Monday, 24 September 2012

Finding focus

In and out of phase Beam me up, Scotty: there's no intelligent life down here.

I continute to have more and more days when I'm in phase, and the changes I spoke about in my last posting just four days ago, grow exponentially. Part of it is work-related: I'm here, halfway through a three-week artist residency, and while I'm getting the project done, I'm also knitting something mindful, writing in my journal, and talking long walks almost every day.

Stay or go? Monarch butterfly at the beach, Sandbanks Provincial Park

Apart from the fresh air, and the opportunity to see a different landscape of trees and birds, I mostly spend the time thinking. One of the major issues I had with the project sort of took over most of the time for most of the first week, and a productive day in the studio yesterday to build a quick model, and then transfer that knowledge to the actual piece, means I can now move on.

Is this my good side? #2 Semipalmated sandpiper

I find the architecture -- classic southern Ontario houses and public buildings -- to be an endless source of wonder: red brick houses, yellow brick churches, the shire office here in the county, most dating to the latter half of the nineteenth century, are rampant. Not sure why I haven't been photographing them, except perhaps that they are only uncommonly elegant to someone like me, seeing them with fresh eyes.

Circle of life All washed up.

Regular readers may recall that in my Septemtember 2 post, I talked about letting go of some of the crutches I had started to lean on in the last eighteen months. When I wrote those words, barely three weeks ago, my best guess would have been that that process would have begun slowly once I got back to Calgary at the beginning of November.

But I've started doing some of it already, and in some ways, I almost feel that now that I've begun, I can't wait to do more of it. Somehow, that emotional entropy has been dashed away in the swirl of everything else that's happening.

Basking Somewhere up a lazy river, a turtle is basking.

It's not unlike the feeling of sitting around a cluttered home, not knowing where to even begin to clean up, but then fixing just one corner. Aha! you think this is way easier than I thought it would be! and then before you know it, there's bags of garbage, a full recycling bin, a shredder that's over-heated, and the place is unrecognizably tidy.

You'll notice I said "tidy" and not "clean": there's a difference. "Clean" is still a really big ask: give me some time on that one, OK?

Green heron Green heron by the waterside.

I am reminded, for the first time in awhile, about Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah by Richard Bach. It's been out-of-print for a long time, and I know my copy is stashed away in a box in storage, but I take solace in having this PDF version to read while I'm on the road.

Physically, I have been drifting for months, but emotionally, I've just caught a strong current on the great crystal river.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Becoming whole

At the feeder #2 Ruby-throated hummingbird having a snack

The first seven weeks of my ten-week sojourn in the Eastern time zone is being spent out in the bucolic countryside: it's a chance to do some thinking, create some new work, and rediscover parts of my soul. One of those parts is writing, and I'm finally interested again in doing some, as opposed to everything I've written after, which has been done mostly because I had to, for various and sundry reasons. Sunset Blue moon, pink sky

The nice part is that it doesn't feel unnatural to sit down at the keyboard (or, more importantly, with my journal and a pen) and just let the words flow out. I've written two long emails this week, a journal entry, and have enough pictures I'm happy with and stories to tell about them, to fill two blog entries, of which this is the first. My first camera My first camera, taken by my newest camera

It's been fun touring around the countryside too. At Lang Pioneer Village, they had a lovely show about the Eaton's catalogue, and how it changed over the years. My favourite piece was this wonderful camera: my parents had one and let me play around with it as a child. The pictures in the family album I have that date from the mid-1950s to the mid/late-1960s were mostly taken with it, and it gave me my first real taste of image-making. Heron and friends Great blue heron and duck friends

And I've been able to visit old friends, share laughter, and look at the world again in different ways. Along with the beauty, and to my utter amazement, I'm starting to find slivers of peace in my existence: the shift has been subtle, but perceptible. Walk this way A walk in the woods, with art

I have adventured in all four directions, walking on familiar paths and driving on new roads, seeing old friends and making new ones, both animate and inanimate. C to C C to C (2007) Designed by John Shaw-Rimmington and constructed by the students of the 2007 Dry Stone Structures Course, Fleming College, Haliburton School of The Arts. Two intertwined "C" shaped dry stone walls, made with locally quarried granite. My favourite piece at the Sculpture Forest.

The next step is to find a way to integrate what I've been experiencing with who I used to be, who I am now, and who I want to be. That's going to be a challenge, but not an insurmountable one.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

It Goes Where It Goes

As promised, photographs of spun/adrift, my most recent fibre installation project. It's a private commission, installed just west of Calgary: if you're interested in seeing it, contact me and we'll arrange a viewing.

spun/adrift installation view
Photographed in the white box of Skew Gallery, Calgary, before installation.

It's eighteen months today that I've been back on my own, and for once, I've reached one of these milestones without engaging in hysteria: that's a major change.

That being said, there's been quite enough of that in the last six months though, but I've noticed some pretty substantial paradigm shifts occurring lately.

While documenting the piece at Skew Gallery, owner Bart Habermiller caught me trying to be Richard Avedon.

I've been using two metaphors to describe my emotional state over that time, starting with one I'm extremely familiar with: the yo-yo diet, where you lose twenty pounds then gain ten back, repeated over and over. To crib from Far Cry "one day I feel I'm on top of the world, then then next day it's rolling over me" -- that's definitely not an exaggeration. Some of those latter times were just horrific, stretching for two or three days on end. Certainly an improvement over it being endless weeks, as it once was, but still debilitating.

Not-so-jokingly, I've referred to emerging from some of those times as "implementing the instructions in DIY Frontal Lobotomies for Dummies."

Edge detail
The top knitted casing, hiding the quarter-inch flexible PVC tubing and wire reinforcement.

The second has been the opening few minutes of Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, which is a very silly movie starring Mike Myers, who plays a bumbling British spy who was put into cryostasis in 1967 and then unfrozen in 1997. I've always had a good laugh out of the thawing scene, when Austin is revived to chase after Dr. Evil, but find I relate to it more now in the sense of being dead emotionally, and then trying to claw back my humanity and sanity into adulthood again.

Detail of the "undergrowth" section, installed on site.

In the last few months, I too have suffered from no internal dialogue on occasion, and have been grateful that my real friends (on and off Facebook) have been so forgiving: I owe you all my thanks.

But in some ways, the hardest part has been going through a whirlwind of becoming emotionally mature again, and, especially, reliving part of my late teens/early twenties, marked by incredibly bad choices in forming relationships. At least this time, there has been just one, and, to be honest, I assumed (correctly) that the first dip back into that pool was bound to be a learning experience. And it certainly was that....

Performative work
When I originally took this picture a month ago, I think I was subconsciously aware of some of the emotional shifts that were about to occur: here I am as the artist within.

So here I am now, much calmer, and ready to abandon some of the crutches I've been leaning on of late. And I've also been thinking about another scene from Austin Powers: the the cameo of Burt Bacharach playing the piano and singing. His long-time lyricist, Hal David, died yesterday from complications of a stroke: he was 95.

Anyone growing up in the 1960s and 1970s can't help but remember all those wonderful songs of theirs, recorded by Dusty Springfield, the Carpenters, and, especially, Dionne Warwick, and I've had this one running through my mind all morning.

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