Somber Man, 18" x 72", Acrylic on Canvas

A number of years ago when I worked for one of the major camp and catering companies in the BC & AB oilfields I was sent on a mission to deliver an envelope containing 'condolences' for a recently deceased chief of what I think was the Dene-Thah native band.

I was unclear on protocol and was simply told to go find a particular band member, give him the envelope and leave. I felt that at the very least I should try to pay some authentic respect to the man who died and his family as well so I stepped in to a line where I thought I could do this. I'd never seen a dead body before and much to my discomfort this particular funeral was the wake-style Catholic version. I soon came face to face with a man who's spirit had long since left his body behind. I kept wondering if he was going to wake up, open his eyes. He looked a little pale but nothing drastic, mostly he looked like he was in a deep sleep. I think my eyes tried to play tricks on me when I saw his chest move. Before I could completely melt down in some maudlin hollywood psychosis I was moved along by the flow of the line to pay my respect to the family. I felt malice and spite from them. Who are you and what right do you have to be here was in their eyes. I felt fear and shame.

Transient

There was a small area where music was being played. It was somber and sad and out of tune. The leader of this musical group stood out for me; he had the eyes of a zealot. Gaunt & haunted; I couldn't help but think his atonement was regular self flagellation. He strummed the guitar with barest effort and sang in somber tones about the forgiveness of the lord and prayers for the lost souls around him.

I left feeling hollow. I greased a palm for the financial benefit of a corporation that was clearly masked by the concept of sorrow and concern. I bore witness for the first time in my life to the truth of death. I felt torn in the conflict between christianity and indigenous tribal & spiritual process. It was truly discomforting

Propriety

Transient

One of the intriguing parts of my creative process is I don't always paint 'right side up'. There are often times when I will lay the foundation for a piece and have to turn it 90 or 180 degrees in order to find the image that needs to be worked on; such was the case for this piece.

A shrew dominates the upper left hand side of the piece, they tend to be ferociously protective of their territory. A lovebird is on the right, they are most commonly known for their tendency to choose a mate for life. Underneath these two is an aquatic scene with a spawned salmon, egg & a creature I can't quite figure out.

It's almost eerie how this scene reflects a moment that occurred when I was first painting this piece. My wife had tried to get my attention while I was in the initial 'zone' of foundation building and I bristled and closed up and wanted her to go away so I didn't break my flow. She had no idea what was going on and thought I was mad for something else. If you look at me as the shrew and my wife as the lovebird, it all makes perfect sense!

What is Beautiful

I saw this ad circulating around facebook and it really struck home the point of how far gone our advertising trends are these days and how NOT FINISHED we are with the gender equality movement. In looking for a good sized image I ran across Julie Clawson's blog. She says very eloquently what I think about this whole thing. No reason to re-invent the wheel!

Transient

The Troll Under the Bridge

I've lived a week from hell. This piece was thwarted from the get go, everything in my life was going wrong; conspiring to stop me from painting. I'd started the foundation and I hated it, it was surely a mistake. I wasn't ready to deal.

My Aunt, Leah Hokanson, called and asked "how are you?". We've created a safe space to express ourselves to each other so I told her how I really was. How all this crap was coming up and how everything was wrong and how I felt I was failing myself and my family. She was drawn to offer a poem written by Rumi:

~~~

The Guest House 

This being human is a guest house. 
Every morning a new arrival. 

A joy, a depression, a meanness, 
some momentary awareness comes 
as an unexpected visitor. 

Welcome and entertain them all! 
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows, 
who violently sweep your house 
empty of its furniture, 
still, treat each guest honorably. 
He may be clearing you out 
for some new delight. 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice, 
meet them at the door laughing, 
and invite them in. 

Be grateful for whoever comes, 
because each has been sent 
as a guide from beyond.

~~~

My avoidance came clear to me. I had such an intense desire to not look, to push away, to deny this dark dark part of me that lives just under the surface. The harder I ignored, the harder I pushed it away, the stronger it became. It was wreaking havoc everywhere I looked.

At that moment of understanding, I began to paint and poured that acknowledgement on the canvas. It told me it was stubborn, undeniable, headstrong, unstoppable... like a moose. I opened the door and laughing, I invited it in. I let it and its environment take shape, I felt SO MUCH better. I realized as I was finishing that I was creating a container for it. My final gesture was to gather the remnants of that energy and give it to the canvas. Seal it in. Let its realness, its existence always be acknowledged, always be seen. Never again denied.