Lent ( the 40 days before Easter) is traditionally a time in which we are to consider our vulnerability and fallibility as human beings. I was asked to contribute to a small booklet of Lenten reflections which is edited by the Rev. Meagan Crosby Shearer who is priest to the Emmaus Community and St Matthias Anglican Church in Victoria BC, Canada. I was asked to share a reflection on three ancient texts that are readings for March 29th in Lent. Hosea14:1–9; Psalm 81; Mark 12:28–34
Here is my response:
God’s love is not only for the perfect, for the unblemished, the strong; it is also for the unfaithful, the complaining, the weak and the wayward. God’s love tests us, and even though enemies surround us, love holds all of it- the dust, the dark, the songs, the cries, the joy, the sorrow.
The art I am currently making features roses expressively drawn in ink. My recent work has become a sort of testimony to my negotiating life with a disability – a complex form of PTSD. There are many times when I wish I could be free of this complication so I might be more successful in life professionally and relationally. But the irony is I would not be facing pain if I did not love. The reality is, that for all of us, life to some degree or another is a mixed bag of hurt and happiness, freedom and burden and for us to try and separate our experience into the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful, leaves us outside of what love is supposed to do: hold our earthly experience tenderly and boldly so that life is complete.
This picture illustrates the swirl, confusion and beauty in which we humans find ourselves within our lived experience. I chose this picture because I can see in it the roots, branches, and flower of God’s promise of healing in Hosea 14: 4-8. Sometimes the image appears to be the mark of a tear in the dust; or it could be a tree pushing upwards even though twisted and hindered with roots deep in the ground. Light is present, sometimes brightly, sometimes murkily, but from within the dark there emerges the perennial symbol of the presence of love.
Having had my so much of my world view informed by listening to Australia’s public broadcaster, the ABC, I cannot say how much it means to have a written piece published in the Religion and Ethics Report. The article Art and the Nature of Good and Evil is an expansion of a talk I originally gave in concert with my first solo exhibition The Other Side of War.
I am very pleased to taking part in this exhibition coming up in May.
May 3 – 12, 2019
arc.hive artist run centre 2516 Bridge St, Victoria, BC V8T 5H3
Opening: May 3rd, 2019 (7-9 pm)
Shae Anthony, Desiree DeRuiter, Markus Drassl, Susan Feilders, Sheryl Fisher, Amber Morrison and Cornelia van Voorst
Through drawing, painting, printmaking, collage and sculpture, seven artists navigate the Interworld to produce works exploring time, transformation, the uncanny, and the secretive and silenced worlds of trauma and mental health.
Flowers appear on the earth;
the season of singing has come…..
My dove in the clefts of the rock,
in the hiding places on the mountainside,
show me your face,
let me hear your voice;
for your voice is sweet,
and your face is lovely.
For a booklet of meditations for Advent, I was asked to respond to the text (Song of Songs 2:8–14 ) Even though not a typical interpretation, the roses represent the sometimes invisible yet persistent presence of love, and when reading the scripture in the context of my art I am reminded of Advent’s longing for light in the darkness and that the bringer of light appears on earth as a child.
After laying aside my curatorial work with the Stairwell Gallery, my mind has turned to my own work as a priority. But as I approach it I notice that as well as a sense of need and desire to make art, there is a deep hesitation.
To overcome that reticence, I decided to keep my art practice simple. I have hand torn small squares of water colour paper as my support, and ink as my medium. As my reference I have pictures of roses from the neighbourhoods I spend my days in. I thought: I will just get myself started with small roses and go from there.
But even with this simplicity, I notice my reluctance and mood deepen; and at the same time I notice that I am soothed somehow by making roses, and that I really don’t want to be making anything else but these small gestural pieces.
Then I began seeing them as plumes of bombs as seen from above. And sometimes they look like glimpses of landscape seen from the air through a break in the clouds. I also imagine them as broken hearts or voices. And sometimes, thanks to the sheen of the ink, they look wet, and the roses become small pools of tears.
This morning I understood that my reluctance to engage with and the desire to do my work both come from the same place- from grief. And so I will continue with these roses as they seem to be giving symbol and solace to the many layers of sadness I feel: for my own childhood, for the loss of my family; for what I learned of war and holocaust when I was little, for what I have learned of these as a woman; for mothers and children lost under bombs; for creatures and our world suffering under the weight of greed; for our collective past from which we have learnt so little, and for our present in which so many of us feel helpless.
This Tender Earth is my last show as curator for the Stairwell Gallery for the foreseeable future. It has become too hard to keep up with the work of curating and give my own art the attention it needs; as well, the gallery needs more energy than I am able to provide at this time. I feel terribly sad about this decision and wish I had the time and energy to do it all. I am so thankful to St Philip Anglican Church for allowing contemporary art into sacred space, and am particularly grateful to the Rector, Christopher Page who has supported my work as curator and for his enthusiasm for the art that has been shown.
The exhibition will continue until the afternoon of November 16th and the gallery is generally open from 9 30 – 1 pm Monday to Thursday . Please call ahead though to ensure the church is staffed. (250) 592-6823 Stairwell Gallery, 2928 Eastdowne Rd at St Philip Anglican Church.
Since the History as Personal Memory exhibition I have been concentrating on my curating work and helping with improvements to an art space I have been involved with.
I have for a number of years attended a small church called St Philip Anglican which is influenced by a contemplative approach to Christianity.
Over the last few years the church has opened up space for local contemporary artists in a space we now call the “Stairwell Gallery.”
Lately the last of the poster boards has come down, track lighting has been added along with a fresh coat of paint, all thanks to volunteers of St Philip’s congregation.
The latest show is an exhibition by artist Jane Coombe of her work “Iconic Blue” about Victoria’s Johnson Street Bridge, affectionately known as the “Blue Bridge.” It was really special to be involved in curating this show as Jane was the first person from Vancouver Island School of Art I ever spoke with at length and we spent a long bus ride talking about the spiritual role of art and how it informs our attitude to life.
Our local paper covered the exhibition and local art documentarian Efren Quiroz made a video of Jane Coombe talking about her work.
Vancouver Island School of Art asked artists to donate a work for their fundraiser “Art For You” held at the beginning of May 2018
This is the piece I made specifically for the event.
“Of Things Hoped For” 12 by 8 inches. Collage, ink, paper, gesso on wood panel.
“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
-Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
As I began to look at WW2 history as a daughter seeking to understand her roots I became aware of how little I knew– especially of civilian tragedy with its situational complexity. The work I am involved with pays attention to German war time stories which are not well known and yet, I believe, need to be included in our understanding of WW2 and the Holocaust. With them the larger narrative is protected from becoming an homogenous stereotype with limited relevance for our present day.
Drawing is traditionally a preliminary practice yet by using drawing materials my work becomes a method of working back into a personal and collective past, opening it up to questions in order to discover what might have been overlooked. Conte crayon, charcoal, ink, pencil, eraser and acrylic paint are used expressively as I search beneath the surface of historical narrative. Artworks are distressed through various means to explore rich textural possibilities of medium; I bring a tactile reality to images sourced from historical photos so that the past is symbolically embodied in the present.
My current work departs from historical photos as a source and uses my own photos of roses found in my neighbourhood as reference for a symbolic interpretion of the story of German resistance. I am curious about how since the 60s, our post war ideals call upon love as being the answer to our world’s troubles, yet our understanding of love does not seem complex or muscular enough for such a task. Through learning about those who resisted the Nazi regime- even at the cost of their own lives – I am discovering love is an antidote to violence and the means by which we may develop the character and values necessary to resist oppression.
Grateful for the opportunity to talk about my art in the latest VISA Newsletter! Although I have not had the time for courses since Advanced Drawing, I have taken workshops which are a rewarding way to keep learning while working full time. Follow this link to the newsletter in which it is featured with an interesting article on how to look at art. The newsletter is well worth subscribing to.