Archive for October 2010
Written By Becka Viau
When I first viewed this lecture by Curator Thelma Golden, I found my self lost in a conversation around race… However, as I watched for a second time I realized that for me this lecture is really asking the question: is an art gallery a place to ignite social change? Or even better, where can an Art gallery exist so a community, so the community it serves can have conversations about difficult and changing social notions?
I instantly think of the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown. Is this gallery providing Islanders, its community, the right amount of catalyst to ignite social discussion? I would argue yes, in the sense that they do exhibit Island Artists and when looking at the exhibitions installed right now it is obvious that 4 out of 5 exhibitions directly speak to island life and the conversations are accessible. Yet when I am confronted with the installation by Jayce Salloum I wonder how many from the Island community are having a real conversation with this work? Is this really an important question? Is the Salloum exhibition functioning on a National Level and not a local one? Does presenting artwork that is hard to access by the general public serving the mandate of the gallery?
Overall this lecture has made me reflect on the importance of national, local and international conversations sparked by art of all kinds, and the importance of public galleries to the presentation of these conversations.
To quote Thelma Golden, ”artists provide a space bigger than one that we could imagine to work through these images (ideas).” I challenge you, the reader to visit the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and find out what ideas you can get yourself into.
Written by Jane Ledwell
A number of weeks ago, The Guild was organizing an Arts Mixer and wanted to feature poems inspired by visual art and visual art inspired by poetry. Stephen B. MacInnis, my partner, is a painter, and I am a poet, so they asked if we wanted to contribute. We said yes and decided to create something together.
Stephen is currently working on a series of one thousand 12″x12″ works on paper, of which he has completed more than 600. These incorporate elements of painting, drawing, and collage. I asked him to select five or six partially completed works for me to look at and think about. Then, I let my mind drift, hoping it would find inspiration tucked away somewhere. Because I am NOT working on a series of 1,000 anything and am not prolific and have written little poetry since our daughter was born four years ago. You could say that two other collaborative projects I have undertaken with Stephen – our two children – have used up all my creative energy.
After looking at the handful of paintings, I managed to settle on, or fixate on a word, “affinity,” and to become curious enough about its dimensions that I knew it would be somewhere in my poem. I began to write images from observation and imagination, and I also began to list words that seemed to me to fit with “affinity.”
Next, I chose a painting-in-progress that included the collaged element of a skeletal hand. I wanted to reference this hand, but not too literally. I continued to work on the words and images of my poem and decided to provide Stephen with six words he could include in his painting, in whatever way he wanted. In my mind, the six words represented the five fingers of a hand and the hand itself. I committed to six words that satisfied me, and I gave them to Stephen.
Stephen stamped the words onto his canvas with rubber stamps. And then – after this unchangeable act – I decided that since I had chosen six words, I should try to write a sestina, a strictly formal poem in which six selected words feature at the end of the lines of six stanzas, in a predetermined order in each stanza. The six words then appear in a three-line stanza at the conclusion of the poem. I don’t usually write formal poems, let alone ones that require such a rigid structure and that amount to 39 lines. But I was intrigued by the challenge, and I set to work.
The biggest challenge was that the words I had chosen by reason of their rhythm and sound were not good words to use as the six key words for a sestina. If I had thought to write a sestina, I would have chosen more concrete, more simple words. The words I had chosen led to a poem with diction that is at best old-fashioned and at worst contorted. On the positive side, the poem is abstract in a way that reflects the artwork’s abstraction in surprising and satisfying ways, and more concrete terms would not have allowed this abstraction to emerge.
When I finished a draft of the poem, I suggested Stephen that his painting might need to have a hand traced on it somewhere. I didn’t specify whose hand or where. I also suggested that the words might need connections among them, but I didn’t specify which words or how they should be connected. Stephen worked these elements into his painting.
I finished the poem and he finished the painting, and we presented them at the Arts Mixer. We were glad that we had said yes to the opportunity to work together to create two pieces of art in two voices that nonetheless speak to each other in their creative process and their final forms.
Illustrated by Jeff Alward
Written By Allie Higgins
The Bluest Eyes
Vincent Timothy Allen Daniels would look like any other 12 year-old boy. He stands as tall as he can against the doorframe and measures 5 feet exactly. He stands on the scales every morning and looks down at exactly 95 pounds of Vincent. He looks in the mirror and sees the clothes his mother bought at the department store. He sees his brown hair that turns golden in the sunlight and his skin, slightly rosy and plump enough so is bones don’t stick out. But he never looks at his eyes. Everything else is pretty average, except for his eyes. They are the brightest bluest eyes you will ever see. His eyes are so young and clear they’d pull you in like a whirlpool at the slightest glance. But behind the sparkling water eyes was the most wonder and curiosity possible. It was impossible not to love this 12 year-old boy, so everyone did. His family, friends and teachers all adored him. He was almost perfect. His one flaw was his mind. Vincent’s mind devoured information and everything else. Like a monster, his mind was so incredibly greedy for knowledge. Every little secret swept under the rug, pushed into corners to collect dust and cobwebs, he wanted it.
One night, there was a blue shadow cast over the whole town. All the stars began to poke their lazy little heads out from the wide black blanket of the night sky. Vincent lay in bed; math formulas and small facts were racing and whizzing around his greedy brain. Those curious bright blue eyes saw something shoot across the sky. He laughed and thought to himself, there’s no such thing as a shooting star, it’s only a meteor, silly superstition. But all the same, at the back of his mind he was still wishing he could know all there is to know, to know everything ever.
The next morning Vincent woke up, his head was pounding, his eyes were in such pain, scenes flashed before his brain, one thought led to one hundred, which led to one thousand, which led to one million. He could not stop thinking, thinking about everything, thinking and knowing every detail about something he had not even heard of the night before. Vincent was the boy who knows everything. Weddings, deaths, births of people he had never met all through time bounced around his brain. Ancient wars, civilizations, the beginning of time, but it were all too much. He could not stay at one thought for more than one fraction of a second. He could not grasp and remember a single thing. He could not speak or words would start tumbling out, rushing and pushing to the front and he’d never get out what he wanted to say. Instead he would spew out how the world would end and every terrible thing happening in the world in that second. Vincent did not want that for anyone else so he never spoke again. His parents asked what was wrong. They thought he was sick. Their eyes crinkled with concern. The line between their furrowed eyebrows getting deeper and deeper when Vincent could only reply with a blank stare from his no longer curious shiny blue eyes. Somehow the worst things are always the only ones remembered. Gruesome scenes remained etched on his eyelids, sadness, hatred, blood spilt, heartbreak.
written by Bryan Viau
Art in it’s very essence is an extension of ourselves. We can pour our heart and soul into our creations and feel we’ve brought some beauty or meaning to the world. However, I’m an avid believer that the act of creation alone is not art. It has its place and can be incredibly therapeutic, but the process isn’t art. Art requires an audience, and that audience doesn’t always feel as passionate or romantic or interested in your creation as you. Sometimes your work is flat out rejected or dismissed. This can potentially hurt; it can feel as though critics are attacking us personally and our ego wants us to defend ourselves.
It’s important to keep in mind that your audience is what is truly bringing your art to life and they may not see your piece in the same light that you did. But the act of them experiencing your art is more than what can come from creating a piece alone and never showing anyone. This Town is Small is a pretty strong embodiment of this very sentiment. Art is nothing without community to experience it. To learn from it. To love or hate it.
Everyone brings their own experiences to your art and through those experiences their opinion is formed; whether it’s good or bad is irrelevant. They’ve experienced your art and even if they, quite vocally and in pain-staking detail, describe everything about your piece they did not like then here is something to remember; your piece of art had an affect on them. A seemingly strong one, to boot. The people who are vocal about something are people who feel strongly, good or bad, about it.
While it might be painful to hear, their opinion of your art is just as valid as your own is. When your work is submitted to the general public your message changes from what you originally created in ways that no one can predict. There is a part of me that feels the need to stand next to my art and explain it to each person that experiences it, but this is ultimately ruining the experience for them. At that point my art has become didactic and boring. No one wants to be told what to experience and attempting to maintain that grip on your work will just smother it. The message that you intend may get across, but nothing else will come of the work.
There is always constructive criticsm that could be taken for your work. There is also always praise and seemingly unwarrented negativity as well. All of this feedback, though is not directed at you. As I stated earlier; art is an extension of ourselves, but it is not us. It is easy to let our ego take over and take any criticsms of our art as personal attacks. This is something that every artist has to face. Taking criticsm is one of the most important parts of being a successful artist as it helps us grow and evolve to create better and more.
Even pieces of art that are widely hated are still successful because they were created with meaning and have affected people enough to feel strongly about it. It’s hard to take criticsm and feedback that way, but learning to put your ego aside and let your art be free of it is something that every artist struggles with indefinitely.
MUSEartspace was designed to bring art to the people and people to the art. It is an open concept creative space with a gallery, studio, lounge, computer bay and retail area. Muse’s big wall of windows facing Euston street, allows for people to peek in and become curious about what’s happening inside. The idea of presenting MUSE as a kind of store is vital to pulling down some barriers that often go up when people are faced with a formal gallery setting. As a store people can just come in to ‘browse’ and this, more often than not, will lead to a conversation about what they are looking at. It’s a very gentle yet highly inspiring transaction for all of us! This creative space filled light and beautiful art also works to bring life to the neighbourhood and I’ve been told makes the locals feel better about where they are living.
From a business perspective, I am allowing MUSE to evolve as it needs to for the time being. i have several different revenue streams in play like art/retail sales, space rental, speciality art parties and various kinds of programming like Wed evening life drawing. I teach drop in classes and workshops for all ages from pre-school to adult and I have 8 week courses coming up called ”KIDS CREATE!” and “ADULTS CREATE!”, that focus on the creative process rather than the final product. Starting Saturday, October 16th, participants will be given instruction on the basics in various media but the projects will really challenge the way they express themselves creatively. These courses are great for any skill level because even professional artists need to be pushed out of their comfort zones once in a while. By the way, that’ll be the next series: Out of the Comfort, Into the Zone.
As a rule, I prefer to build courses tailored to people’s needs. This has worked out really well so far. I am also very open to hearing from artists/creatives who are interested in presenting programming. The space can be rented out for this purpose or MUSE can handle the marketing and promotion for a percentage of the fees. The October line up is packed with really great events and programming using both these models.
Creative expression is the heart and soul of MUSEartspace and though I believe that everyone can and should create I want to emphasize that I absolutely adore and admire those of you who identify as artists. I love your drive, your passion and your bravery. I love sitting in MUSE because I am surrounded by the hearts and souls of so many different people. Art is my passion, as well, and I understand how absolutely nerve wracking it is to put your work out there to be judged. Especially those of you who haven’t or rarely show. I think that’s why I try to host as many emerging artists as I can. It’s that raw energy that sits at the surface that really speaks to people and maybe even gets them to look at the world in a different way. Creativity in all its forms is so powerful. I’m really grateful to be in such a vibrantly creative place!
See the MUSE calendar of events at www.museartspace.com.
written by Becka Viau
October 9, 2010
To Whom It May Concern
In regards to the call for feedback on what is PEI Culture.
1. The essence of Prince Edward Island lies in the local people. Their stories, past and present, being passed from generation to generation or being created recorded and lived today. A colorful rural quilt stitched with devoted and loving social connections, P.E.I. is a great province to raise a family, and find a meaningful place within a community. Or if you are not lucky enough to have the courage to brave out the long winter our summer doors open, welcoming vacationers. However one must not forget the culture is the people, it is the connections that keep people warm through the winter, it is the story of Island ideas shared through various genres of visual culture, literature, and music.
Island’s are blessed with unique landscapes and ecosystems, varying dialects, dense population, and as an Island on the East Coast of Canada P.E.I. carries a significant piece of the country’s colonial history. P.E.I.’s reflection has changed quickly over the past 150 years, and continues to evolve today as we welcome new comers into our communities. The diversity of culture on P.E.I is thanks to the various histories of the people, First Nations, Acadian, Lebanese, Irish, Scottish, Chinese, Japanese, African, South American and the list could continue.
2. Charlottetown is the hub of the cultural economy on P.E.I.. Home to the PEI Council of the Arts, Music PEI, The Writers Guild, Island Media CO-OP , the PEI Community Museums Association, and the PEI Crafts Council,these organizations provide support for local artists and historians who are creating and preserving the Island’s true cultural history. All four organizations have memberships that encompass the whole province. It is these community driven organizations that strengthen and sustain Island Culture.
3. In order to showcase Island Culture truthfully one must look to the local artists. They are society’s culture communicators. Who is exploring Island life today? Who is preserving the Island’s Past? Look to storytellers: visual, oral, auditory or literary…
Provincial Arts Organizations are the link to these cultural producers. And already support, educate and present local arts across the Province, across the Nation and throughout the world. Enabling these Organizations to showcase their communities is the only true way of showcasing Island Culture professionally and uniquely.
4. All of the elements mentioned above make up Island Culture and should be included in the 150th anniversary of Confederation celebrations in 2014.
5. Tourism is a major factor in Island culture yet it is not what defines it. Islander live here all year round, through the frigid cold and nasty roads of winter, to the red mud lanes of spring, through the tremendous vacationing crowds of the summer, to the renewing winds of change in the fall. It is in the minds, hearts and lives of locals that true Island culture flourishes. Culture is not defined by the amount of product sold to a “CFA” in the run of the tourist season. However, due to the current organization of cultural funding it is the way many cultural producers sustain themselves through the winter.
6. I am submitting this after the deadline because I only found out about this call yesterday. I believe that the ad was presented in the two major papers on PEI, but I must have missed those issues. There must be more efficient ways of communicating the desire for public feedback. I appreciate the time taken to read this input. I hope that these responses will be included with the other submissions.
written by Becka Viau
It was the middle of the night when Marie Fox first approached me about a possible collaboration with this town is small. A model lay still, chained to a bed. Painters painted the surreal scene surrounded by a captivated audience. Imaginations were buzzing and I could feel energy starting to spill out of people’s heads, through their mouths into inspirational and creative conversations. Swimming about the atmosphere I soon found myself shaking hands and locking eyes with the electric Ms. Fox, and so the story of Iris begins.
After a quick meeting with Marie, I began the search for possible collaborators. This can be a daunting task in a city packed full of creative minds, hands and spirits however, the lead creative team came together like a flash of lightening: Marie Fox, John Mackenzie, Jenn Richard-Coupland, Kelly Caseley and I. By the end of July a tentative list of all collaborators was written, the date was booked at the Alibi and notice of the event was sent to the Buzz. Time to start creating.
written by Allison Cooke
On Thursday, This Town Is Small presented an extremely unique artist collaboration. The Alibi Lounge was gracious enough to transform their space into another world, filled with dark lighting and woodland props. The audience mingled about in anticipation, each discussing the possibilities of the evening ahead of them. Even while two players in leather fox masks entered to simply set the scene, the audience found themselves captured, waiting patiently to see the creation take place. Curious bodies began to fill the room, all with the same plan. To let their imaginations run wild.
Following artist Marie Fox’s vision of the passage into change and wonder, 12 local artists donated their various talents and “Iris Mercurial : The Passage of Night” was born. Stunning costumes, unique set designs, poetry, theatre and video all joined hands to create this collaborative piece. Taking cue from Marie’s idea to create living, moving sculptures, the artistic team came together to engage the audience in an evening of wonder, beauty, and creation through the use of their bodies, imaginative minds and voices.
As an audience member, “Iris Mercurial : The Passage of Night” allowed me to feel as though I was entering a fantasy world. These 3 dimensional portraits that Marie Fox presented us with (plaster molds of the players faces) somehow gave me the desire to dream, to be transformed, to transcend my personal limitations, or become renewed in some way. The artist’s vision came to life before our eyes and showed us a compelling and enduring form of artistic expression.
The costumes, produced by both Marie Fox and Kelly Caseley, were incredibly striking and detailed. When Iris first emerges onto the stage she stands very still with only slight, graceful movements. We the audience are then able to quietly absorb this beautiful living sculpture. The use of fabrics, paints, nature, and of course the plaster masks themselves, allowed the players to be transformed into dream like creatures, both elegant and dark.
The sets, mostly made up of nature from PEI’s woodlands, pulled the audience directly into Iris’s world. But the piece that seemed to transform the entire room was the unique and compelling video work of Mille Clarkes. Its dark imagery set just behind the crowd seemed to give the entire room life, which allowed the audience to be placed in the middle of the performance, feeling as though they too were assisting in developing the artist’s vision.
The writing, collaborated between Overman, John Mackenzie and Kimberly McIntyre was both poetic and moving, dark and gripping. This was an important piece of the puzzle, along with the drastic distinction between John’s haunting narrative and Kimberly’s soft, delicate tone as it gave the players life, motive and movement.
Marie’s ability to cast the roles of the various players was perfect. Iris was portrayed Trish Goguen and Alisha Stephen, who carried themselves both delicately and elegantly. They were greatly contrasted by Andrew Hercules, whose tall and dark figure portraying the trickster was able to engage and entice the audience by furtively and slyly moving throughout it.
The aim of This Town is Small is to encourage collaborations between all art forms while creating public awareness and understanding of contemporary art. This performance did just that. While the artists gave their time and talents to the piece, we the audience were lucky enough to feel as though we were a part of it all. This performance reminded us to reignite our imaginations, and for that, all of the creative and talented artists involved in this production should be incredibly proud of the beautiful work they allowed us all to share.