The first time I head of Maya Angelou was through Oprah's Book Club selection, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, in 1993. And then, when I watched her in How to Make An American Quilt I was smitten with her voice. From an extremely challenging early life, including a stint as a prostitute, she blossomed to receive her doctorate and to share her wisdom with millions of people around the world. In the 1990's she became the first person to recite her poetry at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost in the 1960's. She was active in the Civil Rights movement, continued her education as a single mother, and wrote about racism, identity, family and travel. She always claimed that it was her ability to listen and observe the world around her which led to her success in life.
I had a lovely trip to Black Diamond yesterday...love driving south of Calgary as it is so peaceful and really rejuvenating...in order to deliver some paintings, ornaments and my new True North Tarot cards. It has been such a pleasure to see the cards all packaged and ready to go. I'm also glad that Bluerock Gallery wanted to exhibit some of the paintings featured in the cards. They are happy to ship as well.
I also dropped off paintings and ornaments at Muk-Luk Magpies in Airdrie. It's such a privilege to finally share my work locally and I am very grateful to Shawn MacPherson for the invitation. It's been a good week.
Using stencils and spray paint is one of my favorite methods of adding pattern and colour to paintings. I have mixed feelings about it as I realize that spray paint is not great for the environment but, boy, do I love the results. Though I do prefer painting in the garden in the summertime, I am grateful for a heated garage whenever it is required, and having such a large space to work in makes me very happy. I'm getting close to finishing the preparation on these canvases for next year's 52 WEEKS project and have begun doing a bit of research. I'm already getting excited for next year.
Recently my method of working was referred to as palimpsest, which is intriguing as it is history and the art of story telling that appeals to me and finds its way into this body of work. In the Merriam-Webster dictionary there is a definition of very old documents where the original writing has been replaced with new as well as of something that has changed over time and so it is in the layers of mark-making in my paintings that drives my personal visual stories. And because literature is as important to me as painting, I find this reference particularly endearing as it seems to connect the two creative aspects of my life.
When I was a young girl I met archaeologists who were studying artifacts found by the Churchill River and I remembered wanting to do what they did. We had the opportunity to do a bit of excavation and learned about the various tools and fossils that were found. The work that I find myself doing these days feels very similar, though I seem to be working backwards, covering much of the initial stages and offering viewers the opportunity to find evidence of what came before. I really like this word.
There are days that I suddenly realize that I've spent a lot of time alone...like when I begin to notice paint on my fingers or toes and think how it beautiful it is. And yet, I also realize that this time spent in solitude is critical for my creative exploration. When I spend too much time with people, with obligations (especially when I'm not working on my own), with technology (computers and television...and even, on occasion, music), or even with too much visual stimulation (clutter and disarray) my well feels empty. I crave solitude and silence. My favorite place to be is my studio which usually offers both. And when I allow myself that time to be still and let my mind wander, the most beautiful things happen. I being to make connections I wouldn't otherwise make and I don't hold back from trying something new. I sometimes wonder if this is due to the fact that I am an introvert by nature or if this is just part of the creative process. In any case, I have found this to be true for me.
I don't remember at what age I learned of Mother Teresa because it seems as though she has been a part of my entire life. She initially studied in Ireland to become a nun in order to teach but was so moved by the poverty that surrounded her in India that she then received basic medical training in order to help those in dire need. Renouncing her role as a missionary in order to focus on this work, she ended up begging for food and supplies as she no longer lived at the convent. After a difficult beginning in the 1940's, by the year 2000 there were over 4.000 nuns working together with her to run orphanages, AIDS hospices, and charity centers worldwide. I think the thing that struck me the most when I was growing up was how she showed the world that an AIDS sufferer should be loved, be touched and treated like the human beings they were rather than outcasts. In a time that we knew nothing about the disease, she understood the necessity of human compassion.
This has been a week of epiphanies for me...mostly small, non life altering realizations but a huge shift happened in my understanding of what I do and why I do it. Watching the interview with Seth Godin (posted yesterday) and then reading articles about purpose I stumbled upon an idea that stated how, instead of searching for your life purpose, you should pay attention to what exactly it is that you enjoy about certain roles and responsibilities in life. I have known for some time that I really enjoy organizing...events, closets, schedules, etc., but I suddenly realized that it goes beyond practical considerations and rolls into my artwork. I love working in series and, now that I'm planning my fifth annual 52 WEEKS project, I understand why this work is so important for me to do. It's not only the planning, preparing, creating and finalizing the project with a book, but also documenting the process that I love so much. I think what this means for me is that I will make a conscious decision to focus myself in that direction when planning future projects and finding creative solutions to fulfilling ideas.. My creative juices are already flowing!
I have spent too much time this past week painting my kitchen cabinets under grey skies and very little in my studio so today I decided to inject some brightness into my day. With only 10 paintings left to complete this year's 52 WEEKS project I have been giving a lot of thought to next year's. I know that I will be working on 8x10 gallery profile canvases and I think I know the subject matter already, so I thought it might be a good idea to begin prepping the new canvases. At the end of the year I will remove the current series and package to unveil next May. Though it seems a long way away, that will give me time to create a book about the series as I have done for the previous four.
I'm sitting in my studio as I write this, with my salt lamp glowing warmly, the scent of sweet grass in the air, and am enjoying this time to view all the ladies I have painted thus far and wondering who else will end up as part of this work. There are many women of many nationalities, talents, interests and skills whom it gives me much pleasure to see daily included in this body of work. Though I have chosen each woman for different reasons, they all have one thing in common and that is how they overcame challenges to be fully who they are....such incredible role models. And such a privilege to paint them.
Besides refinishing my kitchen cabinets, working on my university course and volunteering this past week, I was also busy in my role as the Arts + Culture Coordinator for the Airdrie Public Library. We hosted Teen Artists, Jr Artsts and Adult Artists, re-scheduled an author visit, and got to attend WordFest as part of my professional development. The author, Jowita Bydlowski, was brilliant...she was funny and well-spoken and authentic. It was great to have a front row seat and to be able to ask about her creative process. After my kitchen is done and a new art exhibit is hung at the library, followed by two author visits and three more art workshops, I will be able to rest a little bit. Although I will also be teaching at a middle school, a workshop in Calgary with the Federation of Canadian Artists and hanging my work in the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in December. At least things at work will slow down a bit for a little while.