday. They are now Saturday Lists.

2. Think about what these lists are for and why I write them. If I’m just buying in to the general pandemic-fueled anxiety-laced need to MAKE UP MORE THINGS TO DO, then stop it. Just stop.

5. Make a short video with my face in it, and whatever else comes to mind.

3. Read Emergence 1 and respond with drawings and one paragraph per article in the purple notebook.

1. Write to D. Ford and J. Trudeau to insist that they legislate paid sick leave immediately. Keep writing and insisting.

4. Find five reasons to smile, whenever you think of it and at least seven times every day.

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Friday List II

… a day late, apologies. For some reason I don’t completely understand but I do completely trust, my body needed to sleep and sleep and sleep yesterday, starting at 5pm and on steadily through the night. I awoke this morning feeling like a newborn in this marvellous adult body, ready to greet the rising sun.

My thoughts and my heart are with Northern Ireland: may your needs be met and your wounds healed.

So here we go – this week’s list:

  1. 1. Why have artists historically not been encouraged to build and run successful businesses? Take three active steps towards a permanent re-jigging of the arts industry. Enough is enough – I want to be captain of this ship of my life, economically and artistically, and I know I’m not the only one. We need a little anarchy here.The larger goal here is that the artists who make art in and for the world are able to earn a living wage or higher.
  1. 2. A two k walk (at least) in a different direction every other day.
  1. 3. Vacuum and clean all floors.
  1. 4. Do three ridiculous things on purpose. Publicly or privately, doesn’t matter.
  • 5. Write and send two letters or parcels to people I love or even just like.

6. A surprising new thing – tiny or enormous, doesn’t matter.

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particularities

I am not been feeling generous with humans of late. Maybe because I’ve read and signed and shared more petitions than I can count over the last week. Myanmar’s big-oil supported military shooting at citizens, Trans Canada Pipelines & TC Energy’s horribly distorted value systems, the fact that we only protect TEN PERCENT of our incredible boreal forest from loggers, who cut the equivalent of four hockey arenas EVERY DAY, Doug Ford’s bid to get more money for his election by selling the greenbelt to developers, the massive amounts of garbage left by Londoners released from lockdown… when, just when are we all going to grow up out of our collective stupidity?

I’m not calling you stupid, nor me. It’s US, together. WE allow all of this to continue.

There’s a new Canadian news service called The Breach. Entirely people-funded, launching this spring. They are determined to ask good, uncomfortable questions. I gave them money.

There are passionate, knowledgeable, remarkable people who have built grassroots lobby groups, people who understand where the political and financial pressure points are, who are collecting signatures and delivering petitions where they will count. These are the places I’ve signed and shared – my twitter feed, @KeiraMcArthur, is full of opportunities to do the same.

There’s more, but getting this much off my chest has lightened my being enough that I no longer feel like screaming bloody murder at next person who litters in Gage Park.

Thank you for reading through all the spit. The fact that you do really does count for me.

Have you noticed that the world is both smaller and larger in these pandemic times? I’m regularly in conversation with California and South Africa now, along with people from other continents, cultures and belief systems. I can check what the weather is like in Kyoto and Prague, whether it’s raining or snowing at Skara Brae in the Orkneys, and then continue with my chores… garbage out on the rain washed street past the chirping sparrows then respond to a text from LA, then turn the kettle on & after send a quick note to Johannesburg.

I eat a Mexican avocado, a Chilean plum. I wear a merino wool (Australian sheep) sweater made in China, shipped from the US. The gas in my car comes from the ground beneath the middle east, my coffee from Guatemala via the Kicking Horse Pass in BC.

A container ship blocks the Suez for a week, and 400 million dollars per hour in traded goods just… stops. More empty shelves.

Effects and counter effects. I came into this residency to change and deepen my work, which was never gonna happen if I wasn’t willing to change and deepen myself. Luckily a global pandemic, then, which brought with it some hard right turns, then some hard lefts, also some necessary full stops. Much buffeting and dissolving of old ego stories. I am not the person who arrived here in January of 2019.

The works shifts as the world does – how can it not? In purely material terms, working on six and seven foot canvases is no longer practical or sustainable. I have two on the go at the studio and three here in my apartment, but I’ve scrapped all big installation plans for now. Works on paper, which began in 2019 and grew through 2020 into a 2021 series of painting/drawings (Conversation Pieces – see posts with this tag) with crazy-wild shifting grounds – these have become my new pleasure and practice, each one a delight and a surprise. Small, intimate and mid-sized, they fit and shift in the changing light on walls between other things – much more practical.

And playful. I’m putting fruit stickers in some – Chile, Peru, South Africa, used stamps – Spain, Poland, USSR, in others.

Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, Resmaa Menakem, my friend and inspiration Marilyn Struthers and the entire conversation around intersectionality and post colonialism has turned me with slow, steady inevitability toward an exploration of my own indigenous roots in Scotland and Ireland. Back across the ocean I will go, through the commons and the old ways to find out more (when we are able to travel, which I hope will be in 2022). This will, no doubt, change and deepen me some more. Bring it on.

It’s these backdrop pieces that aim me toward a personal archaeology of my ancestors’ land, story, memory.
It feels very much as though they are expressions of an older part of me

Trees and water, water and trees. In 2020 I found myself studying the behaviour of my beloved Georgian Bay, while the world was in lockdown. My cabin there is in a forest, some of which is original growth that anchors the various levels of shore over the past eleven thousand years or so. I love that lake with my soul, and will always return to her to learn and give thanks. The Water Bodies project, and The Tree Story project are both alive and well in me, waiting patiently while I change and deepen enough to make something meaningful that honours the lake and the tree people I know and love.

The red-tailed hawk sails past my window on the spring thermals. I know where her nest is, among the trees on the escarpment cliff at the end of my street. I felt a need in this post to offer a snapshot of the particulars of place, purpose and context to you, a pause to breathe in the way everything connects us one to the other, whether it’s through garbage strewn and picked up, petitions signed and shared, tough questions asked, choices and artwork made.

Watch here and on Instagram, twitter, tumblr, fb and a new YouTube thing (in development now – why not?) for photos and stories from the new work. If you have a piece of wall for a twinkling piece of art capable of sparking a good conversation, there’ll be some easy ways to purchase it from me.

I’d be so honoured.