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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#Selfie 13: Loving Narcissus

This wire is familiar – the one I’m down to.  Six paintings, eleven days – I’m now working on two at the same time.

(also workshop and rehearse the Performance Piece for Opening night, compile the Book for #Selfie and make at least two.  Then my breaks:  three rehearsals, two concerts, teaching cello lessons and art class, sleep, exercise, eat….)

 

The one just finished.  Biggest in the show, and difficult to understand scale here (thumbnails are same size as my face).  It had me on lock-down for the last two days of its' fulfillment.

The one just finished. Biggest in the show, and difficult to understand scale here (thumbnails are same size as my face). It had me on lock-down for the last two days of its’ fulfillment.

This past weekend the most difficult task was to hold my own in recurring conversations with self doubt.   I managed it, I think, by utilizing every trick in the book – bull-headedness, steel-jawed determination, nonchalance, distraction, humour, tears, goading….

Next up (one of two) is on red linen, just for a challenge.... (what was I thinking?)

Next up (one of two) is on red linen, just for a challenge…. (what was I thinking?)

This morning and late yesterday as I worked on the content of the next two I began to think differently.  It’s as though each piece is a school.  When I graduate, I get a few hours off (though this will undoubtedly change as the days pass), and then I start a new series of courses in the examination of #Selfie and … me.

As I wrote to Kristan this morning (he and I are in workshop mode with tandem and solo spoken word for the opening performance), School Rules are:

1. go consciously and directly at whatever chafes and disturbs you, or makes you squirm in discomfort.

2. find imagery that resonates with that.

3. draw, paint, sing, write – quickly, to manifest it as clearly as possible.

4. Do NOT succumb to melodrama, self-pity, cynicism, terror or denial.

5. Remain open to shock.

6. Don’t forget to breathe, sleep and eat.

Here's the photoshop sketch for Red.  Looking also for another image to layer on top of this for symbolic reasons... it will come.

Here’s the photoshop sketch for Red. Looking also for another image to layer on top of this for symbolic reasons… it will come.

I want to say something about the myth of Narcissus, which has come up in conversation as a way to describe #Selfie behavior.   Ovid’s telling of the story has been most resonant in western culture (book III of Metamorphoses.) though it’s interesting to see what Encyclopedia Britannica has to say:

Narcissus, in Greek mythology, the son of the river god Cephissus and the nymph Liriope. He was distinguished for his beauty. According to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book III, Narcissus’s mother was told by the blind seer Tiresias that he would have a long life, provided he never recognized himself. His rejection, however, of the love of the nymph Echo or (in an earlier version) of the young man Ameinias drew upon him the vengeance of the gods. He fell in love with his own reflection in the waters of a spring and pined away (or killed himself); the flower that bears his name sprang up where he died. The Greek traveler and geographer Pausanias, in Description of Greece, Book IX, said it was more likely that Narcissus, to console himself for the death of his beloved twin sister, his exact counterpart, sat gazing into the spring to recall her features.

The story may have derived from the ancient Greek superstition that it was unlucky or even fatal to see one’s own reflection. Narcissus was a very popular subject in Roman art.

Narcissism has long since become a psychiatric term used to describe extreme self-centredness – often so pathological that it prevents any meaningful engagement with anything not self-referenced.  A Narcissist will project himself and his needs onto anyone and everyone he/she meets, and then become confused when that ‘other’ has needs of their own.  We all do that, to some extent, myself definitely included.  It’s conditioned into us.

Obeying School Rule #3:  I will never ever get used to this #selfie thing.  Still very much squirming.

Obeying School Rule #1: I will never ever get used to this #selfie thing. Still very much squirming, but I needed an image, and so I shot myself, again.

I want to offer another idea about Narcissus and why he died.  It refers to my last post – #Selfie 12:  My face belongs to you.

I actually do believe that our outer selves belong more to those people we relate to than to us, and that we need to recognize this.  What if our fascination with our own face is more about a longing for relationship?  I would propose that taking a #Selfie and posting it online is the action that follows that longing.

Do we do this because we believe that someone out there will actually be able to ‘see’ what’s inside us (as in Avatar’s “I see you”)?  It’s interesting then that instead of this ‘recognition’ what often happens is that the anonymous viewer projects his or her self-image onto your Selfie, and then writes hateful, destructive messages in response.  Artist Lindsay Bottos has published a compelling piece that illustrates this perfectly, called Anonymous.   It’s worth taking a look at.

I like it better when they're blurry.  Does that mean something.... oh, probably it does.

I like it better when they’re blurry. Does that mean something?  Oh, probably it does….

I need to get back to painting very soon, and I’m struggling to articulate the crux of this idea.  Here goes:

If we all search for meaning through relationships, but find that meaning only when we stop projecting our internal needs onto ‘the other’, then really what we long for is a good, honest, trusting relationship with our own Self.  My needs are my own; I am responsible to and for them, and I respect that you are different from me.

Certainly Narcissus’ beauty was legendary in the myth – so many pursued him, gazed at him, idolized him for it.  What if he died because he got caught in the idea that his outer beauty was so great that it completely overshadowed who he actually was?  What if he died out of starvation for himself?

That’s happened to a few people in this culture that makes gods out of movie and pop stars.  How terrible.

a place I love.

a place I love.

So, back to it.

Wish me luck and speed and clarity, if you would.  It’s all corners on two wheels time…

Here’s the actual invitation, no longer a work-in progress.  Please come if you can.

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...back.  The gallery would like you to R.S.V.P., so they know how many to set up for.  much appreciated, K

…back. The gallery would like you to R.S.V.P., so they know how many to set up for. much appreciated, K