Sunday, October 22, 2017

Oh Father

I felt a bit apprehensive about putting a drawing/painting of a man holding a newborn out into the world today. I can hear a lot of women screaming at me in my head that men don't need the glorification because, after all... THE PATRIARCHY.

I decided to drown all that out, however, and I pushed ahead with my idea. I worked on it rather passionately all day yesterday. I solicited the advice from all members of my family throughout the entire process, which I don't normally do. I am usually pretty confident about making something that says exactly what I want it to say. But this was not the case when it came to the desire to say something good about the good men in our lives. It sort of feels like we are not allowed to do that anymore. But, you know? Fuck it.

I wanted to create this because, invariably, I bet there is a good guy behind almost every woman who finally had the courage to speak out about being abused or assaulted by the bad ones. I think we need to have a serious conversation about what the differences are... My husband, for example, was raised by a single parent for most of his formative years and he tells me a story of his mother kicking his ass when he slapped a girl he was playing with when he was really young. He never did it again. He got the message loud and clear: you must not hurt girls and if you do, you will regret it. So is this mistreatment of women a learned behaviour? Do men who assault women learn the behaviour from their parents? Their fathers? I wonder.

But back to the good guys.

I, for one, would not and could not be doing what I love if my husband didn't support me. He has made it possible for me to follow my dreams of motherhood by working while I stayed home and when staying home got to be a bit too much for me, he stayed home so I could go to work. He has supported me 100% as a student, as an artist, as a human being walking the Earth without an instruction manual. These are the many examples of how my husband has been good to me, but the ways in which he has been a good father are limitless. When our babies were born my husband impressed the hell out of me. He was the first one to change their diapers. He was the first one to give them each their bottle (no, I didn't breastfeed but my children are miraculously attached, intelligent and healthy just the same). He was the first to hold them. Talk about pride. He was so proud of us. He was so willing to be anything and everything we needed. It was beautiful to witness. Perhaps some women might feel ripped off by not being at the helm of all these firsts (we carried and birthed them after all!) but it was soothing for me to witness it and to share it because of losing my own father at an early age. I enjoyed the vicarious experience immensely. I wanted to share the responsibility. It was half the fun! I never had the need to hold my baby constantly and attach it to myself unendingly. I enjoyed sharing the love and the cuddles. It was good for me. More than that, however, I wanted their father to have tangible knowledge and ability in all that it took to care for them successfully. I never had the hubris it seems to take to believe my child's needs could ever be entirely met by me and me alone. I know better than that and I always have. In the back of my mind, operating constantly, has been the undeniable intention that we be equally in charge of the care of our children in case something happens to one of us. I realize this fear stems from my own childhood loss, but this is what love feels like to me. This is what family means to me.

I started making this piece early yesterday morning and my daughter immediately voiced her opinion on the matter. She seemed visibly relieved that I was making art that brought attention to the good men out there. There are men who do not and have not abused women. There are men who are good fathers, who go to work and support their children. There are men who take fatherhood seriously. My daughter knows all of this because it is her lived experience, odd as it seems right now in the world at large. She was very quick to point out that there is not much art out there celebrating the good dads of this world, but I could tell it was a subject she wanted to explore. Art helps us to connect to ourselves and not all of it has to be difficult. I decided to shine a light on her lived experience.

On the flip side of all of these pleasantries, I have also had serious, open, ongoing discussions about sexual assault with my son and my daughter. I do not wish to suggest that I am unaware of how severe the problem is.



Prints of this work are available in my Etsy Shop-->> Here. 







Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Appetite




I've had a good summer as far as being an artist is concerned. It's been pretty damned good as far as being a human being is concerned for that matter. I haven't done any markets this year or anything like that, but that's because we moved and then my grandmother died and my heart and head continue to feel like mush. I've been through many things in my time, but these last several years have been the most rewarding and yet the most challenging I've ever known. Perhaps you can't have one without the other? So I couldn't even begin to get organized enough to attend a market as a vendor. I did, however, attend many markets as a buyer and I discovered a soap maker that I adore. It's all about give and take, I think. I commend the ones who get out there and do the promoting and the marketing. It's a harrowing, often demoralizing experience, but the rewards, when they come, are tremendous. Sounds exhausting just describing it and I know for sure that it is.

I have considered completely shutting down everything I have going on the internet: Facebook, Instagram, Etsy, this blog, all of it, because I realize it makes me feel out of step sometimes. But everyone says that at least once. It's boring, I know, but time moves on and I am not sure I've moved along with it as much as I'd like to think I have. The little fashionistas that are running rampant throughout this city will cause you to feel the same I am sure, if you bother to take note. Almost everyone is preoccupied with getting noticed, but I'm looking for a fresh start and I hate trends. And of course, there is the culture surrounding memes. The bane of my 13 year old's existence and the festering mange that plagues our concept of fame. Good fucking grief.

It's a very strange time we live in. Beyond that, everything about social media makes me feel chopped up into little pieces. It's not a good feeling. I've been at it too long and I've given away too much, I know. There is a piece of me here, a piece of me there, not to mention all the art I've published along the way. I don't know if I should step back and applaud the passion or be totally embarrassed that I've allowed all my creations to just sort of hang in space, outside of me (and the back of my closet where a lot of it belongs). Good, bad, otherwise... it's all there if you Google it and yes, I've Googled my own name before. So have you, so fuck off.

I still have strong desire to pursue painting and this is what keeps me motivated, but it's hard to know what direction to take and that kills the inspiration. I find I think more about sharing the work online than the actual work itself and when you jump the gun like that, it worries me that the work becomes more about the audience and less about the inner voice of the person doing the creating. When that happens, you end up with a lot of kitsch, but not much by way of self-expression, or so I feel. I feel a lot of my work lacks sincerity lately and it makes me sad. I feel like I have lost my way. But if you could see my true masterpieces (my children) you would see that I haven't exactly been neglecting the fine-tuning of my overall skill set. It's just that a lot of it you can't see. I mean, I don't feel comfortable talking about my kids online to any great extent now that they are old enough to share as much or as little about themselves as they want to. It's one thing to share cutesy baby stuff, quite another to show them off as teenagers. I feel like it is an invasion of their privacy and I'm just not willing do that. But trust me when I say I've been working at being a mother diligently and responsibly for over 16 years now. All day, every day, day after day. Even so, even now, all I really want out of life is to be the artist I was born to be and that's hard to define for me lately.

I remember when I started my Etsy shop years ago, the advice was to blog about it. Talk about it on social media as much as humanly possible. I remember a time well before that when I barely knew how to use a computer. I remember being resentful of people who had websites... like... how did they figure that out?! Now the ubiquity of it all is utterly suffocating. I mean, I hate my cell phone. I despise the little fucker, but I still take it almost everywhere. Fear of missing out is what keeps these things glued to our hands and I never used to care about that sort of bullshit. I used to be very happy to just do my own thing. So, I don't necessarily like being on view for the world to see, but I know enough to know it is a necessary evil. I've had a lot of success that way. I've sold and published art in spaces and places where I'd have never gone on my own. I just wish it felt fresh and new again, but it feels more like a visit to a relative's house where they keep hard candy in a dish on the coffee table. It is so old, it has dust on it, but it is still supposed to be that thing that we all desire and crave. Dusty candy. Delicious.

In other news, I've had some decent successes this summer. I won a cover-art contest and my art was published in a Routledge text about birth and spirituality. When I have the actual publications in hand, I will take photos and share them here. I will tell you all about them, don't worry. So sit tight and wait. It'll be worth it. These successes are not lost on me. I can't really express how they make me feel, but I always want more. I have an insatiable appetite for growth.










Saturday, September 9, 2017

Homesick








When I lived in Holmesville, as a child, my sisters, cousins, friends and I would walk for hours to the nearest swimming hole. Rarely did we all have bikes at the same time, so we always walked everywhere instead. We walked for hours, swam for hours, and came home to eat whatever we could find. Then we crashed in front of the television, watched the same movies again and again and again. I went to sleep with the smell of summer breezes in my long blonde hair and I fell asleep with ease. A layer of salt coated my skin from all the sweat after all that walking. Perfection.

To me, it felt like we owned the trees. We owned the fields. We owned the hills. We owned the water. We owned the sky. We owned the field mice and the grasshoppers. There was nothing to fear. I was a princess. My mother, a queen. 

After days like that, I'd have a summertime hangover. If there were bug bites at the back of my ear all crusted in dried blood, that meant I had slept well. If I never scratched them the entire night through, I must have been out. Out cold. This was a badge of honour and I always had my fair share. And my hair? A total rat's nest. The wilder, the better. It was a sign of hard-won freedom and I was a warrior. A warrior princess. 

Those were the days. This is where the desire comes from to be off, inside my own head for days, weeks at a time. These are the memories my soul seems to slip out of my body to revisit. Can you blame it? 

But in Simonds, when we lived there, things changed. There were many more neighbours and the everything became threatening and exhilarating and dangerous. We moved from a hayfield to a fishbowl. The feeling was entirely different and I became very sad. My cousins moved to Alberta and Burtt's Corner. My grandmother moved to Back Bay. Freedoms I had once known left me, but there were all kinds of troubles to get in to. I relied on long walks and loud music to soothe my mind of all its ills and there were many. I walked all the time. Here, there, and everywhere. I became a lost wanderer and I looked for my father everywhere and found him nowhere. These days were not all summer breezes and abandon. These were difficult days. These were days of reckoning.

And so, I wrecked my bicycle when I lived in Simonds. I half-killed myself on my damned bicycle when I lived in Simonds. These killer moments of your childhood will get your attention in more ways than one. I don't know how I survived living there, but it was home and I did. 

When we moved to Palmer Road, I think of two favourite memories. One night, my nieces and nephew were staying with us and it was a beautiful and balmy night. It was the first of July and there were fireworks going off in every direction. Our house was positioned in such a way that we could see the horizon in an almost 180 degree turn. Fireworks poof-ed up and then gently fell back down to the tree-line. Again and again. In silent bursts. My nephew got so excited, he took his pants off and ran around in his underwear. Freedom, you see! It was one of those nights that brimmed with magic. Summertime. Everything was so alive. All the children danced around the trees like squirrels skittering across the yard. 

When we still lived on Palmer road, there was yet another summer night that I think back on again and again. Ian and I took the kids to see the bright harvest moon. It hung all fat and orange in the hazy summer sky over ripe corn fields. The air was warm and electric. Everything was sensual and full of life. That night, after the kids went to bed, Ian and I took our plastic Adirondacks and moved out from under the trees so we could get a full view of the night sky. It was one of those clear nights, when the stars looked twenty layers thick. They went back and back and back into the depths of the universe. We drank beers and argued about the past. Even so, it was a magical time. The sky was inky blue dotted with bursts of light. It was all so beautiful and it soothed a part of my soul that no human hand ever could. All those stars made me feel lonely, but in a way that made me realize it was because I come from a great land beyond all that my eyes can see and every now and then, a vague understanding of what home is (or was) to me flashes across my mind. I miss home sometimes. Wherever it is, whatever that means.

It is no secret to humankind that we are stars.

I am.

And so are you.

So I guess it's okay to sift through the carbon from time to time. It's okay to go through the tangible to reach the intangible.

It's okay to feel a little bit homesick, now and then.

_____________________________________________________________________


"If the world should end in fire
The oceans boiling into flame
I will watch the last sunrise
And think of all the sunny days

When the mystery of the skies
And the shifting clouds
Was enough to make me sure
That beyond the gauzy haze

Of life's listless dream
There's a place where time is dead
And all things stand still
And always will, and always will"

The Handsome Family