Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Hamilton Residency 5: connections

Three things that are good: 1 the cast iron legs are back on the black studio table that david sereda gave me ten years ago (what is IN that heavy heavy thing, ds?), 2. I have a new kettle and all the equipment to french press the coffee that fuels my morning write, and 3. Sun is melting the cold clamp of arctic crunch that has been squeezing the air out of us all this past week.

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Oh yes, and the walls of this room I will read, sleep and write in for the next month are painted a cheerful, many-varied naples yellow. Makes me smile, though I’m not able to articulate why in this moment. Something about the subtle effects of ongoing displacement…

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I am happy beyond telling to move into the space that will house me and my work for the next three years at Cotton Factory.  SH242 is now my studio – just down the hall from the residency space I have been working in since December 1. Both spaces sing the clear bell-tone of time and permission to grow beyond what I can currently imagine. GO! They ring, each time I walk into the building.

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As I emerge from my anticipated mid-residency slump I can see that new artistic directions have appeared in the Hamilton-inspired work. The drawings and painting are very much in their ugly stage, but I can see where they’re going, and I’m happy. They answer for me both my inspiration and sorrow over the state of some old broken places here, which have been buried under the effects of neglect for too long. Signs of renewal are there though, if you look, like grass growing through the pavement in an old industrial yard. Growth and fertility after decades as a desert.

Anticipated date for the Cotton Factory residency artists’ talk are Tuesday February 26, 6:30pm. I will confirm this on all social media, and Hamilton Arts Council will also announce – stay tuned, and I hope you can come. These talks and the work will be provocative, insightful and good for long-term conversation chewiness.

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I continue to research, listen and plan these collaborative co-missioned portraits which are the vehicle that got me to Hamilton and through this residency. I had no idea how the complexity of this show and book would challenge my abilities and experience. The work is complex and exciting – well worth enough time to do us all justice.

I turned the corner this week, from struggle to clarity when Ashley the fabric artist two studios down gave me her huge canvas. She had laboured to draw the geometric pattern for the seed of life over the entire surface, then lugged the thing around for two years. I accepted her work as a starting point for more exploration from me – a first collaboration in the Cotton Factory –  and realized it is the painting of my own ‘becoming’, effectively making me the ninth person represented in the Portraits show. A door opened, then, into what connects all of us in this experiment. I’m writing through each morning to find my articulation of it, but it’s there now; I can feel it.

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Our new projected culmination date is mid-spring, enough time to make give this project the arc it requires. In the meantime, the nine of us populate the new studio space at Cotton Factory – just us. When I’m in that room I feel as though I sit in the midst of a copse of eight other mixed-species trees. Watching and listening to their stories, observing my own, there, antennae stretched to pick up warmth – between this one’s experience and that one’s observations.

I sit still and fully present as I did at the cabin this summer, to seek connections and patterns in the complexities that connect us all as humans, us Nine. They are subtle, but they are there.

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And finally, O, Faretheewell, Emerald Street at Barton, where I’ve stayed for a month. Glad to have landed safely in your arms, glad to have listened to your complicated and often dark stories, as they came through my window each night. Glad to lock your door for the last time, too.

The next tenant is a medical student from overseas who will also be there for a month. Hope he doesn’t slip on the steps and land in a puddle, as I did.

Happy February, all!

 

 


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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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Value

First coffee is almost cold.  Studio is too a little, at the dawn of Remembrance Day 2014.

I know ’cause I was there, that night in Barkley Square…

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I played in the dark this morning at the Remembrance Day ceremony for a public school, grades Kindergarten to eight.

All the kids were utterly silent as they came in, solemn.  I played (they requested these at rehearsal) Slow movements from Marcello Cello sonatas; Sarabandes from Bach cello Suites; My Lagan Love, the lyrics for which were re-written to fit such an occasion by Richard Farina. I played some scottish tunes for my grandfather Robert McArthur, who drove supply truck in WWII and could not drive anything afterwards when he returned to Canada; and some english tunes for Sam Farrar, who served in WWII and whose grandson of the same name was sitting silently beside me on the floor in all that sea of children.

The grade eights stood holding candles dressed in black, and read from a collection of wartime letters.  The choir sang, we all sang.

We were silent for one minute during the trumpet fanfare.

It’s important to remember.

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

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

I’ll be looking at the moon,

but I’ll be seeing you.


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Lift out

These days begin in darkness and wet.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.