Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Cabin stories 6: learning human

There is not a tree here the species books would call perfect. They are bent and twisted, storm-broken and shallow-rooted. They share a mere skiff of soil, what sunlight they can reach and make the best of what they have. Ironwood, cedar, birch are the oldest. Sapling maple and ash have found space too, and tall twisting rowan that drop bright orange berries in the fall.

Birch is the tallest, and shortest-lived – they fall first, in piles where green moss and mushroom speed the process of rot. Seeds from any species take root there; everywhere I look death feeds life.

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Here companionship is visible – a staying with, through weather and change. All around I see slow and deliberate acts of steady-ing and support. These beings share their vulnerabilities – a trunk too thin to support straight growth will lean on another, older and stronger. They live this way, making room, sharing strength, all their lives. They stretch their roots beneath the skiff of soil, to connect with their own mycelial network. This community  of flora and fauna knows who among them is weak, starved or injured – and they send nourishment or honour death, if death it must be.

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This morning’s brief scan from my tiny access point into the world-wide-web offers me news from Rebecca Solnit (a major hub of the human mycelial network ), who scans today’s news and puts all in context of sanity, who treks through the away-ness of Tibet, brings solar lights, medical teams and menstrual kits with her for giveaway.

I see elsewhere that Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman: 1984 team has partnered with the Anti-recidivism Coalition (ARC) in California to raise awareness and funds in support of formerly incarcerated men and women.

Also a broad spectrum of successful Go Fund Me campaigns (Thank you Amanda Palmer), Avaaz squaring up against Monsanto, great new restaurant downtown, free umbrellas if you need ’em, looking for recommendations….

joined trees

These trees teach me to reclaim my love for humans. Contrary to what we hear or read in the news, we do help one another, genuinely and reliably. We do what we can to keep ourselves and each other laughing-strong so we can withstand together the ever more serious blights that threaten the world. We Stay with the Trouble, we collaborate across knowledge fields to study the warm data that inter-connects systems, we learn, we notice, we support, we link arms as companions, we resist the fear that would divide us.

Universal companionship requires a proactive sensing of signals that is not possessive, but compassionate. For me, this is a learned practise that extends beyond simple emotional sensitivity.

My humanness requires a conscious determination to crack the carapace of whatever restricts my self-awareness, to reveal the vulnerability that connects me with all vulnerable selves. To honour and sing with the voice only I have, to speak my claimed insight – gently, firmly, assertively, especially if it goes against the well-promoted grain. To pay attention, through my uniquely human skin, to the other species around me.

To see and understand pain, for what it is.

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Nora Bateson:

The revolution, the evolution is not going to be found in conference centers or seminars in 5 star hotels. It won’t be definable in righteousness or sanctimony.

The resonances will be and are where the pain has been–where there was no choice but to become unbreakable.

Where the scars are generations deep and sculpt into raw, sassy, funny, sexy, harsh, confusing.

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Nobody’s ever ready for real change. The tree snaps in the wind, the hurricane rips through an island, a city. The bullet misses, or finds its mark, your heart breaks, suddenly and without warning, in a new place. The army invades and you become a refugee, the American Government takes your child from your arms, someone who has been raped himself, rapes her. A diagnosis, a move, a new job, you fall into swooning, impossible love….

Not one of us is ever ready. But if we are human, if we allow us to fill with compassion and laughter we can claim our pain and learn how to keep growing; life from death.

We can choose to play our pathway out of trouble, learn to think differently, to haltingly, hilariously, try out a new language.

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Unconditional:

  1. without limits
  2. unrestricted by definition, requirement, or compulsion


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Colour Pages #7: White

Veritas.

It’s dark down there – difficult to see, to dig and keep digging.  At the bottom of it, when you get there, you find an understanding that changes the shape of your world.    LindenwoodtrailLookout

I’ve just watched a film about a young prosecutor with great natural integrity who is working in Frankfurt just after WWII.  He is drawn to dig for answers in places where his colleagues are oddly reluctant to go, specifically about what happened at a work camp in Poland.  What happened at Auschwitz is revealed to him through the stories of survivors and he realizes with growing horror that all 8000 soldiers who worked at the camp are complicit.  That everyone who knew what was happening, what had happened, and did nothing, was complicit.

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A culture which covertly rewards cruelty and entitlement to violence is a culture grievously sick.  It’s a culture of people who need desperately to examine and understand their own internal darkness.  It is us, our blood memory.

We are all of us in need of Truth, and then the reconciliation that leads to healing.

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Here’s an excerpt from a story I read on social media this morning, published by “A Mighty Girl” (an organization that collects such stories and offers them as empowerment to young people)

Twenty years ago today, Keshia Thomas was 18 years old when the KKK held a rally in her home town of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Hundreds of protesters turned out to tell the white supremacist organization that they were not welcome in the progressive college town. At one point during the event, a man with a SS tattoo and wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with a Confederate flag ended up on the protesters’ side of the fence and a small group began to chase him. He was quickly knocked to the ground and kicked and hit with placard sticks.

As people began to shout, “Kill the Nazi,” the high school student, fearing that mob mentality had taken over, decided to act. Thomas threw herself on top of one of the men she had come to protest, protecting him from the blows, and told the crowd that you “can’t beat goodness into a person.” In discussing her motivation for this courageous act after the event, she stated, “Someone had to step out of the pack and say, ‘this isn’t right’… I knew what it was like to be hurt. The many times that that happened, I wish someone would have stood up for me… violence is violence – nobody deserves to be hurt, especially not for an idea.”

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Colour pages 1-6 are meditations on red, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet.

White is made of all these colours, in balance.  Enlightenment.

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I offer that white is kindness – a simple act of compassion that can unravel any knot of negativity, ease pain, transform anger into forgiveness.  Firm, clear and clean, the white of compassion is a balm to the discolourment of pain.

"Sorrow", otherwise known as Mother Canada, from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

“Sorrow” from the memorial at Vimy Ridge

White is a still, safe, tender place where stories can be told, and heard.

It’s where we find the courage to heal ourselves.


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Colour Pages #4: Red like Joan

I hold Red in my mind and thoughts rise like bubbles. They’re not what I expect.

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This decision is rooted in fear.

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I’m stuck in Repeat.

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I’m bored.

Confined.  categorized, manipulated, abused, constricted, driven, exhausted, worried, overstressed, coping.

Aren’t we all to some extent.  And isn’t this an essential part of the story.

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Then another thought rises (after a Mozart Requiem rehearsal):

Music changes everything.

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I offer this idea in honour of Joan Watson, master of the french horn and incredible human, who calls to us all from the far-off place where we can be anything and anyone we choose to be.  I was so privileged to meet and know her.

The horn solo at the end of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite is red. Red like freedom.

It will take an hour, so give yourself the time to listen to the entire piece.  Close your eyes and follow the journey until the end.  I weep without restraint, every time.  

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Red is alive like fire, compelling and warm and dangerous.

It’s intense like passion and its right use requires skill and discernment, its expert use true maturity.

I offer that without Red we would have no change, no challenge.

Stillness in fire, thoughts like a river that moves both swift and slow

Without the red that changes everything, without challenge, life fades into monotone.

Joan, such an inspiration to so many, was not beige or grey.

Joan was, and is still, Red.


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find a reason

I have two feet’s worth of projects to move from here to over there – from the possible to the more possible pile; to the surprisingly good pile, a few to the “well now I know that won’t work ever” pile.  They all have a best before date; some of which I know, others I’ve misread, so I pre-empt, and miss the mark…

factory windows

art factory windows

Every one of them is worthy of the best attention.  Unfortunately tonight, after 18 hours of steady steady…  for what feels like the past three months straight, I’m really really tired.  And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Bofoto shot (https://www.facebook.com/the.bofoto) from the sold out & very successful Nirvana Unplugged, which happened 6 days ago...

Bofoto shot (https://www.facebook.com/the.bofoto) from the sold out & very successful Nirvana Unplugged, which happened 6 days ago…

Last night I sat in for the GBS’ principal cellist to sight read Dvorak (a last-minute surprise; I tanked), the night before I was melted by the Goldberg Variations played by Mark Fewer (vln), Steven Dann (vla), Richard Lester (vlc), which was like witnessing the reason the planet turns and the sun rises.  The night before that I tried again to reconfigure my brain to fit the frequency of the instruction manual for a BOSS900  digital THING which will allow me to write and share songs with my collaborators….

Me, my sister and our Grandfather Kennedy in Trafalgar square, London, 1968.  I'd like to say that things were simpler then, but I find I can't, really.  In a bizarre way this is comforting.  I wonder if anyone gets that.

Me, my sister and our Grandfather Kennedy in Trafalgar square, London, 1968. I’d like to say that things were simpler then, but I find I can’t, really. In a bizarre way this is comforting. I wonder if anyone gets that.

What’s my point?

I think it’s pretty simple.  I really am really tired, and I need real sleep.

Also that I love what I’m doing.

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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Homing

I’ve known many….

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.


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Inside Winter

It’s the kind of snow there’s a constant More of.  The plows and trucks and blowers, out all night long are still going strong at 10am.  Cars slide gently sideways to stop signs. Kids and grown-ups both are thoroughly snow-suited, booted, winter-gloved and touqued as they kick & trudge through piled white, falling white, blowing  – white everywhere.  Dogs leap and dive in it; parked cars have long since disappeared, save for a stripe of colour along their sides.

Third-floor roof of the studio building.  Looking Southwest across the harbour

Third-floor roof of the studio building. Looking Southwest across the harbour

The coffee tastes better.  The blankets are warmer.  The books are more intriguing; the art more tantalizing now that there’s time to look deeply.  The music has such clean white space around it,  it’s almost visible.

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I’ve dug out my knitting projects.  I find myself puttering,  replacing buttons, fixing collars, darning holes in old sweaters.

Just heard the opening phrase of a new song:  3 cello voices, descending, one rising, to A minor; hold.  Then vocals…

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I’ve said this before, but it’s true enough to say twice:  I love what winter does to me.