I am preparing to fly West this afternoon, after a busy and very productive several months in various spots in Nova Scotia. A great residency with Scott Smallwood, and new work launched in Parrsboro, at Main & Station. The start of some new and exciting collaborations with Deborah Carruthers and with Susan Tooke. Time to experiment with cyanotype processes, work on video and audio projects. Time to hike, to make photographs, to think, to further the long-term process of healing my body (thank you Acupuncture and Massage Therapy!)
It feels like much more time has passed since I was last on ‘home turf’ – or rather, that the tempo and scale of time as I experience it has shifted in a fundamental way – and now I have to find my way back to something more familiar. Not quite there – and I think that’s a very good thing. VERY.
It was a good place and time to be reminded of the diverse (and often very difficult, painful) histories of any given place. How easy it is not to see that – how easy to get lost in the vast beauty of the place – any place – and look but not see. The beauty is part of those histories; it’s woven into the different scales of time inherent in that locale to be sure. Geologic time. Tidal Time. Seasonal Time. Mythic time. Colonial Time (a very slippery fish, this one). Settlement Time. Expulsion Time. Industrial Time. And on and on … but make no mistake, there’s nothing linear about this.
The ‘present’ as we fashion it in any given moment is its own rabbit hole; a crucial vantage point (and obviously the only one available in a pragmatic sense), but it’s also a very troubled and troubling place from which to assess the relative value of most things and actions and ideas … . The popular narratives that tend to overwhelm all other chatter are still those that yoke the present to doing cartwheels toward the ‘somehow-better-future’. Because, of course ‘things’ will be ‘improved.’ This is the wish, the hope, and the outcome to be willed into being, somehow.
And under it all, the land remains—a page upon which this story is “written, erased, rewritten,” as author Teju Cole put it. Only memory and history can interrupt this cycle of revision we commonly refer to as progress. And those interruptions are vital, absolutely necessary, if we are to navigate some way toward a better way of existence for ourselves (on all levels), and co-existence with all beings.
Remains to be seen how well I am able to carry these glimmers of understanding forward as I return to the familiar places and routines – but the intent (and hope) is there. Patience, process, compassion.
It’s been a remarkable time; the residency and performance, the talk, the exhibition … and now that it’s all done and packed up, a little time to reflect.
The first week was all about slowing down, getting reacquainted with the town and the land … shifting gears, not unlike the tides here do every 12 hours.
There’s a generosity to the pace of life in Parrsboro; in the Maritimes in general. There’s room enough and time enough to do what you need to do. It’s a precious thing. It’s also been really nice reconnecting with people I’d met last year, seeing friends who live in this part of the country, catching up on news, feeling welcomed. A good place to start getting myself sorted, to make work, gather ideas like I gathered materials … .
It’s been a summer notable too for the generosity of several people that have left me feeling deeply grateful for the opportunity to be making work in this place.
So, this is a note of thanks, to many people, and on many counts:
To two lovely local visitors to my work space in the Nonesuch Centre for the Performing Arts (which was formerly Trinity United Church here in town). Louis Heb came by to see what was happening, and shared stories about himself and his family’s connection to the church over the years: in particular a family member who was the church organist. Tom Hatfield came by too – he remembered attending Boy Scout meetings when he was a kid, in the same room I am working in now. He also remembered the organ, and the lovely acoustics. Both Louis and Tom were happy to see that the building was going to be saved, and taken care of, and used to bring people together again. It was a real gift to be offered these stories, and to see so directly the way in which the building still houses the memories of the community in an active way. It’s remarkable to be sharing the space with all of that history, and making work derived from the landscape and objects that come from the area.
Things and places – like people – hold histories and memories of their own.
To Randy Corcoran, captain, amazing source of sea-and-boat-related stuff, and an artist in his own right. My hosts at Main & Station connected me to Randy after my residency last year, and he and I had been in touch over the winter about various materials and objects I was looking for to make sculptures. He’s a busy guy – doing charter boat tours and house painting in the summers – so I felt fortunate that he had a bit of time to spare to show me some of the things he’s gathered, and get his invaluable assistance in finding more materials and getting them to the studio. It turned out that Randy had a great stash of things that were going to be really, really useful for this project, and he’d managed to get a lead on a key item I’d been searching for …
Which brings me to thanking…
Donald McCully (the Fox) – who really made my day by parting with an old hand sewn canvas sail that became a key part of the exhibition! I also got a look at the boat he built, and hear about the process of building it, and other stories besides.
To Susan Clarke (curator) June Wagstaff (archivist), and Lisa Miller (digital records/archives) at Ottawa House Museum. Thanks to you all for your support of this project!
Susan allowed Scott and I to do some field recordings at the Museum in 2016 that have made their way into the soundscape Scott created for our exhibition. She also allowed us to borrow a ship’s bell from the collection for the performance of “Macromareal Prelude” on August 5 & 6. June and Lisa have also been incredibly helpful to me in searching through the image archives and other holdings of the Museum.
To Krista Wells, another local artist @ Artlab – for the scrap canvas I so desperately needed to repair the sail! AND for her excellent coffee and conversation over the month, and for being part of the “Macromareal Band” for our performance on August 6th!
To ALL the musicians, who made the premiere of “Macromareal Prelude” such a success: Kyle Dinaut – tuba, Michael Fuller – baritone saxophone, Timi Levy – violin, Jamie Oatt – trumpet, Joel Robertson – clarinet, Bruce Robertson – trumpet, Krista Wells – trombone
To Angela Glanzmann, friend and fellow artist, for documenting the performance, so that I could be an active participant.
To Nancy Agati and Sara McKarney – who were also on residencies this summer at Main & Station: thanks to you both for the great feedback and insight into the work, thanks for the laughs and the beach walks, and for being such great artists. You are both so inspiring.
To Scott Smallwood, collaborator extraordinaire, colleague, and friend. Thank you for your hard work, generous sharing of ideas and knowledge, and for your faith in this project. It has been an honour and a pleasure to work with you … and I hope we can do more together SOON!
I’m a little boggled by how the days have passed by since our exhibition opened. Just this week, and I’m back to Parrsboro to take down the show, and pack it all up for shipping.
I’ve been really quite chuffed by the feedback we have been getting on the work. Our lovely hosts at Main & Station tell us that there have been a good many visitors, and that many of them have been spending some real time with the work. Some, up to an hour.
That is so lovely to hear. I am deeply grateful to everyone that has stopped in so far, and for the opportunity to show this brand-new work, fresh out of the studio.
And if you are in the area, macromareal (a rising tide lifts all boats) is on exhibition until August 26th at Main & Station in the 2nd floorGallery. If you do stop by, please let me know! I’d love to hear your thoughts on the work!