Keirartworks's Blog

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


Leave a comment

To Locate

I resist the obviousness of GPS as a tool to locate, navigate, identify.  Most interesting to me is when GPS is wrong, as in the case this spring when a K-W woman, travelling in deep fog at the tip of the Brice Peninsula, drove her car into Georgian Bay instead of the Hotel parking lot.

bucketwater8

tap water filling the bucket I used to water my garden every day, in this dry dry summer we had

There are so many other ways to identify that have more meaning, make more sense. They pull from deeper source data to inform us about identity.  Navigation there is not by straight, measurable lines.

very simple shore cabin where I spend several summer weekends this year. This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the "sound" that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work

This is Georgian Bay, at the mouth of the “sound” that leads to Owen Sound, where I live and work.

I live in a place surrounded by water.  It rains and snows more here than any other place in Ontario.  Travel by car in any direction and you’ll find a river (likely with a waterfall), a lake Great or small, a creek or stream – in less than fifteen minutes.

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

Jones Falls, Owen Sound

My mother’s family has lived here for six generations before me.  The (scots) paternal side of her family was famous for their foundry, where they made enormous propellers for lake and ocean-going ships “At one time, [Kennedy’s] supplied propellers for about ninety-five percent of marine traffic on the Great Lakes” (Grey Roots Museum and Archives).  Water people.  Industrialists.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I'm using this as reference for a series of paintings.

a brass replica of a Kennedy Propeller pattern. I’m using this as reference for a series of paintings.

Mom’s Maternal side (Pennsylvania Deutch – descendants from German refugees of the 100 years war) not so famously made ladies’ hoisery, employing 200 women at a time when women were organizing to get the vote. A great great great uncle of mine fought for the North in the American civil war; we are making a book of his letters home at the moment.  Dependable people. Steady.

It is in that factory building, on the third floor NE corner, where I have kept a painting/music studio these past eight years.

studio a couple of years ago

My parents are retired (and excellent) Highschool English teachers saturated by music, literature and art (Mom – ARCT Piano, Toronto Conservatory; Dad a painter of landscapes and literary references).  My daughter is now twenty, mostly fluent in Japanese, studying modern languages and international studies at U of Ottawa.

img_0847

I had a mentor and teacher as a young music student who was fierce like a grandfather to me.  As a young man he used to play violin like Fritz Kreisler in my Great Grandmother Kennedy’s parlour for the WCTU ladies. He later played at my parent’s wedding and made both of my cellos, the first of which was just returned to me last summer after 14 years. (link to that blog if you click on the picture I believe)

oldcellotuners

Instead of studying cello at Laurier at age seventeen I chose to study Visual Art at York University.  Somehow I felt that the formal study of music would ruin my love for the pure joy of playing it.  I will never know if I was right, but I’ve also never regretted the decision.  I’ve been able to do both in my life and love them equally. Each practise informs the other I’ve found, so I teach musicians how to draw and it makes them better players.

1_hipcelloheader

It is this very thing that has led me to a Masters in Community Music – at Laurier, where I chose NOT to study music performance 35 years ago.  I love the way life travels us back to ourselves.


Leave a comment

humbled and human

I want to write.

There is much change filtering through the waters of late January, and I find myself at odds with the urge to name, record, describe.  The feeling is that if I narrow my focus I will miss something crucial on the periphery of my vision.  Because of this, my urge to articulate today feels like swimming through murky water at a vague shiny thing.

Nevertheless, I want to write.  So I’ll tell about Zoo.

fish2

For the first time ever in years of paying close attention there it was the fish who seemed to notice and respond.

air breather from the murky streams of Malaysia.  Very curious about me...

air breather native to the murky streams of Malaysia. Very curious about me…

I was conscious of the differences between us- the slow grace of his movement through water, me heavy and percussive in the greater gravity of air.  The sheer size and odd shape of him had me fascinated, which must have been mutual – he approached me the way one does a timid creature, cautiously and sideways, until we were mere inches apart.  I could have stayed there for an hour, talking.

FishBighead2

We walked the Zoo for five hours, witnessing the multi-species there, connected by the collection of themselves, busy with being where and who they are, sentient.  As we progressed I found myself meditating most on Human Nature. We are unique in this rich cultural place; we so desperately need to name, classify, study. We need to collect specimens of ‘not-us’ and display them.

Piranha

As visitors, we bang on the glass and yell our demand to be entertained if nothing moves on the other side.  How utterly embarrasing, that behavour.  Why?  Good God, why?

Before I stopped taking pictures this lady came running from far away and sat with us for a long long time.

this lady came running from far away and sat with us for a long long time.

I loved the visit – was overjoyed to play with the Canadian river otter, met eye-to eye with some primates like this baboon and a teenage gorilla that I shall never forget.

But always, at the zoo, I am conflicted by the fact-  of zoo.


Leave a comment

…major dharmic interventions…

It’s become a bit like being in my own reality TV show, this process of getting paintings out the door.  The day has just passed that I’d targeted as my deadline, barring a major dharmic intervention.  I will say that I have made great progress, and these two huge impossibles are very close to being their actual selves.  And out my door.

detail of one of the dharmic interventions

detail, Axe

But there was a major dharmic intervention on Sunday – one that snuck up on me like a viper and bit me so subtly I didn’t realize it until later when I felt myself go into shock.  I kept painting, but in fact I was at full stop.

detail d. intervention 2

detail d. intervention 2

To back up and provide some clarity, I’ve found a description of dharma that fits here,

“Dharma means the intrinsic nature of a thing. Just like the dharma of sugar is sweetness and the dharma of water is wetness. The dharma of the living being is to render service to God….”

(my apologies, this is not sourced properly in the Urban Dictionary where I found it, so I can’t tell you which guru originally said it)

In my world then, a dharmic intervention is an unexpected event that hits you on all levels – emotional, physical, psychological, professional, personal  (insert others of your choice) and shocks you enough that veils you’d never known were there are ripped away to reveal some Home Truths – the difficult ones.  In these instances there’s no avoiding or denying whatever has become crystal clear.  It’s impossible NOT to have a new perspective about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

So to translate:  I thought I was painting about something incredibly deep and wise and well-crafted, from a place of experienced and well-honed detatchment.  Something big and unexpected happened, and because of it I now know the paintings are about something else entirely. In a way, they’ve been painting me.

So, another week will do it, I think.  I begin an intense course of study today, and every evening is also booked with rehearsals.  But I don’t need that much sleep…..


Leave a comment

This morning’s texture

The rain on our tin roof keeps me dreaming past the appointed 6 am, then 7am, and even the waking realization of this isn’t jarring.  Now coffee’d and downstairs beside the fire, I gaze out the window where the cat uncurls into a stretch.  It really should be snow, but the effect is the same:  a deep deep heartbeat of peacefulness as the cat re-curls herself.

a rock-wall on Lindenwood trail behind our house

rock

There is sociology study all over the couch and table in front of the fire – it sounds like paper flip, <sniff>, pen scratch, blanket shuffle, paper flip, <breathe, sigh>, paper flip, pen scribble, <clear throat>, fire crackle, woodstove click-click, ping (as it heats up again).  The old fridge – Hazel’s fridge – roars its fan over this, but even through that I hear the rain outside.  There it is, through the big window – straight down rain as steady and familiar and comforting as day following night, the North Star, Orion’s Belt, the Milky Way.  The grass outside glows green – drinking drinking.

same trail, glowing green

moss

In my head a radio is always playing on low volume – is everyone like this?  I don’t get to choose the playlist – it can be anything from an irritating pop song, a Brahms sonata to God Save the Queen (all versions).  Happily my radio selection is appropriate to the morning – Sting’s version of  Gabriel’s Message, performed in Durham Cathedral.

same trail, same day

oak

The simplest of things astonish me today, at 8:20am.  I think I’ve been altered on a cellular level by the movie Life of Pi .

I’ve seen it twice now, so those incredible Ang Lee / Yann Martel images are now imbedded in me, to my everlasting delight and wonder.

Happy Tuesday everyone.


Leave a comment

Wind, unwind

I find it’s most difficult these days to be truly still and resoundingly empty like a huge stone bowl on a plinth.  I’m getting better at it, but it’s taking a considerable amount of focus.

I seek to do this now because it occurred to me many months ago (years, even) that I need more information about several key areas of inquiry:  the education and mentoring of young people; music and the practise of music; energies, their frequencies and the focused direction of them; and the all-encompassing idea of service, which is not necessarily obvious.

further down the trail, same day

The approach I’ve taken thus far into the exploration of these things is the one I learned – from my family full of educators, from my piano and cello teachers, at University  – an idea of ‘study’ which has become nicely embedded,

“I know how to learn.  One does Good Research (source source source!), reads and digests the material one digests, places a clear and concise question inside this newer information and eventually there’s an alchemical moment of aHa.  Then one writes and writes, which leads to know and do and take good action.  If one does this for long enough, inquires for long enough, makes adjustments based on experience and further study, one becomes an expert, a new Source…”

same walk

It’s a decent formula for inquiry.  But there’s no ivory tower anywhere around here – & my studio won’t do for this (Bob Dylan through the wall & a drum kit, my cello waiting right there to work with, those paintings, those prayer flags waiting for the next stage, that sewing machine which needs a tune-up…)

My head can only hold so much ‘live’ data, can only maintain its focus on that academic alchemical process for so long before I need to shut it down and buy groceries, schedule printers, figure out my part in the Stanford, pick up my kid in time for her appointment, and deliver the car to the mechanic’s.

Big hibiscus flower in my studio, the day after that walk. I’ve had this plant for three years, and it’s never done this before.

It’s more than okay to be busy at 49, and a mom of a (great) teenager, and to have many gigs, lots of rehearsals & several students to prepare for, to be in the last stages of building a house with my husband, to spend time (though never enough) with a family I love, etc etc.  I’m having a great time with all of it.

But I would very much like to learn & grow into a higher understanding of things, as a teacher, as a friend, a daughter, sister mom wife musician artist mentor.  To hone myself, and so better serve.

closer in

So I’m intuitively working at what seems counter-intuitive:  emptiness & stillness.  How can I hope to find the unknown thing I’m looking for if I’m busy stuffing myself with information?

This came to me one day while I was practising – I was working away, working away at a difficult passage, thinking ‘this is crazy – I should absoLUtely be able to do this!  What’s blocking me?’.  As I thought this my shoulder, neck, arm and finger muscles became more and more tense and stiff, and my energy plummeted into something like despair (close to ‘I can’t’).  So I put the cello down, and watered my plants.  Then I worked a little at my paintings.  Then I puttered and played with a textile art idea and got pulled into fascination with colour.  Then without knowing it I was back at the cello, carrying no tension, playing a piece I know well – still thinking about colour.  The notes I was playing had colours, the piece a big long skein of coloured threads flowing each into the next, weaving into fabric….

closer

After what seemed like an hour of this bliss, I came back to the place of my old obstacle.  In my mind I changed the colour of what I was trying to do, and it was wonderfully, measurably easier.

Amazing, what a little colour change can do.

Empty of stuff I don’t need, to make room for what I do.

Still, so I can appreciate it.

Happy Wednesday, all.

K – hey neat – I just found this:

” Experience teaches only the teachable ”
Aldous Huxley

…wonder if he’d agree …


Leave a comment

Enemy lines

The struggle for six hours daily to make fingers move at lightning speed, and in the balance of the day to re-shape one’s mind into a vast reservoir of history, style and technique, impress the right teachers and build the pedigrees that could make all the difference in earning potential  – this felt, to my 17-year-old mind, like a serious distortion of what I knew and loved about music.  Six hours of practise daily – good exercise, but no balance with laughter.  There was nothing playful about it.

I never found a mentor there, or perhaps I wasn’t open to the possibility after receiving a damningly dismissive letter from my Conservatory teacher just months before.  The world of music study felt cold and hard.

So I put my cello away for a decade and pursued fine art – York University in the ’80’s, Sheridan College in the ’90’s, many joint and solo exhibitions since.   With apologies, because I’m just beginning the process of overhauling this old website, here’s some of my work @ www.crowsink.ca.

At the time I believed that music and art were two different things.  Silly me.  Eventually I figured it out, got my cello & vocal chops back and have included music and performance in every art show I’ve done since.

Here we come to my point – ANY artistic discipline is equal parts cold, hard and terrifying, and deeply, soul-quenchingly rewarding.  There’s no way around it, if you’re serious about the job of being an artist.  We serve our communities by tackling the toughest questions and finding (hopefully pro-active) means and ways to offer solutions, generate discussion, make precise, accessible statements that have universal resonance.  It’s an incredibly difficult job to do well.

Ask any serious artist about obstacles – constant lack of time or money is the obvious one, though I’m  frankly sick of the the ‘starving artist’ stereotype – so often this comes from an overblown sense of entitlement.  In some few cases artist poverty happens for legitimate reasons rooted in abuse and mental illness, but such is the case in any profession.  Being a professional artist in this culture includes the hard work of attending to self-promotion, maintaining multiple streams of income, and making sure you respect yourself enough to cover your needs.

A conductor friend of mine once told me that he spends only 3% of his time on his craft.  The remaining 97% he spends building and maintaining the continued possibility for good work.  Most young artists don’t understand this  – it’s where we mostly fail.

However, I find that the difficulty of mastering those things pales when I’m finally alone in a studio, developing a piece, a show, a concept, and building the images that will describe what I’m trying to communicate.  It takes a strong stomach to face down the inner demons who will tell you:  Nobody will get it.   This is weak.  This has no relevance whatsoever to what’s happening out there.  You can’t see.  You can’t draw.  This work has no function, no meaning.  You’d be better off mowing the lawn.

The enemy lines.

I have been at it long enough to know that if I don’t feed them, the demons will fade away.  If they’re stubborn, I pick up my cello and dissolve them with music.

Happy art-making, everyone.  Stick it out, and make it good.

 


Leave a comment

what music does, after

sometimes mistakes are more interesting - an accidental long exposure

This was taken on the Saturday of Lupercalia in Owen Sound, 7am-ish before I took this cello to hospital in Paisley. It’s wednesday now, and the world of daily work and longer-term projects has re-established it’s mastery over the ship. I’m on lunch now from one of my other jobs, catching up on tasks and chores for a third.

But after that weekend of playing with and for people, I’m different. This is how music performance works for me – call it whatever you like, but there are physiological and psychological changes that occur after each show/ session, especially if there’s been a fair amount of focused preparation leading up to it. If you read about music and neurplasticity there are scientific clues there that will astonish you.  A book called “The Brain that Changes Itself” is a good place to start.

I wake up now with Tyler Wagler’s, Willi Henry’s and Joel Morelli’s songs in my head, REHEARSING them while I walk, while I write, while I report, meet, stop for lunch, read a book, stare at the sunlight on the bay. I don’t choose to do this, it just happens.

Tulipwood back of the Otter Cello, as I now think of her

I also have images of my new borrowed cello made by luthier Sibylle Ruppert flashing through my thoughts, and I KNOW I’m committing our sound to memory – learning about it while I do other things, so that when I practise again We are better.

While these things are going on in the back of my mind, the ‘front-end’ is more functional, more efficient, more alive, more perceptive and more fun to be with.  ahh.  happy sigh.

…the MORAL of this story is that everyone – EVERYONE – should play music, learn music, listen. And we should teach EVERY kid, too.

…and now I must return to work…..