Where are you David Carlin?

I painted on a Masonite board while in Mr. Carlin’s class…I still have the original sketches for the painting, “Adam”, that I worked on independently through his grade nine class in 1969.  They were tucked away in my portfolio.  The oil painting has long since disappeared; likely on one of our military moves it didn’t make it onto a truck.  A muscular Adam had his leg wound up tight by a serpent…a very symbolic piece for such a young girl.  It makes me smile today, to remember.

P1120999 P1130001 P1130002It wasn’t long ago that I re-connected with ‘Mr.’ Carlin (amazing how we find difficulty attaching first names to our forever-teachers) through social media and was very excited to acquire one of his amazing pieces, ‘Jester Trickster’, through a 2011 exhibit/fund raiser where he sold his collection in order to generously support his daughter, Sarah, in a new treatment protocol offered in Albany, New York.

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Jester Trickster 30 x 22 mixed media

Mr. Carlin was such an inspiring mentor!  I will never forget him and his ways.  Particularly, I will always remember his sense of humour!  He was so encouraging.  As I journey back in blog-time to the visit with Dad in Ontario (wanted to blog away the poignant moments that held so many lessons while home…but Dad’s computer was too darned slow at the time!), I find myself remembering the decision to miss my 40th high school reunion in Great Falls, Montana and focus, instead, on what it was my Dad and I had to learn together through our grief.  That didn’t mean there weren’t going to be a couple of side trips though.  The trip to Hamilton had been such a blessing later in June.

I knew that my sister was a health nurse at Camp Tawingo again this past summer.  One of the joyful memories of my life was the magic of bumping into Val some years ago at a hotel parking lot in North Bay.  I was on my fourth night of driving east, pulling in from Thunder Bay and she was having her 48 hour break from camp.  It was a fortunate and very serendipitous moment.

a-huge-surprise Why not repeat it?  We decided to combine the opportunity to enjoy an exhibit, Intransit, of David Carlin’s new works with a reunion at the same Super 8 Hotel.  It was a dream to step into the Alex Dufresne Gallery in Callander and have the art work sing out the way it did.  It was spectacular, as was the feeling of excitement that was going on inside me.

As I signed the guest book, Mr. Carlin stepped up behind me, recognizing me immediately.  What a spark of magic that was!  I will never forget it…A drum ceremony opened the event and I felt washed over by good will and creativity.  It was an event I will not soon forget.  It was very quick…very spontaneous…but I needed Mr. Carlin to know that I have never forgotten him.  I also needed to see his work up close.  If ever my readers have the chance to see his art, please do!  Thank you, dear Mr. Carlin, for having been my teacher.

P1110660 P1110662 P1110663 P1110664 P1110665 P1110666PLEASE read this interview for a true sense of who David Carlin is!

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty 

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Photo Credit: Carol Pretty Drum Circle Opening

Gorilla House LIVE ART Battle: January 9, 2013

Sheesh! The concepts drawn at the wheel of doom were absurd, the strangest combination of unrelated blah blah yet to be struggled with and that is for sure!

First…

“If Nancy Knew What Wearing Green and Yellow on Thursday Meant” by Joe Brainard

From 1963 to 1978, Joe Brainard created more than a hundred works of art that appropriated the classic comic strip character Nancy.

"If Nancy Knew What Wearing Green and Yellow on Thursday Meant" by Joe Brainard

Photo Credit Unknown but located here.

Second…from The Onion, America’s Finest News Source,

Authorities Abandon Search For Missing Girl After Finding Huge Bass While Dredging Lake

Photo Credit Unknown but Located Here

Photo Credit Unknown but Located Here

And finally,  Joan Miro’s Image, The Potato

The Potato by Joan Miro, 1928

The Potato by Joan Miro, 1928

Now…I ask you, what would you do with that?  Quite honestly, at the moment the concepts were drawn, I was more consumed with a conversation shared prior to the spin of the wheel.  I had chatted with a few people about insomnia…my daughter struggles with this and at times, I do as well.  For two nights I hadn’t slept.

This led to a visit about dreams…wakefulness…consciousness and sleep.  It always happens at the Gorilla House (the visits, I mean)  So, when we began to paint, I had to deal with one gentleman’s dream and Miro gave me the entry point for doing this.  The dreamer found himself pulling wiggling worms out of his shoulders and pitching them down on to the ground…a nightmare…the setting, looking at himself in the mirror after having had a shower.  Seeing the worms in the reflection, he pulled them out one at a time.  A question at waking, “Was I really asleep when that happened?”

For the rest, my painting speaks for itself.  It is just so bizarre!  The missing girl…in yellow (no green), left while dredging.  Apparently, it was more important for the authorities to snapple that large bass!  Miro…amorphic shapes, line, text and colour palette.  THE BASS…a fish…unrealistically large in context with the other dream-like figures.

Thanks to Jessica for purchasing the piece at auction.  Just to let you know, Jessica, ashes from a Sweet Grass smudging in my studio were incorporated into the ground.  This painting will be a blessing-painting.  Thanks to Harold for propping up my piece while I snapped a photograph.  Thanks to Karen for a taste of red wine when I had no coin.  Thanks to Kells and Deb for quiet conversation.  Thanks to Jenn for Cadmium Yellow Medium.  And thanks to Bassano del Grotto!  Thanks be to God, for a safe drive home through a blizzard and too many centimeters of snow!  Readers…may you have sweet dreams and know that they have a story for you, if you but take the time to ponder them.

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Text and Image: How My Art Comes Together

I think that art that includes text these days is being talked about a little bit…I mean…some people judge text to be a bit of a ‘device’.  It’s important that script be used like salt and pepper and that it engages the compositional elements appropriately…connecting with the images contained within the picture plane…but also leading the viewer to an engaging experience of a broader concept/issue/exploration.  Hmmm…and as I type this, I’m thinking, “Really, this is balogne!  There are NO RULES…so why are you writing this?”  What I’m saying, I think, is that this is how I use text with images.  It certainly is not how all artists use text.

When I met William MacDonnell, I first engaged (REALLY noticed) work including text.  Prior to that, I had seen text used by a variety of local artists and of course, several pop masters including Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.   I was most moved by Frida Kahlo’s journal pages as illustrated in the book, The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self Portrait.  I first noticed in her sketches that words and images created links for one another and I thought that it was a very powerful thing to include both.  When I went to ACAD, I first included text in my Library Club series and knew then that the gilded script transcribed from my high school year books enriched and activated the surface.

Tragedy on a Country Road – 1994 by William MacDonnell Photo Credit: Legion Magazine

Patricia Kirton…one of three panels from the Library Club Series. Painted by Kathleen Moors

An entire wall in my main bathroom…people are confronted with affirmations whenever they sit down. :0)

I remember the day when I began to write on walls.  My artist-friend, Bobby, shared an on-line project posted by a conceptual/false-conceptual artist regarding writing/attaching a set of affirmations on bathroom walls. I had only, days before, lost my fourteen year old Laurie-dog and so was in need of some powerful self-talk in order to transcend the huge loss and so I dug out the affirmations that I had printed off months prior and began to write on my wall, making additional affirmations as I worked.

Similar Affirmations: Another Artist’s Efforts With the Project

And another blogger’s efforts…

My studio space includes the written words of many friends and family members.  I am surrounded by their wisdom, food for thought, song lyrics and I’m continually supported by these.

Today, when I incorporate text, I do so with Covenant in mind.  I seek out discarded bibles from garage sales and second hand shops, feeling as though the words have need of harvesting.  I also find it interesting that because scripture arrives in an unexpected place (in art) sometimes the viewers can be found engaged in the words.  If I do not apply the pages directly to the piece, I write them out and they always inform the subject in the work.

I am also fond of embedding poetry, information and reactions, depending on what I’m thinking about at the time.  Recently, I’ve parted with words from three beautiful leather bound partner journals, I’ve cut up all of these into two inch squares that are being embedded into various pieces in progress.  Ultimately, I will be using them for a Bride-Groom collage that has been in the planning phase for some time!  You can see two squares in a recent LIVE ART battles composition.

As an example…this piece is titled Psalms and contains the entire book of Psalms as its underpinning.  The pelican, historically, represented Eucharist (the Body of Christ).  J. Lee Jagers writes about it eloquently here.

“The symbolism of the mother pelican feeding her little baby pelicans is rooted in an ancient legend which preceded Christianity. The legend was that in time of famine, the mother pelican wounded herself, striking her breast with the beak to feed her young with her blood to prevent starvation. Another version of the legend was that the mother fed her dying young with her blood to revive them from death, but in turn lost her own life. — Fr. William P. Saunders in a column from the Arlington Catholic Herald (2003).”

This meaning, interestingly enough, emerged after exploring the concept of my own father, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing and was likely going to lose its life once winter hit.  I felt at the time, and still do, that my father exemplified the concept of ‘covenant’.

Sometimes the text that I incorporate into my pieces is more or less obvious to the viewer.  Presently, I am embedding journal pages and other sources, as well as biblical texts.  Every day I learn more about my enthusiasm for collage and there are always experiments at work.  Thanks for asking about the text, John…a good question!

Hollee’s Card

My fridge door holds a whole collection of ephemera…wee bits of flotsam and jetsam, each piece carrying little meaning for others, but huge meaning for me.  It all takes the form of magnets, photographs, bits of writing and items that bring to light my relationships and the people I treasure.  This morning, a postcard particularly stood out for me; on the back, a special message from Hollee on her journeys and on the front, a beautiful image, La Clairiere 1944 by Rene Magritte.

Magritte had survived a very unhappy period.  Invaded by the Nazis in 1940, he fled his beloved Brussels and the woman he loved (Georgette).  Returning in 1943 and experiencing a very dark personal period, Magritte overcame his sadness at the occupation of his home by spending a brief, but potent, period experimenting with the luminous and fruity palette of painters like Pierre Auguste Renoir.  La Clairiere (The Clearing) is evocative of work coming from Magritte’s  ‘Sunlit’ period.  Something like fifty pictures were completed during this brief, but inspiring, period from 1940 to 1945.

La Clairiere by Rene Magritte 1944

From 1935 forward one can glance through the art history books and discover the huge reaction and agitation in artists. Artworks, with the coming of war and the spirit of domination, demonstrated huge shifts and experimentation world wide.  We see this evidenced in a myriad of works including those produced by Max Ernst, Pablo Picasso and abstract expressionist, Oskar Kokoschka.  Since university years, I have admired the work of Oskar Kokoschka and notice some of the same movement and expression in the work of contemporary, John Hartman.

Returning to the image…La Clairiere.  While I can not find any analysis of this painting in my art books or on line, suffice it to say that the images captured are very symbolic for me.  Most obvious, I suppose, is the image of the dove.  Within our western culture, the dove is symbolic of peace.  We see within the plants, the birth of a multitude of doves.  The single point of interest has already taken flight.  It feels as though peace arises from ‘the ordinary’, but the viewer is given the sense that it must be tended…watered…harvested.  This sense of ‘giving birth’ or ‘nurturing’ is supported by the nest and the contents, three eggs.  Here, I apply some of my Christian symbology…three; the triune God, the bread…the water of life and baptism.  I would give anything to be able to speak with the artist.  Wouldn’t we all like that?  So, for me, there is a sense of the Eucharistic elements present to a landscape that smacks of ‘the garden’.  While we are not present in the image, we are present through a sense of responsibility or engagement.  The glass of water invites us, as does the bread.  These fragile details (the eggs and nest, the bread, the glass) appear at the very forefront of the composition, causing a nurturing response and a sense of immediacy.

The shrubs read to be tobacco plants, a product that gave some sense of comfort and relief in the day and a plant that within first nations cultures represented a bartering tool as well as a gift.  Today, tobacco continues to be a part of healing ceremonies and is incorporated into sweat lodges and other ceremonies.

I enjoy Saturday mornings…after my walk with Max, I can take time to pray, sip a coffee…look at a postcard.

I loved words. I love to sing them and speak them and even now, I must admit, I have fallen into the joy of writing them.
— Anne Rice

Symbol

Happy Easter!!  There are so many wonderful wishes flooding the internet this morning and it makes my spirit spring with joy to see them…  “Happy Easter”, the world cries out!!  Lent and then the Paschal Triduum has taken me deeper into the heart of my soul than I have ever been.  For this, I am more than grateful and this morning, am left feeling both inspired and contented.  I don’t know how to piece all of this together for my readers.  Certainly, my thoughts will be in no specific chronological order…that’s why I thought I’d write a wee bit about a symbol…here or there…perhaps a prayer or a reading or an image.  This is nothing like what we experience through the mystery of our faith journey… THAT journey is neatly organized through the liturgical calendar and the STORY of our faith.  But for me and for the purpose of this blog, I am going to post snippets of wondrous moments that happened, this year, for me.

Abraham's Willingness to Give His Son, Isaac

When we left the Easter Vigil last evening, my youngest daughter made mention that the most powerful reading for her was the reading about Abraham and his offering of his son, Isaac.  She said, “Can you imagine a world where every single person lived the conviction of Abraham, in everything they did.  What would that world look like?”  I was inspired by her thought.  I’ve been thinking about that all morning. 

This reading has also baffled me…more, after I watched the Passion of Christ in 2004.  First of all, I kept seeing the pain of the Father, giving his own Son…for the sake of each of us.  Second of all, I thought about Mary and the torment she must have felt at the pain of her Son.  And so, when I hear the story of Abraham, I see it as a huge Old Testament foretelling of the Passion of our Lord.  I rarely hear the story without having tears.

So…while it IS Easter, and today we celebrate the Resurrection, a huge part of my gratitude and the reason I am so inspired today, is because of God’s call…the one to draw nearer to him…to grow in my knowledge and understanding…and to celebrate his promise.  God will provide for all ages. 

First Reading:  Genesis 22:1-18

The Will of God

1 It happened after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”

He said, “Here I am.”

2 He said, “Now take your son, your only son, whom you love, even Isaac, and go into the land of Moriah. Offer him there for a burnt offering on one of the mountains which I will tell you of.”

3 Abraham rose early in the morning, and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son. He split the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place far off. 5 Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey. The boy and I will go yonder. We will worship, and come back to you.” 6 Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. He took in his hand the fire and the knife. They both went together. 7 Isaac spoke to Abraham his father, and said, “My father?”

He said, “Here I am, my son.”

He said, “Here is the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”

8 Abraham said, “God will provide himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they both went together. 9 They came to the place which God had told him of. Abraham built the altar there, and laid the wood in order, bound Isaac his son, and laid him on the altar, on the wood. 10 Abraham stretched out his hand, and took the knife to kill his son.

11 The angel  called to him out of the sky, and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”

He said, “Here I am.”

12 He said, “Don’t lay your hand on the boy, neither do anything to him. For now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

13 Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and saw that behind him was a ram caught in the thicket by his horns. Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 Abraham called the name of that place God Will Provide. As it is said to this day, “On God’s mountain, it will be provided.”

15 The angel of God called to Abraham a second time out of the sky, 16 and said, “I have sworn by myself, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your seed greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your seed will possess the gate of his enemies. 18 In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

The Jesse Tree: Tradition and Story

Our Jesse Tree: St. Albert the Great Parish

So many years ago, my art and religion students helped me make a set of symbols for our Jesse Tree at our parish church.  All of this time later, it warms my heart to see the symbols gradually added to the bare tree throughout Advent.  I love that a history is created through our art and that these rituals each year keep us in touch with our story.  I also enjoy that in the photograph we can see a titch of the Easter Candle and the upper section to the baptismal font.  Awesome!

The story of the Jesse Tree has its beginnings with the old Testament and I will include some links and a bit of the context here.  I am hoping to begin my own set of Jesse Tree ornaments for next year and I particularly admire these.

Jesse Tree along side Illuminated Text

Day 24: Star – God’s call to us to follow the Light John 1:1-5

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

A Rabbit Comes to Me in the Night

Rabbit #1

Freaky, right?  Well, I chose not to ignore the image of a rabbit that came hopping into my consciousness/dreams at 4:00 a.m. two nights ago.  I got up out of bed, turned on the lights in the family room and drew this rabbit. I’ve always had some unexplainable ‘thing’ for rabbits and have yet to discover why.  I’ve had four experiences that began to define this attraction and I will briefly describe them here.

Rabbit Trim and My Mother’s Black Pearl

First, there was this dress!  My mother sewed this on her treadle sewing machine for my school photograph.  She always made certain that we were dressed to the nines for school photo day.  How sad for her that she had no control over what my hair would do after recess or the expression I might have on my face!  This makes me pause and smile.  I still remember the feel of the fabric, the bow that was tied at the back, the colour of the taffeta and how beautiful I felt, even as a grade one student.  The reason I still remember it?  You’ve got it!  The bunny trim!  There was nothing softer or more ‘magical’ from my little-girl perspective!  I had no idea that a rabbit had lost its life.  I didn’t think about that.  I was caught up in the tactile/visual experience of this white trim.

Secondly, Flo Hunter was my mother’s closest friend and our closest neighbour.  Our family was stationed in St. Margaret’s,  New Brunswick at the time.  Peter-the-rabbit was the Hunter family pet!  He was a wonderful white over-fed bunny who had been with Flo and her children for some time.  I envied her children this bunny because for many years, our only family pets had been cats and dogs, Pal being our dog at the time.  He was a mutt who was strung out on our backyard clothesline.  I remembered that the PMQs backed onto a large field and then a forested ares.  I can picture that still.

Well, I decided one fine summer day that, while my playmates were well-distracted with games of kick-the-can and such, I would steal Peter and have him for my very own.  I carried him down to the basement and locked him into a foot locker that was hidden under the stairs.  There, in the dark, I imagined that I would take him out any time I wished and play with him.  Surely this plan would work out perfectly!

When the Hunters noticed Peter was missing, the entire neighborhood went on a search for the lost bunny.  It was nearing dusk and the children and adults, both, were weaving in and out of yards and even exploring the woods out back.  I still remember the children’s wild cries.  “Peter! Oh!  Peter!!”  The Hunter children were in tears and Flo’s arms were flailing!  So that I would not be found out, I remember engaging in the search, acting concerned and calling Peter’s name also.  And sadly, I was even articulating my own theories about where Peter might be hiding.

It wasn’t until later that evening, or even the next morning that I fessed up; the guilt was just too much for me to carry any longer.  When we went to the foot locker, we found Peter….inhaling….exhaling….inhaling….exhaling very slowly as though he was on his last ‘bunny legs’.  I have absolutely no recollection of the outcome, my shame, or the consequence for me, but Flo and her children were ecstatic at the returned bunny rabbit.  Looking back, I can not help but wonder what was going on in my head at the time of the bunny caper…and what was my passionate attraction to bunnies?

In the late 1990s I lived on a beautiful ridge lot, just above the Bow River.  It was a ‘magical’ place to live because I could easily disappear into the river bottom and see all sorts of wildlife; plants, birds and mammals.  It was absolutely amazing.  One night I was in the living room and looking across the street when I saw the flash of lights in the field stretched out before the ridge.  I stepped out, in my nightgown, onto the front porch and then gradually down the front steps, trying to make sense of what I was seeing.  As the lights danced horizontally across the field, I also noticed the flash of red eyes and the white form of a rabbit racing one direction and then another, in extreme fear.  The entire nightmare unfolded as I ran,  in my pyjamas, into the dark field, shouting.  A couple of young people were shining flashlights into the eyes of the frightened rabbit and as it became mesmerized, the other was beating a golf club onto the ground, trying to beat the rabbit, as sport.  The air rang with the sound of their laughter until they heard my shout and abruptly ran the opposite direction.  I saw the white form of the rabbit disappear into the night.

The fourth experience took place late at night, likely ten years ago.  I used to go running in a wide open field a short distance from here.  I would do several rounds of the perimeter once the sun had just set and Laurie-dog would run along side me, taking little breaks to explore and exercise as well.  This particular night, the air was cool.  I remember the rhythmical breathing as I almost completed the first lap.  All of a sudden the air split wide open…an explosion of movement!  Laurie ditched me and took off into the center of the field.  Before my eyes were what seemed to be hundreds of white rabbits racing in all directions.  It was as though a silent field was suddenly undulating.  I had never seen anything like it!

I do not know why these encounters with rabbits have been a part of my emotional formation.  I do not understand if there is any real significance to the symbol of the rabbit in my life or what I am meant to do.  Just recently, however, I have been reading about and viewing news items coming out of Canmore, Alberta.   A rabbit cull is underway. Maybe that’s why I am experiencing recent agitation around the image of a rabbit.  For a short while, at least, I’m going to explore this subject in my art work and see where it all leads.