Raw

This is the work I showed a detail of in my last post. It has gone through extreme changes and finally developed into this image that I am now going to stop working on and let be.  In some ways it’s an awkward piece and I felt it was trying to tell me something, so I wrote about it. Here’s the print/painting/collage:

And here’s the writing, be it prose or poetry:

Now the fragments of my sharp childhood become pieces of old paper, old carved imprints cut and torn and glued to something stable so I don’t whirl apart. I glue and paint and ask the pieces what they are, how can paint and print relate, how can the parts talk to each other–easily or not, like I do when awake in the dark unable to move. Here paint moves, the print says something in a language I can’t quite place which is good because it’s like a dream, beyond my intentions. And in order to hold this uneasy work together, I frame it in a strange landscape, so it doesn’t fly away yet but shows its strange self perhaps howling at the sky. Something or someone sees. That’s what matters–some consciousness even in sinister times and the beauty, the possible beauty of colour and an awkward curved or straight line. 

Old and new, what’s become of the fragments falling through air–old voices and hands, dried petals and leaves, paper flowers, old garlands and sea shells falling lightly to earth forming sand out of lives once lived, the sand on which I walked as a child collecting spiral shapes kind enough to place my dreams in, the sand that I and this work are becoming even as summer passes into fall.

Slow Going Plus Writing

I’ve been working on another piece that combines part of an old linocut with gouache paint. It’s been a tough one in terms of design. I’ll post it here once I finish it. Yesterday I said aloud while working: “I should just throw this against the wall.” After that I made some progress! Here’s a detail of the work:

Meanwhile I’ve also started writing again. Years ago I wrote often, but had mostly stopped except for keeping a journal of daily events and dreams. Now I’ve returned to writing as a way to slow the loss of nouns as I age. I find that writing longhand helps me.

This week I recalled an excellent book I used to refer to when I facilitated expressive arts groups. It’s called PoemCrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge. It’s a very lively book, beautifully written, that offers many, many ideas about writing poems without getting hung up on trying to define what poems are or are not.

I got out the book and am using it to give me jumping off places. Here’s something I wrote the other night that began with the author’s talking about names.

I will write myself into a new name, the other side of Lily, a blue shadow under pines in a night forest where the luna moth flies and I sleep, a bear of a dog by my side. I am covered with needles not of my grandfather’s, but of trees who wish me no harm as I wish them none. It is here I die each night, ready for my last, happy to awaken to the sun and the tiny birds stirring the air with song. Here I am no outcast. I am on the other side of war.

The Nature of Making Art

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.

Some Thoughts About Hatred

I’ve been working on several art projects as once.  I’ll be completing the linocut from my last post. Meanwhile, I’ve taken some time to edit linocuts and poems for printing. When I get the physical postcards back from the printer, I’ll show them to you.

As I work and go about my days, part of me is always contemplating the climate of hatred in North America–the new president of the U.S., his withering executive orders, the recent murder of 6 muslim men at worship in Quebec City, Canada….

I’ve been thinking about hatred, which when left unexamined seems to me the curse of our species.  Perhaps there are some people in the world who have never felt hatred, but I believe these would be in the great minority. Hatred, being a human emotion, is something any of us can feel.

I have found myself wishing to abolish hatred. However, when I’ve thought more closely about this, I realize that the greatest ill is not the hatred in our hearts. If we do the hard work of deeply looking at ourselves, we can develop the capacity to understand why we hate–what pain we have suffered that the hatred has arisen from–and not project this onto scapegoats. We have the capacity, then, to turn aside from violence of word and action. Instead, I see the greatest ill is when influential people stoke hatred and create scapegoats to gain power. This is what is most disturbing to witness at this time, both here in North America and overseas.

I didn’t know if I’d write about this on what is an art blog. Or tell you how fantastic the women’s march in Toronto on January 21st was. However, since I don’t work in a vacuum and since we are living in a critically important time in history, you have this post from me. The photo I’ve chosen is an antidote to hatred that I took several years ago while visiting friends in Saskatchewan.

hatredthoughtson

Leonard Cohen

The great great poet and song writer Leonard Cohen died yesterday. I was very fortunate to see and hear him perform a few years ago in Toronto when he filled a stadium with fans of all ages.  He and the musicians with him gave the most generous long gracious show.

This is in remembrance of Leonard and in honour of his poetry and songs that make it easier to carry on with life.

for-leonard-cohen

Saturday, Nov. 12: I learned today that Leonard Cohen didn’t die on the 10th–the day his death was reported–but a few days earlier on Monday, November 7th.

Black Waterfall Poem Booklet

I’ve completed an accordion booklet with my writing about Milne’s Black Waterfall painting. You can see the initial idea in Poem for an Old Woodcut. There’s other related posts following that one. I decided to print my writing on thin Japanese paper and adhere it to the booklet.  Here’s some photos of it from different angles. I like seeing different parts of the print showing through the paper in the light.

 

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milnebklt4

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A Poem for An Old Woodcut

As I continue turning some of my early prints into booklets, I’m playing around with words I might include with the prints. This last print I’ve been working with (the one that’s also in my previous post) has a lot of black ink in it.  And that got me thinking about some writing I did a few years ago. In 2014 I took a poetry writing workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  After our meetings, I’d often wander around the Gallery, looking at various art works.  This prose and poem came out of one of those meanderings.  I’m contemplating the design of the booklet and will show it to you when I’ve completed it.

Here’s another photo of the woodcut I plan to use that I’ve cut down the middle.

FormVariation4thCut

And here’s the prose and poem:

Black Waterfall

On a day when the tomb-like qualities of the gallery seep into me too much, I enter the rooms of David Milne’s paintings looking for peace.  I find some here, away from the more flashy works of Lauren Harris and Frank Carmichael.  Milne’s are quieter, less assuming, but they give back to me, emitting life.

I stand looking at one that I like.  It’s called Black Waterfall, a scene in the woods by a small falls.  The water is, indeed, black, the colours subdued.  After many minutes, I am surprised to see what I hadn’t noticed: Milne, himself, at his easel in the upper left of the painting.  He’s the same colours as the trees, rocks and earth.  He has disappeared into the scene or become one with it.  I like the humility, the humour and the wisdom of his image, considering where the alienation from nature has taken humanity.

This is a painting I can carry with me, softening the dense traffic of the city, helping me inhale forested air where rivers flow, while the ghost of the artist amidst the trees silently witnesses my passing presence.

*

By the black waterfall

the painter has disappeared

into the trees, rocks and soil

where, being invisible,

he can more closely observe passersby

and the woods and water he’s depicting

camouflaged at his easel like a deer

but not bolting

steady of hand and sight

neither a conqueror

nor a slave

embodying a gentle way

to save a life.

©Lily S. May–May 2014