Finally starting to feel somewhat settled, in this, my temporary home city of Halifax. The summer – and fall, thus far – has been a fabulous, hectic adventure of arrival, travel, and settling in. So far, we have been to the Stan Rogers Folk Fest (mudfest!), the UK and Ireland for field work and family visit, Newfoundland, and will be heading off to Wolfville for the Deep Roots Fest this weekend. That’s a lot of miles since July 1 when we landed. In between times, I have been walking the city, getting to know it as a place I live (as opposed to a place I am simply visiting), and working on the two collaborative projects I have on the go with Catherine Own and Kristen Hutchinson.
It has been the ‘in between times’ – the time I have had to spend living here in this space and this city and working – that has been most interesting and telling so far. We are living a spare existence here – a very compact living space, with very little in it that is ours. But for me this is the perfect mode of existence for this year and the work we both have to hand. The move and this sabbatical have been about getting back to what’s essential to each of us, and to the two of us as a couple. The process of preparing for the sabbatical became a joyous purge, a letting go of all that was non-essential; moving from a 4 bedroom, 3 story house to a 1 bedroom apartment had a that effect purely in practical terms, of course. But that process of choosing, of being absolutely conscious and active in selecting what to bring and what to leave (or get rid of) had the most liberating effect emotionally and psychically as well. I know I was going to a place where I didn’t want to carry a great deal with me in any sense; I wanted to bring only those tools and necessities of life that were truly important for my well being, and leave the rest behind, to leave the space I need to make the most of this year away.
I find myself working in a totally different way than I have previously, as well. In part this is purely practical: I am forced to change materials and methods due to the limitations of the space we live in and the absence of studio space. But I am seeing there is more to this than simple practicalities the longer I work here. The change in venue has forced a stripping down, a spareness to my work, that I am just beginning to appreciate. It’s forcing me to be even more conscious of the choices I am making – image selection, placement, composition – and in a different way than I am when I am working with the wax and the plaster. These images I am working now are all semi-transparent – single skins – so all is revealed in the single gesture of printing to the panel, whereas the collage/construction work that I have been doing for the last couple of years has relied on virtually the opposite approach: building up and hiding objects and images, re-revealing certain elements. I have absolutely no idea how this year-long method of working will impact my practice over the long term, but that’s part of the beauty of being here: I really don’t know anything, and I don’t know how it will all turn out. It’s this state of flux that I am really appreciating as the days pass; it really is all process, and not product.