Friday, March 25, 2022

Values Here

Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Paul Gauguin, 1888, Oil on canvas
72.20 x 91.00 cm (framed: 96.00 x 116.70 x 8.30 cm)
National Galleries of Scotland

Whew! What a week. I am overwhelmed and exhilarated. I was out more consistently in the world this week than I had been in two years. 

I decided on Tuesday that I probably need to keep "a reintegration journal" and I did get a special notebook for the purpose because I am a good consumer just like you. 

So part of me wants to write about what I saw and thought about being "out there" again and part of me wants to write about the 8 hours of union training I participated in for the past 2 weeks. I have four more hours of training next week as well. This has been a profound learning experience and very helpful to me personally, as well as seeing the larger picture for all artists as workers. Let's just say there are a lot of people out there thinking radical thoughts and working for the betterment of us all and that excites me.

Okay, so which route am I going to take? 

Let's talk about that "outside world" 

I think I was in three shopping centres this week and of course, the middle of the city is filled with places for you to spend your money and I spent some, but mostly I just marvelled at it all with love, disgust, and a humorous critique. 

Armed with my "hardcore mask" on Tuesday I went to a well known open-air mall-style shopping centre in Leith called the Kirkgate. This place has a bit of a local reputation sitting at the foot of the walk. I know it well from living in the neighbourhood and I have always liked it just fine. It now has a Costa coffee and that makes it seem a bit more posh. In the Kirkgate, I popped into two chain stores and one charity shop and purchased just a few items I was after (I did have a purpose in my first wander of the week). 

I felt out of practice at browsing and shopping - I have never been too good at it, to be honest, but this time was more laboured. I was like the tin man with rusty joints. The music they played over the shop speakers certainly didn't help. I wondered if it was real music at all or just manufactured for shopping, it sounded like something between a poorly written advertising jingle and sounds from an 80s radio alarm clock. 

I moved on and sent a bad photo from the foot of the walk to a friend "I'm oot the hoose shopping."

I wandered down the road through tram construction to another charity shop - the one where everything is hung up high for giants. I never find anything there because I can't reach it. Then I visited another couple of charity shops nearby. Nothing there, grasping for treasure and coming up empty in mind, body, and soul - I  decided that was enough exploring for the day. I meandered back to the Kirkgate, purchased an overpriced soy chai latte (because now I can) and took it to the cemetery - ah the cemetery (my safe space). The latte was mostly shite but still warm as I wandered around the graves realising how excited I was to see my favourite skull and crossbones, angel faces, and the script on the old stones. The sun was shining, birds and squirrels were playing and flowers were blooming everywhere. This was the best part of my outing and it has been available for the duration of the pandemic. Nature never disappoints and rarely asks you for your debit card. 

On Wednesday, I had to head out to see a nurse about a blood test (routine). A pal met me outside and we took to the city for a bit more capitalism and culture. First stop, the antithesis of the Kirkgate, the New Saint James Quarter. I had heard good things (minus the golden jobby hotel) so off we went. I would have to describe it as dystopian capitalist chic, designed for future living - it was serving up Epcot centre vibes. 

Multrees walk followed and that's all I'll say about that - some strong window critiquing happened there. We walked across St. Andrews Square and a mix of tourists and workers ate their lunches in the sun. We walked over to the National Galleries of Scotland to hopefully catch a glimpse of my favourite Van Gogh in their collection but it was not there, however it was just as good to walk into the red-walled fortress holding so much art of antiquity. Stepped right up to the DaVinci (I think most people walk right by its strangeness without even knowing). Enjoyed El Greco, Degas, Monet, Van Gogh, Gauguin - you know, the usuals... 

I must state that being from Fayetteville, Arkansas I used to have to get on a big yellow school bus to go to Tulsa Oklahoma (2 hours away) to see art (and not of this calibre) when I was a child and only once a year - so when I can just walk into the city centre and see "proper" art, it always feels like I have landed at the end of the rainbow. I must also mention that the one Gaugin painting "Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel)" from 1888 that they have in their collection is one that I strangely chose to copy and write a paper about while studying art at the University of Oregon. Finding that painting in their collection on my first visit here and all the daffodils that bloom everywhere in the spring were two signs that convinced me I would probably be okay if I moved to Edinburgh. 

After the art, another cemetery visit was enjoyed, sitting on a bench in the sun with a salad for lunch. My pal and I enjoyed a chat with a elder gentleman from the church with flowers, birdsong and the city, on all sides. I did step in a chain shop for that salad. Princes street gardens were also enjoyed and the gorgeous Parisian fountain. A hellish stationery store was visited and then on to Princes Street Mall for the paper I needed so I could write my thoughts on capitalist culture down. Jokes on me... as I type it all to you anyway. Then it was back down Leith Walk and into a wee local independent shop I had missed and then to a wee antique and vintage store for a nice chat about blankets and cats and then we ended it all at LIDL for some marzipan chocolate eggs. 

I paid attention to what excited me about being out - walking and talking with my friend, the gardens, the cemetery, chats with strangers, and of course the paintings in the permanent collection - and the grand space for art - like a church of old friends. 

On Thursday I mentored a brilliant artist and went to union meetings, all online - just ducking outdoors for a few walks in the sun. A good day for recalibration and learning - I enjoyed all of it.

Friday, it was back out into the world again, another bus journey into the city, this time staying in Leith. Popped by a friend's house in the morning, enjoyed a cup of tea around her kitchen table with the double doors to her garden wide open letting the sun and spring in. It was so nice to just drop in on someone and be welcomed with open arms and a cup of tea and a bit of a chat. Left there and popped into my studio building but didn't even open the door to my studio (telling) - I  saw a studio mate for a wee chat and then went on my way to a favourite old charity shop on Leith walk that I hadn't yet visited since the before times. I was on a mission to get a vintage half apron from the window display, yellow with my favourite flowers in red and purple and then of course I had to get a crazy necklace of glass beads for next to nothing as well. 

Onwards, walking down Leith Walk noticing all the changes, the gentrification is in full effect now. Feeling more like Stockbridge all the time. My shopping and mooching muscles getting warmer by the minute, stopped by Stories Bakery for a vegan sausage roll, Home Essentials for Nag Champa, and the Kilted Donut for a vegan jelly-filled that was over the top, passed another cemetery, sat on the bench in the sun by the water of Leith, and then on to the new ALDI "just to see it" and then the bus back home for two hours of art biz and life discussions with a dear friend back home over the phone. 

The highlights of Friday -  the friendly tea stopover, chatting with my studio mate, seeing some of my favourite daffodils blooming, supporting the charity shop by buying something that makes me happy, and just walking in the sun and sitting by the water of Leith. Phone call with a dear friend. 

If I am going to reengage with this world again, I want to do it as closely aligned with my values as I can. I emerge changed and I am more certain of what I value and what I do not. I am paying attention and taking notes.

PS. Artist readers: Join your Union! 

Scottish Artists Union: 

Artists' Union England: 

Praxis Artist Union Ireland:

Friday, March 18, 2022

The embarrassment is not mine

I like to listen to music that embarrasses me. 

I know the embarrassment is not mine but society's, so I disregard it and power through but this is still harder than you might think. 

I am "rocking out" in the sun of this spring day to a song from 1987 if I remember correctly but the band has been shunned by those in the know due to the singer's perceived massive ego and god complex. Fair enough, but the song while cringey, delights me. I won't listen to the album but I will listen to this song on repeat. 

I am young again and I can remember wanting certain things in my life and yet not knowing much at all about living. 

I am trying to remember what I want again and I still feel like I know nothing much at all. But the sun is in my eyes and the guitar slices through the air bringing with it momentary empowerment and dare I say hope. 

That's what "good" and "bad" art can do - it can change us, it can shake us and make us remember. Art wears a groove so deeply while it partners with our memories and melds with our emotions, that perhaps we can no longer watch that film, read that book, hang that painting, or listen to that album - it's like sad time travel. 

But sometimes, we can delve into the magic and feel better for it. It opens the door and welcomes us home.

Friday, March 11, 2022

Two years later with a dash of rage

You think you've had two years (this weekend) to go inside yourself and listen deeply to your wants and needs and to create a new personal mission statement for the way you want to live on this planet. 

But you didn't. 

How could any of us think like that while the world is on fire and there are so many loud voices coming at us from all sides? Did some listicle shame you and the way you coped? So many voices telling us to get clear on our goals, get fit, get organised, go deep, make your mark, leave what no longer serves, get angry, fight the power, and save the planet. All the while fighting for social and economic justice, raising a good family or loving the one you're with while staying informed on politics, world news, and what's trending. Clap for carers and front line workers, bargain shop, and mind how long you leave the lights on and did you mourn in an acceptable way across your socials, did you virtue signal or just support the right causes? 

How the fuck are we supposed to do all of this while being beautiful, creative, talented, well-read, well-travelled, and well-loved. And of course, let's not forget the people who didn't skip a beat, you just got on with it, kept calm and carried on and "fuck it, this is my one life when it's time, it's time..."

The pandemic is not over, war rages in many places that we are not paying attention to today, and of course on our poor mother earth. Politicians are chipping away at our democracy while stealing from the poor and we know that straight white males are the only ones that had a fair shake anyway, so why the fuck are they so angry? 

And yet, I need to paint a painting? I need to stay relevant, make a sale, go to an exhibition, say something beautiful, add a bit of joy to the world or express my rage in painterly form? Hmm. I am not so sure about that.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Be well, take care, keep fighting.

Dear lovely blog readers, 

Thank you for checking in here. I hope you are okay. It is totally understandable if you are not. The world seems quite heavy. 

A few good things I noticed this week: 

Visits with good friends are a balm for the soul. 
Spring flowers are magic. 
A long slow walk with birdsong heals. 
Cats, cats, cats, purr, purr, purr. 
Vitamins might be a good idea and perhaps some more water. 
If you are tired, rest. 
If you are sad, cry. 
If you are angry, let it out.

Here's my Tuesday Studio Video Visit.

My next blog will come to you from a new decade of my life. I will be 50... and I am not yet sure what I think about that, but I know I am one of the lucky ones. Thank you for walking on this path with me. 

Be well, take care, keep fighting

Lots of love,