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