Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Impossible.

There is too much to absorb, digest, translate, re-form into something good and relevant, and far too little time.  Someone – Leonard Bernstein? referred to this as one of only two things needed to accomplish Great Things.  But when, as my marvellous friend Maria puts it on Wednesday, “every minute of my time is accounted for from now until Monday at 10pm”, Bernstein does not comfort, despite my really good plan.

So thank you Annie Lamott, for your timely, perfect, pithy truth.  I have read and received it from three disparate sources these past three days, and now the angels of safe containment and healthy boundary are here (I called them) to guard the perimeter while deep focus reigns supreme within; it’s buckle-down time.

To tell a good story well, and thoroughly – a living, breathing story, this is necessary.  Necessary to trust that though all hell may be breaking loose out there beyond the perimeter, this story is relevant, it needs to be told.  Necessary to filter out the hooks and pulls, the triggers and the waverings, and make use of the fine fine sieve that lets in only the heart of things.  The heart of things, that resonates with everything and everyone you love, that threads and connects this good story back to their good, strong hearts.  Resonates and strengthens, if the story is told well.

A heart breaks; snow falls steady onto five inches of itself.  A woman drives slowly through zero visibility; a cat eats the head of its kill.  Wildfire claims someone’s beloved farm; blame is released like a sigh, back into love.  Tears fall in shock; another paragraph is written.  Someone wanders, lost; the kettle boils for tea.  The Heart of things.

Humility meets courage; another page is printed.

The Heart of things.

Impossible.


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Bill Reid, Through and In

My phone is in Kingston, 200 km of driving sleet and transport trucks ago.

I travel through this with my daughter from my aunt to my niece. There’s a rightness to the timing.

Bill Reid's Orca

Bill Reid’s Orca

In the Museum of Civilization in Gatineau I find a plug upstairs after the cafe closes.  There’s a bench with cushions so I cross my legs and balance the laptop as I would find centre and lift my paddle in a canoe. Then I write, staring at horizon.

There’s a curve in the tail of Bill Reid’s Orca that keeps him suspended in the air, impossible and alive.

My paddle-calloused fingers type,

I intend…

2001- a painting from a show called Sea Hear, in which I tried once again to paint music

a photo of  ‘Play’ from a 2001 show Sea Hear, in which I tried with all my heart to paint music. My daughter, at 5, chose all the imagery for this one, especially the orcas.

Weightless I am, suspended in the air like this massive hunter whale.  Out of my element, on purpose:  I intend.

I am above the Ottawa River which looks drugged into surrender by the ritual, annual, comforting January cold, across from the Parliament buildings where Justin son of Pierre sits with renewed and informed vigour as our head of state.

They built the beautiful, flower-shaped, buttressed library on the river side, away from the possibility of attack.  Those Statesmen, their advisors, their Wives.  Some of them in came and chose and made it so in ways I can respect.

Bell1, 2015, 20" x 24", mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

Bell1, 2015, 20″ x 24″, mixed media (acrylic) on canvas.

I think about my Scots ancestors who fled here two generations & eight generations ago to look for a horizon they could aim for, for once.  I think about now and La Loche and four people dead like lightning, like an arrow to what we need to see and be accountable for.  I think about Idle No More, about Truth and Reconciliation.

I can barely remember the last specific, technical idea I had about music or painting – these old old ideas are far stronger.

'Black'. 2014, 36x36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

‘Black’. 2014, 36×36, acrylic on dyed cotton.

I intend.

To take the next precious decade of my life to examine and build a good answer to these things I wonder and care about, more every day.

My thinking fingers have written this:

We are all a product of our own small community that overlaps in myriad ways with larger ones like the Internet, like a city, a collective, a field, an orchestra, a band, large or small.  I’ve come to believe over this small span of years that each is an ecosystem that thrives according to the strength of it’s connectedness.

I’ve found also that few connectors are stronger than the making of good music. As a painter who also writes and performs regularly as a vocalist/cellist I have experienced this time and time again: visual art and writing connect us more deeply to ourselves but music connects us, through ourselves, to others. One might say that community music is like mycelium – a connective tissue that can convey a supportive ‘nutrient’ through the system to everyone who requires it….

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

photo by Robbin McGregor, bee-keeper

The timing is right.  I will get my Master’s degree at Laurier, in Community Music.

Like the impossibly suspended whale, like a Rebel, I will pay for this with the proceeds from my paintings.  They will be on paper and canvas, in watercolour, ink and oil.  They will sing.

Bent_Tree_close

Find a door you like, one that calls change to you.  Then you go through and in.


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Firebird

Unbelievably, I am reunited with my oldest love, after fourteen years.

OldCelloFhole

I was fifteen and vague with deep introversion when we came together.  I had no real tools other than my ears and a fierce invisible longing that Named Me, so I struggled as if blindfolded.  I didn’t know how to properly approach the impossible,  let alone get through it.  Nevertheless,  he felt me through all the awkward then and he answered, full and deep, rich and old and stable, as Fathers can.

I’m not overstating things when I say he became as always as bedrock to me.  As permanent as sky.  More than anything else in my young life, he taught me that I was More.

OldCelloTuners

We  stayed  together and things happened.  Impossible shook  me and took me like tumbleweed into places I had no business being, places that could so easily have trapped me,  cloistered me, shaped my forever into defeat and imprisonment.  In retrospect I can see that I was protected then by a great naivete which was the only visible edge of the longing that Named Me.

He was with me through those years, enshrined in a corner, voiced in a stairwell – a place of joining always on offer, where I could shed what I needed to and reclaim what I needed to, if I felt strong enough to meet him.

I didn’t feel strong, though, in that time.  I still thought myself a child  who ought to seek approval. I was afraid to show my teeth.

Drips from paint I threw at canvas on my studio walls splattered his belly.  I sang in a band that laughed and drank and smoked and toured.  I abandoned myself in lovers who saw, but didn’t see.

OldCelloScrollEd

Then Ed phoned and I answered, as I’d done many times before.  I took my Always up to compare to the new girl, who had been rejected by a student, & why, what’s wrong with her.  Played new girl for twenty minutes, then picked up my Always to compare sounds,  as I’d done before.

But I couldn’t play him.  He was gone.  Tried again.  No.  And again.  Nothing.

With no warning, New Girl had claimed me over him.  I couldn’t buy her and keep him, so after two weeks of tears and trying, I traded.  Fifteen years ago.

He went to a place of silence and while he sat like a secret inside a hard case, I played New Girl.  She pushed me, like a bitch.  She made me work for every note,  she called me out on every bad habit.  She could snarl like a tiger, and scream ugly like a stuck rabbit.  She demanded that I use my teeth.

So I found my teeth, and learned how to use them.  I learned to love her, and we learned to compromise well, my sister and I.

OldCelloBridge

Oh but against all odds, the man who bought my cello 15 years ago found me and offered me first right of refusal.

I said YES quickly without thinking –  knowing I couldn’t afford it, maybe I’d exaggerated value, romanticized connection.  I said yes, and months later  & five days ago Impossible came like tumbleweed and delivered him back.

There are splatters of paint on his belly.

OldCelloScroll

I’m not overstating things here:  this week my fifteen-year-old self has been re-introduced to me, 36 years later, through this 1928 instrument from Germany via the hands and ears and exquisitely focused, raging love of Edouard Bartlett.

In the two concerts I’ve played since then, in the hours of practise I’ve put in I can hear that we have teeth now.  We have better tools. We have Possible, and great, sweet Beauty.  We are full to the brim with Longing… for more.

I listen to Stravinsky’s phoenix rise, and my face is wet.

 

This post is for Fran, and for Sue, who told entirely different firebird stories to me at different times on the same Day-of-Change.


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Fuel

Only slowly have I become aware of the enormous reservoir

that floats above me like a helium ship

vast, volatile impossible

I am Astonished

Studio-FloorThanksgiving

I’d have noticed it years ago, but

I’ve only recently developed the habit

of looking up

BackDeckLeavesDetail2

Like the water towers in every small town

there’s a name writ in large letters across its curved side

My name.

My volatility is contained there,

my Impossible.

AshDeckYellow

This is the floating reservoir of my anger,

Incendiary rage over anything I’ve ever felt betrayed by,

dis-empowered by, diminished, abused, whether

personal, global, direct or witnessed,

small or large, significant or not

all of it,

in delicate, breath-taking balance with

my Joy, my Love,

my too-few moments of ring-toned humility

 

AshDeckYellow3

I’ve stored it all

Up there.

AshDeckYellow2

I’d no idea I had this much fuel to work with.

 


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almost

None of us are immune.  Just when you think you can see it all and taste the sunbeam of good finish, a painting problem will like a brick wall whose only purpose is to humble you.  So, laugh or be flattened like Wile E. Coyote, to bonelessly slide down the mountain.  Or both.

I pick myself off the floor and turn back to face the problem-wall.  I wind up to run at it again.  And again, and again.

This last ten percent is the hardest.

blue_fromAxe

GOD I love this work.


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in the dark of the moon

The clouds are pale indigo-violet, then a blustery bruised grey shot through with long warm lines of golden sunlight  and rich blue – this sets the red reds and the yellow yellows and the living greens in brilliant, stop-in-your-tracks collaboration.  I feel as though I’m watching the gods at play in a game where they best one another in acts of impossible beauty.

From far and away family gathers to roll around in the astonishing splendour of where and when we are together at the end of growth — so brief this year.  Together we stop in our tracks and wonder.  Then we move on, we joke, we sing, we cook, we eat, we drink – though it’s perhaps true that this year that none of us are left without feeling privately humbled by the world through which we’ve hiked.

Three days, then family leaves reluctant, less difficult, more compassionate maybe than last year, though it’s hard to say.  Then the wind whips up every leaf from it’s branch to dance it high like opera, like gregorian chanting for four days – then pitches each one down in its own time to serve as mulch for 2013.

The rain, the hail and the heavy heavy sky nightly calls the woodstove to warm, and we feel compelled willy-nilly to finish what was undone – to clear, stow away, cover up, rake and dig while we imagine the day soon come when we cannot.

We know this in our skins, just watching the feverish feeding birds and chipmunks.  We catch ourselves nodding up at the sky as though to a partner we know well who sends clear signal:

it will be a heavy winter.

An incredible January hike in 2009 – ice formed on the tops of all the trees along the north-facing shore of Georgian Bay. We were astonished, all of us.

There’s a part of me that’s eager.  The fast pace of things this year flows in my veins and there may be at last some time to slow down and warm up on the inside, to listen to the resonance of what has occurred, in this year the Mayans were so clear to note in stone.

…we hike in North Sydenham, while the ground shifts beneath us, which it always has done, and always will.

I do hope, wherever you are, that you feel just as deeply grateful for what’s right in front of you – including your own self.

This is dedicated, in part – in a large part – to Amanda Todd who died last week.

Hug from me, A.T.

K


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I LOVE our Youth Orchestra.

I’m a big fan of binders if you’ve got a long program – the tabs are new technology by me, for which I caught a good ribbing. They worked though…

I’ve seen it time and again, but it never fails to restore my faith in humanity:  if you gather smart, hardworking teens together under a conductor every week with their chosen instruments and good music to play, magical things happen.  Add 40 degree heat inside the church, a six-week hiatus from playing and a good audience and impossible magical things happen.

I love these young people and what they can do – sometimes they know exactly what they’re capable of, more often they surprise themselves.  I’m feel honoured to bruise my fingers with them (this leads to better calluses and stronger playing).  Yesterday we began practise at 4pm, and played straight through until 10pm, with only two 20 minute breaks.  That requires a special kind of stamina, especially when playing material that even pro orchestras and soloists find challenging. My fingers are killing me this morning.

If you haven’t heard of this group, I’m happy to introduce you.  Keep an eye out for us near Christmas, and again in May of 2013.  It’s always worth it to come.

Here’s a link to the website, which only needs a little bit of updating – http://www.gbsyo.ca/

What we played last night:

Symphony #1 in C major, III – Menuetto                    L. van Beethoven

Violin Concerto #1 in G minor, I – Allegro                    Max Bruch
Samantha Orr – violin

Horn Concerto #1 in E flat major, I – Allegro                Richard Strauss
Paige Mitchell – french horn

Un Moto di Gioia (from ‘The Marriage of Figaro)           W.A. Mozart
Kathleen Chayer – soprano

Piano Concerto #2 in C minor, III – Allegro                   S. Rachmaninoff
Christine Camidge – piano

Intermission

Hockey Night in Canada                                               R. Mascall

He Shall Feed His Flock (from Messiah)                         G.F. Handel

The Death of Ase (from Peer Gynt)                               E. Grieg

Pavane                                                                       G. Faure

Dreadlocks ‘n’ Dreidel                                                  R. Mascall
Rob Tite – clarinet

Symphony #9 in D minor, II – Allegro Molto                   L. van Beethoven

the trickiest bit of the Beethoven for me – I had a mental block on this passage, which appears twice. The notes aren’t difficult – just my mental block….

Encore – Ojibway Songs, IV – Allegro Vivo                      R. Mascall