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#Selfie 19: The Writing of Book

As predicted, each painting for #Selfie has had it’s own arc of becoming.  They have all been surprises, have all taught me things I wouldn’t otherwise know. It’s been a privilege to be at the centre of this project and participate in the discovery, the shaping and polishing of each facet.  Quite a geological process – I am changed by it, I know.

I sat down to pull the book together and realized that even though the whole project has a broader, wider arc I was still inside it, making.  Still in process, still on the curve…

It became clear over the days of showing up for writing that this lovely broad #Selfie arch also had a corresponding shadow.  As I walked along this one it became narrower, and darker, and steeper – in descent.

Then I realized, “Ah.  This is personal now.”

also, “Ah.  This is writing of Book”.

'map' for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.
‘map’ for the last #Selfie painting, Totem.

#Selfie has been a great collaborative experience – music, performance art, spoken word, poetry, well-considered response and story.  Ron de Boer and staff, david sereda, Kristan Anderson, Larry Jensen, Coco Love Alcorn, Christopher McGruer, Paul Hartmann, Christian Wilke, Marcus Vichert, Norm Bell, Thom MacFarlane, Kate Walsh, John Fearnall, Brad Morley, Frank Klaassen… so many more who climbed in and on to add thought, response, notice, rhyme, feeling, rhythm, comment.  Highly resonant, this idea of examining #Selfie.

#Selfie Examination.

three of five images, underdrawing...
three of five images, underdrawing…

Did I think it had already got personal, in the making of the paintings?  Yes.  Yes I did think that.

But the paintings were one of five components to #Selfie.  There was also the collaborative performance; the collaborative spoken word; the blog (the way in to the paintings); and the book.  The book is the larger arc – both visible and public, and invisible, personal.  Not a compilation (though I thought that’s what it would be), not a summary or a closing paragraph.  It has elements of those ideas, but the book needed to be a distillation of the experience into something …chewable.

So I wrote a folk tale.

all five images on, blue wash on butterfly
all five images on, blue wash on butterfly

It begins this way,

A girl was born with a sleeping wound buried deep inside her.  She also had joy, which was clear for anyone to see.

While she was growing up, her family, who loved her very much, gave her another wound to keep, and buried it deep in her future.  They also gave her love, which was clear for anyone to see.

They made the wound they gave her out of pieces of their own memories, fragments of their parent’s arguments, scattered bits of rage and anger that they had collected from behind the doors and under the carpets, in the chesterfield beneath the pillows, under the beds, under the kitchen sink.  they put all of their hopes and dreams for her in the wound, and wrapped it all up in a beautiful cloth made from their love.

That was the way it had happened for them, the way it had always been, and the way it would always be.

more colour
more colour, corrected drawing

I’ve loved the essential nature of Folk Tales for as long as I can remember.  They don’t mess around with descriptive filler or emotional drama, but deliver metaphor in layers which the reader can take in and combine, to build their own image and intuitive response.  Always I’m trying to do this with my paintings.  This last #Selfie painting more than any of the others – possibly because of the book writing, and the Folk Tale…

When the time came for the girl to leave her parents and seek her fortune, everyone agreed that she was well-prepared.  Beautiful and full of life, promise, intelligence and talent, it was clear that she would have no trouble finding success, fulfilment, happiness and love.

And so she did.  As the years passed, everyone who knew her was reassured by the clean arc of her life, since This was the way it had happened for them, The way it had always been, The way it would always be.

She herself was happy, content and grateful for the comforts she enjoyed, until she came to the day in her future where her parents’ gift was buried.

TotemJuly27

Today from 6 until 8pm we will launch the book and this final #Selfie painting.  The show will come down on August 8th, and then #Selfie will be in Chapter Two, which I’ve not written yet, but I shall.  Here’s the link to that event if you’re nearby & on facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/events/748736241853940/

The story to be told there is a more introspective one – it’s mine, certainly, but also it belongs to anyone who is pulled to #Selfie Examination.  Good heavens there are riches there – fragility; audacity; strength; disempowerment; blind, mute sadness; singing joy; risk and nourishment.  It behooves one to keep walking down the path….

Final painting.  This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is... interpretive.  Come and see the original if you can.
Final painting. This was taken outside at 6am, so as always, the colour is… interpretive. Come and see the original if you can.

In the story, the girl meets a Hermit.  Then she meets the Great God Pan.  Then she meets Baba Yaga, and ….

Well, write to me if you want the rest of the story.  It belongs, I think, to all of us.

 

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These days

Delightful days, these.  In the grand pause of morning I can recall at least one, sometimes three marvelously shocking, transcendent moments for each day of this month – some mine, others I’ve witnessed.  Is this what you get when you jump into Georgian Bay at midnight on Nov 1?  If so I’ll make it annual.

The only painting I cannot sell the original of - inspired by Ted Huges' book "Crow", and painted after a near-death experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.
The only painting I cannot sell the original of – inspired by Ted Huges’ book “Crow”, and painted in ten minutes after a life-threatening experience on the Gardiner Expressway in Toronto.

We are alive in a rare time.

Perhaps I’m not the only one sensing this recent surge to collaborate with one another, to push the old boundaries of comfort, desire and suffering until a new level of release is achieved.  Tavener addressed it in his August interview (check the post before this one), Ted Hughes articulates it in a letter to his son (excerpted below) and if I look around me in close friends, family, colleagues I witness an active, sometimes urgently expressed willingness to … ‘turn and face the change’. Even, and maybe especially if there’s no clue as to what that IS.

my oldest friend Marcus' latest contribution to the ongoing conversation...
my oldest friend Marcus’ latest contribution to the ongoing conversation…

I found this at 6am this morning, written by one of my most favourite poets of all time – a writer brutal in his honesty, wild in his deprecating humour.  Share, share.

Ted Hughes, from a letter written circa 1985 to his Son Nicholas (it’s worth reading the entire text, and a brief contextual article)

….At every moment, behind the most efficient seeming adult exterior, the whole world of the person’s childhood is being carefully held like a glass of water bulging above the brim. And in fact, that child is the only real thing in them. It’s their humanity, their real individuality, the one that can’t understand why it was born and that knows it will have to die, in no matter how crowded a place, quite on its own. That’s the carrier of all the living qualities. It’s the centre of all the possible magic and revelation. What doesn’t come out of that creature isn’t worth having, or it’s worth having only as a tool — for that creature to use and turn to account and make meaningful. So there it is. And the sense of itself, in that little being, at its core, is what it always was. But since that artificial secondary self took over the control of life around the age of eight, and relegated the real, vulnerable, supersensitive, suffering self back into its nursery, it has lacked training, this inner prisoner. And so, wherever life takes it by surprise, and suddenly the artificial self of adaptations proves inadequate, and fails to ward off the invasion of raw experience, that inner self is thrown into the front line — unprepared, with all its childhood terrors round its ears.

And yet that’s the moment it wants. That’s where it comes alive — even if only to be overwhelmed and bewildered and hurt. And that’s where it calls up its own resources — not artificial aids, picked up outside, but real inner resources, real biological ability to cope, and to turn to account, and to enjoy. That’s the paradox: the only time most people feel alive is when they’re suffering, when something overwhelms their ordinary, careful armour, and the naked child is flung out onto the world. That’s why the things that are worst to undergo are best to remember. But when that child gets buried away under their adaptive and protective shells—he becomes one of the walking dead, a monster. So when you realise you’ve gone a few weeks and haven’t felt that awful struggle of your childish self — struggling to lift itself out of its inadequacy and incompetence — you’ll know you’ve gone some weeks without meeting new challenge, and without growing, and that you’ve gone some weeks towards losing touch with yourself.

The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.

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prayers and tools

Kol Nidrei (arranged for cello & piano) on the stand beside The Bach Suites.  Above and to the right, a clock and the first viola John Newton made as a student (no bridge or strings – I’m honoured to keep it safe here).  Then the big black hanging fish, then my sewing machine, then the axe painting and the shovel painting.

Beside the Shovel painting, the 2000k lamp, and the light table.  On the light table the prototype windhorse prayerflag, yellow.  Continue along the east wall – a kundalini print from NYC; Crow; a framed sketch of a thinking woman bought at a Roxy Fundraiser; an almost-completed painting of a chopsaw and a teacup.  Then pliers, wire cutters, canvas stretchers, clamps, staple gun.

Closer to me a voracious ivy in the window below a green blind with a wishbone painted on it, now in silhouette.  A candle, three china teacups on their saucers, a photo of Edouard Bartlett holding a Strad; my cello in a case that Ed ordered for me;  my grandfather’s wall thermometer; a round mirror framed by the world snake, Orobouros; and before the next window my old draughting table, with lino cutting tools, pencils and ink drawing tools on it.

…and now seven technologies – I shot, cleaned in photoshop & converted to jpg, then posted it into WordPress, fb, twitter & linkedin. This is what we do now.

Mary Magdalene on the wall behind my left shoulder, surveying it all.  She stares out through three layers of technology – a painting made by Piero Della Francesca in the early Gothic era, a photograph of said painting taken sometime in the past twenty years, and a print of the photograph onto the postcard my mother found in Spain, and brought home to me.

I am getting ready to step into the rhythm of this studio – I have all day for this – rare indeed.  I will draw on the shovel painting and stretch the axe canvas.  I’ll draw the remaining symbols for the prayer flag (leopard, tiger, dragon, gurudas, Fran) and get them onto the lino block, ready for carving.  I’ll paint the small hanging sea creatures black and white, and find the correct places to put eye hooks into them.  I’ll practise my cello – long, deep practise off and on all day – to strengthen muscle, build callus, embed Bach and Brahms into my bones.  I’ll read about colour, tools, light and materials, and make notes for my exhibition/ installation proposal.

Our captive friend at the Toronto Zoo. I took out his fence (wish it were that simple).

I’ll take breaks to write letters with my pen, fold them and put them in envelopes.  On my trip to the bank I’ll take these to the post office and mail them.

I’ll teach tonight, from 5 until 8, by which time the room and I will be singing and alive in all our corners.

Happy Thursday all.