You could learn to run a marathon, you could meditate every day. You can take control of your mind, body, diet, soul, and transcend to new heights of humanity. You can heal your thyroid with coconut oil. You can become so flexible that women like me will be in awe of your graceful yogini instagram feed. You can post a drawing EVERY day and be filled to the brim with creative admirers. You can find inner peace. And maybe you can. I'm not discounting any of these things as good, or healthy, or productive. But with the economy of "wellness" at it's greatest height, where does this leave illness and those who deal with it, from the most mild case of anxiety to the cancer patient? In this culture that equates perfection with success, what are we teaching people who, for the moment, aren't well enough to become a yoga goddess or functional food guru?Read More
A week's worth of interactions, reflections, and realities of a woman walking alone.Read More
There will always be a void in our lives where we feel someone is supposed to be standing. In a culture that embraces youth and perfection, we aren't taught to deal with the reality that one day all of this ends. Instead, we live every day in opposition to this truth, ignoring our finite nature and becoming deeply offended with the concept of our own mortality, and yet, I think it is necessary for our wholeness that we come to terms with it. Loss is both personal and communal, with certain aspects of it only accessible through shared experience, and so, I wish to incorporate the communal voice into my artistic practice, promoting positive discourse surrounding this issue. I ask for your voice and support in the sharing of collective experiences, as I seek to articulate this greater sense of void we share.Read More
Two weeks ago I boarded a ferry and drifted away from a little haven off the coast of Vancouver. I was more rested than I have felt in weeks, despite a 12 hour drive, a 3 hour boat ride, a whirlwind opening, and all the island exploring that I could fit into 36 hours. Now I sit on my living room floor, basking in the fall glow that comes from changing leaves and filtered sunlight, ruminating on how to transplant this magic into a landlocked and exceptionally colder city.
I had gone to Salt Spring Island to attend the opening of a group show I am participating in. The Salt Spring National Art Prize had just been created in the last year and I found myself lucky enough to be a finalist. I arrived to the exceptional hospitality of Melissa, whose perceptive and kind demeanour was easy to instantly meld with. Staying in the eclectic 100-year old oyster packing factory she rents, with the ocean at her doorstep, was an experience I hadn't prepared for. Nestled back under tall maples, slowly changing colour, with the salt-smell infiltrating everything, I felt a quiet not heard since my years of city occupancy began. There was more light somehow, more simplicity-- the kind that comes from exposed wood beams, the sound of leaves and nothing else; the kind of charm that no new home can ever hold a candle to. While on the island, I drank tea, visited the most talent-filled farmer's market I have ever experienced, attended an opening, and was hosted and cared for in many exceptional ways. Yet, as busy as I was, time drifted slowly and I quickly lost all desire to rush, to checklist, to purchase, to facebook, to fill my time for the sake of filling it. I lost the desire to try and be and do everything that living in a city daily convinces me is necessary for success. Instead, I found the beginnings of beautiful new relationships. I showed a piece I care about deeply and got to meet the beautiful soul who purchased it. In the end, it was an very favourable trade-in and quiet came with rewards I had not expected.
I'm sure the amount of quiet I enjoy isn't for everyone. I grew up in the country and that stillness is a forgotten necessity in my life; however, I do think a dose of this stillness could do us all (especially as artists) some good. Once the hum of busyness is quieted, priorities and needs seem simple. Most importantly, creativity is no longer in competition with the expectations of what a successful person/artist looks like. The city tells you to show your face at each event, to make the right connections, to be social, to be present, to not let anyone forget that you exist because you must be the whole package to survive. On some level, I see underlying truth here: networking and connections are important. Yet, when I look at artists I love, they don't all appear as these intensely productive extroverts. More often I find that these people convey an out-of-stepness that comes with seeing the world in a different way. That kind of true observation takes time and, if not the quiet of surroundings, at least some kind of focus or quieting of the mind.
Moving forward, I know that I will be entrenched in citylife for a while still. As an emerging artist, this environment is necessary in so many ways. Melissa put this best by pointing out to me that when you are finding your voice as an artist "you need to be near the pulse"... how true! I make my best work when I feel so saturated with experiences (good or bad) that they simply must find their way out of me. Physically, I will be a city-dweller but I am choosing to cultivate the quiet that I need to fuel my creative living.
Practically, what does this look like? I get the mail now, shocking I know, but seriously... every morning I walk down to the mailbox and get my mail. I have always loved getting mail. I smell the air, I look at the trees, I feel the rain, and maybe smile about it. I read for pleasure and on purpose and I take baths. Finding myself in a season where I am a little worn out, I say no to things and don't feel guilty. I also learned that the people who will make you feel guilty about caring for yourself, never really had your best interests in mind. I have had people play me philosophies of "serve till it kills you" only to have life and observation make it clear that serving from an empty place has a high cost: it's hard to love others (or do anything) well in this mentality. I have been loved poorly by this philosophy as surely as I have loved others poorly while trying to live it. I have also watched people go down with their ship of self-neglect, chastising others for not following them. Recently, I have said no to a whole year of holiday dinners because, 4 years into my marriage, juggling obligations around the holidays has become nothing but a stressful and joyless act of pleasing others. I have made a trade-in for date nights with my husband and intentional relationship building with friends and family. The best part is that I'm not sorry or ashamed for knowing my limits or admitting I have them. I'm also not sorry for not knowing everything. This is a learning process and figuring out what works in my life is the patient part.
The quiet is beautiful, the quiet is both generative and regenerative, the quiet is a studio space of creativity, the quiet opens doorways to wonder and helps me love those around me (myself included) more truly.
Misguided conversations, odd requests, assumptions, and stereotypes? Of course. A retrospective of painful artist moments lightly paired with the sarcasm necessary for surviving them.
Yes, I own a DSLR. No, I am not a professional photographer. Yes, I like cake. No, I do not want to decorate yours. Yes, I like pretty weddings. No, I will not be your decorator. Yes, I like to eat HAHA... you want ME to cook? Prepare for severe disappointment.Read More
Most people honestly want to understand art but simply don't know what makes a good questions or how to articulate visual experiences. So how do I interact with non-artists when they ask about me and my work?Read More
As I finish revelling in the recovery period that follows intensive art production, I am in the process of looking back over everything my first solo show has taught me.
1. I learned to love my gallery staff. They are magical wells of information. They have seen many artists come and go and are encyclopaedias of trouble-shooting and curation tips.
2. I will now leave time for the problems I don't know I have. Every project will hit a snag. You planned to glue some paper together when suddenly your glue is the wrong saturation and it warps your paper causing you to wail in misery and go tearing through the house looking for heavy objects to stack onto your damn book before it can dry crooked. Ahem... didn't happen. Experiment! Try everything on scrap paper, especially your installation accoutrements.
3. I learned to have grace when those problems do happen, especially if it isn't my fault. Anger can't fix the blunder of that weird person who goes to a gallery and leans on art. It may be tempting to take it out on the gallery staff but hey, don't shoot the messenger (especially when they can help you get reimbursed) and remember lesson 1.
4. Enjoy down time without forgetting to revel in the work time. It is so easy for me to be consumed with production goals and lose touch with that process I fell in love with in the first place. Failing to get back to basics leaves me with very little to look forward to but the endings.
5. Take a break if it's needed. There will always be those people that I call "high functioning", who did Art School without sleep, kept a sketchbook every day, cranked out massive amounts of work, and seemed to always maintain A-range grades while actually being happy... this is NOT normal. These people, magical unicorns that they are, I am convinced make up the 1% of artists. I need creative breaks to refuel and the time in between production gives me perspective so that when I step back to my work, I have a fresh take on how to improve things.
6. Finally, I learned that the key to break-taking is to not overdo it. It is so easy to get burned out, do nothing for 4 months and miss all the application deadlines for the next year. The process is all about pacing, and frankly, relies on the self-motivated need to make art; to throw ideas out into the world and see if they can catch fire. If that isn't maddeningly exciting, then maybe consider a life-route less fraught with perilous all-nighters and continual deadlines.
As I sit in my living room, looking forward to the next thing, I realize how much a solo has to offer. Ideas take hold of artists in strange ways and sending those thoughts out into the world is strangely freeing. This quieter mind is now hungry for more.
The hunger is endless.
When I start to do these things, I notice a natural rhythm forms in my day. I learn when I need a break and I actually get to enjoy it. No part of me is emptying out all the way. Peace becomes part of the practice.Read More
My relationship with art has been a broken one. Creativity can be torturous or abusive as quickly as it can be redemptive and I have many times been mid-project and found myself on the bad side of art. In the year since my graduation I have struggled to heal up that relationship, unsure of what had gone wrong. The other day I was provided with some perspective on my situation. An acquaintance pointed out that a sense of personal agency is integral to any sort of creativity and it seemed mine was all dried up. Personal agency refers to a person's capacity to act on the world and it is one of the most fulfilling qualities of art to an artist. When we act out of duty because an action is what we are supposed to do, we are robbed of our sense of agency. Without agency, the excitement that accompanies choosing a direction out of our own desires and dreams gets up and leave us, along with any sense of control or belief that our actions matter. If as an artist, I don't believe in the importance of one person acting in the world, making anything for its own sake quickly devolves into senselessness. Unfortunately, while a fine arts education does many positive things, it does not teach much about agency. You make piles of work and grow ideas, yet there will always be a grade, a pass-fail, a looming expectation and while all of these things are inherent of an academic institution they foster a sense of duty rather than a sense of personal fulfillment and voice.
My mantra this week is this: find a truth about yourself and live it out without need for permission or expectation towards the end results. Fall into the process of living, and making. See where it takes you. It is hard to speak if you don't believe that you deserve to be heard.
The warmth, the expansion of the leaves in my glass teapot, the slight bitterness of the green - waking up the morning, the consoling spice of chia, the sweetness once the honey folds in; yes I have a love affair with tea. Today is International Women's Day and to celebrate it I am taking a trip into my china cabinet, remembering the beautiful women represented by each cup: grandmothers and mothers who taught me that you can't love anyone until you love yourself, that serving others in small ways, simply out of kindness, shows strength, and that true confidence has little to do with the outside. Like tea-drinking, purpose is gained by what goes inside the vessel. Without being filled up, a teacup is pretty, but it remains only a fragile container, otherwise useless - bone dust.