After seeing the #topnine2019 on instagram, I began looking through my blog over the past ten years and have seen the amazing things that I have been privileged to be part of:
1. Both my daughters graduated with honours...one from high school and the other from university. Both grads were held within 24 hours which made an emotional time even more so. I am so proud of our girls.
2. As a founding Board member of Creative Airdrie, I was privileged to usher many arts & cultural activities. After I stepped down from that position, I kept being involved in other ways, including painting during a Council meeting at our City Hall as part of Alberta Arts Days which was a lovely experience. I was told that it was the calmest meeting they've ever held which, to me, shares the power of the arts.
3. My '52 WEEKS::Heroes' project was unveiled at the AirdrieLIFE Amazing Women Awards. It was such a fitting beginning for that body of work as I hadn't painted portraits for many, many years and it has been the beginning of the most heart-warming new projects.
4. There have been many incredible interviews and articles throughout the past ten years, but I think my favourite it being named on the the 10 best artists to collect in Canada by ARABELLA magazine. It was an incredible article in a beautiful publication for which I am so grateful.
5. My work was represented by the Inglewood Fine Arts Gallery for 10 years but the 'Sacred Vessel' exhibit was my favourite. So many friends & family attended the show and so many canoes found new homes across the country.
6. I received the Professional Artist Award by Fortis at the Airdrie Mayor's Night of the Arts. It was a definite highlight of my career to be recognized by my community.
7. The 'Nasty Women' project is so near and dear to my heart. As an artist, it has been so amazing to have a body of work that was a collaboration with so many incredible women.
8. One of my first public art projects was to paint a utility box in my community titled 'Honouring Ancestors'. It was amazing to receive so much local support and to see that after all these years the box still hasn't been vandalized since.
9. I've travelled with my family and spent time with friends...which has been so healing for me. In spite of other disappointments in my life, these trips have been a healing balm.
The decade ended off on such a great note.
Virginia Paxton Gruver / 8x10 / acrylic on canvas
My grandmothers are my heroes. I was fortunate as a child to have five living grandmothers, who were strong women. My favorite was my Great Grandma who had a wandering husband and had to provide for four children in a time when women didn't have many choices. She ran a boarding house, boot-legged whiskey and took care of her family. She was able to acquire her own business (in a man's world) in a rural town on Highway 50 in Utah that was a combination Cafe and Gas Station. She was such an inspiration of self-sufficiency and independence, and I miss her dearly. I always remember her having a pencil in her hair over her right ear. It didn't seem to matter if she was at work or where!
~ Monica Shuey
I actually kind of love instagram's top 9 of 2019 as my abstract nests have been included as well as my Fashion Plates and canoes. It makes me quite happy that my forays into new territory have been encouraged in this way. In spite of the changing algorithms, my work has been growing and changing and is still touching others. Thank you so much for the kindness!
Beginning The Grandmothers project has me also reminiscing about my father. He was born in South America and began working at 11 years of age. Their large family imported items from Brazil to Paraguay using an old, unreliable truck which often stalled in the treacherous mountain passes. This required throwing wood blocks under the tires to keep the truck from plummeting down the mountain. It was also when he started smoking.
At 19 he drove my mother to the city of Asuncion to apply for passports in order to emigrate to Canada for a better political situation and for opportunity. He had a voracious appetite for education and an admirable work ethic and was able to work his way from being a miner to a senior manager.
He was always grateful to live in a country that allows everyone the opportunity to do anything they dream of with enough dedication & hard work. This also meant that my brother & I were expected to do well in school as he felt anccess to education was a great privilege. He instilled in me pride in my country, a strong work ethic and love of learning.
With this upcoming Grandmothers project I want to honour the women who have done the same, through their portraits & sharing the stories of their sacrifices and how they overcame their own challenges.
Every year I begin a new journal and choose a guiding word for the year. I used to pick up small sketchbooks at an art supply store, but they began to become more difficult to locate, so I began to use these nice little sketchbooks from Indigo seven years ago. The paper is nice for drawing on and, as I received a Waterman pen many years ago, I always look for nice writing paper and this fits the bill. I use my journals to sketch, make notes, write out gratitude, keep my horoscope for the year and other little cards, doodle out my packing lists, and create to-do lists...I realized that I kind of use them like a Bullet Journal, but a little more creatively. This, along with my wall calendar tends to keep me organized (even though that wasn't the initial intention) and is a wonderful spot to capture creative ideas. I also tend to work through questions in my mind just by writing them down and also writing down my options. The tradition was based on something I read by musician Christine Kane many years ago and I've since learned that it began in Germany as 'Wort des Jahres'. I've found the practice to be monumental in my life. Such a small gesture that is such a great guide.
Anyway, I've decided that this new year's word is 'Delight' - the past few years have been a little heavy and now that my husband & I are empty nesters, we've been doing a bit of travelling (both near and far) on our own...it's fun to have fun again. I'm learning to let go and allow more just to happen in my life. I just want to be grateful for every opportunity and for those small precious moments, and also to remember to focus on delight. To see and read more about previous journals, please visit last year's post here.
I love to end my year by looking back at the things that I was privileged to take part in. Though I painted fewer pieces, it was an even better year than the last...thank you for that. It seemed to be a great mix of teaching (a little less) and exhibiting (a little more), with many new opportunities. Though a few things didn't work out as I had hoped, it did space for others.
Whenever I'm out, whether teaching, visiting, at appointments or during other day-to-day activities, I keep a small moleskine sketchbook with me in order to jot down sketches for painting ideas or to take notes. I recently stumbled upon these interesting lessons that were written by Elliot Eisner and been published by the National Art Education Association:
1. The arts teach children to make GOOD JUDGEMENT about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.
2. The arts teach children that problems can have MORE than ONE solution and that questions can have more than one answer.
3. The arts celebrate multiple PERSPECTIVES. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to SEE and INTERPRET the world.
4. The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ABILITY and a WILLINGNESS to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.
5. The arts make VIVID the fact that neither words in their literal form nor numbers exhaust what we can KNOW. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our COGNITION.
6. The arts teach students that SMALL DIFFERENCES can have LARGE EFFECTS. The arts traffic in subtleties.
7. The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which IMAGES become REAL.
8. The arts help CHILDREN LEARN to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them FEEL, they must reach into their POETIC CAPACITIES to find the words that will do the job.
9. The ARTS ENABLE us to have EXPERIENCE we can have from no other source and through such experience to DISCOVER the range and variety of what we are capable of FEELING.
10. The arts' position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults BELIEVE is IMPORTANT.
I've been enjoying the challenge of working on these small 6x8 'Ancestors' paintings. I find it difficult to paint portraits on substrates this small, but also, using canvas paper instead of canvas seems to add to that challenge. The paper absorbs the paint and it certainly reacts differently than I'm familiar with and the texture requires a lot of work when creating the features on such a small scale. But I am enjoying these vintage images and love to think about the women in them.
AIRdirondack Art Project