March 22: The Journey to Answers

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Ahoy, ahoy!  I can hardly believe the semester is coming to a close so quickly… I have really loved writing this blog, it’s been such a great learning and growing experience.  Who knows, maybe I will continue writing it in the future!

Yesterday, I attended an artist’s talk by Andrea Mortson at the Owens.  While the talk was interesting and entertaining, upon further discussion with my roommate, she remarked that she found Andrea had not answered many questions about her work and that the talk was very open ended.  What do we do when the people we turn to for answers about specific ideas or concepts seem to be drawing as much of a blank as we are?  This brings me back to a problem I had in my Globalization class earlier this term.  We all had to present our ideas and concepts for a massive research paper that we were to be working on all term.  When it came my turn to present, I expressed my frustration at being incapable of establishing a concrete answer to my research question.  My professor, who can be rather cryptic sometimes, merely remarked that “sometimes, the journey of trying to find an answer is as important as the answer that you are trying to find” or something along those poetic lines.

To me, this concept of the journey toward an answer was what Andrea’s works were.  Some of her works, she felt incapable of describing, yet also expressed that what we thought about the work could not be wrong.  She did not have a “right” answer, and maybe she never would.  Why does an answer matter so much to us?  Why do we always have to have concrete examples or structures or concepts behind everything?  While Andreas work is not abstract, perhaps the concepts behind it are.  In a sense, our own personal journey towards answering “what does this mean” can be just as important as finding a concrete answer to that question.  For some questions, there are concrete answers, quantifiable answers, empirical answers.  For some questions, the theoretical answers will be woven out of a personal journey and account of the effects something may have on a person.  Often, we make assumptions and classifications about the meanings behind the work of deceased artists, so I think it is understandable that we may be shocked at the inability of a living artist to express a clear cut, well executed answer about what exactly is being represented or expressed in their work.  Perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked.

That’s all!

Brit

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March 10: Reacting to art

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Apologies for the delay.  I promised to have something really fantastically insightful for you up sometime this weekend, and suffice to say, this did not happen.  So I don’t know if this entry is going to be awesome or insightful, I just know that I have to do it.  A plus, I’ve got a lovely entry based off of today’s lecture that I cannot wait to post tomorrow.  But for now, reflections of the weekend.  We had to write a painting review for class today, reflecting specifically on either a talk by Ben Reeves or a gallery exhibition by Andrea Mortson.  I was at a complete loss of what on earth to write about.  My brilliant, art-history-masters-program accepted roommate, however, polished off a great little review about the technique of thin application of paint in Mortson’s works.  I, on the other hand, felt as though it would be torturous to get a few words out, and whether or not they were good words was to the mercy of Gemey.  Sometimes I wonder how art critics do it.  I went to the Owens and was there for close to an hour, just looking at these paintings and thinking lots of different thoughts associated with each one.  But when it came down to analyzing or critiquing the subject of painting, I didn’t even know which way to look!  Was I supposed to be speaking about the application of paint or the subjects in the paintings?  Colours used? How the painting made me feel?  The possibilities were so varied!  I ended up writing about how the paintings made me feel, but the technical aspects of the art were lost on me.  I love art but perhaps I wouldn’t make a very good critic or art historian.  A patron of the arts perhaps?  To me, what I take away from most works is not technical but how I felt.  Was my first reaction “That’s cool/scary/weird/awesome” or was it “That’s bad/sloppy/messy/poor quality?”  I feel like I have not been immersed long enough in the art world to begin passing judgements on the quality of work.  Perhaps, like anything, it simply takes practice.  Until then, I suppose I’ll be content with personal reactions and reflections.

That’s all for tonight!

Brit

March 3 and 8: Uninspired

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Ahoy, ahoy!

So I have a terrible dilemma.  I have been completely, and totally uninspired to write this blog for an entire week!  I owe you guys entries for last Thursday and this Tuesday, and of course I owe you one for today.  However, I am going to hold off on today’s blog because I am dedicating this blog (which accounts for two days) to trying to find some inspiration.  I’ll try to hit you all with an awesome, insightful and relevant entry this weekend about today’s class but for now, I’m going to discuss inspiration.

The concept of inspiration can be applied to almost any goal or situation anyone has.  You need inspiration for an amazing essay, inspiration to win the big game, inspiration to create a work.  I need (and lack) inspiration for this blog.  Maybe it’s the March blues…it’s too early for it to be the “ides of March” as we have all been warned about through Shakespeare’s writ.  However, regardless of what the inspiration is for, the concept of inspiration is that you are aiming to achieve something great, something even better than usual.  It’s about putting out your best work, and ultimately, a representation of your best self for all to see.

To me, inspiration cannot be forced, but you can certainly help yourself along.  I am not an artist, but I live with one.  Each project she decides to ultimately create comes from hours of thinking, not-thinking, overthinking….until eventually something clicks.  Maybe she sees a photograph she loves of one of her friends and absolutely has to paint the face.  Another time, I know she was absentmindedly unraveling a thread and that’s when genius struck.  Sometimes the idea works, other times she hates it and it’s back to square one.  I feel that this happens often in all disciplines.  After all, Oscar Wilde was the one who said “I spent the entire morning inserting a comma; I spent the whole afternoon removing it again.”

Inspiration strikes, only to be whisked away again.  The worst is when inspiration occurs in the middle of the night.  You jolt upwards, wide awake at 3:38 am or some ridiculous time such as that, smiling.  You’ve awoken and had a marvelous idea.  The creative process is over!  Content you drift back to sleep….you awake at 7 am to your alarm.  You know you had thought of something, now if you could only remember what it was….

Looking for inspiration is an ongoing quest I feel that every human being experiences in their life.  Whether they are consciously always awaiting it, unconsciously stumbling upon it, channeling it only when needed….we all experience a need or want or flash of inspiration at some point.  And what a wonderful feeling it is.  One of my best moments of inspiration actually came from an incredibly explicit song.  For an energetic group of 19 to 21 year old girls, this song was hilarious in it’s explicitness.  I think we liked it mostly because of how obscene the lyrics were, to the point where the whole thing had become a joke.  And then, one day in the library, while talking about how easy it was in the modern age to find out someone’s entire life story on the Internet, inspiration took hold in my mind.  Instead of doing my homework, I instead chose to pen a parody of this explicit song’s lyrics, but have it talk about the phenomenon known as “Facebook creeping”. I was done the lyrics in half an hour and it was amazing.  I showed my friends who knew the original lyrics and everyone agreed that these new lyrics were even better than the old ones.  The whole thing was very Weird Al Yankovic, and for whatever reason I was absurdly proud of my lyrics and of course, posted them on Facebook.  Unfortunately, I don’t have my own parody video but my brother and I absolutely loved Weird Al when we were younger, so here it my own personal fave from him, “Eat It” inspired by the King of Pop’s “Beat It”.

Now how’s that for parody art?!

That’s all for now!  I promise I’ll have something new and interesting this weekend about today’s class!

Brit

March 1st: Photography’s Stories

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Reading break is over and March in Sackville has come in like a lion with another vicious dump of snow last night…I find it hard to believe that I have been writing this blog for five months now!  I feel like I have learned so much about my own ability to reflect on artists, movements and pieces.  I hope my entries have shown steady improvement in both content and clarification for my readers!

Today we’ve moved into photography.  I always love looking at photography that came before digital.  You can really tell that these artists had to work hard at their craft in order to perfect it.  I took a photography class once and I remember how difficult of a time I had getting my images to turn out just right in the wash.  I remember the frustration I would feel after unclipping several dried prints and examining them in the light only to realize that one was too dark, the other too light.  Sometimes I had not timed the exposure properly, other times there were fatal cross processed images.  Sometimes the film itself was the problem, and my apertures were set incorrectly.  And then it would be back to the drawing board, to pore over scribbled notes about how I went about developing and processing the first time around, in order to identify the mistake.  However, I had a lot of fun in that class and learned so much with that old camera of my dad’s.  But, at the end of the day, it seemed so much easier to just use a digital camera and then fix my mistakes later on the computer.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t think digital photography can be art.  Not by any means.  I know people who are digital photographers, and there is immense amounts of work involved.  it’s just a different kind of work.  I think that these two types of photography are very different, and both ought to be respected equally.  However, when I see old professional photographs, I can’t help but want to stare at them for much longer than digital prints.  They are often more beautiful to me than digital work, and usually more intriguing.  I find that most of my encounters with digital photography are focused on landscape.  Digital is an amazing way to capture blazing orange sunsets and the crystal perfection of the sea in the Mediterannean.  But black and white photography like Michel Lambeth and George Zimbel’s works seem to be more about stories and ideas, rather than the image itself.

That’s all!

Brit

January 25th: Contemporary First Nations Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!

We’ve moved onto to contemporary First Nations art, which is a huge category and also a favourite topic of mine.  The term “First Nations Art”often brings to mind the traditional black and red works, so popular as emblems in Canadian culture.  Off the top of my head, I know that I own a scarf, shot glass and stuffed bear that all bear traditional First Nations art work, in the style of various bands from the Pacific Northwest.  In my family’s home, the first thing you see when you enter is a beautiful traditional First Nations carving of Raven and Killer Whale.  These designs are very beautiful and widely recognized throughout Canada as art likely executed by someone of First Nations descent.

Haisla Raven

However, First Nations art has taken on a new direction in the recent years.  Traditionally, First Nations art was seen as an artifact, something to be placed in an ethnographic museum.  It was an art form that belonged to the past. When First Nations artists began creating contemporary art to reflect their situation in life.  When First Nations contemporary art began being placed into galleries, it was the source of confusion for many scholars and curators.  This new art had to be looked at in new ways, as the works did not fit into the context of European art history traditions.  These works could not be classified as artifacts, because they were being created in the here and now.  The First Nations people were proving that they had a culture that was alive and vibrant, not something that existed only in the past.

One of my favourite contemporary First Nations artists is Carl Beam.  We haven’t talked about him yet in class, but I am sure that we will at some point! Beam often uses the medium of collage in his works, and is not afraid to make very public political statements with his work.  Carl Beam works primarily with collage as a medium in his work.  He combines countless arrays of images into one whole piece, along with using paint, ink, writing or anything else he deems necessary to complete his message.  He aims to create collages that contain images that will mobilize and counter each other.  The images will often oppose one another, such as Native mythology juxtaposed with Christian imagery.  The images play off one another, provoking thought.  He wants his images to transpose time and space, to represent the First Nations person as not belonging to a particular time in history, but rather as being all encompassing and ever present.

The North American Iceberg by Carl Beam

That’s all!

Brit

October 26: Theosophy in Canada

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Ahoy, ahoy!  I can hardly believe the month is coming to a close in just a few short days!  This weekend, my house will be 6 plus one. as we have two visitors coming for the notable evening of All Hallows Eve!  Very exciting stuff.  I love Hallowe’en, maybe because it’s in Autumn (fave season) or because it’s just spooky and super fun!  There is always lots going on in Sackville for Hallowe’en, whether it’s a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show or a fun party at George’s, complete with a costume competition!  In the spirit (heh-heh) of all things mystical, magical and mysterious, let us examine theosophy in Canada!

thecanadaencyclopedia.com defines theosophy as follows: “Theosophy, philosophical system based on a belief in a universal, eternal principle fundamental to all life. The mystical overtones of its proposition of the fundamental identity of all “Souls with the Universal Soul” are similar to the doctrines of Buddhism and Hinduism”

Theosophy is quite all encompassing, and a student of theosophy can be of any religion, or none at all. The concepts it is based on redirect my thoughts to the ideas we examined earlier about the mythical qualities attributed to Aboriginal people in terms of their relation to Nature.  Theosophy in Canada had a great influence on the Group of Seven, especially Lawren Harris.  It is interesting that no matter what time period we are in, and no matter who seems to be painting, the important things to look at in Camada are products of the land.  Landscape painting has completely dominated almost all that we have studied so far, and theosophy often draws on interpretation of one’s surroundings in order to gain a complete experience of life within your surroundings.  Indeed, it is a very large concept to wrap your head around, but it is essentially based on comparitive philosophical, religious and scientific ideas.  It is very much about the quest for understanding.

Landscape painting is so much more than just a recreation of what you see.  For many painters who choose to work en plen air, their surroundings are where they discover themselves.  For Emily Carr, the forests of British Columbia were her sanctuary.  In her later years, she went to the forest to paint no just what she saw, but how her relationship to the trees and wilderness affected what she saw.  It is a feeling you get when you feel such a oneness with nature.  It is an incredible sense of connectivity and understanding, and for artists who feel this way, their brush and canvas are the best medium for capturing and expressing this feeling, in hopes to share it with others.  Personally, my feelings of oneness with nature have been most profound and impacting when I have been on top of a mountain in the wintertime.  As an avid snowboarder, the feeling you get when you climb beyond boundaries and into untamed ski area is unreal.  And when you have finally hiked high enough to see down the mountain, you get a feeling of being alone, in nature.  You are small, smaller than anything else around you and everything is so still, yet so loud all at once.

Brit

October 21: Symposium of Art!

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Ahoy, ahoy readers, if I have any, that is.

Last class we spoke more about the Group of 7, Tom Thomson’s death and the evolution from the Group of 7 to the Canadian Group of Painters.  But I am more interested in an event that is going on in Sackville RIGHT NOW!  I’m talking about the Symposium of Art, that is put on by the Owens each year.  On Monday night, I had the pleasure of attending an Evening of Performance at the Sackville Music Hall.  I’d never been to the Sackville Music Hall before, but I have to say, what a venue.  It may be old and it’s glory days have been long ago forgotten, but this little space above Pickles and Blooms (German delicatessen and a flower shop) is enchanting in it’s new, rediscovered way.  It’s secret and tucked away, and though we were seated on plastic lawn chairs, looking at a sheet tacked to the wall for our viewing screen whilst shivering, it was truly wonderful.

The Sackville Music Hall- a Sackville hidden treasure!

The two film pieces that were shown were A Fool’s Errand and Bridge ProjectA Fool’s Errand was a documentary style movie made by Annik Gaudet of two people hitchiking their way to Gaspé (she was one of the two people).  The film was filled with scenic shots, shots of the road and some spoken parts that were updates of how the experiment was unfolding.  The two adventurers eventually made it to their destination, but the real point of the film was not the destination, it was the journey, as cliché as that may sound.  The interaction of the video with the surroundings of the Gaspé Penisula, interspersed with still photographs of the landscape was interesting to dwell on.  When one is hitchhiking, you’re going to be much more aware of your surroundings, in your stops than if you were in a car, and staying in hotels.  The environment and landscape around you becomes your home, in a sense, because you are truly living within it. Bridge Project was a collaborative work by Olivia McNair, a Fine Arts student at Mount Allison and Blair Ellis, a Music student.  I really liked this piece, as it was about the Bridge Street Bridge, which is one of many people’s favourite spots in Sackville, mine included.  The work had music created from people banging on the bridge, and it was overlaid with stories of people’s memories with the bridge.  Illustrations had been sketched to accompany the music, and were animated to move on the screen.  It was beautiful.

Landmarks can be so powerful for people, places that instantly jolt us to that sense of remembering, of being pulled back in time to a certain event, or person or instance.  What does the Bridge mean to you?  What do you think of when you think of the Bridge?  Olivia and Blair asked this of many people to help with their project, and though they only featured a small sample of the Bridge stories, I’m sure everyone they asked had something important to say.  I have my own Bridge memories too.  Sitting at the end of the old bridge, on a red blanket, eating a mixture of berries from a tall Tupperware container.  Making fun of you because you had forgotten to wear an actual jacket, and wrapped your torso in the blanket, then put your sweater on over top.  We stopped at Bridge Street Cafe for a small hot chocolate and peanut butter cookie each.  I bought them for you because you never carry cash.  You were worried people would know there was a blanket under your sweater.  I just laughed and ate all the whipped creme off your hot chocolate when you weren’t looking.

A landmark can be anything.  It just has to hold meaning to you.

Brit

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