Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mary Pratt - The Love of the Simple Things

While slothfully lying in bed as I often do Sunday mornings, my ears were glued to the radio listening to a CBC inteview with Canadian artist, Mary Pratt. I don't know when it was I first became familiar with her work, but I know when I first heard her speak, I felt so much affection for her, because she has one of those infectious personalities that makes you feel like you know this person, as a friend. Every time I'd hear her I'd feel more this way, and this morning it was no different. Her wit, humble nature, and talent is so wonderful to me, which causes me to long for the chance to meet her one day.

What struck me most about what she said, was her attitude toward loving and appreciating the simple things around us in our everyday lives. It made me think once again about simplicity, which has been on my mind a lot lately.

This is one of Mary Pratt's realistic renderings. Just amazing how beautifully and skillfully she captures the light and colour.

A close and long time friend of mine just sent me  one of Anne Lamott's recent books entitled, Help. Thanks .Wow. The Three Essential Prayers. Anne Lamott is one of my very favourite non-fiction authors, because she makes the simple deeply meaningful, with a real honest attitude and she has great sense of humour and humanity, as does Mary Pratt, who depicts her subject matter, as being what the stuff of every day life is made up of.

As I age, I increasingly realize as time passes, how important it is to keep it simple, to find love, pleasure, and gratitude in the present moment. Finding happiness and contentment wherever you find yourself, and to grow, flourish and even thrive where you are planted.

Our lives in this world can be, and have become complicated in so many ways. We are either regreting the past or projecting into the future. We say I'd be happy if, or I'll be happy when, always looking outside of ourselves in search of that elusive happy state of mind.
Striving to capture and hold that present moment in time, or having a mindfulness with appreciation, relishing every bit of happiness with what we have, and being grateful to be able to do this, is what brings me happiness.

My day wasn't completely slothful. I had a simply enjoyable afternoon of making more rope baskets sitting on the front porch is the sunshine. Here's what I been making this week and into the weekend.

Monday, April 22, 2013

End of My Rope and All Tyed Up in Knots

I've not been painting for some time, a few months now, and admittedly I've been in a slumpydydump-dump-dump. I just made that word up. Being sick with a rotten cold hasn't helped after this long drug out Winter.  However I've managed to continue my blogging and journaling long hand. Yesterday and today I have finally felt like actually tackling a few projects, like cleaning up the garden and the yard and making some pots and containers from rope I collected while I was doing sculpture at school over the past three years.

It was great to get outside in the sunshine, listening to all the birds an bugs flying around.

I put the rope in the tub to wash so I can use the next couple of batches I have. Hopefully is will soften it up some too. It can be rough on the hands.

This is what I have made since yesterday. The tops are knots. A Turks Head knot actually, I used for the lids of the containers. Knot tying for me is very addictive. Of course I'm try addicted. Anything I try I'm pretty much addicted.

The most fascinating and wonderful book I have read about the science and trust me it is a science and ancient one at that, is entitled The History and Science of Knots. 
Here is the online write up I found that gives the description fo the books contents. It is edited JC Turner and P.van deGriend.

This book brings together twenty essays on diverse topics in the history and science of knots. It is divided into five parts, which deal respectively with knots in prehistory and antiquity, non-European traditions, working knots, the developing science of knots, and decorative and other aspects of knots.
Its authors include archaeologists who write on knots found in digs of ancient sites (one describes the knots used by the recently discovered Ice Man); practical knotters who have studied the history and uses of knots at sea, for fishing and for various life support activities; a historian of lace; a computer scientist writing on computer classification of doilies; and mathematicians who describe the history of knot theories from the eighteenth century to the present day.
In view of the explosion of mathematical theories of knots in the past decade, with consequential new and important scientific applications, this book is timely in setting down a brief, fragmentary history of mankind's oldest and most useful technical and decorative device — the knot.

  • Prehistory and Antiquity:
    • Pleistocene Knotting
    • Why Knot? — Some Speculations on the First Knots
    • On Knots and Swamps — Knots in European Prehistory
    • Ancient Egyptian Rope and Knots
  • Non-European Traditions:
    • The Peruvian Quipu
    • The Art of Chinese Knots Works: A Short History
    • Inuit Knots
  • Working Knots:
    • Knots at Sea
    • A History of Life Support Knots
  • Towards a Science of Knots?:
    • Studies on the Behaviour of Knots
    • A History of Topological Knot Theory of Knots
    • Trambles
    • Crochet Work — History and Computer Applications
  • Decorative Knots and Other Aspects:
    • The History of Macramé
    • A History of Lace
    • Heraldic Knots
    • On the True Love Knot
    • and other papers

Readership: Mathematicians, archeologists, social historians and general readers. 

The Ashley Book of Knots is amazing and beautifully illustrated.

 Even apes have been known to tye knots. It's true. I know millions would never believe me but I know you do!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Art of Michael R. Gaudet:Near-Death Experience Fuels Quest for Immortality

I am very happy to be able to share this post with my readers. It is about a fellow artist and long time friend from my days at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.
Michael Gaudet has a poignant, inspiring and I believe an important story to tell, and that people need to know.

I first met Michael in the early eighties and immediately loved his infectious  personality, his enthusiasm and love of life. At the time I didn't fully comprehend what he had overcome in his young life. I had struggles of my own.

Many artists  struggle with obstacles in our lives. We make decisions around how we will cope with them. We can survive, in spite of the wounds life inflicts, or we can thrive because of them. Michael has thrived and I am proud to call him my friend.

The Art of Michael R. Gaudet: Near-Death Experience Fuels Quest for Immortality:...: Today I was excited to hear that my guest post " Near-Death Experience Fuels Quest for Immortality: An Artist's Story " is pu...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Hedwig Gorski - Performance Poet - Nova Scotia Teenager

Not being an academic, nor having the educational opportunity to really understand or appreciate poetry or literature in high school, I wasn't able to fully comprehend the depth of feeling of empowerment and change one can have from poetry, prose and literature.

What appreciation I did develop as an adult, I can attribute to my life long friend, who lived and breathed books, especially literature, romantic poetry and prose. While I was out dancing and carrying on as a wild teenager, growing up in Nova Scotia, my friend was busy holed up at home, reading.

My childhood friend somehow managed to turn me on to Keats, Shakespeare, Yeats and Dylan Thomas and the like. I am very grateful for this, because it could have been a very different scenario had I not grown up in a family that loved to learn.
My friend and I had both been students in grade nine together, with an English teacher from Hell, and I use the word teacher, very loosely. She announced to her young charges on the first day of class, that she, was supposed to teach grammar, and with a long pause, English literature. This information was followed up immediately by her statement, "I hate literature!" Nothing more, nothing less, no further explanation or reason. She'd made it very clear and I could hardly believe my ears.

However, in spite of, or perhaps because of, I think this may of instilled in me an unconscious refusal of sorts to not hate literature. She was not going to dictate to me what I was or wasn't going to like! I knew literature was more interesting to me at this point, rather than grammar, which she tried to hammer and punish into our pitiful pubescent heads! At one point half way through the year, she had locked all of our books up in the cupboard at the back of the room, with thick chains hanging from the cupboard door handles, because most of the class had failed our grammar. Oh how inspiring  English class was as a teenager!

As a young girl, having the desire to express myself through writing and loving words, which developed into a thirst for knowledge, and a love of learning, certainly all came together for me, and was highlighted in a wonderful English class with Emeritus Professor Michael Thorpe, when I returned to University at Mount Allison in Sackville New Brunswick, to complete my Bachelor of Fine Art Degree at 56 from 2009 - 2012.

I had the privilege to be a student of Professor Thorpe's Romantic Poetry class. Right from England he was, and next thing I knew, I was feet first studying and writing papers about Blake, Wilfred Owen, T.S. Elliot, Keats, and the whole romantic poetry soup! I passed the course, but oh, it was a real struggle, and one of the very best of my life long learning experiences! Professor Thorpe is a magnificent teacher who loves poetry, and English literature, and I am so grateful, and humbled to have been his student.

At an early age I had the desire to express myself through cursive writing and loving words, which continued to grow into a thirst for knowledge, and a love of learning certainly was reinforced by Professor Michael Thorpe's class.
Simultaneously I enrolled in a Linguistics class. To say Linguistics for me was a challenge, would be an understatement.

When I informed Professor Thorpe I was enrolled in a Linguistics class, he rolled his eyes and empathetically, said me when he was teaching abroad, Linguistics was a prerequisite for students obtaining their English degree. When arriving at his English class, after coming from Linguistics class, his students expressed such a frustration, and he said they had become quite jaded.

I told my Linguistics Professor that it took a certain type of brain to study this stuff, and well, I didn't have that brain! Regardless, it was a great thing to learn about Noam Chomsky, and about the many aspects of Linguistics, but to hell with the cursed linguistic alphabet! I know I'm jaded!

My mother loved to read and was always a word smith of sorts, in that she loved words, spending endless hours doing daily crosswords, emphatically correcting my  grammar and telling me to," look it up in the dictionary!" She'd often express her frustration with those especially in the media, that she would frequently make a point to mention, when they had from time to time, mispronounced or misused words. This I would say, left an indelible impression on me, as I find I have inherited her similar frustration.

 I am grateful she imparted her love of words and language to me, though when I was a teenager I thought it was a curious quirk my mother had, however it gave me a greater appreciation for the English language, enabling me to communicate effectively, and to read and write more critically, discerning truth from fiction.  I truly have come to believe language, the written word, is a powerful tool for change.

In my last post, I talked about my late friend Barbara England and how her unpublished paper written back in 1976 was an impetus for political change at NSCAD, during the 70s and 80s. I got thinking about our mutual friend, who was also very instrumental in making change happen at that time at NSCAD, and was involved with of our Woman's Group.  I recently reconnected with her through the miracle of the Internet. Her name is Hedwig Gorski. She is a woman I could never forget, as she was a stunning beauty to me, and had an inner strength about her that I never comprehended or knew about until now, having reconnected with her, and finding out just what she has accomplished. Hedwig was older than me by about four years, as was Barbara England. Looking back I was very naive and they both had much to teach me. I have since found out she is wonderful Performance Poet, and I have posted a particular video piece she produced, that I really love and it has particular meaning to me coming to and growing up as a teenager in Nova Scotia.

It's a very gratifying, consoling, and healing thing for me to be able to have found out some information that exists online about our beloved friend Barbara, and I am very happy to have found Hedwig and to know she is very much alive, more amazing, beautiful, and stronger than ever. I hope you enjoy Hedwig Gorski's Performance Poetry, Teenager In Nova Scotia.

"Let me assure you; I am the last one you would expect to be in a position of authority; abused, rejected, poor, a woman, a member of a dozen different minority groups discriminated against in this world, which can be for the corporate greedy and walled bureaucracies a site of stolen might and privilege. I am a minority within a minority within invisible minorities. You would expect me to be an ant. But I am an educated American woman with a voice for the lowly creating an artistic world that floats on top of opposing opinion as well as the status quo cartels that systematically ignore or hate me. No enemies could betray me more than my own embedded insecurities, which are brutal and cruel, an attitude that mirrors an indestructible, aphoristic Slavic heritage. What else is poetry? " 

                                                                Hedwig Gorski

Friday, April 5, 2013

What Will Your Legacy Be?

Over the past month, I have been thinking about my late, dear friend, Barbara England. She suffered with bi-polar disease, and eventually lost her battle with  mental illness, and died in the 80s. She had me helped greatly with her love, compassion and understanding, at a time when I myself was struggling emotionally, and mentally after the sudden death of my new husband, due to schizophrenia, during my last year at NSCAD between 1979-1980. She was not only a wonderful friend, but truly, one of my greatest mentors as a woman, and as an artist.

Barbara England was a Masters of Fine Arts student, and at the forefront of the feminist movement at NSCAD. We were both involved with the women's group at the school. She'd written and presented a very important, and unfortunately unpublished paper, entitled An Examination of Masculism at NSCAD,  that catapulted many of us young women involved in activism, art, and feminist issues during the 70s at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The paper now is archived in the NSCAD library, and I believe was presented to the President of the University, Garry Kennedy from the Woman's Group, at that time.

I wanted to write a post about Barbara England, to express just what she meant to me, and to share with others the legacy she left. I wasn't sure what I was going to write, but I began to contemplate and consider the legacies we all leave, and ask myself what is the legacy I want to leave?

Several attempts to find out any information about Barbara England, left me empty handed, until finally I found pdf file " The Maple Leaf" where she is attributed with writing this unpublished paper.

"Of course, at the time, this denigration of women artists was hardly particular to NSCAD. It is not a proud part of its history, as Garry Kennedy has recently acknowledged when noting that the stinging rebuke sent by telegram from New York for not including any women at the College. While some improvements in the representation of women were made in the 1970s by the time the Lithography Workshop closed in 1976 the number of women participants remained dismal (six out of a total of 79, or 7.6%) and by the late 1970s, only two women were on the regular studio faculty. The real impetus for change came instead from the circulation of an unpublished paper written in 1976 by MFA student Barbara England and entitled " An Examination of Masculism at NSCAD." This text galvinized students to demand changes resulting in a symposium " Women In Art " in July 1978 and the appointment of Dara Birmbaum and Martha Rosler as spring term faculty in 1979. Roseler who supplied a vigorous female critique of both art and its institutions were especially infleuential. The students also successfully lobbied for the hiring of full-time faculty members in the early 1980s and for the increased presence of women in the Visitors Program."
                                     - Jane Wark
                                       Department of Historical and Critical Studies

 It saddens me to think about the legacy Barbara England left  NSCAD, and very few  even know who she is, and what she contributed to the art world. I also found the following information from an interesting compilation about NSCAD, by Bruce Barber entitled, NSCAD-The 80s.

"Among the women ( many of them MFA students) associated with the production of feminist work in the 80s were Barbara England who produced a Date book as her MFA Exhibit in 1976, a diary with dictionary actions/statements. "

I sat on thoughts about Barbara England and legacy until last night. I was sleepless, listening as usual, to international radio programming, as I often do. This programming can be very educational and informative but by times, can also be very disturbing. The alarming reality of what is happening throughout the world invades my consciousness in my semi-wakened state. I will more than likely not remember all of what I have listened to, unless it really stands out in my mind. This is just what happened last night, when I heard about Giles Duley. I knew I had to remember his name in the morning, and proceed to do a search on line to find out about this remarkable man, and talented photographer who is certainly leaving his own legacy.

Thinking about what makes a life worth while, what legacies are left behind when we leave this mortal coil, and how very grateful I am to have had several people that have touched me with the legacy they have left behind. I will never will forget them. That said, people shouldn't mean more to us after they have died. It seems to be human nature, that you don't know what you've got til it's gone, like Joni Mitchell said in her song. It certainly doesn't have to be this way, especially if we choose to love, appreciate who we have, and what we have, in the present moment. What a better world it would be, if we did so.

Artists are more often than not, dead and long gone before people appreciate them unfortunately. It is very important I believe, to pay close attention, and take notice of people and artists when they are alive, because many have important life lessons to convey about who we are as human beings. Giles Duley for me is one such inspiring human being and artist, who is very much alive and living life to the fullest. His very close brush with death has given him a strong will to live, to thrive, and I believe reflects his deep gratitude and appreciation for life. He imparts this in his portrayal of his subject matter, of those that have a story of life to tell. Giles Duley enables this story to be told, portraying those who suffer, and have suffered profoundly, which is seen in his very moving and powerful photographs.

"These photographs remind us of our humanity and of the need for understanding and compassion if we want a peaceful world and a just one. The great English poet John Donne once wrote, 'No man is an island.... any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.'
What he said in words, Duley's compelling photographs tell us in pictures. They are a must for anyone who values the unity, tragedy and potential of the human condition."

Rt Hon. Lord Ashdown

What is the legacy I wish to leave as an artist? I hope to leave this world a more peaceful one, a more just world, through understanding, compassion and love.

Today I also am thinking about about my fellow friend of Bill W., Roger E. who  took his "leave of presence" and certainly left his legacy.