Bird’s Nest

Jackson Pollock it ain’t. But just look at those fledgling storks launching themselves into the air. And yes, those are their nests!

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Bird’s Nest
Jackson Pollock No5 (1948)

This bird’s nest starts with a startling tweet
that wins a trilled, thrilled response. A flutter
of heart-string wings, creator, viewer, join

with the creation. Thin threads of life mix
and match their tangled weave, existential
tapestry, fathered in a feathered nest.

World without end, this labyrinth without
an entry point, without a beginning,
with a spaghetti-thread middle that meets

not in a breath-catch of the mind, but in
a brush-flick of coloured rain, a cycle
recycled of circled paint, circular

in its circumnavigation, its square
eight by four-foot globe of a new world whirled
in stringy whorls, reinvented beauty

drawn haphazardly from the bicycle
tour de force of this artist’s inner mind.

Comment: This is a tongue-twister of a poem, much as Jackson Pollock’s painting is a twisted vision twisting the viewer’s eye. And, no, it is not easy to read. Nor is the painting easy to view. Click here for a link > Jackson Pollock < to the painting. Click here for a link to Alejandro Botelho’s reading of < My Grandfather >. Note that Alejandro’s reading of My Grandfather begins at 17.58. And note too that the other poets are also well worth listening to. Once again, thank you for this, Alejandro: your work is very much appreciated.

Ruffed Grouse

Ruffed Grouse by Kaitlin Hoyt

Kaitlin Hoyt
(KIRA, May-June, 2021)

She is an oyster, silent at low tide, yet with a host
of pearls waiting inside her, ready to be released.
When set, she will release those pearls herself,
stringing them together, like Chantal’s beads,
into a skein of meaningful, enigmatic moments.

Enigmatic, yes, but, like Elgar’s Enigma Variations,
a Russian Doll puzzle of secrets and intrigue. Comic
book artist, she evolved to graphic designer, then
multi-tasked first to Kinetics, and then to a painter
who reaches out in empathy to the world around her.

For her, all art is linked and communications are key,
on many levels. Visualization. Achievable goals.
A step-by-step process with each step foreseen, planned
beforehand, and each step always taken with an open mind
that accepts the true response, leaving falsehoods behind.

Kinetics, yes, but she is above all a loner. Kayaking.
Hiking. Weight-lifting. Yoga. Meditation. Mindfulness.
Caring. Sharing. She sends me her web page and I am
blown away by her empathy with birds and the natural world,
that world her oyster and her, an oyster in that world.



Comment: This particular bird visited our Mountain Ash in the garden at Island View. Kaitlin saw my photo and asked if she could paint it. I sent it to her, and this is the result. Wild life to Still Life to art and never Nature Morte! Together, Kaitlin and I have preserved forever the surprise visit of this beautiful bird.

Cave Paintings

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Cave Paintings
Cantabria

Who painted these pictures on the walls of night’s cave?
This grayish hand, fingers flexed, outlined in black soot,
that deer dancing, those bears, horses, bison, running?


Did they come from nowhere, plucked from nothing but
the artist’s memories of what he saw as the ice age faded
and heat and warmth returned to warm his world? Drawn
from life, without doubt. Unless these Neanderthals were
truly creating art from a literal vacuum with nothing new
invented since according to Picasso. And he should know.

Imagine them as sounds, as letters from distant relatives,
as colored vowels scored on the blocks of a child’s first
alphabet set. Sit and stare. Watch flames flitter over
sharp shapes. See life enter the drawings as flimsy
light flickers over the cave walls’ dips and bumps.

Once seen, never forgotten. Not just the paintings, but also
the clammy cave damp, the red hanky draped over a pocket torch
to imitate firelight, the drip of water, slow growth of limestone
deposits growing into stalagmite and stalactite. Such things
flit in and out of my mind like owls or bats, drop in on my sleep
wake me with predatory beaks and claws, calling for my skull’s shut
doors to open wide, to let them in, and to bring them back to life.

Comment: The picture comes from an ash-tray my parents bought at the Cuevas de Altamira, in Santillana del Mar (Cantabria, Santander as it was known then) in 1963. We visited many cave sites in Cantabria including Puente Viesgo, where we saw the sooty hands. Back then, the caves had only just been opened. At Altamira, a young lady came to greet us. We asked her if we might view the caves and she whistled loudly. Her husband came down from the fields where he was working. He took a large iron key from his pocket, opened a huge door set in the rock, and in we went. One light bulb illumined the inner chamber. Only a small segment had been dug out. We reclined on a rocky bank. He doused the electric light, took a torch from his pocket, and covered it with a red pocket handkerchief. He moved this back and forth to imitate firelight and immediately the whole wall came to life and the animals moved in the flickering light. Pure magic. Unforgettable. We were the only people there. Four of us. A few years later, you had to book an appointment and a place. Within six years, the caves were closed as the heat of human bodies raised the cave temperatures and caused the paintings to deteriorate. I was so fortunate, so privileged, to see those paintings in what was almost their pristine state. In 1991, I visited the facsimile of the caves built in Madrid. I paid my money, went in, sat down, and came out crying for all those things we had lost, for all that beauty that had been denied.

Hollyhock

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Still Life with Hollyhock
for
Geoff Slater
the inventor of line painting

How do you frame this beaver pond,
those paths, those woods? How do you
know what to leave, what to choose?
Where does light begin and darkness end?

Up and down: two dimensions. Easy.
But where does depth come from?
Or the tactility, the energy, water’s
flow, that rush of breathless movement
that transcends the painting’s stillness?

So many questions, so few answers.
The hollyhock that blooms in my kitchen
is not a real hollyhock. It is the painting
of a photo of a genuine flower that once
upon a time flourished in my garden.

A still life, then, a nature morte, a dead
nature, portrayed in paint and hung alive,
on display in this coffin’s wooden frame.

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Line Painting

No Exit
a line painting
by Geoff for Andrea Slater

Where is the entry point, where the exit?
This labyrinth of lines, straight, not circular,
baffle the eye, confuse with a negative space
that lightens colors and begs more darkness.

Mystery surrounds the sitter’s form: the board walk,
no Dutch kitchen this, the chair on which she sits,
the locket she wears, the landscape, seascape
against which she is framed. White noise, perhaps,

but noise that turns to a single voice, a single line,
that of the paint-brush tip-toeing, delicate its thread
through interior, exterior meaning, just beyond

the viewer’s grasp. Yet walking past, each person stops,
stands still, as the painting draws them in, ties them up,
binds them with an ineffable thread, stronger than words,

mightier than the eye that traces its way along paths
that deceive, disturb, throw us from the high-wire created
by an artist who turns circular colors into linear space.

Comment: No Exit forms a part of my manuscript collection The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature that placed second in the WFNB’s Alfred G. Bailey Award (2020). This collection will soon be made available online at Amazon / KDP.

Geoff Slater
the inventor of line-painting, gifted me this painting,
one of my hollyhocks about two years ago.
This is indeed a gift that keeps on giving.

Murals

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Murals
McAdam Railway Station #11

Painting a mural,
inside, interior
wall, knowing it will
stand time’s test.

Viaduct broken,
a tumbled engine,
Canadian workers,
railwaymen all,

some from Macadam,
pebbled the floor,
handrail, radiator
camouflaged for war,

part of the painting.
Depart from the station.
Turn right. Straight ahead,
flaked peeling paint.

So sad, this outside
mural, exposed to winter’s
snow, frost, winds, and ice.
So vulnerable

and so ephemeral.
Such a short-lived
summer, over in a day.
Butterfly on a rock.

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Comment: This sequence comes from the indoor and outdoor work (murals) of my friend Geoff Slater. Geoff told me how ephemeral were the outdoor murals with a life-span of about ten years before they needed redoing. After that, the paint starts to fade, then crack, then dry and peel away. Our Canadian winters with their icy cold and the ensuing springs with their frost and thaw do not help. The protection, no ice, no snow, no sun, no rain, afforded to the interior murals means that they will last so much longer. Our outdoor art, unless cast in the firmest stone, is ephemeral. Like a butterfly, it will not last much longer than a brief summer day. Hence the final metaphor.

Murals

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Murals

Painting a mural,
inside, interior
wall, knowing it will
stand time’s test.

Viaduct broken,
a tumbled engine,
Canadian workers,
railwaymen all,

some from Macadam,
pebbled the floor,
handrail, radiator
camouflaged for war,

part of the painting.
Depart from the station.
Turn right. Straight ahead,
flaked peeling paint.

So sad, this outside
mural, exposed to winter’s
snow, frost, winds, and ice.
So vulnerable

and so ephemeral.
Butterfly on a rock.
Such a short-lived
summer, over in a day.

Comment:

My friend, Geoff Slater, inventor of line painting and a renowned muralist, is painting a mural at Macadam Railway Station celebrating the role of Canadian railway engineers in WWI. Here are two fragments  from his unfinished mural. The poem above is based on his lamentation that his outdoor murals, subject to the slings and arrows of outrageous Canadian winter weather, are ephemeral, like butterflies, and cannot endure.

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Pinot & Palette

weir 2.png

Kingsbrae 16.5
16 June 2017

Pinot & Paint

“Slap it on,” says the instructor,
“the sky first, various shades of blue,
darker at the top, lighter down below,
by the horizon line you dribble
across the bottom third of the page.
Add some white to lighten the blue
and maybe a little touch of yellow.
Now the landline, on the horizon,
brown first for the rocky shore,
a rub of green for foliage and trees.
Now, for the sea, take blues,
light and dark, mix them with a touch,
yellow, green and lighten them
a little with a touch of white.
Next come the cedar weir poles,
dark down below where the high tide
soaks them, lighter on top, use red
and yellow and a touch of orange.
Remember the shadows, and don’t
forget the way the poles are reflected
in the water, use broken lines for that,
matching colors. When you’re done,
just sign your name in the corner.
Finish your wine and cheese, now,
tell me: wasn’t that so much fun?”

Comment: We, the resident artists of KIRA, went to Geoff Slater’s workshop / studio to join in his Friday afternoon Pinot & Palette painting session. This was a two hour extravaganza with two glasses of wine, a cheese plate with bread and pickles, an empty canvas that we were obliged to fill, and a palette of acrylic paints with which to fill it. Geoff, the artistic director at Kingsbrae Gardens, led us step by step (as sequenced above) through ‘how to paint a picture’. The subject he chose for us was a fishing weir from Passamaquoddy Bay. He began by giving us a history of the weirs (click here for the appropriate poem) and their uses by the Passamaquoddy peoples and then he led us step by step through the painting process. At the end of the afternoon, the participants saw their paintings held up for all to see. They were mounted in a standard frame that highlighted the art as art. At the session’s end we parted with a great gift: our paintings, done by ourselves, and a deeper understanding of the history of the local region, the workings of the fishing weirs, and a deeper knowledge of how to paint. All in all it was a wonderful experience.