Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Colour Pages #6: Violet

…day three relentless and me shrinking under the onslaught, smaller smaller until I smell like nothing at all not even fear you could walk through me and not even know it now, though I would feel it.  Years ago I had a voice, strong in the chorus of strong but someone I trusted browbeat the spectrum out of me, left me pale at the edge of translucency here with my belly clenched just make it stop.

This was a good while ago.  Both colour and strength return, wages of the effort taken to understand how I ever got myself into that place, how to get myself out and fully reclaim the good plan I had.

I choose to keep part of me violet always.  To remember so I never disappear again.

Bullies are violet, though they glow red and hard orange when on a rampage.  Those they torment inherit violet from them like a virus.  Shrinking, small, unimportant, voiceless, underserving, angry-but-gagged violet.

Beautiful humble fragile wise violet.

IMG_1146

Violent.

Remove the ‘n’ and it becomes a flower.

Violet

There is no worship of injury here, no victimhood.  Violet is the fragile place from which courage rises. Inside the smallness is the will to turn and claim your own strength, no matter how loudly the monster rages.

There is a secret person undamaged in every individual.  (PH Shepard)

Strength of violet.  Walk softly with yourself.


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Colour Pages #2: Green, like breathing

Aggression is the other side of green.

AgressiveRed

As a 14-year-old downhill racer I was trained to attack the hill, to ski not just on top of it, but in it. At the same age I was also developing my approach to cello. My first teacher – a passionate violinist who adored Kreisler, who played always from inside the music – would beseech me to ‘stop playing like a girl’.  He deliberately invoked my rage- so I roared.

Bless him.  I might have remained a mouse, hyper aware of my environment and expert at invisibility, had he not prodded the carnivore in me.

GreenlikeChagall

So Mouse found her power.  From there I developed card games in which I could dominate, energetic ways to push and pull inside a debate with family, and learned to love the exhilaration that came with playing the bass line in string trios, duets, and as principal cellist in two orchestras.  For a deeply introspective kid it was a wobbly but decent way to explore my urge to join.

Colour_Urge-to-Join

Later this approach became more sophisticated with my Uni friends and their fine fine clever minds. Even though my intuitive self felt heavy inside the quick of their conversation I could pull and move the feeling in the room with my cello ‘sensibilities’ – anchoring where I chose, releasing when I chose, pulling and pushing the ‘dance’ of it all – though I was not conscious of my manipulations.  I didn’t know I was flexing my silent ‘roar’. I remember inflicting wounds, and feeling bewildered from inside my own invisibility.

I had an understanding that it was proper to be ‘mouse’ when not playing music.

You could call that naive, and it was.  In retrospect I could also call my naiveté an abuse of personal power, since I was – unconsciously – manipulating the human ecosystem without regard for the effects of my ‘flexing’.

Trail2

We all have this story, or a version of it; we travel into our powerful selves only by increments, we learn temperance through experience.  I tell mine here not as a confessional but because it’s a way to feel what green is.

I offer the idea that green is the colour of naiveté, of newness and innocence.  It grows into the colour of strength when tempered with awareness, and nourished by tenderness.  I think we breathe green like forests do, and like leaves do, to filter toxins from the air and drink the sunlight- to feel the deep joy of spirit at peace.

taken September 27th, 5pm.

I offer too that green is the breath that supports the roar of red.

moss like this reminds me of lungs

Some painting notes, then – a technical application of Green in 2-D  painting.

Both green and red are essential in my practise of painting.  I tend to overlap yellows and blues on the page or canvas to make my greens, but the result is the similar, somatically. If I need to I use Hooker’s, Sap, or olive greens, but I avoid opaque greens completely.  (Too many institutions were painted this flat, bad-tasting colour in the ’50s.  I do wonder why.)

Here is a little green artists’ pigment history  – (for more link to this excellent page here).  It’s interesting that for me Emerald Green acts more like crimson on a canvas if used in it’s pure form – and the pigment used by Van Gogh and Cezanne was extremely toxic.  A ‘not-green’, if it’s also rat poison.

Sap Green
Derived from the unripe berries of the Buckthorn shrub. It is highly fugitive, as is a sister-pigment, Iris Green which comes from the sap of the Iris Flower. During the Middle Ages, Sap Green was reduced to a heavy syrup and sold in liquid form. Today’s synthetic Sap Greens are lakes obtained from coal tar.

Emerald Green
Also known as Schweinfurt Green, Parrot Green, Imperial Green, Vienna Green, and Mitis Green, this beautiful but poisonous of pigments was also marketed under the name Paris Green as a rat poison. As a paint-pigment, it was prone to fading in sunlight (an effect which could be reduced in oil paintings by isolating the pigment in between coats of varnish) and also reacted chemically with other colours. For instance, it could not be combined with sulfur-containing colours, like cadmium yellow, vermilion or ultramarine blue, as the mixture resulted in a deep brown colour. However, it had a brilliance unlike any other copper green known to modern chemistry. It is said that Emerald Green was the favourite pigment of the Post-Impressionist Paul Cezanne. In some of his watercolours, thin washes containing the colour have browned, but thicker applications have remained bright green. Van Gogh was another avid user. Modern imitations include “Emerald Green” or “Permanent Green”.


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#Selfie Post 3: Paralysis

Week 2 of Selfie Project:  goin in…

I need to come clean and report that I experienced two days of work paralysis after the shock of posting my face online 4.5 days ago.  I actually needed to sleep off the bewilderment of feeling exposed before I could find my focus again & get back to the work.  I do get that it’s not that big a deal from the other side, over there where people are actually reading this.  For me though – this is NOT a muscle I have ever used so deliberately.  Nonetheless I made a professional commitment to go inside Selfie, so inside I go, straight at my own vulnerabilities…

Taught all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony.  Not the face I want to face tonight.

Taught & worked all day, then rehearsed a proms concert with the Symphony. Not the face I want to face tonight.

A bit from the Selfie Synopsis:

 

I was a deeply introverted young person – not one to vocalize what I was feeling or thinking – I mostly just watched.  Because of this the people around me would fill in the blanks I’d left with whatever seemed to fit their idea of who I was. My family and acquaintances, & most friends would thus relate not to me but to their own projections onto my blank slate (this still happens unless I’m quick enough to correct it).  While this was initially convenient for me, it invariably led to internal confusion when I didn’t recognize the me other people were relating to…  I developed ways to become invisible – in a crowd, at the dinner table, in a classroom, in the school orchestra.  Later I used the same techniques on stage, at conferences, concerts and meetings.  The most effective of these was simply closing my eyes, but I also became adept at deflecting attention away from my internal self, and towards something – anything more shiny and attractive.  As a performer I realized after some years that most audience members didn’t actually want to know who I was or what I thought – they really just wanted a positive reflection of themselves.  Understanding that made life MUCH easier for me:  Ah!  Just be gracious!  I can do that.

I squirm when I see people of all ages and stages of life taking solo selfies and posting them, in all their vulnerability, on social media sites.  I see awkwardness, pain, sadness, exhaustion, lack of self-awareness, longing – perhaps projections from my own life?  (things do come back around, after all).  So often the response comments are either carefully banal “you’re so beautiful”, or rude, or insulting and disrespectful.  Sometimes the posted photos are so unfortunate they get circulated well beyond their intended reach to a global chorus of ridicule and derision.

This begs the question: What is actually happening here, and why?  But also, since I must face my own Self in this project:  What’s at the root of my own discomfort?

Ask a question, you get an answer.  But this question keeps getting bigger, more personal, more reflective, more….

What unfroze my thinking this week was listening to Seth Godin in an interview he gave on a program called On Being (posted by one of my facebook friends).  Here’s the link to it (recommended).  He says, among other things, that old social and professional norms are breaking down in our cultures, though we are largely unaware of this.  It’s no longer just a select group of trained people who can be artists for example, and make creative breakthroughs that change the world.  Now we are all artists, making the world as we see it, posting the results, and so creating a new way of seeing ourselves, and sharing it in the same instant.

Need a tripod.  This is going to get old, fast.

mirror work.

To address my own discomfort with what I perceive as other people’s ‘selfie behavior’ (now also mine, which makes me my ‘other’), I read Eric Fromm,

“We should free ourselves from the narrowness of being related only to those familiar to us, either by the fact that they are blood relations or, in a larger sense, that we eat the same food, speak the same language, and have the same “ common sense.” Knowing men [and women] in the sense of compassionate and empathetic knowledge requires that we get rid of the narrowing ties of a given society, race or culture and penetrate to the depth of that human reality in which we are all nothing but human. True compassion and knowledge of man has been largely underrated as a revolutionary factor in the development of man, just as art has been. It is a noteworthy phenomenon that in the development of capitalism and its ethics, compassion (or mercy) ceases to be a virtue.”

― Erich Fromm, The Revolution of Hope: Toward a Humanized Technology

My conclusion after week 2:  Selfie is self-examination, which is not comfortable, if one goes there with intent to be honest.  It requires courage to truly look at yourself, shoot yourself, then publish yourself without armour or packaging.  But art is risk, and always has been so.

If we are to see this in the context of this culture we are in that changes itself from the ground up, we are engaged in an artistic making of self-image that says with it’s public/private gaze:  I am here.

Is there also an echo question:  “Where are you?”

I think so.

more to come.

We make and share ourselves.

Week 3:   Paint.  But also sing and play this.  I’m scared to go there, so go there I must.


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#Selfie post 2

This show project has turned into a kind of Selfie Pilgrimage for me.  I must say, my initial resistance has been a challenge to overcome – I DO so resist, especially when reading articles like this one by James Franco (The Meanings of the Selfie, New York Times, December 2013)  who rationalizes his recently acquired selfie habit thus,

a well-stocked collection of selfies seems to get attention.  …hell, it’s what everyone wants: attention. Attention is power.

Maybe for James Franco it’s power, but I truly don’t think that’s at the core of our collective behaviour.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel.  Sure enough, even when I'm the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible.  Not squirming, I think.

I do not own a cell phone, so use a Rebel. Sure enough, even when I’m the one taking the picture of me I close my eyes to make myself invisible. Not squirming, I think.

So I dig and write and paint, and read.  This morning I woke to a kind of epiphany about what could be at the root of Selfie on social media.  Here’s a journal excerpt, which will likely end up in the show booklet in some form,

Selfies have steadily been on the increase since the first use of the term (Australia) in 2002 & became universal in 2012.  Oxford English Dictionary made the term it’s “word of the year” in 2013.  Could this be a barometer for the increasing divide between people because of a kind of culturally cultivated distrust of intimacy?  We are also experiencing the increasing dissolution of traditional forms of relationship and partnership – both personally and with the institutions we once trusted (govt, banks, corporations), which may have created a vaccuum at the personal level.  Maybe these cultural shifts have also changed the questions we’re asking ourselves on a personal level…

The question ‘who am I’, has traditionally been answered in the past by describing how you are related to something or someone, “Peter’s wife; Katie’s Mother; Richard’s Teacher; Jim’s Daughter; Sarah’s Boss; Paul’s Friend”, or even by what you do professionally, which is a different form of relationship “A cellist; an artist; a bus driver; an author; a councillor; a conductor, a mechanic; a carpenter”.

It’s a different question in social media circles.

“I got ‘Unicorn’!, which mythical  creature are you?”

Round one.  Always an indication of how the fight will go.  I need to make it to twenty....

Round one. Always an indication of how the fight will go. I need to make it to twenty….

This answers a question for me about why I’m painting my own hands in interaction.  I think #Selfie behavior could be an examination of our relationship with ourselves.

Each time a selfie is posted it tells a truth, shows a piece of soul, offers a clue, and a question:  “who am I?”  or with chronic selfie posters, “who am I, now?” But what does that question actually mean?  How can we Be separate and distinct from our interactions  – with partners, kids, colleagues, parents, friends, job?

So, for me, my hands.  They are my job, my form of expression, an amplification of my speech, a means of articulation.  They represent two sides of my engagement with the world and my work – my dominant right hand is skilled, trained in the finely tuned crafts of drawing and using a cello bow.  I can write with it – it knows letters and words.  It’s often TOO skilled, too trained for a task I want to complete – a drawing that is direct and raw; the ability to touch an object and feel it’s shape and texture without interference from what is ‘known’.  My left hand is more honest, therefore, and I rely upon it to take me places that can change my mind and my perspective.

Together they are erotic, aggressive, tender, bewildered, compassionate, protected, open or closed to experience.  I see them and work with them much much more than I see and work with my face.  Here’s what Larry Jensen wrote in response to the first hand selfie I posted.  I so love this, L:

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons...

blurred names & avatars for privacy reasons…

And so the 12-week journey begins, with James Franco, the Oxford English, a Unicorn, Larry Jensen, and some squirming.

yep, squirming.  eyes open means you can see me.  Here we go....

Yep, squirming. eyes open means you can see me. Here we go….


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Wings

twenty extra minutes uphill, but it didn’t feel like it because of Dire Straits and Jake Coco.  In fact, my wings carried me up that hill in time with the music, and then I was soaring high high above everything where the horizon is curved, warm sun on my back.

base drawing for "selfie answer 1", which will graduate to its' next stage today.  Can't wait to dig in...

base drawing for “selfie answer 1”, which will graduate to its’ next stage today. Can’t wait to dig in…

My theory is this:  I’m invisible if I close my eyes when I’m working out.  In this way I have discreetly walked ten miles every week for the past month, flown up countless hills, memorized lyrics to twenty excellent songs, and arranged ten more for cello and voice.  I truly never thought I’d say this, but I do love my little green iPod with all my heart, just for making this such a rich journey.  And for being tiny.

love these guys so much, missed the boys this week past

Some of our Youth Orchestra kids on the week before March break. Great tribe to be part of.

I have no profound thoughts to offer, since I’m in transition from task to task today, but I’m aiming for objectivity this weekend after tomorrow’s supremely enriching Sistema Teacher workshop in Toronto.  When I’m done there my iPod and I shall drive and drive, and the parts of my brain that have become strapped in too tightly by all of this striving and slogging will loosen their ties, let down their hair and begin to dance again in the big expanse of Road Trip, where the horizon is curved.  Somewhere in the middle of this walkabout I will find Profound, and Articulate, and craft something here…

But for now I will leave you with a beautiful thing crafted by Annie Dillard.  I’ve been chewing on this ever since I read it two weeks ago.  She writes things that just keep coming back to you…..

A schedule defends from chaos and whim.  It is a net for catching days.  It is scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time…. It is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living

Happy first week of March 2014, everyone.