Something From Nothing

My Zen teacher often says, "There is no 'away'" when he is talking about the notion of throwing away what we call trash.  There is no away.  Everything ends up somewhere even if it is out of our line of sight.  So what, exactly, is going in our minds when we throw something "away"?  There is some subtly conscious disconnect that happens that allows us to believe that this thing - piece of plastic or paper or whatever - is going away.  Does it disappear?  Not really.  Once you realize this, become aware of it, it makes throwing things "away" a rather heavy burden.  I almost wish I could go back to not knowing, not being aware.  (Sorry, now I have spoiled it for you!)

For the past 13 summers, there has been a big writer's festival in Woody Point, a small community within the boundaries of Gros Morne, the national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is about 1.5 hours drive from here.  Since 2015 or so, they have hosted an art exhibition concurrently and these have proved to be very welcome and successful.  This year, the exhibition will be titled Salvage and I proposed to make a new project for it.  I have been collecting the trash that has washed up on Gillams beach and I am making nine small artworks with it, along with some items that I have collected from yard sales that also could be categorized as cast-off or no longer of value.  My piece is called Containment.

After I collected the beach debris, I washed it to clean it up.  As I was doing that simple act, I felt almost like I was caring for a little pet or even a child that no one else wanted.  It was all just stuff that got blown in, tossed in, washed into the bay - plastic tags from fishing traps, nets, plastic shopping bags, chip bags, soda cans, tampon applicators.  I mean, it's trash.  But there it is and by giving it a scrub, caring for it, I changed it somehow.  

As I have been making the works, I feel a real reverence for each piece that I include.  I am reminded of an instruction that I received about how to arrange flowers on the altar in the meditation hall - consider each flower and place it so it can best reveal itself.  I am really interested in how materials and objects contain experience so the challenge is to help bring that out, communicate something about it, while also making something visually interesting and....how to say it?  I am not the first person to make collages from beach debris.  There is a look to that kind of work.  Or, I have an notion of what it might look like based on seeing things in the past.  I have been actively aware of trying to make something that looks new and fresh, not so much "like" something else.  Not sure if I have succeeded on any of these fronts but it sure has been fun to try.

The festival and exhibition will be on view from August 15th to 20th in the Woody Point Heritage Theatre.  If you are lucky enough to have scored some tickets, please check it out!

 

BARDO-29 Opens

The inaugural exhibition at BARDO-29, the newest project of The House Museum opened on July 9th.  TItled, Newfoundland, Real and Imagined, the exhibition invited artists (and non-artists) to submit works no larger than 12" x 12" (30 cm x 30 cm) that represented their idea of Newfoundland.  Twenty artists reponded.  Some come from across the street, some from across the bay and some from across the globe.  Overall, five countries are represented.

Visiting Newfoundland was not a prerequisite for being included.  The exhibition is as much about the distance between the idea of something and the thing itself as it is specifically about Newfoundland.  In context of The House Museum however, which is always exploring how culture and tourism interact, this question is pointed directly at the island.  

Once the work was installed, I began to think that there were a couple of other questions worth asking....like, what hasn't been included?  And what would a Newfoundlander be scared to see included?  Not sure that I could base an entire exhibition on those two questions but I think they are worth considering while in the space.

The show is open on weekends through August 30th.

Many thanks to all who submitted work!  

Finn Allen, Amy Bay, Joy Burt, Sasha Chavchavadze, Shannon Coyle, Anne Dinan, Janis Evans, Roy Evans, Ashley Hemmings, Paula Lalala, Robyn Love, Conan Masterson, Eva Melas, Blake Mills, Carol Mitchell, Hye Ryung Na, Sonya Schoenberger, Melinda Stickney-Gibson, Colette Urban and Fran Willing.

 

 

 

Entering the BARDO realm...

Entering the BARDO realm...

BARDO-20 installation view,  Newfoundland, Real and Imagined

BARDO-20 installation view, Newfoundland, Real and Imagined

Facing Wall, top to bottom:  Pitcher Plant hooked mat, Roy Evans (Lark Harbour, NL), Hands, Paula Lalala (Brooklyn, NY), Iceberg enamel necklace, Anne Dinan (Exeter, NH).  Perpendicular wall:  Pitcher Plant painting, Janis Evans (Lark Harbour, NL), Newfoundland House hooked mat, Joy Burt (Gillams, NL), Home Sweet Home hooked mat Amy Bay (Portland, OR), Morning Glory watercolour, Shannon Coyle (Gillams, NL)

Facing Wall, top to bottom:  Pitcher Plant hooked mat, Roy Evans (Lark Harbour, NL), Hands, Paula Lalala (Brooklyn, NY), Iceberg enamel necklace, Anne Dinan (Exeter, NH).  Perpendicular wall:  Pitcher Plant painting, Janis Evans (Lark Harbour, NL), Newfoundland House hooked mat, Joy Burt (Gillams, NL), Home Sweet Home hooked mat Amy Bay (Portland, OR), Morning Glory watercolour, Shannon Coyle (Gillams, NL)

Sea Glass Teapots by Emma Croll-Baehre (Corner Brook, NL) and Coffee Cups by Eva Melas (Brooklyn, NY)

Sea Glass Teapots by Emma Croll-Baehre (Corner Brook, NL) and Coffee Cups by Eva Melas (Brooklyn, NY)

Puffin hooked mat, Linda Foulds (Corner Brook, NL), Lost and Found, Sasha Chavchavadze (Brooklyn, NY), Untitled (Shed) Gum Photo-transfer with embroidery, Ashley Hemmings (Corner Brook, NL), Tidings embroidery and fabric collage, Lucy Taylor (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Puffin hooked mat, Linda Foulds (Corner Brook, NL), Lost and Found, Sasha Chavchavadze (Brooklyn, NY), Untitled (Shed) Gum Photo-transfer with embroidery, Ashley Hemmings (Corner Brook, NL), Tidings embroidery and fabric collage, Lucy Taylor (Edinburgh, Scotland).

Better shot of Ashley Hemming's piece,  Untitled (Shed) .

Better shot of Ashley Hemming's piece, Untitled (Shed).

A better view of Lucy Taylor's work.  Although it is not possible for visitors to know, this piece has an intriguing and beautiful heft to it.  It is small but dense in a lovely way!

A better view of Lucy Taylor's work.  Although it is not possible for visitors to know, this piece has an intriguing and beautiful heft to it.  It is small but dense in a lovely way!

Anne Dinan's magnetic brooch,  Iceberg .

Anne Dinan's magnetic brooch, Iceberg.

Roy Evans Pitcher Plant hooked mat.

Roy Evans Pitcher Plant hooked mat.

Amy Bay's hooked mat that she made based entirely on an idea that hooked mats are made in Newfoundland but without really knowing how.

Amy Bay's hooked mat that she made based entirely on an idea that hooked mats are made in Newfoundland but without really knowing how.

Newfoundland, Real and Imagined - opens July 9th!

Please join me for the opening of

Newfoundland, Real and Imagined

at BARDO-29/The House Museum

Sunday, July 9th from 2 to 4 p.m.

A salon-style exhibition exploring the idea of Newfoundland featuring works by artists from the Bay of Islands, across North America and South Korea. BARDO-29 is part of The House Museum located at 29 Mill Road in Gillams, on the north shore of the Bay of Islands.

Polly MacCauley’s Finest, Divinest, Wooliest Gift of All

Polly MacCauley's Finest, Divinest, Wooliest Gift of All is a children's book by Sheree Fitch with illustrations by Darka Erdelji.  It is soon to be released - June 30th - by Running the Goat Books and Broadsides, based in Tors Cove, NL.  Ms. Fitch lives in River John, NS, and has been simmering this story in her head for over twenty years.  According to her telling, it all came together in a moment of inspiration during a visit to Deanne Fitzpatrick's rug hooking studio in Amherst, NS.  I daresay that she is not the first person to experience a deeply moving moment of inspiration in Deanne's studio but, lucky for us, she is one who was able to then put it all down on paper.

I confess to being surprised and not a little flattered to be given an advance copy of the book.  I mean, who am I to weigh in on the merits of children's literature save for the fact that I have read thousands of books to my children over the years?  On the other hand, it can not be denied that I am a fan of children's books, especially beautifully illustrated ones like this one and, not to mention, children's books about wool, sheep, knitting and small town life in Atlantic Canada.  This one hits the mark on all those points.

When the book arrived, I saw that is it not a children's book that you might pop out in line at grocery story.  This is a settle-in kind of book that might even be read over a few sittings, depending on your children's attention span.  In keeping with that idea, I gave myself time with it, reading and re-reading over several days.  I began to think of the book as having layers of experience, much like a skein of hand-dyed yarn.  First, you need to wash, scour and dry the fleece.  Then card and spin it into yarn.  Then prepare the dyes, and so on.  Likewise, the book contains the story, the plot.  Then there is the language itself.  The pictures offer another experience.  The message of the story is another thing and the play between narrator and reader offers yet something else.  It's not one thing and, again depending on your children, the reader can pull out one strand (ha!) to emphasize based on what might resonate in that moment in time.  I guess what I am saying is that, like a beautiful skein of handspun, hand-dyed yarn, the book has depth.

Depth in a children's book is wonderful for the adult reading it because depth makes is bearable to read over and over and over again (as any good children's book should be read).  It helps if there is something for everyone to enjoy.  The real test, however, is if there is something that captures the imagination of the child listening.  As my children have left the nest, i was not able to field test the story - I was left to imagine their reactions.  My two were usually captivated by playful language and I think they would have delighted in the lists and repetition, the internal rhyming and other aspects that make this a fun book to read aloud and to listen to spoken.  The little handwritten asides that the narrator slyly puts in here and there add a fun, almost subversive note, that I am sure my kids would have loved.  I suspect they might have given a little bit of the side-eye when they were older if only because they might have smelled an agenda, being that it is all about sheep, wool, knitting and community, things that they were immersed in simply because they were my kids.  But I think even they might have forgiven me my agenda for the sake of this delightful, beautiful book.

Please consider it for your own little lambs - or any that you might know.   It is available for pre-order now via the Running the Goat website.

 

BARDO-29/The House Museum

The House Museum will have some new life this summer!  I am activating a space in the house as a place where artists (and non-artists) can explore and play with ideas.  I call it BARDO-29 and will inaugurate the space with a salon-style exhibition open to all titled Newfoundland, Real and Imagined.  Read about it here!