Friday, October 30, 2009

Daimons and Myths

vas Hermetis: 1, 2 3 each 4'x6" encaustic on panel ©2009 Janice Mason Steeves

I've named this series, vas Hermetis, after the Alchemical term for the symbolic Grail, a universal vessel of transformation. I'm reading two books at the same time right now. One is The Grail Legend by Emma Jung and Marie Louise Von Franz. They say that, "in nearly all mythologies there is a miraculous vessel. Sometimes it dispenses youth and life, at other times it possesses thee power of healing, and occasionally, as with the mead cauldron of the Nordic Ymir, inspiring strength and wisdom are to be found in it. Often, especially as a cooking pot, it effects transformations; by this attribute it achieved exceptional renown as the vas Hermetis of alchemy." From the Jungian school of psychology, these two women present this legend as a living myth that is profoundly relevant to modern life.

The other book I'm reading is The Demon and the Angel, Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration by Edward Hirsch. Hirsch writes about the concept of duende, "that mysterious, highly potent power of creativity that results in a work of art"....and describes writers that 'wrestle with darkness" such as Federico Garcia Lorca, Yeats, Emerson, Blake, T.S.Eliot and painters like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Motherwell, among others.

"Yeats", says Hirsh, "was powerfully attracted to the notion that, as he expressed it when writing about Shakespeare, the Greeks 'considered that myths are the activities of the Daimons, and that the Daimons shape our characters and our lives.' He fancied the idea that for each of us there existed one archetypal story, a single explanatory myth, which, if we but only understood it, would clarify all that we said and did and thought."

These paintings will be available at Linda Lando Fine Art in Vancouver at the end of November.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Toronto International Art Fair (TIAF)

On Friday I  went to the TIAF with my artist friend Shirley Williams to spend the day at the Toronto Convention Centre and check out the show.  There were 82 exhibitors, mostly Canadian, many from Toronto and Montreal. There were several galleries from the US--New York, Chicago and Minneapolis--and a few international galleries from London,  Madrid, Paris, Vienna, Barcelona, and Antwerp.

I was surprised at the number of representational works in the Art Fair.  I haven't gone for a few years and I found the fair to be very different, not nearly as edgy as in previous years, although there was lots of abstract work as well.  I noticed that there were a good number of sales and when we asked, the galleries mentioned that it was  larger works that  were selling and they seemed pleased with the number of sales.  Is the recession over then? 

Here is some of the work that I liked:

Galerie Lacerte, Quebec City
Jean-Robert Drouillard
Le balle est partie vers toi II
wood and acrylic

Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto
Kevin Yates
Main Street 2009
Bronze, painted wood

(wall mounted)

Dale Chihuly Installation

 My favorite:

 Purchased by the Art Gallery of Ontario:

Cal Lane
Love Rug 2008
Petroleum Barrel, Plasma Cut

from Art Mur

and below
Cal Lane
Private Collection

My favorite dress at the show, just like one I had in the 60's only I wore mine quite differently then.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Writing an Artist's Statement

        Detail: River of Longing 8   24x80" oil on panel     ©2009 Janice Mason Steeves

How often have I rewritten my artist's statement over the years?  Endless times.  It's a work-in-progress.  As my painting changes, I have to rewrite it.  As I complete another grant application or apply for a residency or have an exhibition, I have to rewrite it. Although I enjoy writing, working on my artist's statement feels like a form of torture.  There is something about the process that is incredibly difficult. It requires objectivity to write it.  I paint intuitively.  I don't conceptualize the work or the project beforehand, which makes it difficult to be objective.

A couple of years ago, I bought an e-book from Alyson Stanfield called "The Relatively Pain-Free Artist's Statement.  It took me through a 20-day lesson plan.  It's step-by-step approach to looking at your art and your life, which is helpful for any artist at any stage in their careers. At the end of it I had a much-improved artist's statement.  Thing is, it's a never-ending process.

Writing an artist's statement is in a way like writing a mission statement.  It's writing about what you want your work to be, what you want others to see in the work, what you mean to say visually and it pushes my comfort level to expose the depth of my work through words.  I find that my work is in a sense beyond my words, it is ahead of my words.  My words have to catch up to my work. I search to find the words to describe it and they come only reluctantly and over time. It's as if I'm getting to know my own work through the process of writing about it. The more I write about it and the more I read other artists' statements, the clearer I can be about my own work.  I recently rewrote my artist's statement yet again, at the prompting of my artist friend, Anne-Marie Kornachuk, who offered to read my statement,  sent me hers, and then offered a few penetrating questions to nudge me in my rewriting.  I worked on it off and on for a couple of days.  Here's the latest version.  It describes as clearly as I can be at this time what my work is about and what I intend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Order of Canada

I was visiting my home town of Winnipeg last week and I learned that one of my good friends from University of Manitoba days, Susan Glass, was awarded The Order of Canada last July. The Order of Canada is an honour for merit. It is the highest such order administered by the Governor General on behalf of the Queen. Created in 1967, to coincide with the centennial of Canada's Confederation, the three-tiered order was established as a fellowship that recognizes the achievement of outstanding merit or distinguished service by Canadians, through life-long contributions in every field of endeavour, and who made a major difference to Canada, as well as the efforts made by non-Canadians who have made the world better by their actions. Membership is thus accorded to those who exemplify the order's Latin motto taken from Hebrews 11:16, desiderantes meliorem patriam, meaning "they desire a better country."

Susan's contributions have mostly been in the Arts. She is a western Canadian at heart. After attending schools in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Vancouver, BC, New York, NY, and Winnipeg, Manitoba, she attended the University of Manitoba graduating with a bachelor of commerce degree in 1967. 

In 2000 Susan chaired the third annual Canadian Arts Summit held at The Banff Centre, after having participated in the first two fledgling years as the Summit began to take shape as a forum for the 40 largest arts organizations in Canada.

Serving on the Board of Directors of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet for 13 years, she chaired that board from 1995 to 1998 and continues to chair its Major Gifts Committee.Her continuing degree of commitment to that organization reflects her belief in the integral pride of place that the RWB occupies in the image and identity of Winnipeg.

Susan currently is a national governor of the Shaw Festival. Other voluntary directorships have included the University of Manitoba board of governors, St. Boniface General Hospital, St. Boniface General Hospital Research Foundation, Canadian Club of Winnipeg, and the University of Manitoba Alumni Association. She is also involved with fundraising for the Plug In Institute for Contemporary Art in Winnipeg in their new building campaign.

I know most of this from "Googling" my friend. She is down-to-earth and extremely humble and rarely mentions what she is doing, always deeply interested in her friends and their families. In fact I learned of her award by chance from another friend who mentioned it in passing.

I write about Susan to honour her in my own small way and say thanks to her for all the work she does in her city and in Canada.