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particularities

I am not been feeling generous with humans of late. Maybe because I’ve read and signed and shared more petitions than I can count over the last week. Myanmar’s big-oil supported military shooting at citizens, Trans Canada Pipelines & TC Energy’s horribly distorted value systems, the fact that we only protect TEN PERCENT of our incredible boreal forest from loggers, who cut the equivalent of four hockey arenas EVERY DAY, Doug Ford’s bid to get more money for his election by selling the greenbelt to developers, the massive amounts of garbage left by Londoners released from lockdown… when, just when are we all going to grow up out of our collective stupidity?

I’m not calling you stupid, nor me. It’s US, together. WE allow all of this to continue.

There’s a new Canadian news service called The Breach. Entirely people-funded, launching this spring. They are determined to ask good, uncomfortable questions. I gave them money.

There are passionate, knowledgeable, remarkable people who have built grassroots lobby groups, people who understand where the political and financial pressure points are, who are collecting signatures and delivering petitions where they will count. These are the places I’ve signed and shared – my twitter feed, @KeiraMcArthur, is full of opportunities to do the same.

There’s more, but getting this much off my chest has lightened my being enough that I no longer feel like screaming bloody murder at next person who litters in Gage Park.

Thank you for reading through all the spit. The fact that you do really does count for me.

Have you noticed that the world is both smaller and larger in these pandemic times? I’m regularly in conversation with California and South Africa now, along with people from other continents, cultures and belief systems. I can check what the weather is like in Kyoto and Prague, whether it’s raining or snowing at Skara Brae in the Orkneys, and then continue with my chores… garbage out on the rain washed street past the chirping sparrows then respond to a text from LA, then turn the kettle on & after send a quick note to Johannesburg.

I eat a Mexican avocado, a Chilean plum. I wear a merino wool (Australian sheep) sweater made in China, shipped from the US. The gas in my car comes from the ground beneath the middle east, my coffee from Guatemala via the Kicking Horse Pass in BC.

A container ship blocks the Suez for a week, and 400 million dollars per hour in traded goods just… stops. More empty shelves.

Effects and counter effects. I came into this residency to change and deepen my work, which was never gonna happen if I wasn’t willing to change and deepen myself. Luckily a global pandemic, then, which brought with it some hard right turns, then some hard lefts, also some necessary full stops. Much buffeting and dissolving of old ego stories. I am not the person who arrived here in January of 2019.

The works shifts as the world does – how can it not? In purely material terms, working on six and seven foot canvases is no longer practical or sustainable. I have two on the go at the studio and three here in my apartment, but I’ve scrapped all big installation plans for now. Works on paper, which began in 2019 and grew through 2020 into a 2021 series of painting/drawings (Conversation Pieces – see posts with this tag) with crazy-wild shifting grounds – these have become my new pleasure and practice, each one a delight and a surprise. Small, intimate and mid-sized, they fit and shift in the changing light on walls between other things – much more practical.

And playful. I’m putting fruit stickers in some – Chile, Peru, South Africa, used stamps – Spain, Poland, USSR, in others.

Black Lives Matter, Idle No More, Resmaa Menakem, my friend and inspiration Marilyn Struthers and the entire conversation around intersectionality and post colonialism has turned me with slow, steady inevitability toward an exploration of my own indigenous roots in Scotland and Ireland. Back across the ocean I will go, through the commons and the old ways to find out more (when we are able to travel, which I hope will be in 2022). This will, no doubt, change and deepen me some more. Bring it on.

It’s these backdrop pieces that aim me toward a personal archaeology of my ancestors’ land, story, memory.
It feels very much as though they are expressions of an older part of me

Trees and water, water and trees. In 2020 I found myself studying the behaviour of my beloved Georgian Bay, while the world was in lockdown. My cabin there is in a forest, some of which is original growth that anchors the various levels of shore over the past eleven thousand years or so. I love that lake with my soul, and will always return to her to learn and give thanks. The Water Bodies project, and The Tree Story project are both alive and well in me, waiting patiently while I change and deepen enough to make something meaningful that honours the lake and the tree people I know and love.

The red-tailed hawk sails past my window on the spring thermals. I know where her nest is, among the trees on the escarpment cliff at the end of my street. I felt a need in this post to offer a snapshot of the particulars of place, purpose and context to you, a pause to breathe in the way everything connects us one to the other, whether it’s through garbage strewn and picked up, petitions signed and shared, tough questions asked, choices and artwork made.

Watch here and on Instagram, twitter, tumblr, fb and a new YouTube thing (in development now – why not?) for photos and stories from the new work. If you have a piece of wall for a twinkling piece of art capable of sparking a good conversation, there’ll be some easy ways to purchase it from me.

I’d be so honoured.

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Cabin Stories 4: weather

The tarps work well. Easy to pull out and put away, which is required since sometimes rain comes unexpectedly at 3am. I am quietly and ridiculously proud of this.

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It occurs to me that I haven’t been myself for some years now. That the strong, creative me, fully open to possibles and wonder is only just now beginning to stand up, be seen and look around again, in these past few weeks of Cabin.  She sings, draws and writes every day now.

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There was a glimpse of this me in 2014, but it was chewed up and diverted by small town commercial gallery egos (abetted by my own stubborn naiveté about the way things work in that world), by painful/ joyful diversions into and out of romantic love and by the increasingly heavy requirements of paying for culturally prescribed things. Things that, from here, I’m not sure I needed.

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Many of the things I did need then I don’t need, now. In retrospect, the psychological distance between those needs then and these now is a lot like the distance from the top of the dover cliffs to the rocks below them.

Down is where you look when fear runs in your veins. Down to the meeting place between Forever Sea and Rocky Shore (while your friend the little white dog tugs at your leg to pull you back from the edge).

And then if you look up, where fear has no place, you can see your old, embedded practicalities for what they are: just a few small options among a big-sky-full of others.

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As I surrender to the last hours of Day 29 after The Leap of Faith, I can see what I could not have imagined before I found my courage. 

My ‘friend the dog’ is the cat who joins me to watch the sun set each night. The place where rocky shore meets the endless water has expression as vast and diverse as any behavioural spectrum, but this inspires fascination, not fear. On every level I know I am stronger. 

When the beauty around me reaches impossibly generous levels of gentleness, I stop drawing/writing/reading/singing, and just witness.

Gratitude.

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There is strong emotional weather, to be sure. Beauty without shadow is nothing you can build a good path from. I welcome it – there’s always room for change. Change is all around, here – dancing with life. 

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During and while all of the storms pass over and through, the spiders spin, the birds forage, The butterflies do their impossible, the waves sculpt the shore, and the trees drink both sun and rain, stretch themselves steadily upward and down. 

The clear sky remains the same, regardless of weather, full of options. I trust the sky.

I’ve landed well.

 

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#Selfie 4: inside out

I honestly don’t have a clue what I look like from the outside.  Or- I have clues, from friends (hopefully most honest, but still undeniably subject to mood changes & emotional wellbeing), family (often distorted by… family), men who have been drinking in bars (predictable), random encounters with strangers…  and more recently in my Selfie pilgrimage… mirrors, photographs, & video that’s been initiated and shot of me by me.

Aside from those hints and clues I live my life looking out of this face, so there’s absolutely NO way I can say:  I look like this.

Buzz Aldritch on the moon in 1966 - perhaps the pinnacle of Selfies, brought to my attention be James Keelaghan, singer-songwriter extraordinaire and our insightful & resourceful AD at Summerfolk in Owen Sound (thanks James)
Buzz Aldrin (thanks MV) on the moon in 1966 – perhaps the pinnacle of Selfies, brought to my attention by James Keelaghan, singer-songwriter extraordinaire and our insightful & resourceful AD at Summerfolk in Owen Sound (thanks James)

 

So here’s what I think today:  our visual image is always and only subjective.  It’s Always about where we are, what we are doing, how we feel, what we feel… endless facets, all capable of changing and shaping the configurations of muscles on our face, and the way the light hits them.

So what makes a Selfie a good selfie?  Authenticity?

I think so, Buzz.  I do think so.

A quick shot of my left hand & shoulder from a mirror in Feb.
A quick shot of my left hand & shoulder from a mirror in Feb.

Awkward shot of my Right hand in a mirror for reference, Feb.  Music stands work as a matte black ground...
Awkward shot of my Right hand in a mirror for reference, Feb. Music stands work as a matte black ground…

 

singing, now....
drawing (anatomy mistakes in the RH knuckle – now fixed)

this morning by 9:30am.  Includes a heretical symbol for the wings of enlightenment, used by a printer in the 13th century to signal gnostic pilgrims that the way was safe...
this morning by 9:30am. Includes a heretical symbol for the wings of enlightenment, used by a printer in the 13th century to signal gnostic pilgrims that the way was safe…

3pm today.  It has since transformed again...
3pm today. It has since transformed again…

 

What’s my point?

We create an image of ourselves that is constantly changing; we are constantly changing.  There is no true constant image when viewed from the outside.

Maybe there is from the inside, though.

A working theory.