Keirartworks's Blog

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


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A reciprocal boat

Sometimes the boat NEEDS to sink, little miss willpower.  Sometimes it’s just time to release Her.

Boats are practical things that keep you afloat on water, carry what you need for a journey, bring back what you harvest.  They are all female.

Boats are dreams, freedoms, passions, yearnings. They are shared, protected, obvious solitudes.  In them you can aim yourself to the far horizon, traverse the foreign deep and sing the sky.  They cradle in a soft wind, scream in heavy weather.

Without exception, boats require maintenance. Care.

A reciprocal boat carries two, each with her baggage, each with his wounds which, if utilized correctly can transform into oars, a sail.  A tiller, a keel even, to stabilize a fragile idea in rough weather.  Ingenuity is required, shared goals, a willingness to do all the work made necessary by journey.  If one refuses to bail while the other catches the wind, forgets to balance the agreement of labour and care, well then there is no crew, and the boat, She knows it. If there’s no crew to attend to the moment, then eventually, inevitably, down She goes, in sad, sorry relief.

That one sank four years ago, on September 3, 2013. In the course of that time I’ve sung her Her to peace in honour of her ten years of service. Despite a poor crew.

There are fair weather boats, full of jolly shout and sun.  These are white white above but deep and heavy below with a labouring few who may never be seen.  These know Her engines, Her faults, Her upper deck requirements and tend them, cursing the dark.  Below the cursings, deeper still in the hull are dungeons where the scapegoats molder, banished for being born out of place.  Light above, heavy below, She knows full well she cannot be sustained, but grinds the tending souls to breaking point in any case, for the sake of Show.

One like that finally sank three years ago, in long, slow stages.  I watched her break apart and go under, still raging.

It was not beautiful, or poignant.

The boats still out there are better made; They need maintenance at dock, newer crew, so in They come, a float of dignity and good lines, for repair and Captains who understand the weather, yearn for the horizon.

Still others wait ready, clean holds full of nourishment and good sense.

Me, I’ve found safe harbour. Deeply grateful for the peace after the storms.  I repair, rebuild and absorb new information here, I check the shore for the next journey.

I’ll know Her when I see Her; we’ll sail when the wind is right.

 

 


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old becomes new

Cold toes, bruised ribs from this wiry pull-out mattress, the roar and scrape of post-christmas industrial traffic three floors down.  I keep my eyes closed and read last night’s snowfall from the speed of the passing plough: maybe two inches.

A truck beeps itself backwards into the garage, shovels scrape pathways to retail:  Not a snowday then; We are open for business. I’m tired beyond measure from seasonal work, christmas effort, road trips, and navigating the annual ocean of paper, plastic, wrappings, cups and boxes; private aches, public belly laughs, snow bruises, exhilarations and odd behaviors.  I’d much prefer to be waking in my bed at home, where there’s a bath for slow entry into the day, a kitchen to make simple breakfast in.

BlizzardWindowNW

Nevertheless, I have deadlines to meet.  In answer to this, the dawn light pours in through eastern windows to spill on the floor: it’s beautiful here. I feel the call of possibility, and the rituals begin – fold up the bed, start the kettle for coffee, pad down the long hallway to fill the water jugs, come back to play with the cats while my coffee brews.

My studio, where I have worked and played for eight years, produced a hundred or more paintings, taught cello and art, designed, wrote blog, essay and books, rehearsed and performed music, read, edited, shared poetry, and built a rich and enduring collaboration with Knuckles the once-feral cat (who I will love ferociously and tenderly all my life long).

It’s late November 2016 and I’ve not yet decided to dismantle and reinstall it in the spare room at home.  It still feels like I’ll be here for a long time yet; content and safe in the art factory.

Everything is white again.

Everything is white again.

This six-windowed room is on the top floor of an old building that once housed a ladies hoisery factory, managed and operated by my maternal great-grandfather, Walter Keebler*. At one point he employed 200 women here – women who previously could only find work as maids or cooks because until then only men worked in factories.  I imagine that when they found themselves working together, they organized, and sorted things that needed sorting. Women tend to do that, given a little empowerment.

My other great-great grandfather was the CEO of Kennedy Foundry which made propellers for most of the merchant marine in the great lakes.  From the roof of the Circle Bar building I can see where the foundry was.

BlizzardWindowNE

When I moved in eight years ago I stripped and refinished the floors, filled the plaster holes with durabond, painted the walls, stripped half of the moulding around the windows (why?  sentiment, I think – it’s just cheap pine), and foam-insulated the ceiling cracks. I got my materials and equipment out of limbo and set up – the first time I’d had a working studio in four years – SUCH a relief to have a space for my soul again.  Since then it has always answered my soul’s need for sanctuary, art factory, practise and rehearsal space, writing space and woman’s shelter – all the more rich because of the family connection.  I feel as though I’ve got to know my ancestor Walter Keebler, somehow.  His slow steady, his endurance and care.

SunPatchonFloorApril2014

This week I am packing it all up and removing myself from here, because it’s the right thing to do.  The initial decision was made in answer to the interminable delay in settlement from my marriage (which officially ended late summer 2013), but the choice resonated in my bones: yes, it’s time to move on.  Like the lobster whose shell has become too tight, I need to shed this place so I can grow.

As my mind and heart changes through the work of this masters degree, so is my painting shifting.  I still love working large, but I’m in search of more playfulness, new techniques, new experiments, new media – these will start small, because I have less time after music work and school are done.  Moving studio will help that, as well as insuring that I have enough money for gas and groceries.  (an aside – I just heard a statistic that sent me reeling: Video here, worth watching. I’ll paraphrase – the average annual income for professional writers, musicians and painters in Canada is $6,000.  Yep – I made $6,600. last year, working all the time.)

RecordingGear_Easter2014

Still, my heart breaks each time I fill a box and take it to my car, each time Knuckles the cat looks at me so full of trust and love, each time I look at the bare walls and empty windows.

RoofSunsetwPainting

What a wonderful, rich eight years it’s been.  Thanks, Great-Grandpa, for the Circle Bar.

*Walter was the descendent of german refugees from the 100-years war, granted asylum by Queen Victoria. She in turn sent her 8000 refugees to the colonies, where William Penn, English real estate entrepreneur, philosopher and early Quaker presided over a flock of immigrants.  His great-uncle Frederick fought with the 50th regiment (for Lincoln) in the American Civil War – we are transcribing his letters home as a family project.

 


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Value

What an intense beginning to October it has been.  It feels like I’ve been birth canal-ed – squeezed into a ‘passage through’ from that September of structural change (schedule, mental, energetic) into this October of ‘Now, GROW’.  This is the first morning of stillness after a massive storm of People and Events and I find myself looking around in wonder, like a newborn.

bridge on the way to my weekly class at Laurier

Bridge on the way to my weekly class at Laurier.  Like a birth canal, save that I come back through it every week at midnight.  Always an odd sensation.

I played back-to-back gigs in three completely different genres from Friday until Sunday at 2pm – the fallout from those rehearsals is over there…

Oh yes, and Friday was also my birthday. Why the roses...

Oh yes, and Friday was also my birthday. Why the roses…

I threw my old loveseat in a dumpster on Saturday too – the old pullout that didn’t pull out was my bed for the year after my marriage ended in 2013 and despite its’ size and brokenness, the ragged sides ravaged by cats and the seat pillows I never did finish reupholstering, I loved it dearly.  We pushed it over the edge and it opened one last time to say goodbye.  I whispered thank you for holding me before we drove away.  The tears that came then (and now, I’ll admit) are proof of my exhaustion.  Change.  Sigh.

Plaid. High back, which makes me feel short. Longer by two feet. hmmm.

Plaid. High back, which makes me feel short. Longer by two feet.

This new old couch has good pedigree (people very very dear to me have sat and slept here) and I have high hopes for it’s eventual ‘rightness’ in this space, though it still feels awkward. The studio cats have shunned it, so far.

I suspect it will grow in usefulness as I settle in to the habit of reading books, annotating books, blogging about books and commenting on the blogs of classmates.  This is how doing a Masters in Community Music translates into daily life. Ha – even as I write I know that’s not even the half of it.  This masters pervades all levels of now – how can it not, when books entitled Music and Mind in Daily Life (Clarke/Dibbin/Pitts, 2010) are on the week’s menu?  Every class from 7 until 10 pm) we talk about what is meaningful and authentic. How this changes when music becomes a commercialized product.  What does it feel like, to share musical space, to tell true musical stories that resonate and mix across personal and political cultures.  How music is so naturally inclusive, yet so easily distorted by projections of class, identity and politics.  How Music changes things, always.

Books like food. Masters is like eating and eating when you know you are already full. An exercise in stamina...

Books like food. Masters is like eating and eating when you know you are already full. An exercise in stamina…

I have not found ‘normal’ yet.  In the openness of this morning I look at my weeks and think, something has got to go.  There’s not enough room, currently, for the things I need to do, for the books I need to read.

And yet this is a stage in any valuable long-term project that I recognize, and relish – a good exercise in using emotional intelligence to understand what’s going to be supportive, gain me greater clarity, sharper focus.

And what is not.

chair_floor_studio

I’ve added things.  Cello lessons every other week (we are changing my right thumb position, working on my bowing, and fine-tuning my ears).  New cello students.  A string ensemble gathering every other week.  Learning lead vocals on two songs – one gaelic, one by Robbie Burns, for a mini-tour in Toronto in 2 weeks.  A drawing class for people who think they can’t in November, functional art making, and visual art making for a Studio Tour in December (this is how I will PAY for the masters – I have commissions and buyers, but so far no time to do the work).  Christmas mini-tour with my favourite musical collaborators.  Regular family visits.  Good, slow time with my dear and significant other.  Time spent listening and laughing with old and new friends.

It’s a lot, yes.  Doable if I practise smart self-care.  If I can find and work from a new lightness of being.

There is is.  I know what I need to let go of.  All the old heavy I carry that’s not mine.  Stories that are long over but still stuck in a run-on sentence.  Time to close those old books, and burn them.

Ah, that crazy beautiful bridge.

crazy beautiful bridge.

Letting go

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This is social media experiment in making art.  As I worked through the process of this painting I wondered whether I could actually describe that process in a series of photos, and tell the story of the piece as it becomes itself.   Might be neato.  I’ve started this with my cover photos on facebook, but there are lots of them to come, and some FB folks who might get overloaded….

So here goes.  It was supposed to be a clamp.  One in a series of paintings about legacy and inheritance that were going to take me into the next decade.  With this painting, that idea got stopped in it’s tracks – I realized I was finished the series after only two:  Shovel and Axe.  If you really want to know why, ask me in person, but the why isn’t the point really.  The idea was over.  Suddenly.

Canvas is 4'x4' square.  This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white houspaint resist.

Canvas is 4’x4′ square. This is a detail of the first yellow wash over white house paint resist.

Then I drew the clamp on the canvas and stared at it.  It was a good drawing, but No.  Erased the clamp.  Stared some more.

Then in art class I needed to demonstrate the joys of washes over acrylic gel, which preserves the integrity of the colour and adds depth to the ground.  Washed a good red over the whole thing, let it drip…. Then in the next art class I needed  to show some things about composition and drawing and courage, so I picked the nearest object to draw and did this:

vine  charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp.  It rubs off.  In this photo I've superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines...

vine charcoal for the drawing, which is what I used to draw the Clamp. It rubs off. In this photo I’ve superimposed a photo of the actual snaffle bit over the drawing to check my lines…

I was going to keep this as a demo canvas for art class, but the painting was talking too much – like a river.  Can’t stop a river, so…

My full attention.  This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago....

My full attention. This is when I stopped answering my phone, five days ago….

What is it, what is it.  It’s a D-ring snaffle bit that I used on my pony when I was a tweener.  The bit is not connected to a bridle.  It’s not hanging in a barn, or waiting to be used.  It’s here because I remember Pippin and I like the shape.

The painting is about being unbridled.  And it’s about horse – wild horse, old horse, powerful horse, running horse, free.  Bronze age white horse of Uffington:

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper...

And the river of painting chatter gets deeper…

Now it’s just watching, layering, washing, dripping, listening, writing, and recording music while the paint is drying. Run up and down the stairs for energy.  Write some more.  Paint.  Don’t ever stop.

Green wash for the Uffington hills...

Green wash for the Uffington hills…

white wash to pull it together.  I love this part...

white wash to pull it together. I love this part…

Pull the bit back in (conte).  Now there's interesting spatial stuff happening....

Pull the bit back in (conte). Now there’s interesting spatial stuff happening….

I’m not done yet, so I can’t take you to the end.  I’ll keep shooting while I watch the paint dry, and will update here to tie it all up.

In the meantime I need to say this:  that if you let it, if you actually surrender your will and just let the river flow, art can take you through all the blocked, backward, toxic stuff of your life and wash it all off.  It’s ALWAYS worth it to make something out of nothing but your mind, your heart, and what ever else is to hand.  If you have kids, tell them that, over and over again.  Tell them that there are no mistakes, ever.  Just change.

Trust change, and let go.

Yesterday when I ventured out for food and batteries I found myself in face-to-face conversation with people.  I think I was using words, and I think everything went ok because when I got home I had food and batteries as planned.  Oh and an indigo hyacinth.

To anyone I spoke with this week who felt that I wasn’t really there – you’re right, I wasn’t, despite my best efforts.  I was really in my studio of many rooms eating soul food.

Happy Sunday.

This gallery contains 7 photos


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trip theme

I’ve had early morning conversation with one of my rarely seen Incredibles, who is now off to work.  Two others flop in their beds – they will be vertical, and then verbal, soon.

but hang on – the snow is blowing from left to right through the alleyway behind my head.  Horozontal snow is normal in the wilds of greater Kemble where I live, but odd here in this city of 2.6 million.  A Toronto adventure lies ahead – in which folks will perhaps be shocked out of their daily sub-routines into something more…  accessible?  Present?

We are here, for a short time, to float – metaphorically – on a deep urban river in sea kayaks, letting the currents of humanity determine where we will go, and only occasionally choosing paddle-directed routes when compelled by curiosity.  I know of no better way to clear my mind of what has been, and then open it to possibility.  Maybe a long, deep sleep comes close.

The opossum who appeared at our house on New Year's Eve - on a walkabout from Virginia perhaps?  He didn't stick around in any case...

The young opossum who appeared at our Southern Georgian Bay house on New Year’s Eve – on a walkabout from Virginia?

In the next morning’s pause after the early Incredible has left for work I feel a need to name a sub-focus for these 40 hours away – ideas explored several times in conversation with both familiars and strangers.  Allow me to summarize these surprisingly intense discussions – with Enzo at the coffee shop who is working his way off the street, with J who is walking with himself in friendship, with F, M & D, who have their antennae out, with the Norwegian-born writer interviewed by Eleanor Wachtel on CBC radio who’s really not sure he should have taken the risks he has taken…  here goes:

The most difficult thing to do with our lives is to make a positive, functional plan that nourishes ourselves, first.  The plan needs to answer an internal passion, utilize natural skills & beloved tools, fan the embers of curiosity and feed back sustaining energy.  The idea and what it manifests should have a built-in capacity to serve a larger community  – i.e. – someone you have nothing to do with can look at, read or hear your work and say, ‘a-ha.  That’s me.’ (or “that’s my aunt.”  etc).  Or they can pick up what you have made and appreciate it’s design and function as part of their own plan…

Imagine the concept is a well-designed garden shed.  The plan becomes the framework.  The work that follows is ‘fleshing it out’ – making it functional, accessible, dry, light etc.

It’s so very easy to make everything else more important than this – even and perhaps especially care-giving, groceries, the internet & a trillion things that can be taken personally but are not that important.  It’s also very easy to believe that unless your work brings in income, it’s not valid.  This is just simply not true.  What is true is that if you find the concept, make the plan (custom-sized to fit what you can realistically accomplish) and then persistently apply the work, what you make will sustain you – more than possibly financially, definitely psychologically.

It will also make everyone else around you much happier.

framework for a concept

framework for a concept

Further to the Theme as discussed :

Once you reach that inner “I’ve Got it!” place,  Forward momentum comes naturally.  Priorities fall back into an order that makes sense, you will have abundant tolerance for all the silliness of your friends and family and the next task and the next will become crystal clear  (as in:  If I’m going to do this, then I’ll have to make a functional space for the doing part – done.  Then I will need a little money – done.  Then I will need this much time – done.  Then I will need a deadline – etc).

I believe everyone and every community on this planet should be engaged in some part of this process right now, for the sake of humanity and the ecosystem we are part of.

The alternative is depression, anger, rage and eventually despair.   Add guns and greed, and …  well.  This is what we’re in the process of healing, are we not?

Happy Monday, all.