Keirartworks's Blog

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


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I feel change

It’s a mouth-taste, odd.  Also pit of my stomach when I notice I’ve casually ‘turned over a stone’ and uncovered memories from 13 years ago.  Remembering I ran away then, wondering at the grand plan that overrode those better instincts and pinned me like a specimen inside a story that wasn’t mine. For a decade.

Print of the Music Room at Haddon Hall, Darbyshire.

Print of the Music Room at Haddon Hall, Derbyshire.

I understand I’m being triggered by recent events that have little to do with me.  It’s fascinating – I feel my pulse change as old traumas rise to the surface, still stinking like dead fish.

In three years I’ve healed enough to function well at a steady pace, to build new systems that will I hope benefit many, articulate plans well enough to go hunt them with proposals, maintain full-time work and a part-time Masters study.  But these rememberings are embedded deeper than surface function.

I’m shocked, ten years on, by the detail of my recall.

 

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This is happening now because I’m painting again, in preparation for the December 3 Studio Tour.  There is no way around it – the visual art work always takes me down and in.  The paintings are a by-product.

Nov 2 Bridge to CM Masters

Nov 2 Bridge to CM Masters

Standing Rock #NoDAPL,which on facebook is getting twenty to thirty times the coverage of the US election, world-wide.  It’s not just the pit of my stomach that knows this is a game-changer.  Idle No More, indeed.

I seek to understand my own ancestors, and the ways and means I can forgive them – industrialists, colonials all – for the damage they wrought here.  I am part of that history – that long awful story of dominance, abuse and neglect.

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My belly is telling me change is here.  It’s time for a new story.


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To Locate

I resist the obviousness of GPS as a tool to locate, navigate, identify.  Most interesting to me is when GPS is wrong, as in the case this spring when a K-W woman, travelling in deep fog at the tip of the Brice Peninsula, drove her car into Georgian Bay instead of the Hotel parking lot.

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tap water filling the bucket I used to water my garden every day, in this dry dry summer we had

There are so many other ways to identify that have more meaning, make more sense. They pull from deeper source data to inform us about identity.  Navigation there is not by straight, measurable lines.

very simple shore cabin where I spend several summer weekends this year. This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the "sound" that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work

This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the “sound” that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work.

I live in a place surrounded by water.  It rains and snows more here than any other place in Ontario.  Travel by car in any direction and you’ll find a river (likely with a waterfall), a lake Great or small, a creek or stream – in less than fifteen minutes.

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

My mother’s family has lived here for six generations before me.  The (scots) paternal side of her family was famous for their foundry, where they made enormous propellers for lake and ocean-going ships “At one time, [Kennedy’s] supplied propellers for about ninety-five percent of marine traffic on the Great Lakes” (Grey Roots Museum and Archives).  Water people.  Industrialists.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I'm using this as reference for a series of paintings.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I’m using this as reference for a series of paintings.

Mom’s Maternal side (Pennsylvania Deutch – descendants from German refugees of the 100 years war) not so famously made ladies’ hoisery, employing 200 women at a time when women were organizing to get the vote. A great great great uncle of mine fought for the North in the American civil war; we are making a book of his letters home at the moment.  Dependable people. Steady.

It is in that factory building, on the third floor NE corner, where I have kept a painting/music studio these past eight years.

studio a couple of years ago

My parents are retired (and excellent) Highschool English teachers saturated by music, literature and art (Mom – ARCT Piano, Toronto Conservatory; Dad a painter of landscapes and literary references).  My daughter is now twenty, mostly fluent in Japanese, studying modern languages and international studies at U of Ottawa.

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I had a mentor and teacher as a young music student who was fierce like a grandfather to me.  As a young man he used to play violin like Fritz Kreisler in my Great Grandmother Kennedy’s parlour for the WCTU ladies. He later played at my parent’s wedding and made both of my cellos, the first of which was just returned to me last summer after 14 years. (link to that blog if you click on the picture I believe)

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Instead of studying cello at Laurier at age seventeen I chose to study Visual Art at York University.  Somehow I felt that the formal study of music would ruin my love for the pure joy of playing it.  I will never know if I was right, but I’ve also never regretted the decision.  I’ve been able to do both in my life and love them equally. Each practise informs the other I’ve found, so I teach musicians how to draw and it makes them better players.

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It is this very thing that has led me to a Masters in Community Music – at Laurier, where I chose NOT to study music performance 35 years ago.  I love the way life travels us back to ourselves.


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Ravel and the Moon

Although I can’t see it through the opaque winter sky I can feel it:  the moon is full.

With the able help of cellists Carol Mulder and Sibylle Ruppert my excellent mom and I performed David Popper’s Requiem for three celli and piano for our Industrial Ancestors yesterday evening.  Folk came out to witness as we played to a photo of two-term Mayor of Owen Sound, Matthew Kennedy Sr, my Great-great Grandfather, and the man who ran the shop at Kennedy Foundries, where 90 % of the propellers for the Merchant Marine were made during the wars.  Matthew didn’t believe in libraries or higher education, just in hard work. He died from the cancer one gets from spending long hours in a big foundry.

This event was the final of Tom Thomson Art Gallery’s ‘The Wave Passes’ series, which Gallery Director Virginia Eichorn describes thus:

…an ongoing project involving art installations, video and performance that connect the stories of Owen Sound’s past with the present. Tonight, from 6:15 to 7pm, outside of Council Chambers on the 2nd floor, there will be a concert honouring two of cellist Keira McArthur’s ancestors, one who was a former Mayor of Owen Sound (Matthew Kennedy), and another who served many years on City Council (David John Kennedy, who also ran Kennedy Foundries through the depression years). The quartet will perform the Popper Requiem for 3 cellos and piano in their honour, as well as seasonal songs everyone can sing to. All are welcome; bring your voices. Admission is free.

So we played Popper and Bach for Matthew and his sons & daughter (who was brilliant), for their sons and daughters, for my Grandfather and the woman he married, whose family came here from Pennsylvania.  I never met Lois Keebler, but I have her watch, which still works.  In photographs she is beautiful.

Here’s a YouTube version of the Popper.  It’s worth listening to.

I went straight from that lovely event to play with the Georgian Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra – a short program since we are in a re-building year, but deeply satisfying, nonetheless.  In talk afterwards, the GBSYO String Quartet decided to take on a new challenge for the spring….

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This morning at 5am I wake to messages from 3am until now about Ravel String Quartet in F, including pdfs of the cello part.  It’s been playing on loop since then :  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qNVVONYkivM

While Ravel played on, and without much forethought I wrote and sent a window-rattling note to a dear friend of mine …. This is full-moon permission – to shine an uncomfortable light in dark places.  Not all is harmony, which Popper and Ravel knew.   Sharp edges and tender places will always co-exist, as will the learned ability to disengage and fortify against both.   Playing music well requires that all of these things are conscious, and revealed in a way that makes it good and right to feel human.

one of Sibylle Ruppert's cellos, made from tulip wood.  She is an excellent luthier..

one of Sibylle Ruppert’s cellos, made from tulip wood. She is an excellent luthier..

To my ancestors:  rest in peace.  It was an honour to play for you.

To my Friend:  … with great love, always.

To the moon:  thanks for the light in the dark.

God I love music and what it does.