Keirartworks's Blog

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

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Late in the afternoon,

Alright, I’ve given Paglia a fair shake, but alas, no. The energy required to sift through her self-aggrandizing provocations to find nuggets of meaningful insight is more than I have to spend, especially when other books beckon. Let it be known that I approached her latest with goodwill and open curiosity, and made it through a full third of the essays and interviews printed therin.

I like the paper the publisher chose. It felt like crisp linen sheets on my fingers as I turned each page. A first for me; the quality of paper upstaged what was printed on it.


I could not overcome a growing distress over the state of the world as seen through Paglia’s judgemental lens. For me, she misses an interesting examination of the rich complexities of what it is to be human by directing our gaze again and again back to herself, as a kind of Queen of Opinion. I suppose that’s the game of (mostly white) pundits and politicos, as paid by the New York Times, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, FT, etc… to divide and distract us.

Not playin; I closed her book.

IMG_2631Popova now, in Figuring (2019) introduces me to complex, interconnected humans I’d never hoped to learn about and from in this way – Johannes Kepler, Maria Mitchell, Caroline Herschel, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Walt Whitman, Sophia Peabody in the first five dancing chapters alone. I will happily carry her bright yellow book with me until it’s done and my mind is fully changed by it. Likewise with Shotwell’s Against Purity (2016), Tsing et al (Ed)’s Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet (2017), Berger on Landscapes, another on synesthesia, another on natural soundscapes.





Like a spring filly released into the field, I am without academic harness for the first time in 2.5 years. I can read whatever I want to.


With gown and hood, I graduate from my masters program, then drive around Southern Ontario (as we do) for 17 hours, to deliver, pick up, visit, revisit.

Before that a week of family and friends, to celebrate the beautiful complexities of my Dad and the resonances he leaves with his passing – another kind of travel, through time and story.


Before that, 20 days of a journey in and through Dublin, Lyon, Tuscany, Florence, Edinburgh and all the related airports, train stations and car rentals, going backwards through the history of my ancestors, taking note of the ideas and economics and systems that formed their world, centuries ago, in four cultures and three languages.


May feels like a long run-on sentence I have yet to punctuate properly. It sits in a pile of boarding passes, maps, brochures, museum tickets and restaurant receipts on my dining room table.


But I am Home, where the plants and the windows, the kettle and the bullet-strong coffee, not latté, cafè latté, espresso or cappuccino, much as I love all of those.


The park and my patient, glowing studio, the now-opened books, my excellent bed and windows in all directions. My cello out of his case and ready for ritual every morning, the starlings singing through the bathroom window.

Home which feels different because I am different after these journeys that still need punctuation, these travels I still need to claim sense from. All in good time.


The horizons have been pushed far far beyond what I imagined; the world is impossibly, curiously new. There is plenty of good work to be done here which I’m happy and eager to begin.

…after I read just a little more.


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An ethical line

To draw a line.

A simple line can identify both home and trespasser.

Political lines describe differences, places of meeting:  here and there, you and me, us and them.

Natural lines are always clear, but changing.  Shoreline, treeline, river, snake, stick, shadow.

“Snakeroot”, 6×6″, graphite and acrylic on paper, 1999. Sold

Lines can protect the sacred, the private, the personal from the public.  Open, traveling lines explore, closed ones separate, keep safe.

Implied lines blur understanding, strong ones describe structure.  Like ladders, scaffolding.

An ethical line supports both the one and the other.  If drawn with clear intention, such a line can offer a way through conflict to respect, reconciliation.

A good, quiet line, both firm and generous.  Provocatively simple.

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Grand Plan

In the corner of my well-collected room there is a gilded chair, with cushions of soft cedar green.

I observe both chair and my pleasure in it, thinking how odd it is to have something right there in my room so finely made that the gilding is not ostentatious, but appropriate.

I do not sit in it.

My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch I do my reading in.

My room, looking away from the gilded chair, at the bay window couch where I’ve been reading anthropological studies of the Western Conservatory Music culture all day

Art Fundamentals 7th edition (Ocvirk/Stinson/Wigg/Bone/Cayton, 1994); Free to be Musical (Higgins/Campbell, 2010); The Tone of our Times (Dyson, 2014) – this week’s doors, waiting to be unlocked, to be passed through. Other doors I’ve left open behind me, each granting passage into a thought-provoking room, hallway, staircase.

view from reading couch

view from reading couch

Up, down, through, in.  Cognitive dungeon to library to kitchen to widow’s peak – each a different ‘ology’, each a story that links to all the others ever written, and those only now being conceived.

My mind is becoming vast like an ever-expanding castle, which, although timely and immensely satisfying, is not entirely comfortable.  Often it’s a tight squeeze.  I forget things like where the car is, what music I need to find, what day it is….

Union Station subway poem, Rush hour Oct 27

Union Station subway poem, rush hour Oct 27

Travel and roads.  I’ve spent a great deal of time not-home, in-between.  I don’t mind this 600+ km each week of highway through orange maple trees and purple skies, cropped fields and pumpkins on shelves by the roadside. Pumpkins like people, each one a different shape and size, some sideways, some flat, some enormous, others tiny, a couple of them smashed into pulp on the road.

In between I read through and into cognitive change.  I tune my cello/voice and play/sing for Tom Thomson, for Mary Sue Rankin, who are gone from here but also Not-Gone, ever.  I am honoured and humbled to be part of a circle teaching gift from three powerful indigenous women, and to be gifted an improvised-traditional calligraphic rendering of my friend and colleague’s Chinese name. As the kilometres go by and events sift down into understanding, I realize with growing certainty that the most valuable ones are those that cannot be purchased.

Home from Toronto Oct 29.

Home from Toronto Oct 29.

Oh yes.  Lawyers (an interesting and useful contrast), to collaboratively and fairly settle and resolve a marriage that ended three years ago. Muffler replacement on my hard-working honda.  These are purchased in the name of maintenance, a ‘taking care of’.  A garden full of beautiful perennials (rescued from the bad marriage), now being choked by goutweed – I will start digging it out tomorrow morning, also putting away the beautiful summer writing space on my back deck, now blanketed by yellow ash leaves.

Certainly, for things like these, for ‘taking care of’, it’s good to earn a decent living.


My beautiful ash tree, three weeks ago, just after Thanksgiving. Now it’s mostly on the deck.

Remembrance day concert soon in the marvellously thriving community arts centre – this one a collaboration of elementary school musicians and the community concert choir, who both need cello, lucky me.

Things you can’t purchase, but have the greatest value.

Generosity.  Thanks-giving.  Remembrance.  Care.


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To Locate

I resist the obviousness of GPS as a tool to locate, navigate, identify.  Most interesting to me is when GPS is wrong, as in the case this spring when a K-W woman, travelling in deep fog at the tip of the Brice Peninsula, drove her car into Georgian Bay instead of the Hotel parking lot.


tap water filling the bucket I used to water my garden every day, in this dry dry summer we had

There are so many other ways to identify that have more meaning, make more sense. They pull from deeper source data to inform us about identity.  Navigation there is not by straight, measurable lines.

very simple shore cabin where I spend several summer weekends this year. This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the "sound" that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work

This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the “sound” that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work.

I live in a place surrounded by water.  It rains and snows more here than any other place in Ontario.  Travel by car in any direction and you’ll find a river (likely with a waterfall), a lake Great or small, a creek or stream – in less than fifteen minutes.

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

My mother’s family has lived here for six generations before me.  The (scots) paternal side of her family was famous for their foundry, where they made enormous propellers for lake and ocean-going ships “At one time, [Kennedy’s] supplied propellers for about ninety-five percent of marine traffic on the Great Lakes” (Grey Roots Museum and Archives).  Water people.  Industrialists.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I'm using this as reference for a series of paintings.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I’m using this as reference for a series of paintings.

Mom’s Maternal side (Pennsylvania Deutch – descendants from German refugees of the 100 years war) not so famously made ladies’ hoisery, employing 200 women at a time when women were organizing to get the vote. A great great great uncle of mine fought for the North in the American civil war; we are making a book of his letters home at the moment.  Dependable people. Steady.

It is in that factory building, on the third floor NE corner, where I have kept a painting/music studio these past eight years.

studio a couple of years ago

My parents are retired (and excellent) Highschool English teachers saturated by music, literature and art (Mom – ARCT Piano, Toronto Conservatory; Dad a painter of landscapes and literary references).  My daughter is now twenty, mostly fluent in Japanese, studying modern languages and international studies at U of Ottawa.


I had a mentor and teacher as a young music student who was fierce like a grandfather to me.  As a young man he used to play violin like Fritz Kreisler in my Great Grandmother Kennedy’s parlour for the WCTU ladies. He later played at my parent’s wedding and made both of my cellos, the first of which was just returned to me last summer after 14 years. (link to that blog if you click on the picture I believe)


Instead of studying cello at Laurier at age seventeen I chose to study Visual Art at York University.  Somehow I felt that the formal study of music would ruin my love for the pure joy of playing it.  I will never know if I was right, but I’ve also never regretted the decision.  I’ve been able to do both in my life and love them equally. Each practise informs the other I’ve found, so I teach musicians how to draw and it makes them better players.


It is this very thing that has led me to a Masters in Community Music – at Laurier, where I chose NOT to study music performance 35 years ago.  I love the way life travels us back to ourselves.

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in the grip

3:56am, sweatered on the couch with the green blanket tucked around my legs. I can’t see them, but I am aware physically and psychologically that I have good, warm slippers on my feet, and that they are a deep, warm pink.

In a moment I will pull the reliable stapler out of my purse, turn on the living room light, clear all available surfaces and begin the process of sorting through the year’s worth of collected paper that represent what I spent and what I earned.  I might also ask the furnace for more heat.

art history:  a painting I did in 1994, stripped of all but the figure.  Symbols added at an art opening in 2014 by people who signed up online and / or came to the event.  The third image is further work on the piece, which becomes more Chagall-like every time I go into it.  Everything about Chagall - his thinking and his work - have charmed me since I studied him at Uni 30 years ago.  The pieces needs to be re-stretched, and finished, but it is the first of many rich and random acts of art.  Who knows when that show will be - 20 years from now?  I'm looking forward to it.

art history: a painting I did in 1994, stripped of all but the figure. Symbols added at an art opening in 2014 by people who signed up online and / or came to the event. The third image is further work on the piece, which becomes more Chagall-like every time I go into it. Everything about Chagall – his thinking and his work – have charmed me since I studied him at uni 30 years ago. The piece needs to be re-stretched and finished, but it is the first of many rich and random acts of art. Who knows when that show will be – 20 years from now? I look forward to it.

How many truths can we hold I wonder.  These bits of paper represent a year of deep shifts – a  marriage ended; a career dusted off and re-worked; a daughter away for months on the other side of the planet then back home; a studio; a cat; a rented house; another Macbook Pro, brakes and tires on a red car; groceries, groceries… the long long, slow process of changing my mind about me in the world.

They’re still in grocery bags, the receipts, the invoices, the bills, because I resist this story, this truth.  I don’t want to look, don’t want to add the numbers, don’t want to know in concrete terms what I already know – it’s been a very tough year financially.  I look around me at the times we are all in, the 99% of us, as the old industrial-think global economy shows it’s fault-lines ever more clearly, and I know it’s been tough for so many.  This is not comforting, but it helps.  I don’t feel anything like a victim, but I do see that the idea of security that we were raised with is largely an illusion.  I believe we need to think differently now, about what we actually need, how we serve, and how we earn our keep.

my studio is on the top floor of this building - three windows north, three east.  This picture shows the building's transformation from the Pacific Hotel into the Circle Bar Hosiery Factory circa 1927  (black blob at the top is a tree close to the camera, not a fire).  My mother's grandfather, Walter Keebler, was the factory owner.  At one point he employed over 200 women there.

my studio is on the top floor of this building – three windows north, three east. This picture shows the building’s transformation from the Pacific Hotel into the Circle Bar Hosiery Factory circa 1927 (black blob at the top is a tree close to the camera, not a fire). My mother’s grandfather, Walter Keebler, was the industrialist who envisioned this change. At one point Circle Bar employed over 200 women.  It was still going strong into the late 1950s.

Clever me – I have succeeded in an hour’s worth of diversion – it is 4:49am, and the lights are still dim.  It is time now to make the second cup of coffee – the one that will fuel my industrious sorting project.

I need one more moment of listening though, before I rise to do this.

Into the stillness and perfect peace of early morning I am aware that someone I love dearly is far away and in pain.  The answer in me is quiet and deep; I don’t know how to connect with her, I feel helpless.  This is another truth to hold, another story to hear and navigate, then repeat.  There is great love here, and beauty, but also fathoms of old sorrow.  I would so love to be there with her, in this moment.

view from my studio window, winter 2014

view from my studio window, winter 2014


Time to put the kettle on.

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The Sweet Ouch

Home to find the Shire bathed in sunlight and still buried in snow.  Three days home and yet another winter storm howls and screams at my north windows.  It’s mid-march.  I don’t feel in any way inclined to take pictures of this weather.

But oh my studio is warm warm.  Full of echoes left from hours of cello practise:  Faure, Brahms, Bach, Schubert, Dvorak. Endlessly gratifying workout-studies.

Every muscle hurts.  Including my heart.

singing, now....

singing, now….

Paintings all leapt ahead and comparing their new selves – mirrored across the walls, watch me move, see how I am, now.

More more more.

Wires like the promise of further connection:  1/4 inch to loop pedal to Soundboard to speakers.  xlr from MK40 to board to speakers.  These wait on new arrangements written in the car, on the road, in waking moments – and time…  after the meetings, the rehearsals, the photoshoots, the graphic design, the lessons, classes, visits….

Tonight.  Tomorrow, and then the tomorrow after.

my friend's house

my friend’s house

I’m bigger somehow, since I’ve been away.  So is the world.

Didn’t think I could love more than I did when I left.  Turns out I can.

To achieve great things, two things are needed;  a plan, and not quite enough time.

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I’ve known many….


The trick with the key, the turn of the doorknob, the double beat of the door closing – like permission to lay the day’s burden down.  I’ve had hollers from the back room, running tackles from the dog, slow blink from the cat – but always the awareness that time moves more gently, more collaboratively, here where Home is.

Dad's chopsaw - I cut an 1100 sq foot ash floor on this. Now it's in a painting

Dad’s chopsaw – I cut an 1100 sq foot ash floor on this. Now it’s in a painting.

The places I’ve lived have mostly been safe, most of the time.

I don’t want to be facile – some of us on the planet never find it. Even when surrounded by family and abundance, I can still be in a place of yearning for some other place that flows more sympathetically with my own internal river.


My life is ridiculously simple, but I’m still one of the privileged – I’ve never lived through a military war, a forced evacuation, a tsunami or a hurricane.  I listen to second-hand stories about what it’s like to live in places far different from mine – In Tibet; in a Syrian refugee camp; in New Orleans or a small remote village in Uganda where the water is not clean enough to drink, and everyone is sick.  There are other truths I need to work hard to accept – last week a songwriter I dearly love told me that daring to be persistently good at what you do just makes you a target for abuse.  I know that even here being openly gay or lesbian can result in a terrible beating, and pre-teen girls get stolen and sold to broken, violent men.

No wonder we need doors.


Still, I strongly suspect that the same rules apply everywhere: geography & circumstance may change, but not the essential feeling of ‘Home’.  I suspect that there’s a connection between finding that internal sense of permission to be and the ones who emerge from refugee camps and prisons to change the minds of everyone they meet.  Some become great conductors, artists, quiet or not-so-quiet & successful business folk who are fiercely loyal to their chosen community…


It’s different for everyone, according to the current of his or her internal river.  To me home is where I can look in an honest mirror for a long moment, take a big breath and then wrestle  – to the death and beyond – with all that’s terrible, inconvenient, painful and loving about Beauty.  Sometimes the result is a painting, sometimes a song, or maybe just one note on the cello.  It’s always worth it.

I leave in a few hours to hang out with all that’s beautiful and distorted and perfect about my family.  We will try to skype with my kid, who is half the world away, having a fine time with good people.  Nothing could be better right now, for me.

Happy 2013 Christmas, everyone.