I have kept journals–diaries–on and off for the past 40 or more years. In the 1990s and early 00s, I hand wrote a huge amount in dozens and dozens of lined notebooks–mostly recording my dreams and feelings but also world events and my activities. I’ve been working on a big project, going through my journals from those years and massively editing them. By that I mean, I’ve been tearing out and shredding large portions of them while noting what I was going through at the time. Now, this may seem ghastly to some people, but it is extremely liberating to me. I am creating more room for myself at my current age, while remembering, but not holding onto, what my younger self experienced.
In the course of editing a journal this week, I saw an entry I wanted to record here. I wrote it in April of 1991 after attending an excellent painting workshop with the artist and teacher Sam Feinstein. I have always remembered the powerful nature of that workshop, but had forgotten his teachings about the nature of making art. This was my understanding of what he told us, as I wrote it in 1991:
About art making–you needn’t even believe in your creativity–do it as a way of expressing the life form that is particular to you, that is of nature and larger than you, that goes through you. As a way of being authentic. Dreams and art are of the unconscious life force, bigger than us. Dreams are fleeting, art remains. Once a piece of art work is done, it is its own thing. It never was yours anyway. As its own thing, it is judged on its merits, apart from you.
Art is the spirit made visible through human beings reaching out from themselves, beyond themselves. Art is beyond our own feelings as we create.
Words to make art by!
The gouache painting above is one I made in the 1990s. I did it like a form of free association, attempting to allow whatever came to consciousness to find its way onto the page without censoring it.
We watched the U.S. election closely from Canada. In the wake of the outcome, I have felt fear and sadness. Yesterday, I headed off to the Art Gallery of Ontario to be amongst art works that helped me feel calmer.
Today I thought of posting two oil paintings I did in 2008. The first is called Closeup, the second, Sight. At the time, they expressed feelings of being a witness to hard times. The women in the paintings are wounded, that is obvious. But they are also piercing witnesses, very present and connected to the life force of nature. The works seem no less appropriate today.
Here’s 2 photos I took today at the Art Gallery of Ontario of David Milne’s Black Waterfall. This is the painting I love that I wrote about in 2014 and included in my last post, A Poem for an Old Woodcut. David Milne lived from 1882 to 1953 and as far as I can tell it appears that 50 years after an artist’s death, his or her work goes into the public domain. Hopefully this is so.
The first is the whole painting and the second is a detail showing him blending into the scene.
The growth and colours of Spring got me thinking about this oil painting I made a few years before 2010 (I neglected to put the date on it). It’s a fantasy of abundant life that I recently brought out of hiding and onto a living room wall. I hadn’t thought of making strings of flowers before looking at the work of the great Japanese woodcut artist, Shiko Munakata. Though this painting is nothing like his prints, the idea to have cascading flowers and fruit came from some of his joyous work.
I have loved this autumn. Last week, I was on the grounds of Todmorden Mills Heritage Site to see an art exhibit and enjoy the still colourful day before the more muted part of autumn arrived. A few years ago, I started experimenting with black and white photography in the fall just to see what would arise in a season that is so much about intense colour. I did this again last week and came up with this photo that looks, to me, a lot like a painting although I didn’t plan it that way. It’s not edited, except to decrease the size for the blog post.
It’s federal election day in Canada. In honour of that, and after voting earlier this morning, I’m posting this portrait I painted of our Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, in 2009. It was autumn then, as now, and I happened to have some ornamental gourds in my apartment. I placed one of them on his head to counteract his severe nature and policies. He is running for reelection today and we’ll know later if he and his Conservative Party will remain in power.
I’ve been very affected by the report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission that came out last week. The widespread extreme abuse of aboriginal children by the government and churches who ran residential schools was aptly named cultural genocide. In addition to presenting chilling historical testimonies of survivors and noting the thousands of children who died in the schools, the Commission presented many recommendations to address the ongoing effects of racism on the entire society–aboriginal and non.
The painting in this post is one I made in 2008. I send it out to honour the aboriginal peoples of Canada.