What Happens the Rest of the Time

Many preparations afoot for the upcoming opening of Elsewhere  on January 9 2015.

What it all amounts to is what happens ‘the rest of the time’ in the work of working on my practice.

And for the last several days, that has looked like:

400 square feet of ethafoam

two large rolls of bubble wrap

half a roll of cling wrapping

three and a half rolls of packing tape

20 feet of 12″ diameter concrete forms

48 square feet of foamcore

a large roll of heavy weight plastic sheet

cardboard … lots of corrugated cardboard

several large tubs

And this:

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**Extra-special thanks to amazing artist Sara McKarney for her mad preparator-skills and help with some of the packing!

… and once all of that was done, it looked like this:

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AND special thanks to John Waldron for the assistance with packing the truck and getting all of this, and me, to the gallery to unload!

So. That bit is done: work is packed and delivered to the gallery, and installation of the exhibition will begin January 5th. (ah, the glamourous life!)

In a bit of serendipity, this evening I came across a pertinent bit of writing concerning the whole subject of the artist’s life and practice. It’s a speech by artist Teresita Fernandez, and it hits so many salient points. Read excerpts (and hear it too) at the lovely Brain Pickingshere.

But first – before I get back to considering all of the relative successes and potential failures in this and other work to come, I can actually take a little bit of time and catch my breath, and reacquaint myself with the world outside my studio walls (like my kitchen … oh, ya … and the laundry).

Greetings of the Season

It has been a lovely, quiet couple of days.

Dinner with family last night; today, a rare sleep-in, delicious brunch, a long walk in softly falling snow, turkey curry for dinner.

For me, a perfect way to spend the last couple of days: connected to the things that matter most, and disconnected from the frantic hype and drama that this time of year often brings.

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And with the space and time, an opportunity to reflect.

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I am very grateful for the connections I have made through this little corner of the internet, and so I want to wish you all the very Best of the Season, and for the coming year. This world can be filled with such ugliness and cruelty, but what I have found here, time and again, is that there are people out there that can continue to see the beauty in this life despite the brutality and hate that seems to swirl about unabated. There are people out there that continue to inspire, to think, to share the best of what they see in the world around them – and I am very grateful that I have the privilege of seeing some of that through the threads of connection forged here.

Thank you.

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And thank you to friends and family of all sorts for being in the world and being who you are. I am often a poor correspondent, but know that I do think of each of you often, and count my blessings that you are all in the world.

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I hope the Season offers something for each of you that brings a smile of delight and a moment of peace.

Elsewhere

I am very happy to announce that I will be exhibiting work with the talented Brenda Danbrook at Gallery @ 501 in Sherwood Park AB this coming January.

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There will be a short informal artists’ talk at the opening reception.

I hope to see some of you there.

And until then … I’ll be in the studio doing last-minute preparation and packing the work!

‘Tis the Season for Giving … local Art

Yes, this is shameless promotion time.

I have some things I’d like to share with you, that I hope you buy from me, to give as gifts to people in the next while.

First off, I have some lovely hand-bound poetry books that would like to have new homes.

... and the finished product! 10" x 8.5", text stock is 80% wheat straw; block prints are on rice paper; 65 lb FSC certified cover stock. 50 numbered copies.
… and the finished product! 10″ x 8.5″, text stock is 80% wheat straw; block prints are on rice paper; 65 lb FSC certified cover stock. 50 numbered copies.

Text by award-winning Vancouver poet Catherine Owen; 7 hand-pulled block print illustrations by me. I carved the blocks, printed the images on rice paper, the text on straw paper, and bound the books. Limited edition of 50.

Seven Limited Edition, hand carved and pulled block prints of Nests will be in the chapbook ...
Seven Limited Edition, hand carved and pulled block prints of Nests will be in the chapbook …

The poems are based on the seven basic building forms that birds use to build nests, and deal with love and the work of living and caring for one another in ways that are insightful, and always threaded through with a keen understanding of human relationships.

$50 each, shipping via Canada Post extra (if needed).

 

 

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I also have a new series of photo-based work I’ve just put up at Credo on 104th Street in Edmonton AB. These are a selection urban/street based images I’ve been collecting for the last several years: quirky little moments from various cities in Canada.

Manipulated digital images printed on mylar and archival fine art photo paper, framed and ready to hang. These are non-editioned images, so if you want something in a different size, get in touch, and we can talk.

Prices range from $45 – $90, shipping via Canada Post extra (if needed).

 

But there is a point to me telling you about these things, beyond the possible sale …

Buying from the maker of the goods you choose gives both buyer and seller so much more than just the positive conclusion to a mutually agreeable monetary transaction.

You have the option to get to know the person who made the thing you like a little better – find out the story behind the item you like.

The thing you choose will be unique in some way; it’s not going to be one of several million items produced in a factory. It comes from a different kind of economy, and a different understanding of ‘value.’

You know that the money you spend is going to support the effort of someone trying to make a living from making. From self-employment in creative work. Local workers making local products.

Props to the many Maker’s Markets and Farmer’s Markets her and elsewhere that serve as venues for makers of all types … all those places where people gather to show and sell what they make – and make the cities they make in a little bit more awesome all the time.

(ok – my mini rant is over … and I hope you consider purchasing gifts for people  throughout the year from local artists and artisans. It matters!)

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Memories, not our own …

Just a quick note tonight …

A friend and colleague of mine, Stacey Cann, will be presenting a performance work Friday Night, November 21 at the Creative Practices Institute in Edmonton (10149 – 122 Street).

Stacey describes the performance thus:

Cleaning out the cellar of my father’s house in November a year ago I found hundreds of slides and eight millimeter projections. They had been passed down to my father from a family member long passed.

Using these slides and projections I create a new narrative, the true stories long lost. This performance is set up as a typical performance of this sort, around the kitchen table, listening to stories of vacations you didn’t go on. As a child wishing you were somewhere else. The home slide projector jams. The story interrupted, then continued once the slide is carefully removed from the bowels of the machine.

The confabulated story, some truth some fiction, brings new life to images that have been separated from a human source for too long. Lost and then found again, much like many family histories.

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As someone completely besotted with the changeable intricacies of both memory and narrative, I am really excited to give a shout out to this work, and the talent behind it. Check it out if you can!

Frost

The weather offered some lovely reminders yesterday morning that this has been a rather humid winter for my part of the world so far.

Having spent the last three weeks + feeling like I was running all the time, these frosty feathers were a perfect reminder to me of the importance of paying attention to the details in one’s environment. And, of course, that taking the time to stop and really see offers worlds of peace and refreshment in this ever-busy world.

I’ve been coming across articles everywhere lately that are addressing the endless business that seems to pervade existence; the prevalence of being constantly plugged-in, constantly in touch, continually working, endlessly busy – and how counter-productive that pace actually is. How little we really wind up accomplishing, and at what cost. Busy isn’t necessarily any of the things we want to be: efficient in our days, producing quality work (whatever work we do).

The frost reminded me that it takes time to really create anything that’s worth making; that being present for the process is a great gift. And that time allows the mind to still, and to really work.

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Wanted: A Voice of Reason

I woke up this morning to a text from my daughter.

Her place of work was in lockdown because someone had spotted a man in black combats, with an earpiece, carrying what appeared to be a rifle wrapped in black fabric.

This, on the heels of what are being described as two other ‘terrorist’ attacks in various places in my country in the past couple of days.

These events are frightening and terrible – as is the loss of life, regardless of whose life is lost in these events.

What I want is a voice of reason. Not violence, not retribution, not hatred and fear matching hatred and fear.

So, this morning, I offer the words of Elizabeth May … One of the few voices of reason I am hearing out I the world right now:

… we must ensure that this appalling act of violence is not used to justify a disproportionate response. We must not resort to hyperbolic rhetoric. We need to determine if these actions are coordinated to any larger group or are the actions of one or two deranged individuals. If it is the latter we must develop tools and a systematic approach to dissuade our youth from being attracted to violent extremist groups of any kind. We need to protect our rights and liberties in a democracy.

I have no answers – but I do know that responding to violence with inflammatory rhetoric and more violence will lead to no good for anyone. There are no winners in a world filled with hatred and fear and violence. None.

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I am immensely thankful that things turned out fine – she is safe, and no one was harmed.  But I am also immensely concerned that histrionic, nationalistic responses to events like these will only make matters worse, and ultimately place many more people at significant risk.

There has to be a better way.

Installation View … an exhibition

I will be in a group exhibition this month … .

Installation View is curated by Stacey Cann, and will feature work by Devon Beggs, Rhea Lonsdale, Ali Nickerson, and yours truly.

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I am really looking forward to getting the work up in the gallery spaces, and to seeing how our individual projects ‘talk’ to one another.

I will be showing brand new work for this exhibition, and that’s exciting too!

Hope to see some of you there!

Blog Hop Around the World

I’ve been invited to participate in a Blog Hop Around the World,  in which people share something about their current projects and creative processes. I think it’s a lovely opportunity to learn a little bit more about the work that goes on ‘behind the studio door’, and see the threads that run through creative work of all types across the globe.

My thanks to June Hunter – The Urban Nature Enthusiast for the tag! June creates beautiful photographs and photo-based  art, home decor pieces, and jewellery items in her Vancouver studio. June and I share a passion for corvids – ravens, crows, magpies and the like – and I really appreciate her keen eye, and her ability to capture the intelligence and quirkiness of these creatures.

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So … to answer the Blog Hop questions:

WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?

I think like most artists, I have several things on the go at the same time in the studio and otherwise. This is a life of juggling: there’s the time spent in the studio, making work and sorting through ideas, of course. But I spend a good deal of time on the ‘administration’ of my practice as well: writing exhibition proposals and grants, keeping my files and expenses in order, keeping on top of the work flow, materials orders, and contract details for upcoming exhibitions, and doing a little self-promotion via the web. Add in taking the time to see other artists’ work at exhibitions, volunteer work at various art-related organizations, laundry, gardening, a little downtime, and sleep … and it’s a pretty full life.

Currently, I am preparing for a big two-person exhibition that will open in January 2015.  I will be showing some of the NEST series that I have been working on and refining for the last couple of years. The images below are from the last time this work was exhibited, at the Art Gallery of St. Albert.

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I’m quite excited by the way the work has evolved, especially in the last year;  I have several new pieces well underway, and at this point (maybe that should read ‘for now’!)

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I am happy with the way things are developing. I’ve been doing some writing about the background “raw material” for  newest pieces I’m working on, which you can find here and here.

Outside of studio time, I am also just back from a short trip – I was in Toronto for the CARFAC National Conference ‘Artists to Artists’ for five days.

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CARFAC is a national non-profit organization dedicated to improving the socio-economic position of professional visual artists in Canada. CARFAC has been instrumental in establishing a professional fee structure that pays artists for the use of their copyrighted work and for their professional services: exhibition fees, copyright payments for image reproduction, payments for artist talks, and so on. I’m really looking forward to re-connecting with the artists that I have come know through CARFAC, and meeting a bunch of new faces too! Back home, I volunteer my time on the Board of Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC, the provincial affiliate for CARFAC National.

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HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS?

This is by far the most difficult – and interesting – question I’ve faced in some time. Perhaps it comes down to approach. I see myself as having several things in my ‘toolkit’, that I take out and use or experiment with, depending on the subject of a given piece or body of work. That is to say, I don’t use just one method of expression or image creation or discipline within the visual arts. That makes me a bit hard to pin down for some – because I don’t fit neatly into one category … and I quite like that on a number of levels.

I have two distinct (but increasingly related) “threads” to my practice. One is studio based, and results in a range of output, including photo-based 2D work, drawings, assemblages, block printing, and some sculpture.

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Digital Photo on Silk Organza; YORK project, created with Marian Switzer

 

Installation view, Naess Gallery
Archives of Absence, Installation view, Naess Gallery (with Catherine Owen)

 

Title: nesting practices
Sculpture, installation view; pvc, wire, gimp. Dimensions variable (approx 60″h x 36″w x 36″d)
Installation view, suspension: 75 small void nests 44" x 44" x 60" approx; charcoal on vellum, dipped in wax; each image 4" x 4"
Installation view, suspension: 75 small void nests
44″ x 44″ x 60″ approx; charcoal on vellum, dipped in wax; each image 4″ x 4″

 

The other is very much away from the studio, and revolves around creating large-scale, site-specific installation and sculpture.

... view down a covered walkway between structures
Make:Believe … view down a covered walkway between structures

 

long shot showing the entire installation and both cutoff points, offset in the beach, August 31 2013
long shot showing the entire installation and both cutoff points, offset in the beach, August 31 2013

 

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Boundary|Time|Surface

In terms of materials and formal elements, my studio-based work often is created with transparency in mind, and on translucent or transparent substrates, and that’s not tremendously common. I am drawn to layering and accretion in image making, and also to the idea of ‘peeling back’ and exposing elements that rest below the surface – literally and metaphorically.

 

WHY DO YOU CREATE WHAT YOU DO?

I am fascinated by narrative in many ways – that’s my training in literature talking!  But really, what I’m getting at here is the connections between stories and things and places … and how all of those things work together to contribute to our understanding of identity, of self.

I guess really I am a ‘closet phenomenologist’ … I work with things and the way our understanding of things tells us about how we perceive the world and ourselves.  And how changeable and slippery all of that is … that’s the fun part.

HOW DOES YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS WORK?

I begin with an issue or idea that I need to investigate. It’s really about exploration and detective work in a way: I use the work I create to explore ideas about how we live in the world and make sense of who we are in relation to it.

So, things like time, memory, absence … ideas about home, identity … these areas are the jumping off points for the creation of work.  Reading and research – and writing – offer things that flesh out the ideas, and bring me to starting points for making work. For example, the NEST series that I am (still) working on began with rereading Gaston Bachelard’s Poetics of Space – chapter 4 concerns nests in particular.

In the end, it’s about communicating. Finding threads of common experience, and talking about living in the world through visual means  – because for me, sometimes words can’t quite transmit what I see or want to say.

It’s about find a path through it all, and occasionally making sense of it.

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(en)compass, 2014

 

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(en)compass, Bay of Fundy, July 2014

And it is now my pleasure to pass the Blog Hop on “across the Pond” … to Emily Hughes at Searching to See.  I’m really interested in hearing more about Emily’s process and sources of inspiration – and I think you’ll enjoy hearing from her too!

 

Time Travel, part II

Going through the old photographs I have unearthed for this part of the NEST work has been quite disarming in many respects – not the least of which has been the brief glimpse they have offered of the many and varied contexts in which my own parents found themselves. These were other worlds and lifetimes that they carried within themselves always, but that I can never hope to really understand or access.

This is particularly true in my father’s case; he wasn’t a talker, wasn’t prone to providing stories about himself. I am fortunate enough to have a fairly broad photographic record of his early life, though, which offers some small indications and hints about his existence. I do remember him saying once, upon coming across George Orwell’s Down and Out in Paris and London that he didn’t need to read it; he’d lived it. He didn’t elaborate.

Odd in some ways to think that he was born over a century ago. 1911.

The world was a tremendously different place in many respects …

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This is one of the earliest photos I have of my Da, taken in the back lane behind the house in which he was born in Tynemouth, Northumberland. I think he was about 4 or 5 when this was taken, so that would date the photo to about 1915 … during WWI.  His father would have been in active duty, in the British Army, Artillery.

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Here he is a few years later (the inscription on the back states he is 8 years old). He doesn’t seem terribly impressed to be having his portrait done, nor to be wearing that stiff collar and tweedy suit.

So formal, and such a serious occasion. So very different from the world I knew of annual children’s school photos (my own and that of my children), the now omnipresent camera phones and interminable ‘selfies’ of today.

The War was likely done by then, but I expect that it was still tough going in Tynemouth, being a naval and port city on the North Sea.

Not much of the man who I knew as my father there yet, but some … the set of his eyes and brows, the ears(!) … . His hair seems to grow in a similar pattern as mine (though he was always bald on top in my recollections).

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This is, I think, the only photo I have of my father with both of his siblings. An odd thing, that. Again, my father, formally dressed, serious expression for the camera. His younger brother and baby sister somehow permitted the costume of childhood where he was not. I don’t know how old he was here, perhaps a couple of years older than the previous shot.

A family falsity: I had been told that his brother was the eldest … this was obviously not the case, but I don’t know why I was told that by both my parents. It also appears that the role of first/eldest son was adopted early on, and was a position to be assumed with gravity. I wonder what that did to his relationship to his brother. He never spoke much of him at all; only to say that he had returned to England not long after the family settled in Canada, and that they never heard from him after that. I don’t know how much of this is true, any more than I know why I was told the things I was that have been revealed to be otherwise.

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There are large gaps in what record I do have of my father’s life, visual and otherwise; for starters, my father only reappears in Grannie’s photo album when he is a grown man. Most of the photos of him from this point on document his working life in some way or another.

Here, a live radio broadcast, from where I don’t know. From the clothing – and my father’s youth and full head of hair – I would guess he’s in his early 30’s. So, sometime in the 1940’s, perhaps … the uniformed man in the foreground points to that timing as well.

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Another undated image of my father, working. He appears to be taking notes on what he is witnessing.

There were a few things that were somehow fixed in my mind when it came to my father: the suits he wore, and his work. Always, his work. Reporting – and broadcasting in particular – was a huge part of who he was, and how he framed himself to the world, and even to us at home.

He put on that identity.

The suit.

The job.

Armour.

It kept people out; it kept him feeling safe in a way too, I suppose.

 

When all else failed, one could always talk about the day’s news.