Spending Time With Jeffrey Gibson at Esker Foundation

I didn’t even bring my camera…so, no images except  the scratches I made into my journal.  I attended an artist talk by Jeffrey Gibson at the Esker Foundation yesterday afternoon and learned so much about the context of his work/beliefs.  I am so grateful for having the time in such a magical environment, to hear Jeffrey speak.  Thank you.

The exhibit Fiction/ Non-fiction is shouting out for your attendance.  My readers will be floored!  I am consistently amazed by the arts events happening in Calgary, but this particular collection breaths a different sort of air into our city.

P1130207 P1130209 P1130211Of identifying with a cultural identity, Jeffrey summarizes, as he did yesterday, in this New York Time’s article written by Carol Kino…

“If you’d told me five years ago that this was where my work was going to lead,” said Mr. Gibson, gesturing to other pieces, including two beaded punching bags and a cluster of painted drums, “I never would have believed it.” Now 41, he is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half-Cherokee. But for years, he said, he resisted the impulse to quote traditional Indian art, just as he had rejected the pressure he’d felt in art school to make work that reflected his so-called identity.

“The way we describe identity here is so reductive,” Mr. Gibson said. “It never bleeds into seeing you as a more multifaceted person.” But now “I’m finally at the point where I can feel comfortable being your introduction” to American Indian culture, he added. “It’s just a huge acceptance of self.”

On exhibit at the Esker Foundation, a fascinating and challenging exhibit of installation work and paintings, a show co-produced with the Illingworth Kerr Gallery of ACAD.  The curators are Wayne Baerwaldt, Steven Loft and Naomi Potter.

In brief, the Esker website describes this collection...

“The thirteen artists in Fiction/Non-fiction challenge mainstream cultural and political narratives by offering transcultural critique through works that propose counterpoints, rhetorical questions, and revisionist statements (often as increasingly abstract forms of representation) to official historical records or archives.”

Several different programs, both hands-on and curatorial talks/tours, will be given up until the end of December.  These programs, based on my experience, are consistently engaging and a source for new questions and knowledge.

Not to confuse my readers, but this painting by Brenda Draney caught my gaze and held it…so I wanted to post it here.

Brenda Draney. Tent, 2013, oil on canvas, 3′ x 4′. Photo credit Sarah Fuller.

Brenda Draney. Tent, 2013, oil on canvas, 3′ x 4′. Photo credit Sarah Fuller.

“Her paintings are drawn from stories, memories, and family photos, and consider how narratives are constructed and how they, in turn, construct our identities.”

 

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway

I opted to stay home this morning.  It feels like heaven to shuffle to the coffee maker…return to bed with a hot cup of coffee…the bedside lamp lit…and finish reading a book.  The Cellist of Sarajevo was a two-sitting read…a wonderful relief to some degree after the very dense book, Songs in Ordinary Times.

I had wanted to read this one for a long time and just recently found a copy in the second hand shop.  Based on a most devastating time in our history, in Sarajevo, this fiction brings us into the lives of ‘real’ characters and what they endure in the streets and torn ruins of a place that at one time seemed in ways, idyllic.

Art transcends the brutal hatred, insensitivity and dehumanizing conditions of war.  The cellist represents all that is beautiful about the human spirit.  I warn you that the following documentary is graphic…and captures images of the horror of greed and misguided belief.  I hope that you will watch it for its duration and never forget.

Words, once they are printed, have a life of their own. Carol Burnett

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 29, 2012

Last night a large contingent of artists waged LIVE ART battles in front of a generous and enthusiastic audience!  I found the three energizing concepts a tad challenging, but then again, I enjoy the complete surprise of these each and every week.  One topic was definitely going to be helpful to me…’transparent layers as achieved with tissue paper’.  Wowsers!  This was the first night I thought to pack a bit of tissue in my back pack!  So…PERFECT!

One of the other topics…red knife (hmmm). I decided to interpret the red knife as a person’s bloodline…where culture and family take us.  This was going to work well with the concept of layering and finally, I incorporated all sizes of bike wheels, in order to somehow capture the third topic, “midnight bike riders”.  I thought of the wheel as representing travel, growth, mobility and change…going places.

Small details included the incorporation of a small bit of collage that exemplified a gorilla in a house…a gang of bikers, riding…and a discarded poster of a beautiful woman that I had picked up, water damaged, at a Women In Need shop.  I used the image of the heart…something that artists and audience members wear as a FOIP release each evening at the Gorilla House.  In my piece, I included three of these hearts within the composition.  Finally, I included the moon and a pocket watch, both capturing a sense of time passing.  The time, in Roman numerals, reads midnight.

I went about using red to create concentric and parallel lines over the contours of the woman’s body…beginning with the water mark that has its origin in the bottom third.  I wanted to surround her in her ‘bloodline’.  To create a dynamic, I then used my pthalo blue in various tints and shades to create the circular wheel structures.  It is always a fun thing to explore balance and composition while incorporating paint and collage.

Thanks to Janice Beaton Fine Cheese for providing an assortment of treats again.  That is a welcome treat after two hours of focused painting!

This week, my piece was purchased at auction, by Vilimiria.  Thank you!  Photo Credit goes to friend-artist and blogger, Belinda Fireman.  I’m grateful to have met you!

Other folks…I really treasure each of you for the fun we are having, creating together!  I regret that I didn’t capture a photo of each and every piece…it was so fantastic.

Last week, we enjoyed the inclusion of dancers during our LIVE ART battles.  This week, we had a visit from musician and blogger, Ethan Collister. I enjoyed the privilege of propping up his lyrics (LOL) as he sang an original piece of music titled Midnight Riders for performance AND auction.  Excellent writing and a truly beautiful performance!  Thank you, Ethan!

Photo Credit for this image is once again, Belinda Fireman, with her awesome i phone.

There is creative reading as well as creative writing. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Between

Sometimes Islanders want to leave.  But…they can’t afford the 43 dollars to drive the Confederation Bridge.  For those of you who don’t know, a person pays nothing to come onto Prince Edward Island, but when making a departure or going for a job interview on the mainland, the toll has to be paid. Showing up to a different culture, even for just a little while, can reveal just how different things are in another person’s reality.  Sometimes visitors’ eyes are opened to this reality.

I won’t be so arrogant as to judge the tourist who visits a place in order to sun bath, purchase gift shop tokens or dress up and dine on the local food.  The parking lot in North Rustico has been filled every evening with cars, people who are out to enjoy an authentic lobster dinner, prepared by Islanders.  The truth is, the people of Prince Edward Island rely on the tourist-dollar in order to sustain themselves through the brutal winter months…so, honestly, this blog is likely not supportive of the vision created by the government for the Island.  Instead, it alludes to the poverty and struggle and violence of their reality.

It is a strange world we live in, where miles and distance separate us from the stories of others; haves or have-nots, we are in this thing together.  No man is an island.  Hmmm…

I won’t be the same when I leave tomorrow morning.  I will carry with me, a big bucket of experiences, observations and even frustrations.  I will eventually make my way back to the oil city I live in out west and I will be in a bit of a stupor as I absorb and adjust to the differences.  As I’ve traveled ‘this great nation’ (sorry to be using one of Obama’s references) I have been able to see how, in each province there are challenges…but then, I can keep on driving.  I can pay my toll.

I’ve heard a story or two on my pilgrimage, speaking to ‘ordinary’ people about the challenges of the year-round Islander and particularly, the citizen who comes  ‘from away’.  The stories are a huge contradiction of the publications we are so used to reading that feature the Island EXPERIENCE.

Referenced here…one couple’s actual Island EXPERIENCE…

An older couple lives in a remote part of the Island, having inherited the family farm, one that no longer produces or costs too much to produce.  Ill health leaves the couple isolated.  They can pick up a bag of food in the city, an offering chosen for them by the Salvation Army…the food pick-up does not coincide with the day when ‘the cheque’ comes in.  There is a struggle deciding what to do about this each month, given the fuel cost to make two trips to the city, instead of one.  The question of co-ordinating services comes up for me.

People here have a huge ability to laugh at themselves, whether they are ‘authentic’ Islanders who are born (and likely concieved) and at some point will be buried here OR are ‘from away’, having sold everything and settled here, exploring the notion of the ‘gentle island’ or the sense of community or the dream to retire with grace.

It isn’t an easy life for people here.  Relative to the struggles of people in undeveloped countries the world wide, this likely seems remarkably pickayune, but for the folk who daily fight to feed their children ANYWHERE, it feels the same, I’m sure.  Women need to be educated.  Men need esteem. Children need to be fed.

Given that I can leave by way of Confederation Bridge tomorrow morning, I feel blessed with a life of prosperity, even as I remember my days of greatest struggle.  While my life is simple, I have enough.