Keirartworks's Blog

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


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In Christmas

It’s the 18th of December, one week before Christmas day.  I’ve rehearsed and planned and delivered and engaged, I’ve painted and written and talked and sang and posted, I’ve cooked and sorted and laundered and cared-for and now all of a sudden on the eve of my first day off in what feels like centuries I’m hearing the call that maybe only dogs can hear, that no other human around me seems to acknowledge but nevertheless has got my full attention in this moment…

…. stop.

Not sure why this image. Something to do with Christmas I think.

This feels correct to the moment just previous to the moment I turned off my Christmas engines.

Basil Johnson once said to me, “Simple, and good – that’s all you need.”  We’d been talking about art, and what makes it resonate with human culture in the short, medium and long term.  As I remember, I’d been talkative and keen then – about socioeconomic indicators of health and growth, artists in the workplace and some utopian ideas around the political value of the arts as a generator of individual authenticity.  In 2004 I was Cultural Capitals Coordinator for my town of 22,000, doing my best to imagine and then somehow impossibly manifest a bridge between national and local, micrososm and macrocosm, embracing all issues visible and audible under the sun. I’d been given my rein, was impossibly curious, – a single artist-mom on the eve of a lifelong marriage that would only last a decade. I was provocative, insistent and intense, flailing.

“What kind of painting do you do?”, he asked, in a pause I’d left open.

again, no articulate explanation for this choice

My answer was long and exhausting.  He listened and gave me two words in exchange.

I heard them enough through all that noise in my head to swallow them whole and keep them alive in my belly.  They sing to me now.

 

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

I love these ladies with all my heart. This was a gig we played at the Tom Thomson Art Gallery six days ago.

The planet, the politics, the migrations of people and animals; conviction, passion, intensity, art and music; friendship, hurt, joy and the passage of time….  our response can be simple.  And good.

It’s a choice, to live and work that way.

 

BHill_SEwindow

I choose therefore to fill my tomorrow with simple rituals.  Instead of a phone, a computer, a list of errands, I will make a breakfast, a burning, a giving-away, a silence.  I will listen to what lies under all the Christmas noise.

This is good.  Thanks, Basil.  I can feel you smiling.


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in the grip

3:56am, sweatered on the couch with the green blanket tucked around my legs. I can’t see them, but I am aware physically and psychologically that I have good, warm slippers on my feet, and that they are a deep, warm pink.

In a moment I will pull the reliable stapler out of my purse, turn on the living room light, clear all available surfaces and begin the process of sorting through the year’s worth of collected paper that represent what I spent and what I earned.  I might also ask the furnace for more heat.

art history:  a painting I did in 1994, stripped of all but the figure.  Symbols added at an art opening in 2014 by people who signed up online and / or came to the event.  The third image is further work on the piece, which becomes more Chagall-like every time I go into it.  Everything about Chagall - his thinking and his work - have charmed me since I studied him at Uni 30 years ago.  The pieces needs to be re-stretched, and finished, but it is the first of many rich and random acts of art.  Who knows when that show will be - 20 years from now?  I'm looking forward to it.

art history: a painting I did in 1994, stripped of all but the figure. Symbols added at an art opening in 2014 by people who signed up online and / or came to the event. The third image is further work on the piece, which becomes more Chagall-like every time I go into it. Everything about Chagall – his thinking and his work – have charmed me since I studied him at uni 30 years ago. The piece needs to be re-stretched and finished, but it is the first of many rich and random acts of art. Who knows when that show will be – 20 years from now? I look forward to it.

How many truths can we hold I wonder.  These bits of paper represent a year of deep shifts – a  marriage ended; a career dusted off and re-worked; a daughter away for months on the other side of the planet then back home; a studio; a cat; a rented house; another Macbook Pro, brakes and tires on a red car; groceries, groceries… the long long, slow process of changing my mind about me in the world.

They’re still in grocery bags, the receipts, the invoices, the bills, because I resist this story, this truth.  I don’t want to look, don’t want to add the numbers, don’t want to know in concrete terms what I already know – it’s been a very tough year financially.  I look around me at the times we are all in, the 99% of us, as the old industrial-think global economy shows it’s fault-lines ever more clearly, and I know it’s been tough for so many.  This is not comforting, but it helps.  I don’t feel anything like a victim, but I do see that the idea of security that we were raised with is largely an illusion.  I believe we need to think differently now, about what we actually need, how we serve, and how we earn our keep.

my studio is on the top floor of this building - three windows north, three east.  This picture shows the building's transformation from the Pacific Hotel into the Circle Bar Hosiery Factory circa 1927  (black blob at the top is a tree close to the camera, not a fire).  My mother's grandfather, Walter Keebler, was the factory owner.  At one point he employed over 200 women there.

my studio is on the top floor of this building – three windows north, three east. This picture shows the building’s transformation from the Pacific Hotel into the Circle Bar Hosiery Factory circa 1927 (black blob at the top is a tree close to the camera, not a fire). My mother’s grandfather, Walter Keebler, was the industrialist who envisioned this change. At one point Circle Bar employed over 200 women.  It was still going strong into the late 1950s.

Clever me – I have succeeded in an hour’s worth of diversion – it is 4:49am, and the lights are still dim.  It is time now to make the second cup of coffee – the one that will fuel my industrious sorting project.

I need one more moment of listening though, before I rise to do this.

Into the stillness and perfect peace of early morning I am aware that someone I love dearly is far away and in pain.  The answer in me is quiet and deep; I don’t know how to connect with her, I feel helpless.  This is another truth to hold, another story to hear and navigate, then repeat.  There is great love here, and beauty, but also fathoms of old sorrow.  I would so love to be there with her, in this moment.

view from my studio window, winter 2014

view from my studio window, winter 2014

Alright.

Time to put the kettle on.


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Lift out

These days begin in darkness and wet.

Windsheild

We live in multiple layers of clothing against the cold damp of constant seeping rain, walk under umbrellas, and peek out from under shelter until some blue sky appears.

JonesFalls2

Then we breathe the blue and the coloured leaves, and roll in the damp ones underfoot.  We go to the flashing streams, the roaring falls, the pounding waves and we exult

..until the rain and the cloud and the pounding wind bring us under and in again.

Wave2Oct_21

These times.  Pressured, heavy, challenged, shifting.  Some of us don’t have dancing feet.  Some have not learned to swim.

CurbPuddle

Two days ago in Ottawa a man died on Parliament hill.  He suffered from serious mental illness  – serious enough that he found himself a gun and  shot another man who worked as a soldier there.  I grieve for both men, whom we, in our culture, have failed to see clearly.

Poem for Michael Zehaf-BibeauMichael Zehaf-Bibeau, for Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, a reservist, and for every single one of us who struggles with addiction and mental illness, in sorrow for this:

Broken Voice
September 24: studio

Thought can re-write history, she says
Meditative thought influences the order of things
Orders them more neatly so there’s less damage done.
and there’s the
small voice the difficulty
swallowing
the closed throat mid-
sentence, the little
alarms shot with adrenaline
the subtle gagging that
no one notices but
There’s no problem. Who

…said there was a
problem?  Mental Illness is only
addiction is only
another form of terrorism-
We just need more Security and

I think I caught something in
the subway – just a virus it
comes and goes it’s
not
permanent.

…something about bare feet, walking
about not leaving prints behind,
and if you do your feet print
history

I’m looking at them now,
the prints
but I can’t read
I’m not sure what happened.  Or how…?

I just want to drink an ocean of alcohol
passive-watch movies that siphon rage
go to classical concerts full of fury, listen to poets
who have found something
to let somebody else do the darkness
the refined, articulate hurt that they’ve managed to
filter through all of their exhausted bewilderment how
can I

Impotent. Invisible. I just want to sleep. only sleep.
it’s taking every ounce of my strength
to resist the rampage,
The terrible roar in me.


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#Selfie 18: Spiral in; Spiral out

4:30am in the studio is like hanging out with a special old friend I’ve not seen for a long time.  We both like gentle light, strong hot coffee.  We share a deep enjoyment of the act of listening to the day as it begins.  I feel my face wake up, muscle by muscle, and take it’s vertical, day-time shape, As my trusted friend and witness, 4:30am is content to hold the space for this to happen.

This is a huge canvas that has served as the 'catcher of drips' on my studio wall for the past six years.  On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting.  On the right, from the past five months.  River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips....

This is a huge canvas that has served as the ‘catcher of drips’ on my studio wall for the past six years. On the left are the drips from 5 years worth of painting. On the right, from the past five months. River Cafe drips, #Selfie drips, art class drips….

Because of personal circumstances I lived in this studio for ten months, including the three it took to paint ten #Selfie paintings, write the blog, rehearse the show, and perform / launch the idea on June 20.  On June 22 I moved all of my stored stuff – beds, dressers, books, bookshelves, pots, pans, chairs, clothing – and all the memories they contained into a house.  Out of my chrysalis, into a house.  A shock.

If you’ve ever seen a butterfly emerge you’ll know that their wings are tiny when they climb out of their old tiny tiny space.  It’s impossible for them to fly at this stage – they need air, and time to breathe their wings into being. They need to stay still.  (For reference – try this)

falls2_October2013

I’ve been deeply divided on the stillness issue since my move.  Not comfortable with it, since there are things to be done, structures to build, schedules to draw and cats to herd.  Book to write, applications, meetings, proposals, paintings, practise…. and now also dishes, laundry, lawn, garden, stairs, appliances.  I’ve been clumsy, this past month, with all of it.

Artichoke_flower

In honour of the creative process I’d like to suggest here that each of us is in one stage of metamorphosis at any given time – egg; caterpillar; chrysalis; butterfly – perhaps even several at a time, through overlapping projects, or new; developing; changing; long-term relationships.   Two things of note – a) one stage is not better than another; this is a circular, perpetual cycle – i.e., yes you get wings at some point, but then you’re an egg again after that….  b) it’s better if you acknowledge and think about which stage you’re at in any given project, scenario, or in relationship with the world.

It’s never ever easy to change, if the change is real.  In fact, change is deeply uncomfortable, clumsy and awkward, especially if you resist.  And oh, but we do, don’t we.

at my house.

at my house.  waiting while my wings grow big.

Thank The Maker, then, for making Change the only constant in our lives.  Without these shocks that send us deep deep into our internal, uncomfortable places, the dark dark shadows that make our small selves whimper with fear – without this we would be without humility, without compassion, unsoftened by love and forgiveness.  Calloused and hardened, encased in self-judgement, self-righteousness, criticism that closes its’ ears to learning.  Our beautiful, winged souls would wither, and eventually die.

It’s true – I have always wanted to fly.  So I will do my best to understand and dissolve this resistance I feel, and love what comes.


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Power and comfort

The studio is dark.

I am entirely at peace in this space – made small and comfortable by the light of one candle.  Muffled, intermittent cars drive north or south through slush outside and I stare out my big, arched third floor window at headlights, streetlights, house lights.  The clock ticks like a slow walk.

Epictetus has answered a question I had earlier,

” There is only one way to happiness and that is to cease worrying about things which are beyond the power of our will ”  (translated from the original greek)
Epictetus, AD 55 – AD 135

Tara-free-lunge-Dec-31

powerful Tara, a horse I met on the last day of 2012

Tara is a highly athletic six-year-old purebred Canadian horse who came full of rage to her current owners and would not do as she was asked.  She resisted to the point where she became a dangerous threat to herself and everyone around her.  An old dominant mare at another farm taught her another way to be by insisting for three hours- repeatedly, fiercely, physically –  that she listen to and respect her elders.

These pictures of Tara four years since then show her free-lunging with her incredibly patient 16-year-old owner, and doing everything she’s asked to do … with great sass & personal style.

Power is not a simple thing.  Epictetus also maintains that “Suffering occurs from trying to control what is uncontrollable, or from neglecting what is within our power.”
(taken directly from the page devoted to him in wikipedia – see link above)

A comforting confirmation for Tara and another for me from a greek slave who obtained his freedom and founded a school of philosophy.

Just a note,

I’m glad that Stephen Harper has found a way to respect and meet with the first nations people of Canada.  Too bad it took him 23 days of a hunger strike.