What is Essential

… is invisible to the eye. Both scriptural and found in the eloquent pages written by Antoine de St. Exupery, these words resonate with me on this seeming ordinary April day.

As the world’s citizens gasped in horror while the spire of Notre-Dame Cathedral fell to the ravages of fire, I not only grieved the loss/damage to such an iconic structure, but I immediately connected with my own memory and what the sense of place meant to me and my own family. I can not possibly know all of what Notre-Dame has meant over history, nor can I know the myriad of treasured moments shared there by other people just like me, from all over the world.

Instead, I think of my own three children and my, at-the-time, soon-to-be son-in-law. I think of the utter joy at the early morning surprise of a plane ticket from London to Paris, a subway ride into the core from the airpoirt and the magical events that unfolded, all of them shared as family.

Over the past ten years, if one runs just a few searches on the internet, one will find out how many of civilization’s greatest monuments have fallen, destroyed in natural catastrophes or through the mindless and hateful ravages of war. The destruction of the most cherished landmarks in human history shatters us, somehow, to the core. These are places captured in the minds and imaginations of all of us, places written about and found in movies, settings that we assume will always remain stable and present in those same imaginations.

I think we need to think about the fragility/the ephemera of our lives and our planet. This morning, again, I reflect upon what is essential. I’m hoping that through the damage done to such a seemingly permanent icon as Notre-Dame Cathedral, our human family might combine their efforts in creating a better world. Let us take pause and go into this day, empowered to make a difference.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

My daughter informed me that the film, Exit Through the Gift Shop was last year’s news and that somewhere along the way ‘I missed the boat’.  I also missed the conversation, apparently, because ‘everyone’ was talking about it.  Following the trailer I include below, you can view the movie in its entirety or you can find it on Netflix (Canada) as well.

This morning, early, my sister-friend, Karen, forwarded me, from A Good Movie to Watch, a listing titled

18 Best Movies On Netflix You Haven’t Yet Seen

18. The Goon (2012)
17. Ne le Dis a (with accent, however you do that) Personne (2006)
16. Frances Ha (2013)
15. Broken (2013)
14 The Ice Strom (1997)
13. I Saw the Devil (2010)
12. Samsara (2012)
11. Mr. Nobody (2009)
10. Boy (2012)
9. Get the Gringo (2012)
8. Submarine (2011)
7. Headhunters (2012)
6. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
5. Detachment (2012)
4. The Station Agent (2003)
3. Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About a Father (2008
2. The Hunt (2013)
1. Short Term 12 (2013)

I’ve selected a number of these during my own viewing time and agree with some of the posted comments that generally this is a diverse collection of very intriguing movies.  Of the remainders to this list, I have to tell you that a number of them might be available on the American version of Netflix, but for whatever reason, they are not posted here in Canada.  Given that my prep for today’s colonoscopy (come on!  we can talk about this openly, right?) was cancelled/rescheduled due to the onset of a huge upper respiratory cold/flu, I decided to go in search of a morning movie. (DELIGHTFUL as compared to the alternative)

So…with box of soft tissue on the table next to me, a cup of hot lemon and honey, my fuzzy slippers and a big blanket, I curled up with remote in hand.

Broken, Boy and Ne le Dis a (with accent, however you do that) Personne were unavailable on Canadian Netflix…but, my fourth choice, Exit Through the Gift Shop (2006) was!  Love love loved the introduction to the film by Banksy!  As I settled in, I decided to click PAUSE and get my notebook because I sincerely felt smitten by the content that followed.

I guess that Rylan Broadbent was the first gentleman/artist/arts educator and all round smart man I’d met who taught me anything at all about street art and graffiti.  When I sat on a train from airport to central Paris, I remember leaning my forehead against the train window, in total awe of the images that appeared for miles along the grey cement retaining walls.  Apart from this experience and Rylan, however, I had little world knowledge about the movement of street art happening globally.

This movie was jam packed with information, as well as amazing archives of intimate happenings and interview segments between videographer, Thierry Guetta and some of the artists he had come to know through his own passion for making recordings.

All of the Mr. Brainwash stuff aside, I was intrigued by the fact that Thierry had such a strong compulsion to ‘capture’.  He had no interest in viewing his own recordings although he had carefully labelled and archived boxes and boxes of film.  Instead, he was obsessed for a period of at least ten years, with recording.  He had lost his mother at the age of eleven and had not been told, prior to her death, that she was sick.  From this, he developed a need to record absolutely everything as a response to his thinking…”Anything in my life would be the last time I would see it in this same way. I didn’t know how to stop.”

I have some sympathy for this and find, at times, my fascination with capturing ‘the moment’ in nature, reading, art, music, and my experiences with others, comes from a similar revelation about the temporal aspects of all.  Writing about or photographing a subject somehow causes it to be sustained for a moment in time.  I wonder if that is selfie craze is another manifestation of this practice.  Perhaps some people are insecure with the notion that their bodies are temporal and are evolving from youth to old age…and that photographs ARE the self.  The catch is, photographs are also ephemeral.

This movie got me thinking about a lot of things.  When Thierry Guetta takes on the mantle of Mr. Brainwash and successfully earns over a million dollars on his first exhibition, the viewer is left pondering the authentic aspects of art and confronts the forever-question again, “What is art?”  Mr. Brainwash has named himself well.  Even at the conclusion, other long time street artists are at a loss for words and Banksy promises to never be filmed again.

Street Artists mentioned in the film include,

Space Invader
Shepard Fairey
Sweet Toof and Cyclops
Ron English
Dot Masters
Buff Monster and
Mr. Brainwash

I hope to grab some permissions from photographers so that I can post some photos here soon.  For now, looking for some shots that I took of street art pieces I found in Hamilton, Ontario two summers ago.



Art Speaks, so RUMBLE!

I cherished painting last night at the Rumble House.  Stories from Paris were my first stories of the day because, rising early, I had a coffee in my hand and some free time.  I clicked on the news.  Sigh.  Twelve human beings killed.

In the past, I’ve been appalled with satire that was posted on social media regarding MY GOD…MY JESUS…MY LORD.  There’s no way on earth I could understand the inhuman approach to such disturbing images that got a ‘big laugh’ from the throngs of the Faceless Facebook personae.  At the time, I was struggling.  At the time, my Mom was struggling…she was struggling for breath in hospital, having been afflicted with pneumonia.  No one loves/loved Jesus more than my Mom.  So…how did I feel about the public hatred for Christianity…the insensitive portrayal of MY Saviour?  I felt hurt…attacked…defiant.  But, how did my actions play out?  I expressed my point of view on the subject.  I shared my feelings.  I confronted and even celebrated my faith.  I understood that not everyone sees things my way and that doesn’t make me a lesser being and it certainly is no deficiency in the other.

Given who I am, I doubt that I would truly appreciate the perspective or satire shared by the Charles Hebdo weekly newspaper.  It’s just not in me to poke fun at any person’s faith or ideas.  However, what was accomplished by mowing down the lives of human beings who were simply expressing their opinions in a democratic society, can only be described as shocking and deeply disturbing.  I was left speechless as I thought all day about how much I treasure my freedom to express.

So…what did I paint?

I thought about a few different contexts and melded them.  I knew exactly what I wanted to paint.

For one reference, Grampa Moors used to spend hours watching Loonie Tunes, his favourite being The Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote.  Grampa, after a day in the woolen mill, would pull down his suspenders and turn on the cartoons, laughing in his way (I can hear it right now, as I type),  while a whole row of youngsters curled up under his arm on the sofa while he did.  I don’t think that there was anything more violent in my childhood than watching this miserable, but somehow hopeful, coyote, blown up again and again or clobbered at the base of a huge ravine by a giant boulder.  He always got up.  Something about the aesthetic and characters of this wee cartoon, reached into me yesterday…and I remember the cartoon with a great deal of affection.

Who might possibly paint a portrait of this violence…and make it seemingly banal and even humourous?  OH!  I KNOW!  Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)  This would be somehow satirical…right?  How could I build upon this?  The artist paints an artist painting Wile E. Coyote…hmmm….what if the unsuspecting artist has as his possible undoing,  his own subject matter!  A bit of tension.  I KNOW!  Dynamite!  And so the connections developed…I sought out a reference where the subject is Johannes Vermeer, painting…here it is, Vermeer At Easel circa 1662-1668.

vermeer-at-easelI hoped that I might adjust the composition…and modify, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to be able to pull a Vermeer out of my bum in 2 hours.

So, in the end…I positioned the figure on the panel so that I had that space in the upper third…I KNOW…I will include the word SATIRE, for those people who need it spelled out for them.  It DOES SEEM that a lot of people don’t understand OR appreciate good satire.

In the end, I am grateful for the generous bidding that took place on the piece.  I thank Rich and Jess for hosting on a relatively quiet night…grateful for Jennifer and Andy because I always enjoy a good conversation…for Mike who had some interesting things to tell me about Paris…for Gavin who drove me to the station…for Claire, former student, who showed up for her first paint night and for Robb who purchased this piece at auction, but best of all, the offer of rides/support/coffee and just general generosity. I’m richly blessed by this community. (although the set cost for an adult fare on the C-Train IS ridiculous)

Photo taken by Aaron Feser who is addicted to distraction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this one by Robb or his buddy…not certain…but, I love it!

Vermeer Paints SatireAnd..this piece of You Tube video…just because I love this song almost as much as Jack White does.