First of all, I want to say that I believe wholeheartedly in mentorship. I wish that everychild, whether they want to pursue higher academia or not, was enrolled in an apprenticeship program from junior high through high school, so that when graduation rolls around, they would have a marketable skill. I believe it would solve a plethora of societal issues. But that's another post for another time.
I also believe you are never too old to learn. In June 2017, at the age of 63, I had the honour of being chosen to participate in the Mentoring Artists for Mentoring Women (MAWA) foundational mentorship program. So, from September 2017 to September 2018, I received guidance and encouragement from my wonderful mentor, Chris Cooper. I could not have asked for a more perfect match for me. What a great privilege to be inspired by such an insightful young woman, who with great intuition and knowledge, helped me navigate an intense year of art making. (Chris Cooper is the Art Educator of the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon.)
For our first meeting, we went out for lunch to discuss my in-depth plan for the following year. This is the first major task for the mentee/mentor team. Amen to that! I am a planner and a list maker, and cannot function without continually resetting and regrouping goals, but I felt uneasy about the agenda I presented to Chris. It felt too broad, too redundant, and not specific enough to perpetuate the growth and the evolution of my work that I was seeking. We ordered our food and immediately delved into my proposal. Not two minutes into our discussion, Chris surprised me with her keen insight. At the time, I was preparing for a solo exhibition and was faced with producing a large number of large paintings. Feeling uneasy, and yet unsure about my options, I listed them as part of my "to-do" list. Chris said she sensed I was experiencing a heaviness about this task. I assured her she was correct, which opened up the floodgates of discussion. It felt so good to have someone be that perceptive and someone to validate my apprehension. This conversation was the seed of an entirely new direction and development in my current art practice. Yes, I enjoyed making new paintings, but Chris gave me the validation and push I needed to use my paintings as springboards in order to reach a new dimension.
The first meeting Chris and I had in my home, studio, and community, gave her a greater understanding of who I am and what I do. After an extensive tour, she expressed enthusiasm and used the word "matrix" as the overarching word to describe my world. This word has stuck with me ever since. The definition of the word "matrix": an environment or material in which something develops; a surrounding medium or structure. My work seems to be inextricably woven into my surroundings, particularly the Riding Mountains, the wide open landscape, and the immense prairie sky. At first glance, seemingly separate, but at closer inspection, intertwined as one. which suited the mottoes I had already chosen for my art practice - "finding the extraordinary in the ordinary" and "bloom where you're planted".
The aceart gallery in Winnipeg graciously allowed our mentee group to have an exhibition in their space this past January. The show was called SHIFT and represented the personal growth and overcoming nature of all the participants, through dance, sculpture, painting, textile, film, photography, ceramic, and collage. Chris went above and beyond to curate and install the show over the Christmas holidays.
So thank you Chris, for all of our many great conversations and your much appreciated insight. It will all be added to the ever expanding matrix! Thank you MAWA for this great opportunity. You provide a unique experience in our Manitoba art community. I hope I have made the very best use of this opportunity to further women's art in Manitoba and beyond.
Until next time,
The Podunk Howler
For reasons of survival, seventeen months have passed since I last wrote a post. Significant amounts of intense water have passed under my bridge and many transitions have been made. I am so grateful that amidst all of the moving and life changes, I was able to maintain my to-do list and keep my regular activities afloat until normal life returned. I feel like I can finally take a breath again and relax into a new
and exciting chapter of life. So equipped with a thankful heart, and a heart that is expecting good things, Hi-Yo Silver Away? Upward and onward.
My studio is divided into stations: painting, printmaking, textile art, writing, drawing, quilt top piecing, barn quilts, and community events. I systematically divide my day up accordingly depending on the urgency of completion. Since the beginning of January, I have devoted several hours a day working on the expansion of a textile installation (Riding the Edge: departure) that I developed last year, the completion of a king size quilt for our new master bedroom, plus a completely new venture - the writing of a children's book, which I plan on illustrating over the next year. (i signed up for the advanced creative writing seminar so that I could work with, the second-to-none head of the creative writing department at Brandon University, Dale Lakevold. His questions and encouragement have been phenomenal. I knew that preparing a defense would make me dig deeper and it has proven true.)
The community garden that I designed 13 years ago continues to thrive, this past year, thanks to my husband. When I was overwhelmed with our life transition, he kept up the daily maintenance. This morning on my schedule is the clean-up of the odd bit of trash brought in by the wind, and pulling up all the dead annuals that I leave to catch the snow, but I have no doubt that I will find some stubborn and stalwart weeds sticking their noses above ground already. Even though we experienced an exceptionally cold winter, the weeds will not have been daunted. I am concerned, however, about the perennials, herbs and shrubs. I will know the outcome in a few weeks.
Last year, inspired by one of my large landscape oil paintings, I prepared two large woodcut plates, with the plan to use my husbands large machinery (backhoe and skid steer) as my printing press. We ran out of time last fall, but it is on my radar for sometime in May. There will definitely be an entry on my blog about this, including photos. I think it will be a fun event. I'm not interested in producing perfection, but rather interesting imperfections.
So, as I celebrate my triumphant survival of the past seventeen months, I embrace all of my projects, even pulling the weeds!
Until next time,
The Podunk Howler