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Shock Value

There are few things that turn me off more than cheap thrill seekers or sensationalists.  I could not be less interested than I am in watching a horror film just to feel my hackles rise.  For me this is like wanting to lie down on a bed of sharpened nails just to remind myself that I have blood that flows and a heart that beats.

Do people forget these things?  Are they bored?  Is that why people watch the news, even though it’s been pre-filtered to include only horrific, disempowering stories (or interpretations of same), designed to up the public fear frequency? We all know this by now, surely.

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I think we watch TV and network news, and get hooked into facebook & reddit and other more horrific ‘stream of negative community consciousness’ sites because it feels perfectly safe.  We can turn it off any time, after all.  It’s just crazy people posting weird stuff. Facebook is the tamest of all – we each have communities of like-minded people we can friend and then unfriend if they post something offensive to our value systems.  Republicans do not share daily space with Democrats, white Supremacists with Idle No More activists,  Nascar fans with Greenpeace supporters, etc.

Pretty safe, thanks to the facebook police, too (which is us).

reference for new pieces - mirror work
reference for new pieces – mirror work

We choose what we want, and don’t want to see.  This defines our system of values.  I value positive interaction and creativity more than acts of cruelty – so I choose NOT to go to sites where videos of cats being ripped apart while still alive get millions of viewers.  Over time I can actually convince myself that those sites don’t exist, since they don’t in my world.

CoverMouthMirror

Over time, if I continue this way, I can make my world fairly comfortable.  I might watch news or dip into current events on facebook, and see what’s spiking on any given day, but there are no serious shake-ups beyond the ever-growing rates of anxiety and fear and disempowerment we all share:  elections are a facade, democracy a sham, our Country has been sold to China by a crook, we have systemic health, education and socio-economic meltdowns ahead of us and are well past the tipping point with climate change.

If you put a frog in a bucket of cold water that is heated slowly to the boiling point, the frog will stay there until it dies.

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If, however, you put the frog into a bucket of boiling water, it will jump out immediately.

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I had an intense and deeply personal experience yesterday that I was not expecting at all.  It hurt me and stunned me on every level.

I jumped out of the bucket.  Because I jumped out of the bucket I know that there was one, and why I was put there in the first place.  Because I’m not there I know what my next project is.

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Frog-me.  Alive and kicking.

 

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The Call of Water

I’m thinking about water.

JonesFalls

Water falls – either river or rain – speak a whole spectrum of the Language of Wet, from soft drip & trickle to pounding slam-hard powerful.  I’ve come to believe that all are profoundly healing in the long run – even Tsunami, Hurricane, Cyclone.  Sometimes tragically so, painfully so – but real healing is like that.

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There are ponds, pools, tiny lakes and great lakes, oceans of deep and old – ever renewing collectors of water.  There are aquifers deep and ancient, vast and secret reservoirs of …. memory?

Memory that cools, grounds, sinks and dissolves into something the stars might sing.

Windsheild

I’m thinking about water, and how it feels like a physical and emotional home to me.  It is at root a promise of renewal – immerse, let go of air for a moment, alter the pull of gravity, of time; extend the reach and timbre of sound so you feel … lifted, suspended, embraced.  Resonant.  Dissolved, for a moment.

To rise again into the mantle of gravity, air, task, focal point, verbal articulation, but cleaner, clearer.

Georgian Bay, from the eastern shore at the mouth of Owen Sound
Georgian Bay, from the eastern shore at the mouth of Owen Sound

Water stands, too, in those places where the amphibians go and humans do not, where toxicity is dissolved.  I think of wetlands as precious, timeless places.  Perhaps Chronos lives there, listening.

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The sound of water falling – rhythmic & repetitive, whether it’s a drip or a roar – is the soundtrack of our days.

There’s an idea that water is a collector of Story – from us, from flora and fauna, from sky and sun.  Horrific stories- catastrophic, miraculous, impossible – but also mundane, incidental, apparently unimportant.

I’m going to paint this.  We live in times of deep and profound change, all over the planet.  No culture, country, community or person can avoid being confronted by this, and by the deep fears we all experience, collectively and privately, in reaction.

Wave2Oct_21

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Who designed this?

The Harness is off.  It’s over there on the floor.

Curious, to see this thing I’ve worn for 30+ years…  Who made it?  Why so tight?  Why the rough rope?  It’s ingenious, actually.  There’s a pull cord I see that will jab thumbtacks into my backside when I’m slowing down, and simultaneously tighten the collar around my neck…  added incentive to get through the last 10% of every project?

I recognize that this harness was designed by me, however unconsciously, from the inherited protestant ethic of Work as Suffering.  Life is work, therefore (inevitably) Life is Suffering.  Extrapolated:  If you don’t suffer, you’re not working hard enough.  This idea can take the joy right out of any task – even if it’s your highest calling.  It can in the extreme lead to the wearing of hair shirts, to self-flagellation, martyrdom/victimhood,  the false rationalization of the need to live like a starving artist …

up next.  Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy - to engage, or not.
up next. Two paintings about how we choose to use our energy – to engage, or not.

To be clear – I’ve had a super-productive, satisfying time since April, when I began work on the #Selfie project.  It’s been an experience full of engagement, surprise, transformation – rich with reward on every level.   I also met my harnessed self full-on several times, too, and recognized someone driven in a way that is not healthy.

With several new projects on the table now – each one full of promise, potential and fascination, I find myself wondering about this.  As I take the breath one takes before diving in, I wonder

Do I really need the thumbtacks?

Does it need to come to suffering and self-denial, this finishing?

Must it be a battle, every time?

 

resist underpainting
resist underpainting

At the very least I need to radically alter the design.  To find and use material that I like – softer, padded. No thumbtacks, no injectors full of anxiety, no neck collar.   Maybe it should be more like a well-crafted tool that will help me to pull a heavier load.

Or maybe the work isn’t heavy, and I don’t need a harness at all.

This is quite a thought.

dance step 2 resist underpainting.  The power is in the space between
dance step 2 resist underpainting. The power is in the space between

Maybe I just need to change my mind.

This is exciting.  So is 2014-2015.  So many neato, challenging collaborative and solo projects ahead.  So many Incredibles to work and play with.  Without suffering for any of it.

So, Honoured Protestant Ancestors.  What you lived and suffered in protest to is no longer life-threatening; the ethic no longer applies in any way that’s healthy and life-affirming.  Sleep in peace, with big smiles.  Grins, even.

 

“If you bring forth the genius within you it will free you. If you do not bring forth the genius within you, it will destroy you.”

– Jesus, gnostic Gospel of Thomas (which didn’t make it into the bible.  Too bad.)