9″ x 12″
Mixed Media on Canvas
Send only your love
So you may find me
My heart is in a wide blue ocean
Waiting for your return
The radio was static. The headlights barely picking out the blurred asphalt. The road through Jasper National Park was long, silent and empty. There was no moon and in the complete shadow that had descended on the nighttime world I had long since lost the ability to see the mountains rising on either side of me, but I could feel them, the density, the weight of them. I could feel the sheer cliff drops on one side or another of the vehicle, empty mouths waiting to swallow me up.
I glanced up into the sky and was sucked in. The stars! I lived in the city and true starlight was something I rarely saw, save for a camping trip here or there. But in this place, humming along at 100 kilometers an hour, the full, unbelievable expanse was revealed.
I almost drove off the road.
My heart started pounding, considering the enormity of the eternal space that opened up above me. I suddenly couldn’t separate earth from sky and I was floating. I was speeding through the cosmos, embraced by an unending blackness, uncountable suns and vast clouds of pale light. My sense of direction was lost, vertigo threatened to overtake me, and still I drove, heedless of physical danger as my whole spirit seemed threatened to become lost in that profound, airless vacuum. I was about to panic when something switched off inside of me. I gave up my fear and allowed myself to let go, to embrace this enormity as it embraced me. My breathing slowed and time lost any meaning.
As I rounded a bend in the road the radio spotted and sputtered to life with the voice of Stan Rogers.
…through a land so wild and savage…
Listening to the plaintive cry of the song, I slowly came back to earth, to the solid land and the road swiftly passing.
I was back from a journey that lasted only moments but returned me seemingly eons later. I pulled over at the next rest stop, crawled into the back seat and slept.
A few months ago I happened to look up at the sky and I almost fell down at the vision. What would normally be a waxing moon seemed to me suddenly like a pregnant belly, the rest of the woman submerged under the evening sky. I knew I had to share that image. This painting is dark, but so full of light everywhere! The teepees are a row of warm invitation, the roaring fire a beacon to home and safety. I like to imagine someone is out there, tending to the living fire, watching the sparks rise against the stars as they form a seamless union between heaven and earth. The mystery of the Northern Lights hovers up above, muted as it goes to rest with the rest of the world, and there she is. Dancing in the spinning cosmos, giving life in the same breath as she bequeaths death. We are all on a one way ticket from the moment we board this physical plane, and it is this balance of light and dark, birth and death, joy and melancholy – these things give meaning to it all.
This is another of the works currently traveling throughout Alberta. The show has been going for a bit more than a year and will continue for the next couple.
The works in this show tend to be a little more introspective and this is no exception. I tried to tackle a couple aspects of Canadian history here. The landscape is the coast of Newfoundland as it glides by the Nordic explorers who were searching ever further beyond Iceland, beyond Greenland, braving the oceans and the unknown.
Although L’Anse aux Meadows was a colossal failure as a diplomatic mission, it also marks what we can say is the first Euro settlement on First Nations land and the first contact with the Skrælings who inhabited the place. The birth of a new conflict, or the slow beginning of an eventual cooperation?
This is the reason for the iconic image of the prow of a longship stretching up beyond the upper edge of the canvas. A vessel containing Pandora’s mysteries.
Below is a mythic Raven. One large all-seeing eye and two faces, representing both the worship and stories of Odin, the All-Father, and of the Trickster Raven. That there are so many similarities in these very disparate cultures has always been a source of fascination for me.
And below it all, a giant golden orb. The centre of the earth? A rising sun or moon in a starscape also serving as the water’s depths, an indication that we are adrift, sailing through an endless ocean of time and space, held safe on a tiny, spinning planet? Or a portal through our limited awareness and understanding of each other?
The sidebars display the decorative, goldworked images of dragons or serpents, physical incarnations of unknown fears and dangers. The myth was that there were monsters beyond our ken, beyond our knowledge, beyond our borders. On ancient maps you find the phrase, “here be dragons”. A statement serving as a warning to those who would dare journey out and further than our fears allow.
These dragons seem to stretch down, curling into a rising future: a Metis sash. A symbol of joining and blending together. The interlocking fibers and colours indicating an ability to set aside differences and work for the common good. A sash is awarded these days to people in the community who have offered outstanding service or have achieved something great. A mark of honour and representative of the best in all of us.
Through time and conflict and blood, we stand today together on this land, a vast array of personal and family and cultural histories leading us to this moment, our moment, our children’s moments. Who we decide to be, what we decide to honour, what fears we choose to conquer – all these things will determine the world to come. We have inherited our world from our grandfathers with its many opportunities and challenges. How will we honour this?
And what will we leave for our grandchildren?