Keirartworks's Blog

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


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Inclusion

Drippy Sunday morning; the world outside has shrunk …which appropriately rhymes with Funk, because Funk is precisely what I’m in.

… niggly, prickly snappish me with a million essential things to attend to but instead I chop a fridge full of vegetables and chicken into tiny tiny pieces, beat up a dozen eggs, fry severed onions into carbon, do five sets of loud dishes and answer every question with a maximum of two wedged-out words …

frontPorch_Jan2015

“Mom, can I have a hug?”

Grunt. “May I.”

“….Yes.”

FrontStepJan2015

I don’t know why I’m feeling this way.

While chopping onions I feel grim satisfaction at my power to slice through, to un-make a still-living thing.  While I feel this I think about art and manipulation and rage; growth and green and death which in turn makes more growth and green.

It is possible to smile though a clenched jaw.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn't take away, even though it was tagged.  I don't want to think about it.

buried in this pile is a garbage bag with kitty litter in it that the truck didn’t take away, even though it was tagged. I don’t want to think about it.

Of course we are all far too busy for real sanity – what did Norm Bell tell me at the afternoon TOM Gallery opening today… that our generation is the last that has experienced what we now think of as ‘down’ time. (Link to a review of Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence – thanks Norm)

I do remember, in my bones, what it felt like to be empty of everything but the sky I gazed into, far away from any connection to the rest of humanity or it’s obligations or measurements of my time and effectiveness and function.

I remember the micro sound of a caterpillar chewing leaves beside my head – wondering what the sound was, discovering it’s origin then …wondering in a larger way that I could hear it at all, so small a thing…

BackPorchJan2015

I write from tomorrow about that volatile place I was in. It has taken me to my studio, where I wake to the clutter of promise, the smell of colour, the yearn and memory of cello.

I know what to do, when yesterday I did not [I will dig into paleontology and paint artifacts]. Yesterday in the storm of my own inexplicable rage I felt battered and almost violently unexplained.  At the gallery in a crowd of people I know well I felt awkward, too-strong and my words, like a pack of battling cousins came out sideways, fist or feet-first.  Yesterday it was next to impossible to find compassion.

I’ve read somewhere recently about the making of art that it comes from these places of unexplained pain, answers the pain through process, then tells the story.  This could be so, for those who must make art, must make, must … self-provoke?

I miss this.

I miss this.

I do love winter.  We get more beautiful winters here than anywhere else in this vast province, (larger than France and Spain, combined).  Perhaps it was the melting of the white into dirty brown that set me off unexpectedly, traversing the landscape through my own unstable lava fields.  I know I’ve been missing green, and gardening, but I strongly suspect that there’s more to my rancour than this.

I have a day in my studio to paint, to practise and to tick things off the long list.  Another tomorrow, then Wednesday and Thursday.  Friday afternoon we will travel to Toronto to visit with good friends, and on Saturday I will visit the Zoo, which is wonderfully peaceful in the wintertime.

I’ll say hello to the river otters for you,

river otter

river otter


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Old things and dungeons

Grocery store “…ya, seven car pileup in Dundalk.  I’m not going home to London looks like…”

snowfort stories – there were three of us, so …  that’s when the snowbanks along the roads were 14  feet high- we used to run along the top and jump over the hydro lines… 

I guess some people like winter, probly they don’t have to shovel…  Better get extra, looks like we’re socked in…

detail from a painting I'm working on now.  I think it's about my parents...

detail from the painting on the wall in front of me. – a teacup I got from david sereda and Stuart Reid

I’m here in the warm painting light thinking about old things.  There’s nothing in this studio that isn’t grounded in history.  Even the studio space is specific to this – it was part of a ladies’ hosiery factory founded and run by one of my great-grandfathers (mother’s mother’s father) in the 1920s that at one time employed 200 women.  If I close my eyes I can hear them talking to one another in counterpoint to the rhythm of the knitting machines…

I just finished a painting that I’d thought was about a snaffle bit – a reference to Athena’s golden bridle that Bellepheron used to bend Pegasus to his will.  I was going to call it Unbridled – but that just shows how little I know.  It’s called Chalk Horse, and in this painting, she is a mare.  We have been locked in battle for a week, but I do get it now.  She’s lived in the Oxfordshire hills for somewhere near 3000 years, and is known as the Uffington Horse.  This week she’s been very much in my studio.

Snaffle bit?  Pah.  Stomp.

detail of the same painting

detail of the same painting – my father’s excellent chop saw.  I cut 1000 square feet of 1 & 1/4″ ash floor on this puppy.

There’s something about writing music or prose, about making paintings that demands utter openness and honesty.  It’s a place of utterly precious fragilit, but there’s nothing judgemental about it – it’s just that when an image rings true then it has become itself – that’s the work.  Any contrivance, any force of will or intention will just get in the way.  So you listen.  It’s got to be collaborative if it is to have any relevance to the world at all.

Good art is always relevant to the world – it’s the why of it.  Art, music, writing, dance, theatre,  – these immeasurable, difficult things are our best chance to change our minds about ourselves.  This is where the difficult questions get asked, the ones that require real honesty to answer.

Icegrotto3

We are all of us very good at building dungeons for ourselves, are we not?  As I listen to Leonard Cohen, at age 75, sing about his Secret Life, I think this must be so.  We build them of bits and pieces of our failures and from inherited shame, and keep the dark door shut, when instead we need to spend well-considered time there, alone with ourselves – it’s the hardest thing to do, perhaps.  For me, this is where I get humbled, every time – groping around in the dark for something I recognize, something that can hold a difficult beauty.

Icegrotto2

I emerge always with fewer words.

Gratitude.  That’s a good one.


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Release

Every once in a while I see a bald eagle in the sky,  like poetry so beautiful and alive I stop breathing.

snow2

We have entered the long cold of January.  Winter came early this year – two months ago –  to invite us deep inside where we can tend to the root of things, tune our eyes to the subtle colours of the great Hush.  This is permission to follow – slowly, slowly – a whispering line of thought down the long path, to pause at each wonder that emerges, then continue …

To walk on frozen water.

whouff.  I think that's the word.

An invitation to meet one’s Self, again and again in the cold and the warmth, in conversation, in music, in colour and in silence.  To introspect.

Positive and negative space; high contrast in the stark white days where eagles fly, fishing, the long nights where bears sleep under resplendent starlight.  This is when stories are found and told.  When songs are made and learned, paintings begun and finished.  When courage burns warm like a hearth-fire.

snow3

The warm bustle of work begins soon.  Right now I find myself steeped and floating in gratitude.

 


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Inside Winter

It’s the kind of snow there’s a constant More of.  The plows and trucks and blowers, out all night long are still going strong at 10am.  Cars slide gently sideways to stop signs. Kids and grown-ups both are thoroughly snow-suited, booted, winter-gloved and touqued as they kick & trudge through piled white, falling white, blowing  – white everywhere.  Dogs leap and dive in it; parked cars have long since disappeared, save for a stripe of colour along their sides.

Third-floor roof of the studio building.  Looking Southwest across the harbour

Third-floor roof of the studio building. Looking Southwest across the harbour

The coffee tastes better.  The blankets are warmer.  The books are more intriguing; the art more tantalizing now that there’s time to look deeply.  The music has such clean white space around it,  it’s almost visible.

PicnicTable_Dec2013

I’ve dug out my knitting projects.  I find myself puttering,  replacing buttons, fixing collars, darning holes in old sweaters.

Just heard the opening phrase of a new song:  3 cello voices, descending, one rising, to A minor; hold.  Then vocals…

Roof_doorDec2013

I’ve said this before, but it’s true enough to say twice:  I love what winter does to me.

 


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Summer, fall, winter spring

Summer ‘Do’;

sunflower2.jpg

Winter ‘Be’:

wintersunflower3

This is the natural way of things, if you take your lead from the plants and the squirrels; the chipmunks and the bears.

So it follows then, that Spring is for clearing the way for new growth:

carpet of trout lillies

carpet of trout lillies

…and autumn is for making good use of the harvest, putting things into their proper place, and giving thanks that another yearly cycle of time has been fruitful.

In observation of these ancient and worthy rhythms, I name October 2013 a month of consideration, sorting, filing, and thanksgiving.

Starting with this blog, right here.  I feel it could be easier to navigate than it is – and no wonder – I had no idea what I’d be writing about when I began.  I may have been relatively aimless, but dear WordPress has been busy the entire time gathering and compiling pages of statistics  – and the results are obsessively educational for me.  Who can resist such a mirror?

Before I sank into slumber last night and after some considerable time spent sifting through the data pages it occurred to me that I could actually USE this information… to  …. put things in their proper place.

I hope what I do will make it easier for you to navigate here.  Please feel more than free to offer your input – it is entirely welcome.

This will take longer than one post to accomplish, so I will leave you with an intention and a promise of positive change, and this:

A study in contrast

A study in contrast


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green gathers under

The morning is still still and grey weighed down by two feet of spring snow.  Even the sky is heavy.  The birds do their best to lighten things up but we have no warm welcome for them this year after the long flight north.  Just heavy grey, heavy snow, covered in old rabbit tracks.

It is the other end of winter.  Still fine and clean here in the country, but since the weather has stayed cold we are in a kind of stasis, shifting restlessly under the great white blanket that gets heavier and heavier even as it thickens each night with new snowfall.   Like a dancer who has been told to sit still, a singer told to be silent, and just wait……

MarchSnowfall

But Winter is not for waiting…  Winter is for telling stories to each other, to ourselves, is it not?   Winter is for listening.

I am glad of it this March of 2013, as we approach Easter next weekend.  I have gone deep this winter, deep deep into the ideas of legacy and inheritance, gifts and projections.  Into the effects of choice.  My work with these paintings and the music I’m writing has naturally taken me there, (amazing to me, what hand tools have inspired)  but other encounters and events in these months have resonated – some most alarmingly.

I’m almost, but not…  quite…  finished….  this process…. like a whale returning from the bottom of the ocean I need this extra time to find the surface again…

When I do emerge, it will feel very very good to speak to real people instead of paintings and recording devices, computer screens and cello strings.  It will feel so deeply rewarding to take my own garden shovel and just dig with it, rather than painting the idea, then the deeper idea, then another layered idea… of shovel.  (I’ll post the painting here so that you can see – a ridiculous layering of images, just to try to present these ideas about legacy and choice – ack, me.)

I can feel my feet tingling in anticipation of the soft cold mud that will receive them in my first barefoot walk outside.

Until then I work to finish.  This is also a fine, fine thing.

Tonight, the Georgian Bay Symphony and the Georgian Bay Concert Choir (some 180+ incredibles!!) will play a program composed entirely by Schubert.  Along with many many dear friends, my Mom is in the choir.  I will be in the cello section.  Mom & I haven’t played together in a big concert like this since Carnival of the Animals when I was 16.  What a joy.

HA!  As I wrote that last paragraph, the spring sun emerged through the grey.  Suddenly, it’s quite a different world out there – full of life and warmth, though appropriately (for me), still covered with a thick coat of white.

 

 


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Fig Leaf on a Snow Day

Open-faced and shovel-sore, I stare out the window at a thousand-thousand demons of whirling, whipped snow.  I think about beauty, and the job of art.

FirstSnowWQuarry

out the window I write by – add whirling dervish snow demons & you get the picture

If there can be a line we take towards healing the terrible distortions of our belief systems, I think it must be drawn by artists.  There can be no measured, scientific path through the strata of abuses we have inflicted upon ourselves for generations  – it must come from a place of feeling and listening and responding.

Artists, writers, composers, musicians, actors, directors, curators, editors, publishers, conductors are by nature steeped in the human mystery, and of necessity highly skilled in creative problem-solving.  These are the people who need to serve here  – to acknowledge our collective rage, our worry, our sorrow and our sense of betrayal, and to answer with compassionate, edgy work that stirs the pot.

same plant as mine - beautiful thing that can grow to 40 feet tall

fiddle-leaf fig tree

The fig plant leans like love toward the light.

I admire this plant and do my best to encourage its growth,  but as I observe it in the pause of today I hear deep-embedded, unbidden moral whisperings:  The forbidden fruit of  knowledge.  Nakedness and shame.  Banishment from Eden.  Original Sin. 

Ack.

The Holy Roman Church has a lot to answer for – including the pirating of a fig leaf’s raison d’etre, and the placing of said moral reference in my mind. But the more nefarious cultural distortion is far far worse – must we – is it in ANY way appropriate and helpful that we should be so ashamed of our own naked selves?

How much damage has this caused – this shame of being who we are?  How can we accomplish anything of value if at the core we believe have no goodness of our own?  Early in my life I read about and far preferred the material written by the early Gnostics, who were persecuted by the Church because they felt that God resides within each of us, and our true purpose in life is to understand ourselves in this context.  Elaine Pagels is a good source for this discussion – see “The Gnostic Gospels” here

These moral seeds of unworthiness and shame have been sown deeply, and have more roots than we can imagine.  To present just one example of many,  permit me to ask  how the Church of Scientology could even pretend to exist if the Holy Roman Church had not preceeded it?

I just watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master” (excellent UK review here), then dug a little more into YouTube for recordings of L.Ron Hubbard, South Park’s explanation of the Scientology core belief system, and some interviews with current Scientology Leader’s niece who has defected, thereby breaking her billion-year contract with the church which she signed at age 7.  Said neice and others who have gone clear of Scientology report that the Church sells it’s prospective members the idea of true individuality and success but relies upon strict and often violently reinforced rules of conformity.  Keep your members weak and fearful and make sure they toe the line.  A proven formula.

It’s incredible what large numbers of people can believe in if they are compelled and taught early enough, or if they are desperately lost in addiction and need help – that the birth mother of Jesus was a virgin, for example, and Mary Magdalene was not one of the apostles (even though she authored a gospel) she was just a prostitute.  If you suspend your belief, just for a moment, it’s interesting to wonder where these ideas came from.

Even if you provide ample room for miracles, which do happen, the biographical treatment of Eve, Mary and Mary (not to mention the horror of the witch hunts) speaks to an attitude towards women by the old Christian Church which is decidedly short-sighted and …. abusive, shall we say?  So how does this play out, over 2013 + years?

I look at a fig plant…..

Reba says: "you're kidding, right?"

Reba wonders about this too.

We are all of us increasingly culpable and exposed in the blight of industrial wastelands,  in the hypocrisy and greed of the Big Bank Boys and their Corporate/Political allies.  In the stories of people with mental illness who live anonymously on the street or in closets, who inexplicably fail at school, who are incarcerated after being pushed beyond their limits – we recognize our own bewildered selves.

It’s hard to look, but it has nothing to do with shame, though maybe that’s what got us here.  Love, now – and compassion holds some promise.  I do think Jesus had many things right, depending of course on which version of the bible you’re reading – see Elaine Pagels on the Gospel of Thomas (the Doubter?  or maybe just a healthy skeptic), which was NOT included in the Biblical texts (Beyond Belief – the Secret Gospel of Thomas)…

ahh.

ahh…

I’m glad for this snow day.  Glad for the whirling demons outside, the fig tree and the wood fire that warms my back, and the time to layer these ideas one over the other & watch which questions emerge.  It has inspired me to write dangerous poetry.  To continue to make art that is slightly uncomfortable and looks straight in the eye of forbidden questions.  To play play play music with all the beautiful rage and rebel that I can muster…

So happy Friday, all.  Sad for you if you didn’t get a snow day.  I hope you get one soon.