Life

twiggy

June 13, 2024

Our home is littered with things that were once one thing and then became another; a giant school ruler that became a shelf, a metal lamp shade that became a fruit bowl, a banged up old bicycle wheel that an artist friend turned into a wall hanging that resembles a bus. I love this idea that a person, and a thing can have many incarnations. (I hope to come back as a blade of grass.) British artist, Chris Kenny works with common place materials and turns them into poignant, and often humorous works of art. His twig series is so brilliant and weird. Tiny, delicate twigs re-imagined as stick figures dancing, stretching, jumping, pulling. There’s so much humour and pathos packed into each one.

I am my style

June 11, 2024

I was combing through the dresses in my wardrobe last week when I suddenly realized that I’ll never wear them again. A gingham slip dress, a Schiaparelli pink sheath, black frocks in organza, chiffon and moiré silk. There’s the lemon yellow vintage cocktail dress that I wore the night before I got married. I always meant to wear that one again. And the floor length Missoni, with its endless zig zag stripes that I wore with matching four inch stilettos to a dear friend’s wedding. And a tulle filled frock covered in cherry blossoms that my friend, Stephanie loaned me back when our waists were smaller and boobs perkier. I’ve had these dresses for twenty years, some even longer, and up until recently I’ve looked to that portion of my wardrobe as a place that I’ll return to when …. When what? When I feel the verve to wear the kind of outfit that turns heads, the kind of outfit that pairs well with dancing and witty repartee. Someone draw me a bath –– I’m tired just thinking about it. What I realized the other day as I searched for something to wear to a neighbourhood fête is how dated the “party” portion of my wardrobe is. For starters, most of my dresses don’t fit anymore. Not my body, nor my style. Fashion has always been a form of creative expression, and these clothes are no longer representative of who I am and what I want to express. A few years, a few big years, can change the way we dress. Change the way we think, look and feel. While I rarely go to parties anymore, I still want to up the ante when the urge strikes, and I still want to be able to draw from a pool of clothes that take me out of myself while feeling myself. That’s what a great party dress does. I’m not ready for linen tunics or the lilac cocktail suit yet, but I also don’t want my wardrobe to be a momento mori of a past life. It’s time to clear it out and make space for, I don’t know what.

mother & child

May 7, 2024

My earliest images of mother and child are the Orthodox Christian icons that I grew up around. I was drawn in by the colours –– vermillion, indigo and lapis lazuli –– and the shimmering of gold leaf. Once I was in high school, I studied art history and my visual references expanded to include Mary Cassat’s tender portraits, Henry Moore’s curvaceous sculptures and the hand carved wood figures of the Yoruba people. The darker side of motherhood –– The anguish, the heartache, the loss –– came in much later by way of Louise Bourgeois’ red gouache drawings and the harrowing self portraits of Frida Kahlo. We look to art to feel connection, to find meaning, to feel less alone in the world. Two artists whose exploration of motherhood resonates with me today are Lisa Sorgini and Madeline Donahue. Although I’m beyond the stage where my babies are glued to my body like mussels on wet rock, I still have a visceral response to Sorgini’s closeups of tiny hands gripping hold of their mother’s fleshy bellies, and multiple children hanging off multiple limbs. Cesarean scars. Swollen nipples. Baby’s bottom or woman’s breast? It’s hard to tell sometimes. Her breathtaking images are all skin and sweat and shadows. Madeline Donahue captures a similar tenderness and intensity in her brightly coloured depictions of everyday life. One image shows a mother painting the window sill while one child crawls at her feet and the other uses the hem of her dress as a swing. It’s distance from that phase of motherhood that allows me such a full and free and visceral connection to it.

self taught

April 4, 2024

Although I took pottery classes for several years, classes were mostly an opportunity to socialize with smart, funny women while pinching a pot. Most of what I know, I’ve taught myself. As such, my techniques are a bit loose, and I use whatever tools make sense to me (cotton buds, toothbrushes, icing spatulas). Trial and error. Trial and error. Every project shows me where I’m strong, and where I need to improve. And not just technically. The creative process evokes all kinds of emotions; some projects, more than others, turn me inside out. This morning, I brought 12 vases to the Gardiner Museum, a challenging project that I worked on through part of winter. And as I placed the vases on the loading dock at the back entrance of the museum, I thought to myself, “how many lessons are contained inside this old lemon box? What did these delicate vases with their eccentric little handles teach me about clay, and about myself?” As Roy Lichtenstein said, “the importance of art is in the process of doing it, in the learning experience where the artist interacts with whatever is being made.”

ear candy

March 13, 2024

Holly Waddington’s earrings were the best thing about this year’s Oscar show. Her earrings and Sandra Hüller’s cat eye. I’d take Grainne Morton’s fabulously surrealist chandeliers over any amount of Bulgari or De Beers. The cloud and rain series is just lovely. Morton’s creations are a combination of salvaged items, such as antique buttons, coral and enamel, and new semi-precious stones. Each pair is made by hand in Edinburgh. They’re tiny works for art.

knock on wood

March 2, 2024

Aleph Geddis’ wood sculptures look like they landed from another planet. They have an alien quality to them. He grew up on Orcas Island in the Pacific Northwest with a parent who sculpted, carved and built boats from wood. There’s a kind of osmosis that takes place when it’s all around you like that. Sacred Geometery is central to his practice. “Sacred Geometry is no randomness. Everything relates to everything else. There’s something magical about these shapes, and creating these shapes, and studying the way they all interact with each other that just really grabbed me.” Wood. Stone. Carving is a beautiful art. Chipping and whittling away at something, until you’ve revealed its (your) essence.

la coiffure

February 20, 2024

Iole was born with a head full of hair, black as ink, and exquisitely parted to one side like she got hold of a Kent comb in the womb. It wasn’t long before the curls came. Dozens of them. She was eighteen-months when we took her for her first haircut. I was hoping for a silent film star fringe but she came away with bangs worse than the “I look like a pencil” ones that Claire got in Season two of Fleabag. That took a while to grow out. From there on in it was shoulder-length waves all the way. In the summer months, her waves turned into ringletts with tiny fusilli forming around the nape of her neck. I’ve brushed my girl’s hair a thousand times. And braided it just as many. High pony. Low pony. Bows. Barrettes. Headbands with flowers as big as dinner plates. Ballerina bun. Top knot. Backcombed witch’s mane. Lice. Thrice. Graduation. First party. And then today, for the first time ever, Iole did my hair. She used one of those fancy round brushes that heats up. I felt like I was at the salon. When she finished –– I look great, btw –– it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time I combed her hair. Months? Years? We rarely know when something’s going to be the last time. The last time our kid climbs on to our shoulders. The last time we zip up their jacket. Or brush their teeth. Or comb their hair. Imagine the ceremonies, the lighting of candles and wishes and prayers that would take place with every “last time” if we only knew.

hands on

February 5, 2024

When I was a child, I spent many hours at my Dad’s office waiting for him to wrap up work so we could head out for our weekly dinner date at Mr. Kai’s. His secretary, Pat Brown made me sugary tea and gave me “cheques” to sign. When I saw Julia Couzens, thread on zerox series, I was immediately swept back to evenings in the city, photocopying my hands while my Dad talked loudly on the phone next door. Sometimes, I photocopied my face. And my feet, too. Maybe Mrs. Brown put a lump too many in my tea. A few weeks ago, my son and I were at a nearby xerox shop getting copies of my passport. You can imagine his embarrassment when his Mum shoved her head in the machine. You know, for old times’ sake. Have a look at Couzens’ series. Her sewn letters bring a feeling a permanence to fleeting xerox images.

the swimming pool

February 4, 2024

One of the things that I love about lane swimming is that it’s both solitary and communal. I am alone in a giant salty bathtub of friends and strangers. An art collective provides a similar experience. A house full of artists who work in solitude and occasionally convene on landings and in stairwells to talk about paint brush bristles and other serious matters. There’s a trust and respect that forms among people who share a creative space. My studio, like several others in the building, is exposed for all to see. There’s vulnerability in that. A painting that’s losing its way. An unfinished drawing. A vessel with cracks through the middle. We’re all exposing battle scars. Artists with private studios often leave their doors open; an invitation to talk, to exchange ideas. To feel connected. Anytime I’m invited into another artist’s space I know it’s a privilege, a glimpse into their inner world; grosgrain ribbon, rubber tubing, ink, glue, an old teapot with half a spout. Amy keeps tulips weeks after they’ve died, beauty in decay, exquisite and fragile like a nonagenarian grande dame. Melissa’s attic studio is an homage to mother artist, her textile based installations scattered among soft toys and playmats. Atleigh’s studio is as humble, warm and considered as her still lives. We are a satellite encased in a downtown Victorian house with an allotment and mismatched linoleum floors. Close to home, and far enough from reality. Everyone’s here to make art. Clay, fabric, polyethylene. Some of us come early in the morning. Others late at night. Alone with company. Silent if not for the occasional sneeze or rustling of paper.

rock, paper, scissors

January 11, 2024

Nicolas Burrows‘ playful mixed media collages were just what my eye was looking for on this gloomy day. The London-based multi-media artist is an illustrator, author of books, and musician. It’s his collages that I’m swooning over. There are trees that look like lampshades, upside down skyscrapers and a stringed instrument that could just as well be a butterfly. What a weird and brilliant imagination. Trees are a recurring theme. “I have never lived in the forest, but I have spent a lot of time seeking out the company of trees. From the North-West of England, to the Norwegian Fjords and the West coast of Canada I have walked and thought and sung and written and drawn.”

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