Keirartworks's Blog

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

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In Christmas

It’s the 18th of December, one week before Christmas day.  I’ve rehearsed and planned and delivered and engaged, I’ve painted and written and talked and sang and posted, I’ve cooked and sorted and laundered and cared-for and now all of a sudden on the eve of my first day off in what feels like centuries I’m hearing the call that maybe only dogs can hear, that no other human around me seems to acknowledge but nevertheless has got my full attention in this moment…

…. stop.

Not sure why this image. Something to do with Christmas I think.

This feels correct to the moment just previous to the moment I turned off my Christmas engines.

Basil Johnson once said to me, “Simple, and good – that’s all you need.”  We’d been talking about art, and what makes it resonate with human culture in the short, medium and long term.  As I remember, I’d been talkative and keen then – about socioeconomic indicators of health and growth, artists in the workplace and some utopian ideas around the political value of the arts as a generator of individual authenticity.  In 2004 I was Cultural Capitals Coordinator for my town of 22,000, doing my best to imagine and then somehow impossibly manifest a bridge between national and local, micrososm and macrocosm, embracing all issues visible and audible under the sun. I’d been given my rein, was impossibly curious, – a single artist-mom on the eve of a lifelong marriage that would only last a decade. I was provocative, insistent and intense, flailing.

“What kind of painting do you do?”, he asked, in a pause I’d left open.

again, no articulate explanation for this choice

My answer was long and exhausting.  He listened and gave me two words in exchange.

I heard them enough through all that noise in my head to swallow them whole and keep them alive in my belly.  They sing to me now.


I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

The planet, the politics, the migrations of people and animals; conviction, passion, intensity, art and music; friendship, hurt, joy and the passage of time….  our response can be simple.  And good.

It’s a choice, to live and work that way.



I choose therefore to fill my tomorrow with simple rituals.  Instead of a phone, a computer, a list of errands, I will make a breakfast, a burning, a giving-away, a silence.  I will listen to what lies under all the Christmas noise.

This is good.  Thanks, Basil.  I can feel you smiling.



Drippy Sunday morning; the world outside has shrunk …which appropriately rhymes with Funk, because Funk is precisely what I’m in.

… niggly, prickly snappish me with a million essential things to attend to but instead I chop a fridge full of vegetables and chicken into tiny tiny pieces, beat up a dozen eggs, fry severed onions into carbon, do five sets of loud dishes and answer every question with a maximum of two wedged-out words …


“Mom, can I have a hug?”

Grunt. “May I.”



I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

While chopping onions I feel grim satisfaction at my power to slice through, to un-make a still-living thing.  While I feel this I think about art and manipulation and rage; growth and green and death which in turn makes more growth and green.

It is possible to smile though a clenched jaw.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn't take away, even though it was tagged.  I don't want to think about it.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn’t take away, even though it was tagged. I don’t want to think about it.

Of course we are all far too busy for real sanity – what did Norm Bell tell me at the afternoon TOM Gallery opening today… that our generation is the last that has experienced what we now think of as ‘down’ time. (Link to a review of Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence – thanks Norm)

I do remember, in my bones, what it felt like to be empty of everything but the sky I gazed into, far away from any connection to the rest of humanity or it’s obligations or measurements of my time and effectiveness and function.

I remember the micro sound of a caterpillar chewing leaves beside my head – wondering what the sound was, discovering it’s origin then …wondering in a larger way that I could hear it at all, so small a thing…


I write from tomorrow about that volatile place I was in. It has taken me to my studio, where I wake to the clutter of promise, the smell of colour, the yearn and memory of cello.

I know what to do, when yesterday I did not [I will dig into paleontology and paint artifacts]. Yesterday in the storm of my own inexplicable rage I felt battered and almost violently unexplained.  At the gallery in a crowd of people I know well I felt awkward, too-strong and my words, like a pack of battling cousins came out sideways, fist or feet-first.  Yesterday it was next to impossible to find compassion.

I’ve read somewhere recently about the making of art that it comes from these places of unexplained pain, answers the pain through process, then tells the story.  This could be so, for those who must make art, must make, must … self-provoke?

I miss this.

I miss this.

I do love winter.  We get more beautiful winters here than anywhere else in this vast province, (larger than France and Spain, combined).  Perhaps it was the melting of the white into dirty brown that set me off unexpectedly, traversing the landscape through my own unstable lava fields.  I know I’ve been missing green, and gardening, but I strongly suspect that there’s more to my rancour than this.

I have a day in my studio to paint, to practise and to tick things off the long list.  Another tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday afternoon we will travel to Toronto to visit with good friends, and on Saturday I will visit the Zoo, which is wonderfully peaceful in the wintertime.

I’ll say hello to the river otters for you,

river otter

river otter

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Soil change

These days the greater part of my awareness is below the ground amid the roots of plants I’ve put there  – encouraging them to reach down, to spread through the warm rich mix of compost, loam and peat moss I’ve made for them  – drink drink, feed, grow.

Above ground the signs are good – everyone is standing up tall and strong, producing flowering buds (some for the first time in years) and spreading out as far as possible to catch the sun.

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

my favourite elm, leafing out again over the north garden

These plants are themselves the meeting point of earth and sun – where miracles occur.  No matter how often I witness this burst of spring growth I’m still astonished by it.

What a will to live and be huge!  What tenacity! – to come out from under three feet of snow and in two short weeks grow from dormancy to golden green and glorious and sweet sweet scent and bloom!

these blossoms are SO heavy - most years their stems can't hold them up, esp after a rain.  Strong stems this year....

these blossoms are SO heavy – most years their stems can’t hold them up, esp after a rain. Strong stems this year….

We exist in partnership, these plants and I.  They cannot choose where they will grow, are entirely reliant upon my attention for this.  Some feel aversion to others and demand to be moved elsewhere.  Some need more space, some need more sun, others less, some more water, some want their roots exposed, other need them deeply covered – I can hear them telling me if I listen properly.  Once they’re settled where they want to be though – the miracles happen – Ah!  What joy.

I believe it is also this way with music education.

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

celli rehearsing for trio performance in Kiwanis Music Festival this April

Here in this small small town that has witnessed so many big musical triumphs by it’s young musicians, we are in need of a soil change and some enlightened educational planning.  There are very young players who have no access to decent instruments (soil), positive and consistent guidance into proper technique and a regular place to play together (sun).   Very few schools offer string programs now, save for two exceptionally strong programs to the east.  Strings are the heart of any orchestra – without them you can’t play the beautiful classics that so inspire kids to make the world a better place.

OSCVI is a highschool 150 + years old with a rich musical tradition that I am and so many others are a product of – this year the orchestra program at OSCVI was cancelled, for lack of string players.  For me, and for so many others who were enriched by the music from OSCVI, this feels like a sucker punch.

This is not acceptable, to have no school orchestra in this town.

I don’t believe it – that kids don’t want to play stringed instruments anymore.

They are there – the kids who want to play.  They are there, the parents who will support them.  They’re just not getting any sunlight.

Edouard Bartlett - a great gardener of young players.  Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl's with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

Edouard Bartlett – a great gardener of young players. Photo by John Newton of Ed at Heinl’s with a Stradavarius violin, looking cheeky.

We need to change this.  We really really do.  Music allows kids to blossom in a way that academic achievement never will.  In fact, learning to play an instrument well, and in concert with others can only support academic achievement – but this is a by-product.

The real benefit of playing music with your peers is that you learn step into your confidence, accept who you are, respect yourself and others, and learn how to love learning.

Then miracles happen.

Shall we prepare to be astonished?

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Life is good.

What a rich world we are in here. I’m surrounded by colour and flavour and scent, birdsong, squirrel screeching and leaves describing the breeze.



Internally too – three new large creative projects on the go – fabric art, an installation/ performance art piece on the value, history and beauty of hand tools, and a new series of writings in experimental, collaborative fiction. Sowing seeds, raising seedlings, as it were.

strange purple plant

I have a new plant in front of me that doesn’t have a name I can find, but blooms great, trumpeting purple flowers that open in a spiral, and appear to have fangs. Marvelous to watch.

Burgundy (thanks mom – these are so lovely!!)


Happy Friday, everyone. It’s a grand day.

Red – Thanks Margaret