This Past Week

Here’s two photos from a mostly grey, flurrying day in Toronto last Friday, March 9th. The clouds and mist over the ravines always draw my attention with their endless beautiful variations. And I loved the look of this church I passed–the deep red and brown brick, the trees’ branches above. These scenes from the city–they continue to sustain me.

This week, I bought a Japanese paper for the miniature prints I’m going to submit to BIMPE and I’ve been pondering and making thumbnail sketches for the Wake Up card deck that I’m planning.  I also continued a gouache painting on the Heart theme that I’ve begun. I often work on several projects at once with them all rolling around in my mind and on paper or board.  Just when I thought I’d lost a thread forever, as with the card deck, it reappeared. I feel all these are part of a larger creative venture, despite any doubts I may have at times.


Over the past few weeks, I’ve been making rough proofs–trial prints–of several linoleum and soft linoleum blocks to see which, if any, I will enter into an international miniature juried print exhibition.  In these, I’m working on design elements mainly.  I printed the blocks on newsprint paper, taped them to bookcases to view and tried various combinations of overprinting and colour.  It was an enjoyable exercise. The ones in the photos are not the prints I’ll be entering, but were an important part of the process of choosing where to go next. I’ve picked three prints that I’ll now experiment printing with different colours and on different papers until I get the ones I’m happiest with.  I’ll show you these later on.

I’m also about to launch into some further paintings on the chambers of the heart theme.



Kusama Exhibition

I’m a member of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. As a  member, I had the chance to see a preview of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit on Thursday. Getting a ticket for the show was a very long process. I was in a virtual line for 7 hours and could only do that because I was working at home all day with no outside appointments to interfere. After a while, I viewed the process with some hilarity and didn’t know if I was a sheep being lured by all the hype, but I decided to see for myself.

I’m very glad I went to the show. I enjoyed it greatly–not only the infinity rooms that you step inside for 20 seconds and see a variety of lights, shapes and yourself and others mirrored many times over, but also her paintings, collages and sculptures. And I found her meditations on life and death very meaningful since I’m old and have always, at any rate, had an awareness of death close by my side.

Here’s some of the photos I took. The first two are of some of the infinity rooms. I am not into selfies in general, but I took photos of the rooms. Even doing that, I felt I was giving in to the obsessive nature of snapping cell phone pics and not experiencing the present. But because the crowds were not extreme on Thursday morning, I doubled back later and stood in the rooms without taking photos.

The first infinity photo is of The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away.

This next Infinity Room is called Aftermath of Obliteration of Eternity.

This is a giant globe you peer into in a room filled with giant pink and polka dotted spheres.

Though the Infinity Rooms were very beautiful and thought provoking, her paintings and sculptures were my favourite part of the show. Here, though I took some photos to remember the pieces, I was able to take time to contemplate the works for as long as I wanted. I loved the wild shapes of the sculptures and the colours and shapes of the paintings.

I believe this large sculpture is called Surrounded by Heartbeats. It had particular meaning for me because of the series of work I’m about to start on the theme of the heart.

This next painting, one of my favourites, (although all were powerful) is called My Heart’s Abode.

And this next is Story After Death. The titles of all the paintings were listed on diagrams at each end of the displays. When I saw this title, I figured I better pay close attention to whichever painting it was. Being an elder, I figured I could learn something about what may await me. Earlier in the exhibit, with her collages, I saw a quote from her friend, Joseph Cornell that I loved. He said “I never forget about death, it’s like going from this room into the next.” 

I haven’t spoken about Kusama’s political activism or her openly confronting her fears about sex. There are many layers to think about in seeing her work. But I’ll end with a quote that made me laugh though it’s extremely serious. It’s from the 1960’s, when she became part of the Vietnam War protests. As part of that, she staged one-off guerrilla style performance art pieces that involved nude gatherings. She called these Anatomic Explosions. I loved part of the open letter that she sent to U.S. president Richard Nixon that, alas, remains so relevant today.

In it, she wrote, “You can’t eradicate violence by using more violence…Lose yourself in the timeless stream of eternity…Anatomic explosions are better than atomic explosions.”

Inadvertently Changed

Thankfully, I didn’t panic when I inadvertently changed the look of Arts of May and could no longer find my old wordpress theme that sets the look of the blog. This one, however, is fine.

And fooling around at the computer is a good distraction from matters of life and death that we witnessed this afternoon at a funeral of a good person who died suddenly and shockingly this past week. But, then, I am not of his immediate family who are massively grief stricken. For them, and all of us contemplating the eggshell of our lives, I post this image.

Night of Peace
Night of Peace, felt wall hanging, copyright 2011, Lily S. May

Landscape of the Heart

This is another of the series of small heart paintings I’m doing. I only completed this one after The Heart Show opened at Gerrard Art Space, so it has its debut here. It’s another acryl gouache on 5″ x 7″ gesso board. And I worked on it, as I did the others, without a planned design. I focused on colour and shape and let the painting develop as I went on.


Heart Show

I’ve entered another show, The Heart Show, at Gerrard Art Space in Toronto. I decided to do a series of small paintings in acryl gouache (a type of water-based paint that is permanent when dry) for the show. After working on four 5″ x 7″ gesso boards, I completed two of them. I’m still working on the other two. A good thing that has come out of this is that I’ve decided to do a project on the chambers of the heart. I’ll keep you posted!

Here are the 2 paintings in the exhibit. The first I’ve called The Heart’s Map of Healing and the second, Waters of the Heart. When I placed the two paintings side by side, I was happy and surprised to see the patterns they form. They look like they were planned that way but were not. It’s very interesting to work on several pieces at once, going back and forth among them as I did here. They do become part of a larger whole.

In the Clearing

The textile show opening that I mentioned in my last post was enjoyable. Since then I’ve continued painting and I’ll post some of that work in the future. I also continue line drawing. This past weekend, the weather was a lot milder and we went for a walk in a park that is part of one of Toronto’s ravines. On our walk, we came to an open area with stumps of trees, branches on the ground and dry grasses that I loved for their different shapes and placement of all their forms.  I took several photos and today made some simple line drawings loosely based on those photos.