Keirartworks's Blog

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


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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.

 


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Rage like a mountain

There’s nothing new. But there is a new urgency I can’t ignore or discount – to do so would be futile, and frankly, cowardly.

It appears that I’ve come to a place of no return with critical parts of my life that have always been up for negotiation.

Like the movement of tectonic plates, a deep and radical shifting of my priorities.

I find myself, with some regularity these days, shaking with rage. I feel also, and at the same time a profound sense of deep and steady calm, no less intense and alive than the anger.  The word Ferocious comes to mind.

I have somehow expanded my capacity to contain Ferocity.

It feels quite safe in a dangerous sort of way.  I’m mindful of a need for care.

While I read for my masters.  While I make buffalo stew.  While I use my chainsaw to cut firewood, practise new bow technique on my cello.  While I write, sew, draw, listen to Joni Mitchell and RVW Symphony number 9 for work and pleasure.

While I think about wise, strong people who have been denied a voice of their own for far, far too long.

It’s difficult to put my finger on the ‘why now’ of this.  I think that doesn’t matter.  It’s the thundercloud that matters.

I will do the things I do for better reasons. I’ll learn to do other things, because they need to be done.


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Colour Pages #7: White

Veritas.

It’s dark down there – difficult to see, to dig and keep digging.  At the bottom of it, when you get there, you find an understanding that changes the shape of your world.    LindenwoodtrailLookout

I’ve just watched a film about a young prosecutor with great natural integrity who is working in Frankfurt just after WWII.  He is drawn to dig for answers in places where his colleagues are oddly reluctant to go, specifically about what happened at a work camp in Poland.  What happened at Auschwitz is revealed to him through the stories of survivors and he realizes with growing horror that all 8000 soldiers who worked at the camp are complicit.  That everyone who knew what was happening, what had happened, and did nothing, was complicit.

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A culture which covertly rewards cruelty and entitlement to violence is a culture grievously sick.  It’s a culture of people who need desperately to examine and understand their own internal darkness.  It is us, our blood memory.

We are all of us in need of Truth, and then the reconciliation that leads to healing.

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Here’s an excerpt from a story I read on social media this morning, published by “A Mighty Girl” (an organization that collects such stories and offers them as empowerment to young people)

Twenty years ago today, Keshia Thomas was 18 years old when the KKK held a rally in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hundreds of protesters turned out to tell the white supremacist organization that they were not welcome in the progressive college town. At one point during the event, a man with a SS tattoo and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag ended up on the protesters’ side of the fence and a small group began to chase him. He was quickly knocked to the ground and kicked and hit with placard sticks.

As people began to shout, “Kill the Nazi,” the high school student, fearing that mob mentality had taken over, decided to act. Thomas threw herself on top of one of the men she had come to protest, protecting him from the blows, and told the crowd that you “can’t beat goodness into a person.” In discussing her motivation for this courageous act after the event, she stated, “Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”

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Colour pages 1-6 are meditations on red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

White is made of all these colours, in balance.  Enlightenment.

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I offer that white is kindness – a simple act of compassion that can unravel any knot of negativity, ease pain, transform anger into forgiveness.  Firm, clear and clean, the white of compassion is a balm to the discolourment of pain.

"Sorrow", otherwise known as Mother Canada, from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

“Sorrow” from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

White is a still, safe, tender place where stories can be told, and heard.

It’s where we find the courage to heal ourselves.


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#Selfie Post 3: Paralysis

Week 2 of Selfie Project:  goin in…

I need to come clean and report that I experienced two days of work paralysis after the shock of posting my face online 4.5 days ago.  I actually needed to sleep off the bewilderment of feeling exposed before I could find my focus again & get back to the work.  I do get that it’s not that big a deal from the other side, over there where people are actually reading this.  For me though – this is NOT a muscle I have ever used so deliberately.  Nonetheless I made a professional commitment to go inside Selfie, so inside I go, straight at my own vulnerabilities…

Taught all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony.  Not the face I want to face tonight.

Taught & worked all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony. Not the face I want to face tonight.

A bit from the Selfie Synopsis:

 

I was a deeply introverted young person – not one to vocalize what I was feeling or thinking – I mostly just watched.  Because of this the people around me would fill in the blanks I’d left with whatever seemed to fit their idea of who I was. My family and acquaintances, & most friends would thus relate not to me but to their own projections onto my blank slate (this still happens unless I’m quick enough to correct it).  While this was initially convenient for me, it invariably led to internal confusion when I didn’t recognize the me other people were relating to…  I developed ways to become invisible – in a crowd, at the dinner table, in a classroom, in the school orchestra.  Later I used the same techniques on stage, at conferences, concerts and meetings.  The most effective of these was simply closing my eyes, but I also became adept at deflecting attention away from my internal self, and towards something – anything more shiny and attractive.  As a performer I realized after some years that most audience members didn’t actually want to know who I was or what I thought – they really just wanted a positive reflection of themselves.  Understanding that made life MUCH easier for me:  Ah!  Just be gracious!  I can do that.

I squirm when I see people of all ages and stages of life taking solo selfies and posting them, in all their vulnerability, on social media sites.  I see awkwardness, pain, sadness, exhaustion, lack of self-awareness, longing – perhaps projections from my own life?  (things do come back around, after all).  So often the response comments are either carefully banal “you’re so beautiful”, or rude, or insulting and disrespectful.  Sometimes the posted photos are so unfortunate they get circulated well beyond their intended reach to a global chorus of ridicule and derision.

This begs the question: What is actually happening here, and why?  But also, since I must face my own Self in this project:  What’s at the root of my own discomfort?

Ask a question, you get an answer.  But this question keeps getting bigger, more personal, more reflective, more….

What unfroze my thinking this week was listening to Seth Godin in an interview he gave on a program called On Being (posted by one of my facebook friends).  Here’s the link to it (recommended).  He says, among other things, that old social and professional norms are breaking down in our cultures, though we are largely unaware of this.  It’s no longer just a select group of trained people who can be artists for example, and make creative breakthroughs that change the world.  Now we are all artists, making the world as we see it, posting the results, and so creating a new way of seeing ourselves, and sharing it in the same instant.

Need a tripod.  This is going to get old, fast.

mirror work.

To address my own discomfort with what I perceive as other people’s ‘selfie behavior’ (now also mine, which makes me my ‘other’), I read Eric Fromm,

“We should free ourselves from the narrowness of being related only to those familiar to us, either by the fact that they are blood relations or, in a larger sense, that we eat the same food, speak the same language, and have the same “ common sense.” Knowing men [and women] in the sense of compassionate and empathetic knowledge requires that we get rid of the narrowing ties of a given society, race or culture and penetrate to the depth of that human reality in which we are all nothing but human. True compassion and knowledge of man has been largely underrated as a revolutionary factor in the development of man, just as art has been. It is a noteworthy phenomenon that in the development of capitalism and its ethics, compassion (or mercy) ceases to be a virtue.”

― Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology

My conclusion after week 2:  Selfie is self-examination, which is not comfortable, if one goes there with intent to be honest.  It requires courage to truly look at yourself, shoot yourself, then publish yourself without armour or packaging.  But art is risk, and always has been so.

If we are to see this in the context of this culture we are in that changes itself from the ground up, we are engaged in an artistic making of self-image that says with it’s public/private gaze:  I am here.

Is there also an echo question:  “Where are you?”

I think so.

more to come.

We make and share ourselves.

Week 3:   Paint.  But also sing and play this.  I’m scared to go there, so go there I must.

The Courage muscle

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It’s easy to deflate yourself when you’re making art.

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blue wash

It’s not just art-making – it’s making anything, really if you are serious about doing it as your vocation.  Honestly, you ask yourself, who really cares whether this works or not?  The world will not stop spinning, the grass and the children will grow regardless of what happens here.

red wash drying.

red wash drying.

So you give up and do something else – or I do.  Especially yesterday when I discovered the answer to “how come every time I come back to this painting from the far end of the studio I’ve forgotten what I was going to do?”.  I figured it out while I was uploading old paintings onto this page, from 10 years ago:  I’m 50, and my eyes are NOT what they used to be.  I have trifocals, music glasses (stand distance), and I should have reading glasses too, but I don’t.  Now I’ll get them.  They’d be entirely helpful…

Silence (detail), from Sea Hear, 2001

Silence (detail), from Sea Hear, 2001

And then you find yourself mucking about again, throwing paint, changing the light, drawing lines, running up and down stairs for more energy…

Courage is a muscle.  I’m working out.

Bee, from About Rocks (with my dad), 2000

Bee, from About Rocks (with my dad), 2000

Happy Friday, all.

2 tasks left, then she will release me.

2 tasks left, then she will release me.

 

I am released:

Chalk Horse, 2014 48"48", acrylic and mixed media on canvas

Chalk Horse, 2014
48″48″, acrylic and mixed media on canvas

 

 

This gallery contains 6 photos


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Release

Every once in a while I see a bald eagle in the sky,  like poetry so beautiful and alive I stop breathing.

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We have entered the long cold of January.  Winter came early this year – two months ago –  to invite us deep inside where we can tend to the root of things, tune our eyes to the subtle colours of the great Hush.  This is permission to follow – slowly, slowly – a whispering line of thought down the long path, to pause at each wonder that emerges, then continue …

To walk on frozen water.

whouff.  I think that's the word.

An invitation to meet one’s Self, again and again in the cold and the warmth, in conversation, in music, in colour and in silence.  To introspect.

Positive and negative space; high contrast in the stark white days where eagles fly, fishing, the long nights where bears sleep under resplendent starlight.  This is when stories are found and told.  When songs are made and learned, paintings begun and finished.  When courage burns warm like a hearth-fire.

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The warm bustle of work begins soon.  Right now I find myself steeped and floating in gratitude.