Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thoughts on Inspiration

©Janice Mason Steeves 2011

A couple of weeks ago, Helen Hagemann, an Australian poet who was in residency at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at the same time I was, emailed to tell me that she had written a poem  inspired by one of my paintings she saw there.  A section of that painting took her eye.  I am honoured by this. I was also delighted at how my work was interpreted so differently than my intention as I created it.  I include her blog post here with her poem:  Her Blue Dress and encourage you to check out her website to read more of her poems and see the books she has written.

Helen's writing this poem,  makes me consider sources of inspiration:  what inspires us, keeps us creating?  Maybe it's different for everyone.

I have just finished reading "The Aran Islands", written in 1907 by J.M. Synge, the famous Irish playwright.  He spent time on each of the three Aran Islands, mainly, Inish Mann where I visited in early October. Synge was clearly inspired by the islanders, especially by the folktales, songs and stories of fairies, told him by these simple, rugged people. But he was also inspired by the remoteness of the place, the difficulty of making passage there.  The sea, a very powerful living being, played a pivotal role in the lives of the islanders, dependent as they were on it.  Their only boats (the same kind used today for fishing), were small canvas-covered currachs, each rowed by four men. Today though, ferries ply the channels to move passengers and cargo.  Synge's experiences there and the folktales he collected were to form the basis for many of his plays.

I am also inspired very much by place: In my last series of paintings that I exhibited at Agnes Bugera Gallery, in Edmonton, my thoughts were about the prairies where I grew up.

In Ireland, at my artist residency, it was interesting to find that the colours of my paintings became so much more muted than at home.  Often when I travel, I don't paint.  I only photograph and absorb and write my thoughts.  When I get home, and after some weeks, or months, I find that my paintings begin to take on the feel (at least to me) of the place I visited.  And what surprised me in Ireland, was how quickly those changes were made while I was still there, like this painting that Helen was inspired by.

So thanks very much to Helen, and with her permission, I am printing her poem.
Her Blue Dress
                      for Janice

You will want to know
the season
how a gown can slip itself over nose and cheek
and be visible from art
how Emily Dickinson stood by a window
pressing her pink hips
through a passage of time
lifting a blue taffeta dress
over her shoulders
to reach
cool, upturned toes
where poems lay like stepping stones
on the hardwood floor.
The long blue dress
was too big for this slip
of a girl
but she proceeded down the hall
where a mirror
motioned her to look
at the poet she would become.

(3rd draft)

I was instantly drawn to Janice's artwork at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland where we met and were housed in rather large cottages.  Her series included separate paintings joined as one.  I have used one panel only from her work titled Thoughts of Stones to represent a mirror and a blue dress. I saw Emily Dickinson's blue dress inside the painting (and, I guess, I was also inspired after reading Billy Collins' poem Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes

So there we were ( including Rebecca Crowell from Wisconsin- another fine artist!) each in our separate units, inspiring each other, and both encouraging me to visit the Megalithic art at Loughcrew.  I have many more poems to come!  Janice's Thoughts of Stones and her full art work can be viewed at Janice Mason Steeves

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Art Gallery of Ontario Through a Child's Eyes

On Saturday I took my granddaughter for her first visit to the Art Gallery of Ontario. First things first, we had to climb onto the inviting Henry Moore sculpture near the entrance!  My granddaughter brought her own camera and I thought it was fun to see the AGO through her eyes. Other than this first photo and the one of her in front of the Chagall sign (way down below), the rest of the photos were hers.

Designed by Frank Gehry, the building is an exciting one for children of all ages.  It took us perhaps one-half hour to get past the front lobby,  where she delightfully scampered up and down the ribbon-like wheelchair ramp.  Then on to the winding staircase that actually goes outside the building for a few twists and turns.

From up on top of this twisty staircase, when I lifted her up, she could see a panorama view of Toronto. 

The staircase, like the wheelchair ramp, was incredibly exciting and we could have spent the rest of the day right here, running up and down, if only my legs could do it!

Then onto the Galeria Italia and where you feel you're in the hold of a glass ship, with enormous trees growing out of it.  

This sculpture was created by Italian artist Giuseppe Penone and will only be in the Galeria Italia until January 2012.  We were glad to have seen it.

Now on to the Chagall exhibit:

We stayed there maybe 10 or 15 minutes, walking steadily through the exhibit, stopping only to look at the last two very large and colourful paintings.  Then on to the really important thing: lunch.


 And a stop to buy a little souvenir of the day:

Then home on the GO train where we found a ladybug crawling near our seat on the train. 

What a fun day!