I went to the Women’s March in Toronto on January 21 with my 27 year old daughter who was eager to understand what this movement was all about and I thought it would be a wonderful way to introduce her to active participation. I have not joined a protest since I was 27 which seems like a millions years ago. I am not a political person, preferring to let my work and how I choose to live my life speak for itself. I believe we lead by example, by modelling an honorable way to be on this planet, of which we are temporary guests.
And so in the spirit of the moment and with a humorous (I thought) touch of irony I posted an image – above – to my instagram feed. There were many I could have chosen but this caught my eye for its simplicity. Although my work is not in any way political this was a definite political message.
Within an hour or two I received a message that the image I had posted was offensive to a follower of mine and although she had been a fan of my work she was going to unfollow me. My daughter and some friends saw the message and responded in kind in my defence. It surprised me, this passionate outburst both for and against my post, and me. After some thought I chose to respond to her privately, thanking her for initiating a conversation with my daughter about the right to free speech. It was a true teaching moment and for that I am grateful. And so I have been thinking about the nature of whether a work can be separated from its creator and evaluated on its own merits.
oh..and had I looked closer at the image prior to posting I may have hesitated for in the background is another sign with an arguably offensive message! Funny to me because it is so far from my vocabulary but all the same, there, and since I posted the image, attributed to my sensibility. yikes. Maybe that was what she was referring to. I will never know. But as someone who doesn’t swear and is not in any way political apart from chosing to live a Bhuddist kind of philosphy, the sign made me chuckle. It was so not me! The universe works in strange and wondrous ways.
“Probabilities and contingencies wriggling around like cats in a bag.”
from Michael Chabon’s ‘Moonglow’
2016 has been a brutal year. I will be glad to see it end. The world is in turmoil, yet set against the anxiety that has invaded our lives of late, my world of painting has been blessed. The inside of my studio is a sanctuary. I had a childhood goal of wanting to be a painter when I grew up. Check. I wanted to have my own studio. Check. Send my paintings around the world. Check. Sometimes when you reach a goal a kind of ennui sets in and a lethargy takes over. But this hasn’t happened. I am more motivated now than I have ever been. There is a clarity to my life now and I have accepted that when I am painting I am giving over to a solitary life. Monastic. I don’t mind. It’s where I feel I am in the slipstream of my life.
From Robertson Davies’ Trilogy
‘Who are you? Where do you fit into poetry and myth? Do you know who I think you are, Ramsay? I think you are Fifth Business.
‘You don’t know what that is? Well, in opera in a permanent company of the kind we keep in Europe you must have a prima donna – always a soprano, always the heroine, often a fool; and a tenor who always plays the lover to her; and then you must have a contralto, who is a rival to the soprano, or a sorceress or something; and a basso, who is the villain or the rival or whatever threatens the tenor.
‘So far, so good. But you cannot make a plot work without another man, and he is usually a baritone, and he is called in the profession Fifth Business, because he is the odd man out, the person who has no opposite of the other sex. And you must have Fifth Business because he is the one who knows the secret of the hero’s birth, or comes to the assistance of the heroine when she thinks all is lost, or keeps the hermitess in her cell, or may even be the cause of somebody’s death if that is part of the plot. The prima donna and the tenor, the contralto and the basso, get all the best music and do all the spectacular things, but you cannot manage the plot without Fifth Business! It is not spectacular, but it is a good line of work, I can tell you, and those who play it sometimes have a career that outlasts the golden voices…’