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#Water: Surface tension

There are four new paintings living in my studio as of last week.  The experience of watching them come to be was shared by good friends – an artist, a poet, a songwriter, a filmmaker, a composer throughout the day and evening a week ago.

Here’s where they came from – a photo of my painting wall taken a year ago, after the #Selfie paintings were done and hanging in the gallery:

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years. it will become four huge paintings - each with five years of painting drips embedded
This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. The drips on the right were accumulated in five months, the ones on the left over five years.

The plan six years ago when I treated and hung this dropcloth on the south wall of my studio was always to take it down when it got interesting, cut it up, and stretch it into paintings.  I did this last Tuesday, which was also a revolving door day here, many visitors – SO exciting.  It took some time to find the pieces that fit each stretcher, but I have ten so far that work, with the possibility for one or two more.  Here’s the largest one:

I'm in this so you get an idea of scale.  This puppy is wider than my wingspan.  But it had to be.  I see dragons...
I’m in this so you get an idea of scale. This puppy is wider than my wingspan. But it had to be. I see dragons…

Here’s another, medium-sized one that’s quite different.  I see a moray eel…


Then there are these two – also mid-sized…

this one is close in size to the previous one.  I see sunset at dusk over the water
this one is close in size to the previous one. I see sunset at dusk over the water
This one now hangs with the red at the top.  It looks like a torrential storm
This one now hangs with the red at the top. It looks like a torrential rain storm

There are six more smaller, more intimate & delicate ones – I’ll  post those as well when they’re stretched.  These are all paintings about water, by water, which found its way and made its mark with the help of gravity and paint.  They’re part of a multi-arts installation/show I plan to launch in October-November (will announce where and when soon when all the details are in place).  My hope is that because these are also music-based pieces, it will tour in medium-sized music venues with or without the performance component, and encourage discussion about and around… water.

Ubiquitous water, with it’s cohesion and adhesion properties.  Essential water which becomes political when big money gets involved.  Reflective water which perhaps tells us more about ourselves than we think.

Water that spiders walk on, that whales swim in, that hangs in the sky as clouds and freezes inside buried pipes.  In the paintings that water has made over five years there are sea dragons, moray eels, thunder and lightning, heavy clouds, peaceful reflection. Chagall came into the studio yesterday and thought these would be wonderful things to work with. I agree.

More to come – look for #Water.

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Lift out

These days begin in darkness and wet.


We live in multiple layers of clothing against the cold damp of constant seeping rain, walk under umbrellas, and peek out from under shelter until some blue sky appears.


Then we breathe the blue and the coloured leaves, and roll in the damp ones underfoot.  We go to the flashing streams, the roaring falls, the pounding waves and we exult

..until the rain and the cloud and the pounding wind bring us under and in again.


These times.  Pressured, heavy, challenged, shifting.  Some of us don’t have dancing feet.  Some have not learned to swim.


Two days ago in Ottawa a man died on Parliament hill.  He suffered from serious mental illness  – serious enough that he found himself a gun and  shot another man who worked as a soldier there.  I grieve for both men, whom we, in our culture, have failed to see clearly.

Poem for Michael Zehaf-BibeauMichael Zehaf-Bibeau, for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist, and for every single one of us who struggles with addiction and mental illness, in sorrow for this:

Broken Voice
September 24: studio

Thought can re-write history, she says
Meditative thought influences the order of things
Orders them more neatly so there’s less damage done.
and there’s the
small voice the difficulty
the closed throat mid-
sentence, the little
alarms shot with adrenaline
the subtle gagging that
no one notices but
There’s no problem. Who

…said there was a
problem?  Mental Illness is only
addiction is only
another form of terrorism-
We just need more Security and

I think I caught something in
the subway – just a virus it
comes and goes it’s

…something about bare feet, walking
about not leaving prints behind,
and if you do your feet print

I’m looking at them now,
the prints
but I can’t read
I’m not sure what happened.  Or how…?

I just want to drink an ocean of alcohol
passive-watch movies that siphon rage
go to classical concerts full of fury, listen to poets
who have found something
to let somebody else do the darkness
the refined, articulate hurt that they’ve managed to
filter through all of their exhausted bewilderment how
can I

Impotent. Invisible. I just want to sleep. only sleep.
it’s taking every ounce of my strength
to resist the rampage,
The terrible roar in me.

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No straight lines

I dig into the Brahms E minor cello this morning and find myself swimming strong in a strong river – a great deep and fast and roiling that collects and contains a watershed of stories as it carves it’s way through the land.

Why, Mr. Brahms.  It is good to meet you here from across the centuries, far far off the page.  Shall we immerse ourselves together?

His piece curves and bends around it’s internal themes, climbs great hills and tumbles from impossible heights.  Its landscape demands constant, intense commitment, even and especially in the pianissimo sections where the piano commands the melody line.

There are sections I have not internalized yet, where I am yanked back to the written notes, back into my technical head, back into training my fingers that “this is not contortion – this is easy…”.  It’s not easy, but it will be, once I’ve found the technical key and relaxed enough to repeat repeat repeat, repeat.  All the while the river flows on, steady and constant – I know I can immerse myself again.


These days on the brink of Spring 2013 seem to be deep with a tectonic level of unrest.  Old contracts that were seemingly set in stone are fracturing on their own, or being consciously, sometimes painfully re-negotiated to reflect a new set of boundaries, priorities and shared realities.

It’s both personal and political – US debates (!?!) over gay marriage and civil rights,  and indigenous peoples with the profoundly deep roots of Idle No More which support dignity, demand clarity and re-negotiation over native civil rights, and seek to work with respected settler allies to protect the land from the commodity boys in their banking suits.

This river we’re in right now is not like the Brahms’ E minor, no.  This river is clogged – with ice, with debris, with garbage collected over miles and years of mutual and self-perpetuated … abuse?  Is that the right word?


This is nothing that the natural cycles of the planet can’t handle.  It will pass, and this debris will be flushed downstream to the filtering grounds.  The spring floods will recede and the landscape will be different – perhaps shockingly so, but there will still be life.

But we humans, with our cultural and personal tectonic shifts – puny in some ways, when you look through say, Commander Chris Hadfield’s eyes.  It’s telling, isn’t it, that we need to use terms like ‘the environment’, or ‘our natural resources’ to describe the planet, as though it’s outside of our bodies?


There’s a southeast corner of my house where the fig tree grows new leaves, framed by two windows.  The easterly window hosts a christmas cactus with pale apricot blooms and the southerly window an amaryllis with eight deep red bells, just opening now.  I can see them unfold as I write.  Spring birds are busy outside; our two inside cats are glued to the windowseats, quivering with fascination.  A slight spring chill reminds me that my feet are bare.

Over all of this there’s a great, vast, pulsing stillness.  I drink it in through my pores, breathe it into my lungs, feel it quiver on my skin.