Friday, November 21, 2014

Here's A Quick Way To Paris

Charles Marville - Self Portrait

I've never been to Paris, but always had a desire to go. I may be disappointed because much of my idea about Paris is based on history particularly during the 20s when the place was full of artists, writers and thespians. I fondly remember seeing  Joséphine Baker dance costume's at a museum in England, who was one of my idols, and who lived in Paris during the 20s.

I was really excited to find out about rather obscure photographer who left a legacy. Charles Marville (1813-1879) was the official Paris photographer in the 1850s, that documented the city's prior landscape and infrastructure which was being dramatically changed at the time of dramatic modernization, during Napoleon's reign, and was reconstructed by Baron George-Eugene Haussmann, his architectural urban planner. There are still some existing buildings reminiscent of the Old Medieval Paris. The before and after pictures are fascinating.

Before ...
Passage du Clos-Bruneau

Before...   The buildings marked in red are still standing today, hidden in la passage du Clos-Bruneau.
 rue des Ecoles
Haussman rue des Ecoles

Rue des Saules, Montmartre, then and now by Charles Marville

My wonderful Mount Allison University photography Professor, Thaddeus Holownia took trips to Paris in 2010,and then again in 2013, documenting the combination of the old and new Paris. Although his photographs, and his printing process are very different from the photography of Charles Marville,  none the less they are just as beautiful, as he still uses the traditional large format photography, the same as Charles Marville.

And so, I was able to take a bit of a time travel trip in my mind, through these wonderful photographs of Charles Marville's. I hope you enjoy the time travel as much as I did!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Amazing Family Secrets - Claude

"Claude" - Archaeologist/ Artist Talva Jacobson

I have relatives that were born in France and Belgium, Poland and Germany. I have difficulty finding out about many of my relatives due to the war. This feels to me, like a big part of my identity is missing, because I can't go back very far in my family of origin, but I know more about my family than many others. I just recently was able to see pictures of my paternal great grand parents. It was an emotional experience.

 I can not imagine what Acadian families, and their community must be feeling, and experiencing after seeing what archaeologists Jonathan Fowler and Tanya Peckmann at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax had discovered, the skull of an Acadian child, dating back to 1740.

Talva Jacobson, an archaeologist and artist from Alberta, studied facial reconstruction and produced the reconstructed face of this child, they are calling Claude.

What an amazing creative gift for an artist to have, and to be able to give, to those searching for missing relatives or trying to find their family origins.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Brittany Powell - Artist

Here's a great multimedia project called the Debt Project, by artist Brittany M. Powell. It is both poignant, and powerful.

Debt is an overwhelming, crushing burden all too many of us are carrying, both in the United States and in Canada. What strikes me the most is the amount of people portrayed in this project are highly educated, artists, musicians, and or in the humane service field.

Much of the money owing is attributed to high levels of student debt, taxes, the economy, medical expenses, bad mortgages and the economic crash of 2008.

It really makes one seriously wonder when, how, and where this debt is all going to end. Many of us can only dream of being debt free, but it appears to be an never ending up hill battle. This isn't really a lofty dream in my opinion.

I commend Brittany M. Powell for bringing the discussion around debt, out of the shadows. Hopefully this project will begin an important and necessary dialogue to enable change in how our society views debt.

There is a pervasive attitude toward money in our culture. Credit is the word of the day, as if this is a good thing, when in actual fact, the real meaning of the word is debt and this is not a good thing.

My grandparents and my parents lived through the depression. If you didn't have cash to buy something that appeared to be was a bargain, well it wasn't a bargain, if you didn't have the cash, and you didn't get it.

Today's reality is, most are credit rich, and cash poor.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Older Artists Versus Younger Artists

Reflecting on what it means to be an older artist, I have never worried about my age, which I think is an attitude of agelessness, which I am grateful to have inherited from my parents.

Having returned to University to finish my degree at 56 years of age, it would have been easy to give up on my dream of obtaining the Bachelor of Fine Arts I had started so many years ago in the early 70s. Though I certainly had my challenges, and struggles to overcome, I never seriously considered throwing in the towel, regardless of how difficult my situation was from time to time. It all just made me even more determined in wanting to fulfill this goal, as it was what I was passionate about.

The fact that I was 56 when I became a mature student, and graduated in at the age of 58 never felt like a disadvantage, but an advantage, because I wasn't distracted, and could focus on the tasks at hand, more so than when I was much younger art student.

I know there are many artists I greatly admire, whose art is just as compelling, if not more so, once they had matured in years. Some of these artists I know, and are are my personal friends.

Recently I heard of a book written by Martin S. Lindauer, entitled AGING, CREATIVITY, AND ART, A Positive Perspective on Late-Life Development.
 Lindauer, states that research indicates creativity increases in quality, and in quantity, over an artist's lifetime. Productivity peaks age 60, and the quality of the creative output remains constant and steady, well into age 70 years of age.

Artist's who create work well into their 80s have a quality of work rated higher than it was during their 20s and 30s.  Lindauer purports that there are seven characteristics that distinguish "old artists and late art from young artists and youthful efforts." 
  • "Older artists have more knowledge and are less career oriented.
  • "They also have less energy - the only case where older artists were at a disadvantage to younger ones..."
  • "...which they compensated for with greater maturity, concentration, and self-acceptance."
  • "Older artists were also less critical than their younger counterparts."
  • "However, in two areas, creativity and experimentation, older artists were seen as equal to younger practitioners." (2003, pp.187-188)
When the so called "Old Age Style" might emerge, Lindauer wrote, "...the 60-year-old artists, and many of the 70-year-olds who were studied, were 'too young' to have an old-age style."

 I especially admire those women considered the Grand Dames Of The Art World.

 I have no "Old Age Style" but I intend to age creatively, and gracefully as an artist with an attitude of creative agelessness.
96-year-old Lebanese artist Salou Choucair

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Labyrinth Versus Maze

Kabala Tree of Life - Catherine Meyers

 Do you listen to late night radio? Yes? No? I have listened for many years now, and I hear the most interesting items that often aren't broadcast on daytime radio. Last night I heard about a labyrinth built for a park in Sydney Australia. Seems like a whole lot of money went toward this project, $500,000 grand, which one could question. That said, the final project was pretty remarkable and beautiful.

Most think the meaning of labyrinth and maze are interchangeable. I never really thought so much about it until now, and I now realize they are not the same thing, and I find it really interesting to understand  why they are not the same.
There in a plethora of information about the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. What I have generally concluded, is that mazes are meant to confuse and frustrate, whereas labyrinths are made to provide rest, and a serenity to the visitors.

I've always been very drawn to Sacred Geometry.   Mandelas and labyrinths are similar in their spiritual connection to sacred space, or to the path to the Divine and the balance between our natural environment. The circle is seen as being a symbol of wholeness and spiritual quest, or journey.

The spiritual principles behind the idea of the labyrinth are ancient, and compelling. The site Labyrinthina gives a detailed, mythical, and a historical overview of the meanings.

History of The Labyrinth - Sisters of Providence or Saint-Mary-Of-The-Woods

People from ancient and modern times have long looked to the labyrinth as an archetypal symbol of journey and spiritual renewal. Evidence of this dates to 4500 B.C. A figurine from the Ukraine, with a labyrinthine pattern, dating 15000 to 18000 B.C., was discovered by the archeologist Marja Gimbutas, who concluded the pattern may have predated the actual labyrinth.
Certainly, labyrinths are found in Greek mythology, Peruvian symbolism, Native American artifacts, and in Sweden, Finland and Estonian cultures. Legend says fishermen walked them slowly in order to entrap ill-intentioned trolls. Ancients believed the intestine was the uterus or womb or birth canal; therefore, the labyrinth symbolized the death that will come and the death that preceded birth, both naturally and spiritually. The labyrinth at Crete contained 272 stones, the same as the average number of days in the human gestation cycle.
Christian labyrinths (the earliest of which may be in the Church of Reparatus in Algeria, 400 A.D.) may have come to be used as a substitute for making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for those who could not go to Jerusalem. People imitated the journey in a faux pilgrimage, but they were also engaged in a journey understood to be both spiritual and real. The Cathedrals at Rheims (1240), Amiens (1288) and Chartres had labyrinths, all situated in the nave. Moving out of the labyrinth has traditionally been understood as symbolic of the process of rebirth or resurrection. From the day of our birth — we journey.
Adapted from “Labyrinths from the Outside In,” Schaper, Camp; Skylight Publishers, VT

Chartres Cathedral Labyrinth

Monday, November 10, 2014

Rememberance Day - Wilfred Owen

Wilfred Owen

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle? 
Only the monstrous anger of the guns. 
Only the stuttering rifles' rapid rattle 
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries now for them; no prayers nor bells; 
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, –
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells; 
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.
What candles may be held to speed them all? 
Not in the hands of boys but in their eyes 
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes. 
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall; 
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds, 
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

While attending Mount Allison University from 2009 - 2012, one of the very best things I did, was  to take a English Literature course from Professor Emeritus, Michael Thorpe.
 I was never a huge poetry reader as I hadn't been exposed to a lot of it in school growing up. But after I enrolling in this class, and from that time forward, I changed my perspective toward poetry and about war. 
The language of poetry helps us to understand the human condition, as it is a living thing and can change our lives.

Thanks to  Professor Thorpe, I developed a deeper understanding of war, the suffering it brings, and it disturbed me more profoundly trying to comprehend why we are such a warring species. The above poem by famous war poet Wilfred Owen especially, touched me deeply. 
This Remembrance Day, I pray for peace in the world, and for all the those in service, and victims of war, past and present, and for all of their families.

Woman of War - Catherine Meyers

Sunday, November 9, 2014

A New Way To Think About Creativity

I really thought long and hard about posting anything about the recent media reports concerning the past host of Q. Frankly I don't even want to repeat his name, because I found it all extremely disturbing. I had been a long time fan, and often wrote blog posts referring to him, to his guests, and the topics that were broadcasted on this program.
I understand that a host is not the show or is it? The situation has left me with feelings sadness, and with many serious unanswered questions.

Being in an abusive relationship myself, in the past, I understand very well, why these women did not come forward. If an individual has not been in an abusive situation, it is easy to sit in judgement.

What became eminently clear to me, is how abuse, particularly against women, is still insidiously rampant in our so called civilized society, and I hope perhaps the one good thing that, will result, is an ongoing open dialogue, that urges and enables much needed change.

I certainly don't know what the answer is, but silence is not. Men need to engage in proactive and actualized change, both  politically and in socioeconomic way. We can't change any one but ourselves and we all need to change.

Gender roles need to be more flexible, and I believe because of the stereotypical rigidity of gender roles that still exists in society, this contributes to misogyny and abuse.

I never considered the meaning reflected in the follow quote I found today, from a very compelling article in Brain Pickings today. It discusses and reflects the relationship, and connection between creativity, gender and having an androgynous attitude, that transcends, and is beyond one's physical appearance, and wanting to look like or be David Bowie.

“Creative individuals are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.”

Because I study Greek Mythology through the Mythic Tarot, I immediately thought about the last card in the deck, The World , symbolizes and reflects much of what I think about androgyny. 

  • son of Hermes and Aphrodite
  • The nymph Salmacis desired him, but he wasn’t interested in her. When he was bathing in a pool, she embraced him tightly and called to the gods to never let them be parted. They were then fused into one being with both male and female characteristics
  • the experience of being whole
  • symbol of the potential integration of the opposites within one’s personality
  • this wholeness is an ideal that is out of reach of imperfect humans; but it can see glimpsed whenever there is a state of inner healing because warring parts of oneself have at last come together and some inner resolution has brought peace

Perhaps if we develop creativity, and a more androgynous attitude, individually, and collectively, we might have a more empathic world, with less misogyny and violence, and perhaps women would feel safer to break their silence.