Thursday, July 26, 2012

meet me at the silo: Cornography – The Second Popping

My citrus paintings were part of this cool annual event hosted by Small Pond Arts in Prince Edward County. Check it out!

Cornography – The Second Popping

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Seeing things

“To see a world in a grain of sand / And a heaven in a wild flower / Hold infinity in the palm of your hand / And eternity in an hour.”—William Blake

Blake was writing about how heightened perception alters how we see things, and that’s been an important concern of mine lately. Recently I had surgery on both eyes to help alleviate ongoing headaches and a hereditary condition that eyeglasses and contact lenses were not resolving.

Computer-assisted microscopes were used throughout the process and my background in science made this deeply interesting for me. I expressed my keen inquisitiveness during the testing and prep phases. My enthusiasm was rewarded: the techs generously allowed me to view the various images of my own eyes, harvested for the computer screen via the microscopes during such procedures as Dilated Fundus Examination and corneal mapping.

My retinal scans were fascinating to behold. The optic nerve was a river snaking across a red glowing planet; the hazy Jupiter spot that was the Macula loomed darkly. All perfectly healthy, too, according to the ophthalmology team, and to my obvious relief.

These visions of vision were very inspiring. Some of the images I saw made me think of Prince Edward County artist Mary-Lou Ashton’s large abstract paintings. As it turns out, a former career in science inspires her artwork.

Ashton explains, “The topic of my Master of Science thesis [York University] …required the use of a transmission electron microscope. Just as I graduated, the position for electron microscope technician became available and I was asked if I was interested. And so I worked at York for some 20-plus years.” During this period, she spent much of her time looking at highly magnified cell structures, and making drawings of what she saw.

While working at York, Ashton undertook a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She continues, “Haematology and electron microscopy are both visual sciences. Guess biology does influence my work.”

What we see through these powerful looking glasses can actually be incredibly beautiful. Scientist Dr. Gary Greenberg photographs grains of sand from around the world under a microscope. The results are astonishing and well worth a look at his website, or within his gorgeous book, A Grain of Sand: Nature’s Secret Wonder. (2008, Voyageur Press: Minneapolis.)

Through Greenberg’s three-dimensional photomicrography technique, the tiny grains of sand reveal themselves as exquisitely delicate compositions; each is as unique as a snowflake. And the shimmering colour! A microcosmic aurora borealis is one way to describe it.

The requisite downtime whilst one’s eyes are healing up can be a challenge for an artist. Listening to Eckhart Tolle’s soothing drone via audio book put me into a mood of looking inward, exploring small spaces, and being present in my predicament.

There is something about being very reflective… spending a lot of time by oneself without going online or able to read or paint, etc. The waiting can be excruciating. But, like sands through the hourglass… this, too, shall pass.

I think once my eyes heal up and I no longer need to use dictation software to write, I will dig out my beloved beautiful old Leitz trinocular microscope with its fluorite lenses and have a look at some Sandbanks sand. Who knows what I’ll see…

Read the full article HERE.

"The World is a Book"

My inaugural column for The Wellington Times:

The world is a book

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

Some say that the Swiss don’t travel much because their country is so beautiful. Why leave?

Living in a gorgeous, vibrant, topographically varied tourist destination like Prince Edward County can make it a challenge to motivate oneself to search for beauty and meaning elsewhere. On the flight home from my recent trip to paint en plein air in California, it occurred to me that when immersing the spirit in a different environment, we cannot help but find similarities to our home.

This search for meaning and connection during travel led me to daydreamy drives down California One, putting my trust in nature atop the wildflower-dotted cliffs that are so much like our Little Bluff, and going with the flow of a redwood forest waterfall that sounded just like Jackson’s Falls.
I wonder if the Swiss go to our Canadian Rockies and see bits of “home”?

This kind of travel experience encourages us to carry back a cornucopia of inspirational ideas. Brilliant ideas like the cloth shopping bag recycling station I saw at a Santa Cruz organic market! Or the astonishing formulation of colour on my fresh palette of oil paints that I had not before considered— not knowing how quinacridone-sienna warm the underlying light really was there—until I saw it, tasted it, and experienced it.

My recent visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Museum at Big Sur in Central California was likewise inspiring. Developed and run by volunteers and reliant on donations, the diminutive, quaint cabin bookshop and Internet lounge is a quirky and appropriate celebration of the well-respected writer of Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn. (Think Fifty Shades of Grey—in Paris—for a macho 1930s audience.)

Classic books of the era/area (Kerouac, Steinbeck, Nin, et al) hang from the ceiling by twine, while posters and original correspondence adorn the walls along with drawings, poetry, and memorial snippets from those who shared the cultural experience of the time.

Eclectic and casual, the space offers free wi-fi, coffee, camaraderie with fellow travellers, as well as a performance venue. Summer concert series are held here, and foreign film nights on the knoll facing a big outdoor screen reminiscent of the era’s drive-in theatres give the impression of great evening fun.
Looking at all of this made me think of acclaimed Canadian poet Al Purdy’s cabin, currently languishing on Roblin Lake in Ameliasburgh. There, the ghosts of so many lakeside parties and memories of former gatherings of like-minded souls wait to be acknowledged. Could be quite effective if a similar type of memorial shrine was possible there.
Read the rest of the article  HERE