Keirartworks's Blog

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

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New Rounds

fire painting to begin

fire painting to begin

Another snow-day gift…

So I’m throwing paint again:  I find myself working in the round.

Round 1

Round 1

hmmm.  walking through fire, maybe?  in Tibet?

Round 2

Round 2

These are all underpaintings, and they’re all humming loudly.  I’m excited to see what happens next, and next…

Round 3 (ding)

Round 3 (ding)

This canvas is many paintings that have all been painted over – I think the total is four.  Maybe this one will work, since it will have smaller round companions.  We shall see!

While I’ve been working today I’ve been thinking about how we all exist in and through relationship with other people.  How love can transform what we see because it softens the barriers that we work so hard to maintain – and there are always miracles revealed.  Love, music, poetry, art – we are better for these things. I do think it’s that simple.

Here’s Yeats mining a similar vein…

ALL things uncomely and broken, all things worn out and old,
The cry of a child by the roadway, the creak of a lumbering cart,
The heavy steps of the ploughman, splashing the wintry mould,
Are wronging your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

The wrong of unshapely things is a wrong too great to be told;
I hunger to build them anew and sit on a green knoll apart,
With the earth and the sky and the water, re-made, like a casket of gold
For my dreams of your image that blossoms a rose in the deeps of my heart.

WB Yeats – The Lover Tells of the Rose in His Heart

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Ravel and the Moon

Although I can’t see it through the opaque winter sky I can feel it:  the moon is full.

With the able help of cellists Carol Mulder and Sibylle Ruppert my excellent mom and I performed David Popper’s Requiem for three celli and piano for our Industrial Ancestors yesterday evening.  Folk came out to witness as we played to a photo of two-term Mayor of Owen Sound, Matthew Kennedy Sr, my Great-great Grandfather, and the man who ran the shop at Kennedy Foundries, where 90 % of the propellers for the Merchant Marine were made during the wars.  Matthew didn’t believe in libraries or higher education, just in hard work. He died from the cancer one gets from spending long hours in a big foundry.

This event was the final of Tom Thomson Art Gallery’s ‘The Wave Passes’ series, which Gallery Director Virginia Eichorn describes thus:

…an ongoing project involving art installations, video and performance that connect the stories of Owen Sound’s past with the present. Tonight, from 6:15 to 7pm, outside of Council Chambers on the 2nd floor, there will be a concert honouring two of cellist Keira McArthur’s ancestors, one who was a former Mayor of Owen Sound (Matthew Kennedy), and another who served many years on City Council (David John Kennedy, who also ran Kennedy Foundries through the depression years). The quartet will perform the Popper Requiem for 3 cellos and piano in their honour, as well as seasonal songs everyone can sing to. All are welcome; bring your voices. Admission is free.

So we played Popper and Bach for Matthew and his sons & daughter (who was brilliant), for their sons and daughters, for my Grandfather and the woman he married, whose family came here from Pennsylvania.  I never met Lois Keebler, but I have her watch, which still works.  In photographs she is beautiful.

Here’s a YouTube version of the Popper.  It’s worth listening to.

I went straight from that lovely event to play with the Georgian Bay Symphony Youth Orchestra – a short program since we are in a re-building year, but deeply satisfying, nonetheless.  In talk afterwards, the GBSYO String Quartet decided to take on a new challenge for the spring….


This morning at 5am I wake to messages from 3am until now about Ravel String Quartet in F, including pdfs of the cello part.  It’s been playing on loop since then :

While Ravel played on, and without much forethought I wrote and sent a window-rattling note to a dear friend of mine …. This is full-moon permission – to shine an uncomfortable light in dark places.  Not all is harmony, which Popper and Ravel knew.   Sharp edges and tender places will always co-exist, as will the learned ability to disengage and fortify against both.   Playing music well requires that all of these things are conscious, and revealed in a way that makes it good and right to feel human.

one of Sibylle Ruppert's cellos, made from tulip wood.  She is an excellent luthier..

one of Sibylle Ruppert’s cellos, made from tulip wood. She is an excellent luthier..

To my ancestors:  rest in peace.  It was an honour to play for you.

To my Friend:  … with great love, always.

To the moon:  thanks for the light in the dark.

God I love music and what it does.

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How do you know?

We were in my studio where almost every inch of wall, floor table and shelf is crammed with stuff in process and use, with tools, & paint & vine charcoal & buttons & books & thread & blank paper & other paper covered with notes or ideas or solo, duet, trio, quartet or orchestral music.  Even the chairs here carry drips from paintings long sold, are saddle-worn from 20 years of rehearsals; ready for more of both.  Almost everything emits light, or energy, if you prefer that – either because it’s becoming something, or it’s ready to be of use in the becoming of something.  It’s noisy with work, here – louder than the cars and sirens outside, distorting the seconds as the retro-industrial clock strives to maintain regularity, but often concedes it’s rule to some other God than Time.

IMG_9446She looked like a dry ocean sponge soaking up water when she asked me how I knew what I wanted.  I felt privileged  – as if by asking she put me in a club I’ve often wondered about,

<thought bubble even now: “I’ve no idea.  But maybe … They Get It.”>.

Thanks for the rehearsal, L.  More therapy.

Thanks for the rehearsal, L. More therapy.

Hope my answer was ok.  It was something about what your heart tells you.

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This business of music

Interesting, isn’t it, that we divide ‘commercial’ music from ‘real’ music?  When in fact all music is consumed, and all professional musicians are in the business of earning a living – no matter what genre they play in.  We say to our kids – no don’t be a musician, you’ll never make it, it’s too hard – and urge them to get real jobs  – respectable ones.  What a terrible thing to say to anyone – especially a young person whose soul comes alive when she plays, who loves everything about the work of making music, teaching music, learning, building, playing, recording, performing.  I know kids like this.

This embedded idea applies similarly to art, and the work of learning the skills, making it, teaching it, presenting it.

There’s an old joke that says it all, in which little Johnny says to his mom, “Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up!”  Mom (who’s delighted that he’s thinking ahead) says, “Really?  And what is that, Johnny?”.   J: “I want to be a musician!”  Sad, Mom says, “Oh but honey, you can’t do both”.

It’s persistent, that perception – that being a musician or an artist is more like play than work.  That to choose these professions is to choose to be unreliable and therefore disrespected.  This mystifies me when I encounter it in parents of young people, since nothing could be further than the truth.  Every pro musician and pro artist I know works all the time, every day at what they do.  They are entrepreneurs, translators, presenters, skilled craftsfolk, diplomats, therapists, philosophers and comedians (that last because they have to be, in order to stay sane).

I was at a lovely show last night by  “My Sweet Patootie”, good friends of mine who deliver a marvelous mixture of edgy, silly dancey swing on fiddle, guitar and a tiny drum kit.  They regularly tour Britain and the ‘States, and had a chance to let their hair down a little & play to the home crowd.  It was solid fun, presented with just the right level of goofy professionalism and great playing.

I left the show reassured that good stuff can happen in the industry, that the business of music can pay if you apply a little imagination, and keep showing up for work.

Now:  can we try to change our minds about what we tell our kids?  Don’t shut them off from their souls, folks.  Find a friendly pro who can give them a little structural help, and then love them for their courage.

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green gathers under

The morning is still still and grey weighed down by two feet of spring snow.  Even the sky is heavy.  The birds do their best to lighten things up but we have no warm welcome for them this year after the long flight north.  Just heavy grey, heavy snow, covered in old rabbit tracks.

It is the other end of winter.  Still fine and clean here in the country, but since the weather has stayed cold we are in a kind of stasis, shifting restlessly under the great white blanket that gets heavier and heavier even as it thickens each night with new snowfall.   Like a dancer who has been told to sit still, a singer told to be silent, and just wait……


But Winter is not for waiting…  Winter is for telling stories to each other, to ourselves, is it not?   Winter is for listening.

I am glad of it this March of 2013, as we approach Easter next weekend.  I have gone deep this winter, deep deep into the ideas of legacy and inheritance, gifts and projections.  Into the effects of choice.  My work with these paintings and the music I’m writing has naturally taken me there, (amazing to me, what hand tools have inspired)  but other encounters and events in these months have resonated – some most alarmingly.

I’m almost, but not…  quite…  finished….  this process…. like a whale returning from the bottom of the ocean I need this extra time to find the surface again…

When I do emerge, it will feel very very good to speak to real people instead of paintings and recording devices, computer screens and cello strings.  It will feel so deeply rewarding to take my own garden shovel and just dig with it, rather than painting the idea, then the deeper idea, then another layered idea… of shovel.  (I’ll post the painting here so that you can see – a ridiculous layering of images, just to try to present these ideas about legacy and choice – ack, me.)

I can feel my feet tingling in anticipation of the soft cold mud that will receive them in my first barefoot walk outside.

Until then I work to finish.  This is also a fine, fine thing.

Tonight, the Georgian Bay Symphony and the Georgian Bay Concert Choir (some 180+ incredibles!!) will play a program composed entirely by Schubert.  Along with many many dear friends, my Mom is in the choir.  I will be in the cello section.  Mom & I haven’t played together in a big concert like this since Carnival of the Animals when I was 16.  What a joy.

HA!  As I wrote that last paragraph, the spring sun emerged through the grey.  Suddenly, it’s quite a different world out there – full of life and warmth, though appropriately (for me), still covered with a thick coat of white.



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I’m almost ready to talk

… but not yet in depth, about these paintings, this exhibition project.  If my mind were a light table, it would be stacked with disparate ideas superimposed one over the other  – I’m squinting to see what composite images appear from behind and through – negative and positive.

A sample from the stack:

the distorted state of affairs in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, our own First Nations reserves in Canada (and in so many many more places), where the omnipotent western economic system farms its money with no regard for actual people and their well-being.

Poverty; violence and hatred over women & homosexuality;  the broken bits & deep wounds we all have and are so tragically isolated by …
The mind-flipping, laugh-out-loud contortions of Toulouse-Lautrec, brilliantly comic (and deeply handsome) studio cat.
ToulouseClose4PaulThe dismal places where music and beauty never come – where,  if these two things could take root they’d without a doubt seed  miraculous change for the better.

The dark places where music and beauty DO come and seed miraculous change for the better.

The look on my dad’s face when we read poetry to him in honour of his 80th birthday; my smart, funny, decent, strong, compassionate kid.

The impossible, terrifying beauty of a huge storm; our bizarre and horrific love affair with weaponry that has no other purpose than to kill; the satisfaction of shoveling snow and making a clear, functional path.

All that is delightful, redeeming, miraculous, painful and inconvenient about being human.

This is entirely random, but hey, whatever helps....

I’m doing my very best to make art that is a good reflector for us all, including me.  It’s taking a long, long time – far longer than I’d ever thought, but I will finish.  This new show involves, but is not limited to china teacups (roof of our building, summer 2012).

These paintings had better be functional.  As useful as the tools they describe, accurate in their reflection of the state of things so that sparks fly and conversations reach a different – deeper? resonance.  This is what I’m going for – I’ll keep you in firmly in the loop.

studio shot of the latest development with 'shovel', Jan 2013

studio shot of the latest development with ‘shovel’, Jan 2013

… nail, spike, screwnail, scissors, pliers, vice grips, chair, pencil, needle, knife,
teacup, cooking pot, clock, harmonica, chair, sink, andiron …

Paintings & other explorations in honour of human beings and those ingenious tools we’ve devised –

Those ‘unplugged’ tools that require a learned skill, good strength,
and the will & compassion to make it better.

Happy new moon, all.

Your thoughts are welcome, since what we all do, knowingly or not, is collaborate.

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The sound of a giant awakening

My desk is in a new place – not sure I like it yet.

table saw

table saw

To my right, a pile of ash and cherry lumber, drywall, moor vents, a roll of typar, a garbage bag full of roxyl & strips of R20 styrofoam.  A rolled-up rug, boxes of Christmas decorations from 2 years ago.

To my left, other, more domestic piles – rolled up clothing, socks, a towel, plant bits on the floor.

In front of me are five large bags, each representing one fiscal year of our taxes.  Beyond that, seven small piles of clothing I will keep but have no drawer-space for.

If I were a giant waking from a long sleep to find this mountain of stuff piled on top of me, I would be irritated.  I’d make a huge crack in the earth, shove it all in, and that would be that.

the current state of the shovel painting.

the current state of the shovel painting. 

We’ve been at it all week here.

Instead of creating art, Grant has built shelves, sorted tools, filed rolls of electrical wire; plumbing, mortar, drywall materials, kitchen appliances; saws and drills and bits and screws.

Instead of working in my studio I have armoured myself with high purpose and dug deeply into corners that were like dark lairs – every one stacked full of toxically functionless Stuff that should have been gone from here a long long time ago.

Now, on the second day of 2013 in this short break from the battle between Positive Forward Movement and Clogged Paralysis, I’m well and truly exhausted and still uncertain as to the victor.

edge of a small cliff

edge of a small cliff

Enter Joseph Campbell:

I don’t believe people are looking for the
meaning of life as much as they are looking
for the experience of being alive.


[insert pause, as I stare out at the gently falling snow…..]

south window

south window

I’m going to light the wood stove now, and BURN STUFF.

happy 2013 all.  & just to reassure – it’s a (mostly) friendly giant.