Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Last Train

The rural areas across Canada have a hard go of it these days. High percentages of unemployment, opportunity, and the move to centralize business, institutions, and housing in the city, has lead to such a change in demographics and a different quality of life, a change in farming and a change in the world that has quickly become global.

 Elders who have spent there lives in tight knit rural communities, are sadly now left watching their children and grandchildren leave for a 'better life.'

 Communication and connection now is a computer screen, where family and friends are miles away from one another, and only memories of a lifestyle that was once a happier, healthier sense of family, and community. Ironically we are technologically more connected but feeling more isolated from ourselves, from others, and from Spirit.

My cousin Carla sings in her song, The Last Train about this situation and depicts an all to common circumstance that exists within small rural communities.

I moved to the country over 20 years ago. I don't ever regret that decision. I love the peace and solitude. I love the connection I feel with the natural world, with my rural community and with the God of my understanding.

Many of us have lost connection with the earth ,and are caught up in the concrete consumer world, where there is physical poverty and homelessness and a poverty of spirit.
In spite of these changes, I am hopeful when I see young people wanting to move to rural communities. God only knows we have to have hope.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Vocal Fry Up Talk

I love language, learning new words and communicating effectively, in whatever form it takes.

In University, I even, though somewhat grudgingly, took a linguistics class and could have easily become jaded had I taken any more classes. I quickly found out the hard way, that I didn't have the mind or thinking pattern of a linguist. In spite of this fact, I did learn some important factual information about language. Language is a living, cultural, ever changing entity.

My mother was a bit of a grammar and language cop. She would annoyingly correct me if I wasn't using proper English. I inherited her love of language and the certain bugaboos that often go along with this. Like getting my drawers in a knot when I'd hear the non existent word, unthawed. It's a kind of somewhat anal retentive reaction you have when people make certain mispronunciations or have a particular way of speaking or even singing that can get really under your skin. Too many 'likes' and 'you knows' are enough to drive a person bat shit.

As it is said opinions are like assholes, we all have one. That's our right and perfectly acceptable. Live and let live I say. I recently expressed my opinion when I made a comment on a site, that presented a video on the topic of what to do when people don't take you seriously. There were a number of what I considered helpful suggestions. My comment referred to using an particular tone inflection that goes up at the end of a sentence when making a statement that sounds more like a question, and prefacing ideas with the word, just, as in, 'I just thought it would be a good idea too'...fill in the blank. The combination of these two ways of speaking in my opinion, does not instill confidence in the ideas being presented and was really annoying to listen to.

Well maybe it's just me, and perhaps this is my own personal language bugaboo but I still find it very annoying to listen to by times.

 As I mentioned I love language and communication. If a person has a command of whatever language they are speaking, and if you can communicate well, then all the better in my opinion. I believe we'll express ourselves more effectively and people want to listen.

It's a good thing to keep your sense of humour, and I think it's all relative, we have to go with the flow, not take things so seriously regarding language and how it is used, because language is a living, ever changing thing, and it is a reflection of our culture, good or bad.

I learned two new words today, vocal fry and up talk. Here is a very interesting commentary I listened to on CBC The Current today that explores contrasting views about present day language and communication.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Amy - Asif Kapadra - FiIm Maker

When I heard Amy Winehouse tragically died four years ago, it really bothered and saddened me very much. The fact that she was a fellow addict, I could almost see where this all was going to end, particularly when she recorded Rehab.

 She was such a special soul. A beautiful young woman with an incredible gift and passion for music, which made the loss even more acute. Her singing and song writing ability was powerful and seemed to be coming from a mysterious unknown place. It has been said that she was the most gifted lyricist of this generation, and I have no doubt about that.

 The documentary film Amy recently released,  producer Asif Kapadra's says, his desire to make people think, is an objective that has certainly been achieved.

In an interview I listened to today about Amy Winehouse, musicologist Robert Harris  stated that no one really knew much about her until her last performance and then knew more, following her death.

It's been said that ten other people are directly affected by someone else's addiction, and Father Martin said for every alcoholic that dies, another alcoholic's life is saved.

 I am certain Amy Winehouse's death is not in vain when people like Asif Kapadra is making a difference by telling her story. As well, shortly after Amy died, her family started the Amy Winehouse Foundation  whose primary goal is to help young people by preventing the effects of drug and alcohol misuse and abuse, to educate, inform and inspire vulnerable, disadvantaged youth, and to enable them to reach their full capabilities and potential, particularly through music.

"Being a Cynical Asshole"

 Have we all become a bunch of cynical assholes?

I was sent this article I've highlighted  exploring the topic of cynicism that you might find interesting.

 The world needs cynics to cut through the crap of elitism, and it's necessary fodder for comedians. There will always be those who become cynical to the point of being jaded, and that's not helpful, healthy nor is it funny. I believe we have to find an inner resource to rise above of the horse shit, and not get stuck in it. Integrity within the world is hard to find by times.

I don't see cynicism as a negative thing in and of itself, but normal and healthy. I'm of the opinion that what's really at the heart of the situation being discussed in this article, in relation to the present generation, is a pervasive sense of hopelessness. I don't believe it is only present within the younger generation, and may very well be increasingly prevalent throughout the world.

 As a 60 something artist who attended two Universities to study art, during very different periods of time, first as a young somewhat naive 22 year old art student in the early 70s, and then as mature art student in 2008, I got to see two unique perspectives.

I have to say, I didn't find the level of cynicism so much different then, from now. Though perhaps because there is more of a wake up call for so many younger students today, who can be naive, and are a rather privileged group. Once they're out of University, reality comes crashing in, upon realizing they've no employable skills, are saddled with an overwhelming debt, and after having some very high unrealistic expectations.

Returning to University as a mature student, I met some younger students who were astute, intelligent, insightful, and wise beyond there years. The smart ones could see through the way things are, as opposed to illusion and hype.  Those students that weren't so discerning, often came from very privileged backgrounds that fostered a sense of selfish entitlement.

The world in general, and it's no different within the art world, there exists a division between two socioeconomic camps. This can result understandably, in resentment toward those who hold the power and control or a disdain for those who don't.

A sense of hopelessness is proportional to the ever increasing gap between rich and poor. It's a affront on generousity, abundant joy, and gratitude on both sides.

Each individual has to find a way to rise above the hopelessness. I believe and know there's always hope for the hopeless regardless of what camp you are in.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Student Debt Crisis - Consumers Vs Citizens

The crushing  tyranny of student debt in North America is crippling. It is leaving young people with little hope for a future, that includes purchasing a home, or the likelihood of having a stable relationship, that might mean having a family, which statistically will be more difficult, considering the high rate of divorce due to to financial conflict.

Citizens are now referred to as consumers, as are students. Citizens are constantly bombarded with the idea that credit is a good thing. Credit equals debt, and debt is a bad thing. It's hard to see where this crisis will end.

When my grandparents were alive, you paid with cash, never credit. If you didn't have the cash, you didn't buy it. And if something was on sale, and you didn't have the cash it wasn't a bargain.
Times have changed, and so have our ideas about debt, not for the better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Book of Debt - Alinah Azadeh - Burning The Books

Burning The Books - Alinah Azadeh - Collaborative Performance

Credit rich, and cash poor is a term I heard many years ago that very aptly describes our consumer world, and those of us if not the majority, carry a load of debt and we fit precisely into this description.

We can find ourselves in a serious predicament, up against the wall of debt, we can no longer maintain, pay our bills or even survive. We can't sleep, maybe can't eat, and are in a constant state of anxiety and stress.

This state is usually accompanied with a heavy burden of moral judgment. An unspoken shaming judgment, that says you are a failure, and you are some how morally defective. It's very similar to the same kind of shame and blame that comes out of the industrial revolution in the days of poor houses, were the poor were seen in the same light. 

In my early adulthood I read all the books about managing money, The Wealthy Barber, Head and Heart Financial Strategies for Smart Women, and all of Brian Costello's books as well; How To Beat The Tax Man and Your Money and How To Keep It. They all helped me, up to a point. The problem was, I never seemed to have enough money to keep, and whenever I did, I didn't have a clue how to keep it. I attribute the reasons for this to be numerous. Recovery issues within my own personality, which I take responsibility for, what I was and wasn't taught about handling money in and out of school. One thing was for sure, I did feel a level of shame and guilt because of my financial circumstance and blamed myself.

Now I see debt in the grander scheme of things, after my life experiences and when listened to Canadian Writer Margret Atwood's lecture about debt in 2008, on Ideas,  CBC Massey Lectures, "Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth. "

Margret Atwood helped to clarify things for me. Mind you I still have no money, I do have some debt, and through hard work and the Grace of God, managed to pay off a 20 year mortgage. As an artist I never studied art to make money. Today I do have a much better understanding of my relationship with money as an woman  who is not a "starving artist".

 As I've heard it said by Ann Rea, artists are entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs are artists. I like that. I'm not sure if all entrepreneurs are artists, but I do believe artists need to be entrepreneurs.

Today I listened to an interview with artist Alinah Azadeh. Years ago she also also heard Margret Atwood's Massey Lecture, and this greatly influenced her art work. The Book of Debt and her Burning The Books, is Alinah Azadeh's powerful collaborative and poignant performance piece.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Eminem M&M's or MM?

There's Eminem, M&M's and then there is MM. ( Making Art Making Money). The latter, this is the one I want to talk about.

 The business of art requires having an online presence as an artist. It is a good thing and essential. It gives you great opportunity to network, to get your work and your name out there into cyberspace exposure, and to hopefully make some serious scratch.

 Ok I confess I haven't been one to sell my work on line, with the exception of one occasion. I met up with the client, and it all worked out very amicably. If it works, great, but it's not for everyone. There are advantages and disadvantages. It light of all that, it's still important to have an online presence.

I am a person who'd rather interact face to face and often many who purchase my work are actually friends, which is really very satisfying. I still have lots of room for improving my business skills and there is loads of information on the web to learn how to do this and I love that.

I shy away from physically commercial gallery settings. I find them somewhat elitist, and I'd much rather avoid the middle person who can often be the one who financially benefits or decides what they will or won't accept when it comes to exhibiting your work, and I don't like that.

The internet can level the playing field, and generally is the great equalizer. It can remove the intimidation and competitive factor. As well, you don't have to have a lot of money in order to get exposure. The online art community I have found to be welcoming, supportive and so informative, which is extremely beneficial and encouraging.

As an artist I love it when I can share what has helped me and when others return the same. To me that's what makes the world go round, helping each other. And so I want to share with you today a great link, 25 resources for artists that I think you will find helpful to your business of being an artist, if you are so inclined.

Artist/Entrepreneur Ann Rea, whom I LOVE,  has recently, and very generously offered some wonderful videos from her site Artists Who Thrive entitled MM ( Making Art Making Money). These are fantastico! I made that word up. :)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

What's Up With Adult Colouring Books?

                                                 Why Are Adults Buying Colouring Books?

 As a kid I don't ever recall seeing a colouring book in our house. I may have been introduced to them in school perhaps. Or maybe I don't remember, because I was never impressed by them.  They actually really made me feel very uncomfortable even then. I was encouraged to create from my own imagination, and I am very grateful for that.

Colouring books only produced anxiety within me, because I felt restricted, having to colour within the lines. I deeply sensed whatever I did, wasn't going to measure up to this already determined, stereotypical, image. The underlying unspoken message I received from these colouring books was, whatever I drew or coloured from my own imagination, wasn't good enough, and never would be.

Lately adult colouring books are being talked about in the media. I could attribute my extreme annoyance around this fact to my high blood pressure, but it's not. I find it to be an insult to creative intelligence, a real undermining and an undervaluing of creativity and imagination.

 As an young artist studying art education in University, at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, I learned first thing, about Viktor Lowenfeld, often referred to, as the 'father of art education.' The required reading was Lowenfeld's book, Creative and Mental Growth.

The research of Viktor Lowenfeld, indicates that coloring books decrease creativity from 50-60% of
children. The other 40% may be effected as well. If children continually use pre-made images, they may never be satisfied with anything they draw, because their drawings look childish, and not at all like the drawings in coloring books.

 One of Viktor Lowenfeld's  known activities, that reflected his disdain toward colouring books for children, was to pull them from store shelves, and promptly throw them on the floor, and then left the store premises. It apparently infuriated him, seeing colouring books. I empathize with his reaction and response. I haven't taken to this kind of protest...yet.

And now we have colouring books for adults. Oh ya, brilliant.
I've read a few articles about this recent phenomenon. Mostly are positive commentaries regarding the so called wonderfully therapeutic benefits of adult colouring books.

The most recent article I read from the New Yorker is the only editorial piece I have seen that clarifies the other side of the argument very succinctly, with relevant points made by Harvard Psychologist Susan Linn, and Susan Jacoby, author of "The Age of American Unreason."

Colouring books for adults are simply a money making grab by certain parties and individuals, that has become a "new mass industry", under the guise of therapy that purports to provide the benevolent service of "inspiration and artistic fulfillment". Wow! Really? In my opinion this is simply a very ill informed, distorted, and perverse view of creativity.

This is a regressive development, and only constitutes and contributes to less creative thought, and does nothing to enable, foster or nurture imagination, and certainly is not my idea of therapy, inspiration or artistic fulfillment!

 Psychologist Susan Linn states this is a "cultural shift", a reflection of a society that is "not wanting to do things that require effort".

 Susan Jacoby states we are "experiencing psychological retreat instead of developing as mature adults."

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Crystal Pite - "Dance Genius"

Today I learned about Crystal Pite, an exciting, risk taking, Canadian Dancer/ Choreographer who has been referred to as a "dance genius", and it's easy to see why.

I love the powerful combination of dance, narrative storytelling, and puppetry she uses in her work, three of my very favourite things.

Eleanor Wachtel interviewed her today on CBC. She is a fascinating, creative individual, and I am so glad I heard this show. Here's the highlighted link to the interview.

Crystal Pite's powerful piece, "Dark Matters".

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Being Mortal - Dr. Atul Gawande - Tom Jennings

I am not obsessed with dying as some folks perhaps might think, but because I have experienced a lot of death in my own personal life, and because I am aging myself, like we all are, I do think about my own mortality, my own death, and trying to work through end of life preparation.

The conversation is a very important one to talk about for individuals, families, for physicians and patients. It's time for the death conversation to come out of the closet.

 Today I heard a program on the radio about death and dying. A link was given to a documentary that I watched, called "Being Mortal", based on Dr. Atul Gawnde's  best selling book with the same name. This documentary collaboration between FRONTLINE filmmaker Tom Jennings, author and surgeon Dr. Atul Gawande is such an important work, that there was no question I had to share it. I hope you will take the time to watch.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Web Junkies - Shosh Shlam - Film Maker

In China, “Internet addiction” is a clinical disorder. 'Web Junkie' enters a Beijing rehab center where Chinese teenagers are "deprogrammed". (Shosh Shlam/Web Junkie)

In the days long before Bill Gates and the internet, I had a part-time job working the switch board for the University I was attending. My work space was an isolated cement walled, windowless room, containing the switch board, and a very large machine like contraption, a monstrous and monolithic like computer that took up the length of one wall. It made all manner of noises and I saw no one from the time I started work until I finished my shift.

In the early 70s I knew nothing about computers, nor did I want to know anything about them. although many of us who grew up in the 60s wanted to think of ourselves as open minded. You know, free love, peace, 'down with the man' and all that Hippie jargon. Many of us thought computers were like making a deal with the devil, they were going to be just plain bad for our world, and for human beings generally.

I remember in my late teens living in the city of Halifax there was a young man I considered rather odd. He was in retrospect he was way ahead of the learning curve, being very involved with computers, working for Dalhousie University in computer science. I thought this was a strange a mysterious thing to study, and I just dismissed him as being quirky.

Fast forward over forty years, really not that long ago, it's a whole new world thanks to computers and the internet. It's simultaneously wonderful and terrifying, as this technological development, has not  only changed our world 360 degrees, but has indeed changed human beings and most importantly our children.

This film is disturbing, and has an important foreboding message and commentary about our "connected" society. Perhaps those of us that grew up in the 60s weren't so far off the mark after all regarding our concerns about computers.

Here's a link to listen to the interview with the documentary's film maker Shosh Shlam on CBC Q

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs

Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs
One of the classes I most enjoyed in University while studying Fine Art, was Canadian Art History. When I first attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the early 70s, there were no Art History professors that were women, with the exception of one later on taught, in the following years to come.

Thirty years later, when I returned to complete my Bachelor of Fine Art Degree at Mount Allison University, most all of the Art History professors were women; very accomplished, artists, teachers and curators in their own right. It was an extremely exciting turn of events for me now in a Fine Art program in 2008, to be taught and educated by these wonderful  intelligent, dedicated creative, and socially conscious women.

Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs was the first female director appointed in 1966 of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa Ontario.
The history of the National Gallery of Canada is an interesting one, but at times, controversial for a myriad of reasons.

Tonight I listened for a second time, to this engaging CBC Rewind program, Remembering A Champion of Art profiling  "Miss Boggs" through a number of in depth interviews, giving a glimpse into this remarkable woman, who contributed so much to the recognition of Canadian Artists, and obtaining extensive collections and exhibits of art from artists all over the world, that were second to none for Canada's National Gallery.

Dr. Jean Sutherland Boggs I believe, in many ways was ahead of her time. If she was the Director of the National Gallery today, she might have been even more of a power house of influence, especially in her role as an Art Historian.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Gravity Glue - Michael Grab

Artist Michael Grab

I think there are many people in the world including myself that love rocks, young and old alike. Rocks are collected, honoured, used for healing purposes, and decorations for gardens etc.

 Many Indigenous people refer to rocks as the Grandfathers that are the oldest things on earth, and are deserving of respect and honour.

I've been a big fan of Artist Andy Goldsworthy but I've never saw anything quite like Canadian Artist Michael Grab.When I first saw this video Gravity Glue it gave me a very spiritual feeling. I think you will clearly see what I mean when you watch him creating these, truly awe inspiring and compelling sculptures.

 Michael Grab says about his work of balancing rocks.

 " Put simply, I feel something divine when I practice. "

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Michael Gaudet - Inspiration To Thrive

My friend, artist Michael Gaudet is making amazing progress on his murals. Having completed 90% of this first of two murals he will be undertaking the second one soon.

The images rendered certainly have a presence and his sense of mark making, use of paint and colour is striking, and vividly pops off the board. I'm looking forward to the completion of this prolific project. I think the energy of this work is not surpassed by the energy of the workers he is depicting.

I must say, Michael certainly is a real inspiration, in more ways than one! He is an artist that has moved beyond survival, and now is an artist who thrives.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Happy Birthday Frida Kahlo

I unexpectedly was unable to post my blog today because the power went out this morning and did not come back for nine hours. I also had an very unexpected visit today from a very dear friend whom I have known so many years, and we'd both lost track of how long it has been since we have seen one another.

She is really my soul sister and we have shared many thoughts and feelings over the years.
As well would we both attend a very special and I think sacred gathering of woman that are deeply connected and these gatherings are embedded in my psyche.

After she left and I returned home. The power still being off, I decided I would go to the local country store and write her a long letter, in reply to the one she actually started  to write me in December 2014. While we were at the beach having a picnic she said she had started a letter and handed it to me before leaving today.

In my letter I shared with her about the book, The Heroine's Journey. We have both in our own way taken this journey whether we knew it or not struggling with loss, finding our direction and strength though weakness which resulted in us becoming better human beings.

Today July 6th is the late Frida Kahlo's Birthday. She is, I think, my favourite artist, because she is one of my favourite human beings, and I feel also a soul sister, so whenever I have a reason, not that I need one to write a post about her, I do.

I found the video below, of actual footage of Frida today. I may have seen it before, but it doesn't look so familiar.

More than her work I so admire Frida Kahlo the woman, for her inner strength and her humanity. If there was ever an artist I wished I could meet it would be her.

I long to some day travel to Mexico to see  The Blue House (La Casa Azul) and Museo Frida Kahlo.

I believe Frida Kahlo took The Heroine's Journey.

I have to make an addendum to this post regarding the quote below that was attributed to Frida Kahlo on GoodReads. It is in fact not Frida Kahlo's quote, but from a good friend who is an artist, and a writer. She was 15 years old at the time when she posted it onto another site, and she found her quote being used on the GoodReads site, not attributed to her, but to Frida Kahlo. Rebecca Katherine Martin is a highly gifted, intelligent individual, and I know she is a fan of Frida Kahlo's

It some how makes this quote attributed to Frida Kahlo more meaningful, and simultaneously undermines it's meaning because it is untrue, Frida Kahlo did not say this. The statement is a powerful one that obviously  readers strongly identify with, perhaps not because it was thought to be what Frida said, but because the quote was said by someone who is a deep philosophical thinker now, and then, when it was written by that 15 year old girl, Rebecca Katherine Martin, who posted her thoughts many years ago. It's meaning  comes shining through, resonating with those whom have felt the same, like Frida, and like Rebecca.

 "I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you." - Rebecca Katherine Martin

Here is Rebecca Katherine Martin's response to this misquote attribution.

So, in one of the weirder incidents of my adult life, a short plea that I wrote on a postcard at 15 is now widely attributed to Frida Kahlo. The quote reads:
"I used to think I was the strangest person in the world but then I thought there are so many people in the world, there must be someone just like me who feels bizarre and flawed in the same ways I do. I would imagine her, and imagine that she must be out there thinking of me too. Well, I hope that if you are out there and read this and know that, yes, it's true I'm here, and I'm just as strange as you"
I pasted these lines of text onto a ripped magazine clipping of Kahlo, and mailed the postcard to PostSecret ( My little image was at the top of the blog one Sunday, and the girl that I was felt a glow of solidarity. Not so alone. The comments were so kind, I think I still have them saved to my computer.
10 years later: I have changed, the internet has changed. I am scrolling down my facebook feed when the very words I wrote as a 15 year old appear before me, attributed to Frida Kahlo . I google the quote and I come up with this:…/402640-i-used-to-think-i-was-the…
There are 1676 people on GoodReads who think that Kahlo said this. There are also memes, handmade drawings, & what looks like text in a magazine. If you search "Frida Kahlo quote" on google, this quote is one of the first items of text that appear.
A) I have always wanted a quote on GoodReads, but I wanted to actually write a book first.
B) While flattering and amusing to me, this miss-attribution speaks to a serious lack of inquiry as to where our information comes from online. And I think that this is important. I cannot pull down those memes one by one and tell each of these people - "Look, actually you have a totally WRONG idea about Ms. Kahlo. That thing that you think she said was written by a dopey teenage girl from Markham, Ontario."
This is one minor instance of something that is endemic. I can't make anyone take more care in the ways that they absorb information, take truths for granted, and then further disseminate those distortions. (Re: Vaccines)
I will take this as a reminder to be more careful myself about attribution and context.
Sorry for the little rant, I mainly meant to say:

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

John Ralston Saul - Comeback

 "There's this wonderful resurgence, comeback, whatever you want to call it of indigenous people in Canada. But at the same time there is a continuation of and a strengthening - a very surprising strengthening of the 19th century Imperial ideas at their worst. Suddenly you're able to talk about the British Empire as if it was a lovely romantic place, and the French Empire."
-- John Ralston Saul

My late husband had a Cree heritage. I loved him deeply, and miss him greatly. I am certain this is why today I feel particularly connected to Indigenous people. But in the past I have had many close friendships with many First Nations brothers and sisters. I identify philosophically more with this culture spiritually then my own.

While driving home from an appointment last night I heard Ideas with Paul Kennedy in discussion with John Ralston Saul and Hayden King from Ryerson University. It was a compelling discussion with powerful message with a call to action for each and every Canadian.