Flowers and Frames

As you may have heard, it’s been a hard week in Toronto what with a man driving a van onto a busy sidewalk and killing and injuring many people. I don’t live in the neighbourhood this happened in, but this horrendous crime has affected people around the city.  I’ve been looking for solace and have taken some from spring flowers and birds. Scilla flowers are one of my favourites. Here’s some from a garden in the neighbourhood.

Scilla 2018

Something else has helped me this week–I’ve begun taking care of my work. For years, I’ve promised myself to get a selection of my work framed and I’ve finally begun doing so. Here’s 3 linocuts I brought home from the framer this week. The frames and mats vastly improve the look of the prints.

This first linocut is one I called The Printmaker. I made it in 1973 and it’s based on myself in my workroom, carving at the table with my cat at the back and prints hung up to dry on the cloth on the wall.

framed printmaker

This next linocut is not of anyone I knew. I have always been interested in faces and wanted to carve a portrait using many marks from different gouges. I was inspired by the  works of wood engravers I’d been studying. I carved and printed her in 1984.

framed Portrait

This last print is one I thought I’d lost, but I found it 4 years ago. It’s a colour linocut from 1974. I called it At Peace and thought of the figure as meditating.

Framed Yoga

The prints span 11 years and also span my different names, from a previous married name, to a hyphenated previous married name to my birth name–none of which are my present name, but all of which referred to me at different times. See my About page for a little more on this.

Before and After the Ice Storm

On my walks around my neighbourhood in Toronto, I notice small sights and sounds. Around ten days ago, and before last weekend’s ice storm, I came upon these soggy leaves in a garden. The long white and grey leaf looked very much like a wing to me. I had to look closely at first to see what it was.

 leaf wing

Then, this past Tuesday, when the ice was starting to recede and people had done some cleaning up, I saw these small branches and twigs. Someone had beautifully bundled them and they looked to me like part of an art installation.

After the ice storm 1

And, a little further on I saw leaves of bulbs, dried grasses and twigs through the ice in someone’s garden. I liked the contrast of the plants with the white ice.

After the ice storm

As for what catches my ear these days–the birds are singing away. I noticed their return a few weeks ago. Not that some didn’t overwinter, but the increase in song was very apparent. I heard my first robin’s spring song last week. And I’ve been hearing cardinals, red winged blackbirds and the many house sparrows that accompany my walks year round.

On the art front, my block prints are finally dry and I’m about to pack them up and submit them to BIMPE. I’ll be sending them to Vancouver on Monday. Then I’ll be able to turn my attention to other projects.

The Must See Kimonos of Itchiku Kubota

Some of the most beautiful works of art I’ve ever seen are now on display at the Textile Museum of Canada in Toronto. Itchiku Kubota created the 41 kimonos in this show between 1976 and 2003, when he died at the age of 86. If you live in or near Toronto, this show is on until May 13th. The kimonos combine many elements–embroidery, ink drawing, resist and tie dying–to create the scenes that often travel across several kimonos, creating panoramas of nature and the cosmos. The kimonos are of different seasons and parts of the universe–so some are very brightly coloured and others, more muted. Here’s some photos I took at this excellent exhibit.


Proofs and the Past

Some highlights from the past week:

First, The Proofs: I’ve continued working on rough proofs, trial block prints, that I’ll be submitting to BIMPE–Biennial International Miniature Print Exhibition. I’ve gotten them to the point where I’m ready to print them in their final form. Here’s the three of them. I think of the first as a dreamscape, the second as a view across fields and the third as a skull or a view behind a mask.

Second, The Past: While at Bathurst and Bloor Streets this past weekend, I took the following photographs. The southwest corner of this intersection in Toronto was known for decades as the home of a large discount store called Honest Ed’s. It had a famous sign that has been preserved, but the building has recently been demolished. Seeing an open space where it used to be was shocking enough. But, seeing the old advertising signs that had been hidden, that were painted on the adjacent wall was another surprise. And, before this wall of old ads and new graffiti is erased in the city’s high rise construction frenzy, I took some photos as a remembrance. 

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.

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.”