Kabeshinàn Minitig Pavilion on Victoria Island
A beautiful character building to display some art and crafts right in the heart of Ottawa, Ontario.
Late Friday, June 12th, 2015, in the absolute pouring rain, I loaded the car up with my handsome date (my son Fisher), and a selection of large necklaces as well as a few smaller samples, some display stands, business cards, display cloth, and very little expectations. I was not convinced that anyone would show up in such undesirable weather, for an award ceremony celebrating fine arts and crafts, in the incredibly charming but small town of McDonald’s Corners. Did I mention it was POURING?
After driving by and then circling back, we found our way into the MERA Schoolhouse (MERA: McDonald’s Corners/Elphin Recreation and Arts) and were greeting by several friendly people. I met and chatted with Marilyn Barnett (Administrator and Assistant Secretary/Treasurer), Danny Sullivan (Head of the Board of Directors), Ankaret Dean (Artistic Director), Diana Nemiroff (former Director of Carleton University Art Gallery and senior curator at the National Gallery of Canada from 1990 to 2005), numerous potters, weavers, painters and their spouses. The little schoolhouse was displaying all forms of artwork for an upcoming weekend show on it’s walls. It quickly filled up with at least 30 folk. I was so pleasantly surprised!
I felt like I had actually WON the award that evening as everyone was so congratulatory and inquisitive. Several women purchased some necklaces and immediately wore them, seemingly proud of their find. Foodsmiths had donated some wonderful treats, wine and beer was available, and a commemorative plaque was unveiled (it was made locally by an artist who used an actual piece of old slate that was used as a blackboard from the time when children were actually taught in the school). Mr Sullivan gathered everyone around for a brief presentation of certificates and kind words along with introductions of all the contributors of the evening.
Fisher, always up for a ‘dress-up’ occassion, enjoyed the snacks and was helpful in taking photo’s for me. All in all, a great experience and reminder that ‘artistically bent’ folk need to be supported, engaged with, and partied with OFTEN 😉
“The MERA Award, which is given every two years, was conceived and made possible by a generous donation by Lanark Highlands’ residents Chris and David Dodge to the Perth and District Community Foundation, which manages the funds. Recognizing MERA’s important contribution to the arts community, the Dodges chose MERA to select the Award winners.” -MERA website.
The ‘Good Spirits’, often misinterpreted as ‘bad spirits’ because of their obvious expressions and devilish horns, was an image I found years ago in an old sepia photo. The ‘spirits’ were painted directly on the outside of a tipi and the intention was for these ‘beings’ to ward off or protect it’s inhabitants from actual ‘bad spirits’, enemies, and I’m sure anything with bad intentions (!)
The ‘Strawberry Festival’ which takes place when the ‘wild strawberry’ ripens, usually late June, is to thank the Creator for the return of this fruit. The timing coincides with the beginning of all remaining fruit which begins to ripen and can be harvested at this time.
My picture also incorporates a strawberry-design ash basket. This beautiful, labour intensive craft is traditional to the Mohawk people. I’ve never endeavoured to make one myself but appreciate the talent that is required to make these beautiful designs. The weavers use the ash tree, sweetgrass, dyes, various weaving styles and designs to create useful as well as beautiful baskets. Here’s an example of a weaver/artist: http://www.indiancraftshop.com/highlight_of_month/RobinLazore.htm
I created the central figure to be cocooned in leaves (Nature), blue sky/water (Life/Air) encircle, but I also made her/him look fragile, disjointed, broken. A person, depending on their life circumstances and at what instance you encounter them, can be either strong and impenetrable or weak and full of holes. I chose the latter in this instance. The need for the Good Spirits would obviously be more necessary at this vulnerable moment. Being enveloped in Nature, Tradition, other strong symbols of my culture, was to counter that state of being in a positive way. Combining this with the concept of the Strawberry Festival made me think of ‘renewal’/’ripening’/’change’/’giving thanks’….a contrasting but inevitable idea that occurs every year. Mother Earth goes on with her seasons and circle of life, death, ripening and renewal, with or without us.
A piece I did this week. In light of the hundreds of murdered and missing Aboriginal women in this country and recent news of a missing 58 year old woman from just down the road from here (sadly she was found dead two days later, no foul play suspected) I was thinking of “loss”. How it would feel to not know, to be continually searching and looking, for a loved one.
My son and I left Walmart the other day and paused in front of the posters of missing persons they hang in the entrance. Some were recent, some from as far back as the 1970’s. Faces of children, young women, a few men, all being missed by families and friends, that had vanished never to be seen again were staring at us.
Emma Fillipoff has been missing since Nov 28, 2012, vanishing from in front of the Empress Hotel in Victoria, British Columbia, at the age of 26. Her mother resides nearby where I live. She is not someone I know personally, but I reflect often on what she is going through, even after all this time. Thankfully, I have no close relatives or friends who have vanished. Yet.
It sounds awful to say that but the odds are high that sooner or later it will hit closer to home. For a moment I tried to put myself in that position. What would it feel like to be missing someone? I could not stay in that feeling too long because I look down to my chest and feel the empty hole. I feel it with my senses even before I touch my chest or look with my eyes. It’s hollow and cavernous. It feels like a huge chunk of my chest has been removed and it’s difficult to breathe.
I’m sure for those who are constantly ‘looking’ or ‘waiting’ for news it’s actually a lot worse. But that is as much as I can imagine. From this feeling came the artwork I posted above.
The ‘Round Dance’ has many meanings and several styles, depending on what Nation you come from. A few are mentioned here: http://www.cbc.ca/manitoba/scene/homepage-promo/2013/01/28/round-dance-revolution-drums-up-support-for-idle-no-more/
Or an alternative explanation:
The Round Dance signifies a lot of things; the healing circle, the social gathering of community, a ceremony or festival, and even a form of grieving or celebrating through dance. The spaces in between the dancers represent missing members of the community. The friends and family left ‘searching’ look whole, but if you look closely (their shadows) they have holes in their chests. The darker dancers, drawn differently than those in the foreground, are my interpretation of the physical hardship that families go through. The dwindling of spirit directly affecting ones body. The faint outline of a drum, the ‘heartbeat’ of many traditional dances is under their feet. Without those missing friends, family and loved ones, the dance is broken and like a ‘community’ being broken, will not function properly. Dancers will be out of step, the enclosure is vulnerable without everyone clasping hands (a sign of support/strength/love/kinship), and those that are there will be ‘un-whole’.
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I had not realized they were putting the announcement in the Humm this month -I had already been sent an email several weeks ago (and a phone call) regarding the contest and who the winner was, etc. But, I was still slightly taken aback, sitting in front of the fire, coffee in hand, when I spotted my name!
I was impressed with the kind words coming from Ms. Diana Nemiroff, former Director of Carleton University Art Gallery and who was senior curator at the National Gallery of Canada from 1990 to 2005.
An achievement nonetheless. I’ve been invited to showcase some of my jewelry on Friday, June 12th, at the Mera Schoolhouse, during the ‘official’ award ceremony. http://meraschoolhouse.org/
Still deciding if it is complete. Contemplating a touch of color…maybe not. It was made to be printed out at 11″ x 15″.
I was commissioned to illustrate a cover for a conference agenda coming up in a couple of weeks. I emailed my printer to get a quote for something and instead he threw me some work. 7 Drawings, including this one, in 5 days or less (!)
I have swollen neck glands, headaches, stiff/sore neck, white spots on tonsils in back of throat…..but it’s WORK!! This is no time for wussies! zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz