Show time: Big weekend ahead

 

On Friday evening, I will be exhibiting new work at the Secord Gallery in Halifax. Opening reception 7 – 9 pm; the title of the show is “Relativity”. Then on Sunday, I will be going to Annapolis Royal, NS, for the opening reception of my exhibit there entitled “Let’s Talk”. Having two exhibits so close together was my idea. I like the pressure and the opportunity to clear out my studio a bit. Make space to paint new works.

So, if you are in the area, either or both, do stop by. Perhaps we can “talk”. On the other hand, I know abstract painting isn’t for everyone. I had to rent a cube van to take the work to Annapolis as the pieces are too big for my car: two are10’ x 3’ and two are 5’ x 4’. As they are quite heavy, I needed to call on my neighbors to load the van. While carrying the biggest ones out, one of the men asked a common question by people unfamiliar with this occupation, painting: are they all sold, how many will you sell, maybe half? My answer, of course, was I don’t know how many will sell; it would be nice if they sold, for sure. Simply put, it’s a labour of love.

In fact, that’s what the title of the exhibit, Let’s Talk, is about. Back when I first started working on the long, 10’ paintings, I had written on the canvas what was on my mind at the time: “Let’s talk about love”. Then I thought: “Let’s talk about it.” But I shortened the thought to “Let’s talk”. So let’s talk about the labour of love.

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Hunting for the muse

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Recently a friend asked me what is my muse. At first I didn’t know what to say. I did say that I just always wanted to do something like this; it wasn’t until I was twenty I knew it was painting. But I can’t stop thinking about the question,  especially as I paint. And as I can’t stop painting, what keeps me going! And going and going and going. What is my muse?

People are often asking me what is my inspiration. I usually say painting. One painting leads to another, spawns a direction, a feeling that needs to be pursued. But muse is a different thing: it’s what starts and keeps me going. It’s the underlying drive to create, even before inspiration, even before I know “what” I am going to paint. My muse doesn’t care what I paint, just that I respect the desire and do it.

Here’s my list of muses.

My children: I have always kept photos of my children in my studio. They are inspiration to be a good example for them, that it can be done, that one can overcome obstacles. I’ve had a lot to learn over the years and they have been along helping me.

That tree: I’ve probably mentioned this before here, but I’m talking about a single tree in the middle of the field behind my childhood home. There was a dairy farm behind our house. The tree used to be my closest friend. I would look out at it, see the cows grazing under it, sheltered by it when it rained. It was struck by lightening many times, had huge gashes down its sides. But it never fell. Later the farm was sold and hundreds of little tract houses were built. The tree came down but it still lives in my memory. It’s strength.

Mistakes: The willingness to make mistakes, keep going, redo. At this point, I can make a “good” painting, but that is not enough. I see mistakes as inspiration, a challenge. So letting go of something that is “good” is a challenge to possibly make a mistake and keep going. It is almost as if I court trouble, but now I keep that urge on the canvas. It leads to a depth of communication I wouldn’t find otherwise. My muse keeps me on track.

Stubbornness: The way my poet friend Nanci Lee works, writes her poems with small and big changes until it is just right. For her it is each word, each line, each space. We work very similarly. Layers and layers of life go into each piece. Stubborn persistence. My stubborn muse.

Myself: I heard someone say on the radio yesterday, in a program about letting go, “I have survived myself.” The drive to create art doesn’t  often come from ease. It comes from a passion to create something valuable from what is not easy. Being alive, navigating life, challenges.

Ultimately, for me, it is the joy I find when what I create talks, sings, breathes. Then my muse and I want more.

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We did it!

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I had an amazing, joyful experience at the dentist this morning. Yes, the dentist! I had a severe toothache last week, the kind where chewing was impossible and tears were close by. My dentist was on holiday, of course, but her partner checked me out. A week of antibiotics took care of the pain, but he said I would need a dreaded root canal procedure.

My dentist, this morning, agreed. A root canal seemed better than losing the tooth. She said it usually takes five to eight minutes, would all be over before I blinked. After much more than ten minutes she said she was having a hard time finding the root of the problem (so to speak). With age, nerves become smaller and calcify. She said she might have to refer me to a specialist. With a mouth full of dental equipment, I mumbled uh uh (i.e., no, no).

So, as I sat there with instruments searching the tooth, I started to meditate. And I kept telling her (silently) “You will do it, you can do it, keep going, almost there,” etc. Then, after forty-five minutes, she said she did it!

I told her I helped.

She said “I know.”

 

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Now you see me, now you don’t

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For whom do we create? How important is accessibility?

My friend, Nanci Lee, a poet, recently submitted her work for publication. She was rejected. The judgement was that it was too obscure.

As creators, our produce needs to be seen, heard, or it lies buried in ourselves. Yet the pleasure, excitement, struggle of creating lies within ourselves. To listen to others’ opinions, reactions can be instructive or it can be destructive. The choice is with the creator.

I don’t think James Joyce was concerned with accessibility. He rather thrived on his own language. Obscurity was his necessity. The lines in T.S. Elliot’s poems have been analyzed, taken apart, put back together by many generations. I took a course in university that studied the Four Quartets alone, never feeling redundant in its offering.

For me, the key word is necessity. The work needs to be necessary, honest. I need to do this, make this particular painting. It teaches me about myself, about life, how to be in this world. And as well, I do want it to connect with viewers. The profundity of a work is not how available it is but how deeply it resonates for me and in the world.

We are living in a very complicated time. Not much is straight forward, accessible. Connection is very important. Staying with what is important to me is a necessity.

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Open Studio

 

 

P1060535-X4It was that time of year again, Open Studio Weekend, as part of the Peggy’s Cove Area Festival of the Arts. For one thing, I am grateful to have a good reason to clean up my studio! But mostly it is so helpful to show my work to people I know, have known, will know. It was a steady stream of visitors for three days.

I learn a lot of these studio visits. Everyone’s point of view is valid and unique. The last two visitors, friends in the arts community, gave me lots of food for thought. They were commenting on my use of circles and circular marks in my paintings. I said I have been trying to stop using them but cannot. They just keep happening. In some, they are somewhat different but they are still circles or circular. This has been a constant part of my work since I started painting many years ago.

The helpful comment was quite direct: the circle is a part of my language; don’t fight it.

So now back to work.

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Cutting it short, or not

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Romeo likes to make up games for himself. Lately he has been pushing his ball over the edge of the dock into the lake. Then he tries to retrieve it without getting wet, just butt up, sticking his nose down as far as he can. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Watching him, I keep thinking: Romeo, there are no shortcuts. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to struggle, just catch the ball or paint the perfect painting right away. Not get my feet wet.

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Seven years of change

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At the Harrington Brown Gallery in Memphis, TN, March 2011

 

Seven years ago, in 2011, I had an exhibition at the Harrington Brown Gallery in Memphis, Tennessee. It was one of those shows where I took a major right (or left if you prefer) turn after that. Seeing my work on the walls outside my studio is always educational, sometimes upsetting, other times exciting. This particular time I could see very clearly that I had been painting myself into a corner. Every painting used the same motif as a solution to whatever was not right. The conclusion was the same, that is, the use of a circle image to “fix” the painting.

When I came home, back to my studio, I knew something major had to change. It was a struggle for several months. On the other hand, some of those paintings still linger with me as exceptional. That, I think, is because I was searching for something fresh, pertinent, important. A new way of solving visual issues. That way of working is always difficult yet extremely rewarding. After a while, I did become comfortable with this newer way of working, resolving painting issues.

Lately I have been feeling that same intense energy, the desire for change, to challenge, to be honest in my work. Now,  in truth, I have always been interested in and studied things unseen: dreams, meditation, astrology, numerology and such. I suppose this kind of interest also aligns with my need for abstract painting.

Today I read in an astrology blog that Uranus, the planet associated with change, has moved into Taurus, an earthy, grounded sign, and will be there for seven years. The writer suggested looking back at the past seven years to see what has been the focus of change. In seven years, again, all will be different. More than any other astrological transit I have witnessed, this one felt the most true to my life. So very clear. And now, the beginning of more change, more excitement and challenge.

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