Day 12

Well, that was a weird art day (or still is I guess).  I laboured – which should have been my first clue – over a piece of work involving me and my Iranian grandmother today, all day.  I took photos, spent hours in photoshop, took text from her diary (long story) – it was epic.  I even waffled on here about it for pages and pages.

But, it just wasn’t right.  I sent it to Sam first (which I never do, so that was my second clue), who confirmed, yes, it was crap.  Not that I think everything I’ve been posting here has been great, but at least it’s usually experimental, or simply fun, part of a larger idea, or in progress.  This wasn’t any of those things, and it seemed to come way out of left field.  It was finished, but just not any good.  I might need to go back to it, or just abandon it – not sure.

So I deleted the post, and now here I am back to square one and it’s nearly 6pm.  Damn.

Ok, so it’s now 7pm, and I’ve just added to the wall piece I did yesterday – in the spirit of ‘Secret City’…

Day 11

Wasn’t in the studio much today as it was an office work day, but decided this evening to continue what I was working on yesterday except directly on the wall.

I’m thinking of building on it and maybe eventually filling the entire wall.

In a weird way it reminds me of  a TV show I used to watch religiously when I was a kid.  No idea what it was called, but this guy did these massive drawings of futuristic scenes – like a Jetson’s world.  Every morning he would add to them and this drawing would just grow and grow every day.

I loved it so much I used to get up at something like 6am and sit with my sketchbook and draw along.  Anyone remember this?

Omigod – wait –  I seriously finally just found it!  It was called Secret City and was on PBS in the late 80’s and early 90’s:

I can’t even begin to tell you how important this show was to me (yes, I was a massive dork).  Wow.

Finding this has just totally made my day.

Day 10





So, for some reason I started doing these today, and just found I couldn’t stop (sorry for the crappy inconsistency of the images – sometimes Photoshop just bores the hell out of me and I just think F*k it – done).

Really, really  enjoying getting back into my sketchbook and working on paper again after what feels like a very long time.  And it’s good too as I have to keep remembering that come March (ok, maybe end of Feb), when the baby arrives, my days of installation art are going to be pretty limited, to say the least.  I’m going to need something I can do at home that doesn’t take up huge amounts of space.  Apparently babies do that all by themselves.

Day 9

Actually loving this.  Would love to cast it in – something…
It’s nagging at me that someone has done something like this with paper, but I can’t remember who/what.

But it does remind me of Robert Morris’ Felts series:

I stole this image from a great blog about art and textiles.

I was also reading about Richard Serra (thanks to my brother in law for the book Spark: How Creativity Works – a great thing to read right now) and the pivotal moment in his studio when he plays around with a piece of rubber and it stands up unassisted:

(see the MoMA site for more details)

– yep, one of those life/art changing moments.

I’m still waiting for mine…

Day 6

Here was the view from my bedroom this morning after last night’s storm:

There is normally a road you can see.

So speaking of snow, and probably because of it, I’ve been thinking about Helen Chadwick’s ‘Piss Flowers’ a lot since I’ve been here.  She was doing a residency in Banff and she and her partner peed into the snow and then cast the interior spaces.

As I’m working with plaster, I’ve been wondering how she physically cast the space in the snow, and what would happen if I poured plaster into the snow.

So, as there were huge snow drifts outside my studio today, I have to wonder no more:

Not really what I expected.  I thought it would be smoother, like when it spills on the counter and hardens, but of course I had forgotten about all the air inside snow, which (I assume) is what’s making it look a bit like coral.

Again, not sure where, if anywhere, this is going, but that’s ok.

I haven’t mentioned my art making bible – Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles and Ted Orland – but it saves my sanity all the time.

As it’s the end of the week, I’ll leave you (and me) with this from their chapter on ‘Uncertainty’, p.21:

What’s really needed is a nothing more than a broad sense of what you are looking for, some strategy for how to find it, and an overriding willingness to embrace mistakes and surprises along the way.  Simply put, making art is chancy – it doesn’t mix well with predictability.  Uncertainty is the essential, inevitable and all-pervasive companion to your desire to make art.  And tolerance for uncertainty is the pre-requisite to succeeding.

Day 5

So here’s an art tip:
Should you be thinking of tackling issues around the Middle East and Islam and feeling a bit weird or uncertain about it, just start reading about the mixed bag that was/is the Dubai Art Fair and your confidence will be restored.  I understand it’s better now, but what I was reading from 2009 said: “Much of the rest, though, was either pretentious or too literal, either decontextualized or straining to project a context.”  Fabulous.  I spent way too much time this morning reading Artforum’s Diary archive (one of those rambling internet search moments) – but I feel revived.

It’s easy to forget, sitting on a farm in remote Nova Scotia, that much of the larger art world is really just a glitzy, vapid, hot mess where the work that gets high praise (and dollars) wouldn’t survive two seconds in a first year art crit at your local art college.
Check this out and then imagine trying to justify it in front of a skeptical art prof:

Now, before I sound bitter and disillusioned, let me say that much of this actually makes me feel the opposite.  Looking at bad art that’s ‘made it’ is actually quite freeing.  Rather than feeling all hung up about how to present your ideas in a subtle intelligent way that reads well without being too obvious, you can see someone who took all those ideas you already abandoned as too literal and just barfed it in a gallery.  Nice.  Now maybe you don’t have to be so precious and tormented right?

There’s something about telling people you’re making a prayer rug out of eggs that sounds fairly ridiculous and reductive, and I’ve been struggling with this since I started.  There’s also that nagging feeling of not being ‘allowed’ to dip your toes into certain cultural subjects if you can’t speak from a position of authority.  Now I say, screw it.  If I flip it around and think about someone in Iran with a Canadian grandmother wanting to explore ideas of Canadian identity and the English language in their work, I would see that as perfectly valid, as well as interesting.

Here’s some work I did on this subject in 2010, but never put on my website, as it never really seemed to ‘fit’ with the rest of my practice:


'Abstracting gestures of worship may lead to interpretations of Islam (and your work) as mysterious and unknowable'

'This is about difference and Islam, but also about how exotic I look with lots of eyeliner and a veil. I'm hoping I look more Iranian than I actually am.'

These are obviously takes on Shirin Neshat’s work, specifically her ‘Women of Allah’ series (a series I did write about, quite critically, in my art history Master’s thesis – a lifetime ago).  Work about ‘identity’ often treads a fine line between self-indulgent cliche and profound reflection of what really makes us all who we are.  Tricky business, with –  I would argue –  less room to  maneuver when you’re basically white.

So, right, some art today…

Ok, so attaching a video is apparently not possible here (I need to upgrade or something).  Hang on…
Hmmm…embedding doesn’t work either.  Right, here’s the vimeo link then:

It’s called ‘Do you speak English?’  I’m not going to stick around and see if it works (it’s still processing through Vimeo) as it is stormy out there and I’m looking forward to the comfort of the house.  Nothing quite like a snowstorm and a bubble bath – as long as the power doesn’t go out.

I’ll leave you with a final quote from the Artforum Diary (though in this case about Vanessa Beecroft), a world away from my little snowy art corner:

Like black crows, the art fans massed around the installation, staring in rapt contemplation of the naked posers, the classical art references, the inexorability of death, and the fact that we were stuck out in LIC [Long Island City] and there were no refreshments…

Day 4

A bit of an art fail today.

I was looking at this area outside:

And I have in mind something like this:

In case it’s not obvious (!) that would be thread and eggs stretched between the two posts.

Unfortunately, I misjudged the distance between the posts and ran short of thread as the rolls I had weren’t actually the full 110 yards.  Whoops.  So, as I was down there anyway on this cold day (-15 with wind chill), with my eggs and thread (I’m using real eggs, blown out, as then I can thread through them), I tried to use these other two posts which are closer together:

But it didn’t really work so well (you can just make out the egg in the top photo if you enlarge it).  I was a bit discouraged, and cold, so I guess you could say I didn’t really give it my full creative energy.  I left it set up down there and will revisit this another day – with full spools of thread.

Tomorrow is supposed to be pretty miserable – they’re calling it a ‘messy mix’ on the weather report (whatever that is, but it can’t be good) – so I might start some filming, perhaps just from the comfort of my little farmhouse.

Day 3

Not a whole lot to report creative-wise today.  My rubber mold for the eggs started leaking, so that was a bit of a crisis for a bit.  It’s tied together with rubber inner tubes and I think they’re just getting looser.  Plaster was just running right out the bottom.  This is what it looks like (post-crisis):

Anyway, after some panicked Face-booking with my friend Len (whose technical knowledge about sculpture and a crapload of other subjects is second to none) she basically shamed me into figuring it out by reminding me that I am an ARTIST – therefore creative problem solving is what I am supposed to be good at.  Right?  Right.  Ok.

I tried plasticine, which (duh) doesn’t stick to rubber, but then realized that sometimes the solution is right there in the problem.  So I used plaster to seal up the seam.  Success!  And yes, I felt pretty pleased with myself.  At least, it seems to be working so far…

The rest of the day was spent working in the office here as I’m on a part work-exchange.  I’m helping to organize their big fundraising event in March, which is actually pretty fun (so far!).  It’s going to be a Cuban-themed event (pre-Castro – natch), so I spent a large portion of my time on the phone trying to get various chocolate manufacturers to donate chocolate cigars – as you do.

So, art making itself took a bit of a backseat, but here’s what I’ve got today:

This is what happened when I was (mistakenly) trying to solve the leaking problem by making the plaster mixture thicker.  I like how it’s sort of egg and sperm like (though the thing on the right is a bit like an organ or brain).  It’s very similar to an early mistake that I did have in my studio a few months ago:

(sorry for the dark photos – too tired to fix them right now)

But now that I’ve done it twice, I feel more legitimate in maybe using them as sculpture or a multiple (yet each one would be unique).  As in, it wasn’t just a one-off fluke and now I know just the right amount of ‘wrong’ to make it happen again.

Of course, anything you put in that oak case (bought at auction) looks fabulous.  Like my friend Powell of P|M Gallery said, you could just put your lunch in there and feel like you made awesome art.  Too right.  Maybe I should have brought  the case with me…