Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Hamilton Residency 4: rhythm

The overwhelm subsides into a kind of rhythm as I begin to understand what my new job is; what feels unfamiliar but is actually okay.

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As the illusion clears – of pitfalls and boobytraps at every misstep – I can see that the floor I walk on every day is sturdy, reliable… and beautiful. The walls are well built and practical, the beams and posts resilient and strong. Built to carry workers, materials; to support dreams of steady slow progress in reward for daily, hourly persistence.

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So many have carried their private stories through here, many more will do so, now that this factory has been so lovingly snatched from the jaws of disuse and abandonment, launched like a ship into the ocean of now.

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The big building loves industry and honest work; I can feel it.

I imagine, self-indulgently, that it loves the current industry more than the one that built it, and to some extent Hamilton, in 1901. These bricks were laid, these beams milled and bought thanks to the labour of slaves from the south who laboured daily in cotton fields barns and shipyards. A different daily, hourly persistence from that of the workers who laboured here. Did the industrialists ‘own’ them too, I wonder.

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The Portrait Project grows, here.

In the research process I hold careful space for the stories of what I now call ‘my eight’. I am quietly astonished, again and again, at this meeting place of diversity in story and self awareness, and how each disclosure connects, through my own experiences and oh so gently to another from someone else.

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They are strangers to one another, my Eight, but they are all here in the studio with me now, as I listen again to what I’ve been shown and told, and form the larger story that is ours together. From this I will make eight pieces that each speak to the other across difference. I’ve never felt more challenged by a visual art project, have never welcomed a challenge more than I do now.  So many languages to learn; listening is good work.

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I’m grateful to have been able to extend my stay by finding permanent studio space here, at the marvellous Cotton Factory in Hamilton. Not only will this give me the time to do justice to these portraits and my Eight, but also to build strong ties with the people who work here. A new kind of family.

 

 


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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

Alright.

Time to put the kettle on.