Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Green Goddess" Masque

direct YouTube link: "Green Goddess" Masque
"Chthonic goddess of the greening earth. Wrinkled, like tree bark, painted, an exotic glade. Process, the recycling of Nature, life emerging from death. An organic art. The mask's fronds as if growing out of the forest floor in the Spring. Papier-mache, mulch: paper, or leaves. The face as landscape; the face carrying the landscape with it. Flower colours framing her face; the iridescence of insects, sheen of dragonfly. Feathery wings, plumed serpent, vestiges of living vines. A vision of a Nature spirit, Summer Solstice, a Midsummer Night's Dream. Shaman of the forest. Tutelary guide in the rainforest. Jungle of the imagination. Then the Surreality of the sky-blue mask on the greening gold fields of her face: I offer you a masked mask."

After the papier-mâché green goddess masque was finished, I wrote some of the thoughts I had while making it. That became the prose poem.

Last Spring I had wanted to make a dancing video with the mask and the prose poem, but it didn't happen until a few days ago. The footage is from a 4 min clip of the only usable footage from a shoot in High Park in Toronto with my daughter not actually on camera, but affecting things.

A blog post from 2009 with photos documenting the process of making the masque, along with the writing:

This video is part of my multi-media work, 'Green Fire':

The background birds and forest track is a mix I made mostly from


In a class once, where the professor had taken us through a very dense reading of a movie, someone asked, 'Did the director think of all that when they made the movie?' While we would like our work, poems, photographs, artwork, videos, to stand on their own, sometimes we also like to discuss some of the thoughts we had while composing them.

I would ask that you please not consider this personal essay as an explanation of the videopoem, though. The response and thoughts of the viewer can and should differ from my own - the artist is never responsible for the meaning of a work, only the viewer, reader, audience has that privilege.

A good poem, for me, is always a repository of a body of knowledge. A poem is a condensation of part of our history, be that political, social, personal, or intellectual. A poem carries a body of knowledge with it, and this knowledge can be unlocked by the reader/viewer who cares to delve into the background of the poem's images.

All I'm doing here is talking a little of my thought process while making the masque and composing the videopoem. Some of the knowledge I have gathered and woven into this piece. Your responses to the final product, the videopoem, will, of course, be different.

Here are some of my meandering notes:

My masque wears the landscape of the green goddess. I sought to create a figure representing the processes of life, death, recycling/rebirth in the performance - through the costume with its mask, the movement, and the prose poem. I hoped to achieve a videopoem that was ethereal, earthy, surreal and entertaining.

In the process of making the masque, planning a videopoem, sewing a costume, and the 30 hours of editing the footage into the video you see here, many thoughts crossed my mind. I'll briefly touch on a few themes: a resonance with the Green Man motif, Minerva's owl, a little on subjectivities or notions of the self, that this is also a Solstice celebration, and about my discomfort with producing 'creative movement/dance' videos at my age.

My "Green Goddess" masque reminds me of the Green Man: a drawing or sculpture "of a face surrounded by or made from leaves. Branches or vines may sprout from the nose, mouth, nostrils or other parts of the face and these shoots may bear flowers or fruit." The Green Man is usually an architectural ornament on churches, buildings or gates in parks, and so on. The article in Wikipedia continues, "The Green Man motif has many variations. Found in many cultures around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities....Primarily it is interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, or "renaissance," representing the cycle of growth each spring." The 'Green Goddess' masque has leaf-like fronds in her headdress and the colours of the wilds on her painted face. My prose poem refers to many of the same vegetative processes of nature. The dance is meant to be of a nature spirit. She is like a counterpoint to the Green Man. They are fertility figures, emblems of the fecundity of Nature.

I included the sound of an owl hooting; though the video was shot in daytime, I created darker clips in the editing to create a motion of light and dark throughout the video. Always in the jungle there is danger (I lived in an African jungle in Zambia as a child so know this), and the owl carries that haunting in its birdcall. The owl is also sacred to the Ancient Roman goddess, Minerva: "She was the virgin goddess of poetry, medicine, wisdom, commerce, weaving, crafts, magic, and the inventor of music. She is often depicted with her sacred creature, an owl, which symbolizes her ties to wisdom." All of which is appropriate to this videopoem.

Being a 21st century woman, concepts of subjectivities, construction of the self, the ego, in the midst of the natural abundances of the earth, the way as individuals we are part of the larger processes of life and death is important. Hence the masque. Who are we?

During the days it took to make the papier-mâché mask, I thought about how our masks enable us to be who we are. Our performative aspects reveal us to ourselves and others. We construct ourselves through our masques, and reveal ourselves more fully to each other when we are disguised. Yes, I know it is a bit of a double take, and the opposite approach to the Buddhistic peeling of layers of the self to arrive at essence. Yet, like the Buddhist practitioner sits in the semi-lotus pose of the Buddha meditating, and thus takes on the pose (or mask) of the Buddha to achieve selflessness, the masque also removes individual personality and reveals the archetypal nature of our essence.

Masqued or un-masqued, wearing a mask to represent the deity, to represent the spirit being called, or peeling away layers, perhaps we arrive at the same realization of 'selfless self.'

A forest doppelgänger appeared in the footage, in the imprint of a large woman of leaves, a reflection of the dancer, and I have no idea how that happened, and was not able to produce it in other sections, but I really grokked it. That vegetative figure has resonances with resurrection motifs, perhaps even the horror genre of movies when plants take on human form and come to life. A bit humorous, yes. Yet it is as if the masqued shamanic dancing called the spirit forth. A large figure emerges like a forest angel, the manifested double of the woman dancing a medicine dance, a potent force of the power of nature, a little dangerous if not directed properly by the shaman to become the energy of a spirit of healing. The appearance of a doppelgänger has made me very happy with this little video.

It is nearly Solstice, and a celebration of the sun at its zenith in the sky in the Northern Hemisphere here in Canada. I edited the video to culminate in a moment of solar worship, an adoration of the light of life, perhaps the figure becomes a solar priestess for a moment (for she has long since stopped being me), along with the overall representations of the fertility, decay and recycling of greening Nature.

The video is delicately layered and looks best on HD. Different parts of it play in differing speeds of slow motion. The video itself is composed like a compressed poem of images, and is one of my best video poems, I feel. It is, of course, not without humour.

If I'd had this technology 20 years ago! It is hard to produce 'dance videos' at my age, especially in a culture that focuses on youthful beauty, and while there are two more planned (since musicians have sent me music for specific performance pieces), I may not be able to do these types of "creative movement/dance" videos much longer. If I get those last two done, this year will have seen 5 dance videos, wow. A long-time dream, to do this, to create poetry dance videos.

The woman in the "Green Goddess" masque, therefore, wishes you the courage to realize your dreams.

Joining July's Festival of the Trees with this video poem on the shaman of the forest.

Little update: I also took this video poem with me last Sunday, along with some photos of the making of the masque, to a Digital Storytelling workshop (I can't find a direct link, but it's at NFB Mediatheque) with my independent film group at NFB (National Film Board), and was surprised at the positive comments from other participants and NFB staff that I received. Unfortunately, the computer I was working on there froze, so I don't have the piece I produced to show you - though I will link to the video slideshows produced by our group when they become available.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Stills from "Green Goddess" Masque Videopoem

Last Spring I had wanted to make a video with the mask and the prose poem, but it didn't happen. The video poem is from a 4 min clip of the only usable footage from a shoot in High Park in Toronto yesterday with my daughter sorta on camera, well at a distance from the tripod, but she was affecting things.

It's not too long, 2:37min, and moves quite quickly, and, perhaps it's because I'm a little light-headed after the 18hr stint editing this video, but I find it quite funny, and so it's ok if the photos make you laugh a little too.

(Currently it's uploading to YouTube and Vimeo, but you never know exactly when things will appear. By tomorrow, I expect.)

No, she's not in it. People remain adamant about not appearing in my videos, and so I apologize, it's just me.

A 59 year old woman prancing in the woods? Oh, yes, you bet. Only one jogger about my age jogged by twice, and a fellow on a bike came rather close when I was changing out of my white strapless bra into my black lace one, and if he'd had any untoward thoughts he didn't reveal them (or I'd have smacked him wearing the masque - yes I would.)

Afterwards, on the hot, humid afternoon, we went to the subway and I realized it was rush-hour, when dogs aren't allowed on public transit. So my daughter took the gear underground to the train and my dog and I walked home about 5km, which was fine, except that though I was wearing flat black leather thongs they are not my my old brown hiking sandals and so have a few blisters.

All in the name of art! (Or craziness, sometimes it's hard to distinquish.)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Costume for Tangled Garden

Composing a simple costume, sewed some lace,
put on the green goddess masque, for a little video
of dance to layer into my long video poem, Tangled Garden.

This test iPhone photo shows the woman  in something pinned
and strapless. I will likely layer over a white bodysuit for the little
bit a movement I may add here and there to the video.

(with thanks to Bent Lorentzen for the suggestion to add dance
to the video)

I quite like the photo I created this evening, though.

C'mon, the woman is texting.... who? Isn't this just such
a 'now' photo? The mirrored self snapped by cell phone.
Something ... I like about this little composition. A surreality.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Vision Trees

direct link: Vision Trees

A time-lapse art video. I thought to paint some trees of significance to me for the Festival of the Trees which I hosted on my blog June 1st, and so hooked up the camera and recorded. The footage is sped up 1200%!

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' William, a Pastor who blogs, wrote. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it, and love the description.

The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

The music is by dear Pierre-Marie Coedes, 'City night hubbub (instrumental)' from his album, "Lapses of Time." Pierre-Marie's music is a complex, sensitive interweaving of instruments and rhythms, and while eminently listenable, reveals riches on closer listening. Do check out his oeuvre at Jamendo.

A little on process. I began by photographing the trees, and sketched from them. Then I spent hours setting up my desk in my room, the video camera eventually tied to a monopod to a basket on top of a shelf. I had to run out to purchase a USB extension chord since the 10yo USB hub I was using took like hours to upload a half hour clip. Because set-up took so long, I mostly painted at night, hence the dark colouring on the skin tones, though I did white balance the footage in the video editing so the colours in the painting are good.

With the camera recording, I inked the trees in with some different coloured India and permanent acrylic inks with a dip pen, a couple of different greens in the sap/olive green range and some chocolate brown sepia. Even the sky is scratched in with a dip pen, using some gorgeous luminescent blues. Then I brushed an acrylic matt medium over the paper as a base  - a 300lb rag watercolour paper does not really need this base, but I like to give it that extra care before flooding it with water and oil paint. Yes, I paint with my fingers (all is now revealed!), but usually use a palette knife to score in 'negative space' lines in the paint. Due to the looming deadline for the Festival of the Trees, and wanting to get my submission ready, I scored the paper with my fingernails! It was wild. With hours of footage uploaded to my computer, I created a timeline and sped it up to about 13 minutes, and created a video file from this that I then further edited down to 8 minutes, added a title, credits, music, and a voiceover story. My mistake, I think, was to delete all 160GB of original footage before actually finishing the final version - even though I had a separately saved video file, Final Cut works by referencing. Whatever the cause, I had extreme technical difficulties saving a 1920 x 1080 HD video file converted for uploading to YouTube. Anyway, three days later I managed a 720HD version, that, at 3.5GB took YouTube 12 hours to upload, and am now only 4 days late for my own carnival!

A tree whose energy is perhaps conveyed by this image, with whom I feel a strong magnetic pull each time I pass. This tree played a part in my coming to live on the street you see here, I am sure.

Do you have a vision tree? Is there a tree, a tree who calls to you? Whose rhythms speak to you deeply. Whose energy resonates with yours. Is there a tree who has inspired you in your life, your spirituality, art, relationships, body? Remember this tree, the vision of this tree, whenever it was, or go there now, rest against the bark, listen to the wisdom.

My set-up for videotaping painting - how I shot the footage for the time-lapse art video. Camera -that little rectangular lit screen- is attached to a monopod that is tied with string to a desktop easel that is tied to a basket full of books. After noticing it in the photo, I did put a board under that lurching end and it was fine. The area is lit with two clamp-lamps with daylight bulbs. Not something I'd want to repeat too often, but after hours of trying this and that, with lots of adjustments, it seemed quite stable, and, more importantly, worked.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India inks, acrylic inks, oils, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Wedding Small Stones

The Festival of the Trees -60 took over my blog on June 1st, and what a fine festival! Luckily, it's not too late to post this call to participate in a wedding on the River of Stones by adding your own small stone to the celebrations.

Kaspa and Fiona are both on a mission to help the world connect with the world through writing. They are also getting married on Saturday the 18th of June.

For their fantasy wedding present, they are asking people across the world to write them a ‘small stone’ and send it using this form. You can also post the stone on your blog, or facebook or on twitter using the #aros hashtag.

A small stone is a short piece of observational writing – simply pay attention to something properly and then write it down. Find out more about small stones here.

This is their request, in their words:

If you’re willing to help, we’d love you to do two things:

1) Re-post this blog on your own blog any time before June the 18th and give your readers a chance to hear about what we’re doing. You can simply copy and paste the text, or you can find the html here.

2) Write us a small stone on our wedding day whilst we’re saying our vows and eating cake, post it on your blog, and send it to us.

You can find out more about our project at our website, Wedding Small Stones, and you can also read our blog at A River of Stones.

We also have a July challenge coming soon, when we’ll be challenging you to notice one thing every day during July and write it down.

Thank you for listening, and we hope we’ll be returning from our honeymoon to an inbox crammed with small stones, including yours.

Kaspa and Fiona

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Festival of the Trees - 60

Not that we are trying to project our consciousness everywhere, but there is an affinity. Trees speak to us. You might call this the genii loci, or indwelling spirit, or devi, or just the hum of the bark. Roots dig deep and branches reach like arms to the sun. Trees are natural worshippers. Look at them, brazen ringed wood and leaves breathing the planet clean.

There is no wedding like a tree in flower. Bouquets were born from the wishes of trees.

This month I had asked us to record an engagement with a tree or trees, preferably in video, but any form. To talk to the trees and bring back what transpired. This communing I knew would reflect us back to ourselves as we projected our way of seeing things onto the arborescent consciousness, and so that self-consciousness was part of it, seeing how we shape what we see. I also knew that what I was asking was a type of vision quest. For you to seek out the tree of your dream consciousness, the tree that is singing to you, or to tell us about a vision that involved communion with a tree. All this assumes a deep connection to trees, to an ancient archetypal forest wisdom that we are likely born with.

Bob, from Thunder Valley Drums writes: I just stumbled across your wonderful project and was particularly drawn to the "sound" portion of your call for entries. I make drums from lightning-struck trees, and in my tradition, this allows a tree to live again. Here is a link to a video I just put up a few days ago about it. Making a Lightning-Struck Drum.

The video is dramatically edited with an opening clip of lightning and a falling tree, and potent, the storm, the cutting of the fire struck tree, the drummer drumming the drum drumming thunder...

I so enjoyed your idea of creating a piece about our relationship with trees .... Stirling Davenport, whose blog is Dreaming Out Loud, writes, I actually made a few videos today on my walk. But this one was my favorite .... 

The simple clarity of this video is disarming. The structure of the video is almost like a poem itself. First, we are shown a view of the tree, this tree might be very old, Stirling surmises; then she stands with her back against the tree, feels its sap, as Native Americans suggest, you can feel its life, and go high in the branches to its treetop, and you can see from the tree's point of view; and then the poet, the woman, rests against the tree, who nests her, as she holds the camera towards herself for us to see the feelings passing across her face, and says, this tree has been here a long time ... before there were houses, and, as she listens, that the rain is coming. There is a sense of the extraordinary in the ordinary in this video, and an intimacy that we don't often see.

Jason Crane, of Poetry, Politics and Jazz. But mostly poetry, sent a link to a series of photographs he is compiling called, Buddha in the Modern World, and do take a look at them - they, too, are disarmingly wonderful. Here is an appropriate image for this month's Festival of the Trees, the Buddha in Central Park in New York City.

Dave Bonta, one of the founders of The Festival of Trees, sent a link to an animated video he had found describing the process of the strangler fig, and in an email thread said: Fun fact I learned at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew [in England]: the bo tree, under which the Buddha is said to have attained enlightment, is a species of strangler fig.
While I don't think quite the Bodhisattva bo tree, we can see how strangler figs can overtake forests in CreatureCast - Strangler Fig, narrated by Matt Ogburn, with artwork and editing by Sophia Tintori, and an original score by Amil Byleckie. Casey Dunn writes: the strangler fig first avoids having to sprout in the dark understory of the rainforest by growing in the tops of the trees closer to the sun, and then avoids getting too dehydrated up there by dropping roots to the forest floor. Finally it grows back up to the top of the tree, surrounding and strangling the host tree on the way, taking advantage of the tree's structural integrity to support its own hollow body.

Dick Jones, of The Patteran Pages, sent a perfect poem about a nature deity, a figure from whose face leaves sprout, including vines from the nostrils, mouth, vegetation that is often in flower. The Green Man, a sculptural or relief figure that adorns gates or buildings.



Trees are so certain, implacable,
even when fallen, each one
a manifesto proposing stillness

around a slow heart. Philosophers
out of the earth, they breathe
into the secret sky.

Where they reach with ease
and grace and find, I reach
to the sinew’s length then dream.

To be straight and unencumbered,
carrying the shifting cargo high,
neither offering nor withholding;

to lodge song and let it go;
to save in green and spend in gold;
to dance a frieze against the skyline;

to observe impassive like Hydra
from a thousand faces, each one
bearded, lidded, rimmed in leaves.

Suzi Smith, who blogs at Spirit Whispers, has composed her first video slideshow with a series of very beautiful photographs, among them pale green seed wings, and a voiceover that, as she wrote in an email, I winged it with the words. Goddess-Particle is the first recording of my voice since i was a kid, on the first slideshow i've made... and open to the public... with no edits, mainly cos i haven't worked out how yet!, and, while her voice is a little muffled, there is a sense of awakening, of speaking after a long time of silence. The whole video poem reminded me of first love.

Turning again to an ordinary videotaping of an extraordinary tree, the visceral sense of tree bark, climbing a gnarled live oak, close up, so real I can feel it under my fingers, smell the earth and wood. Rebecca, of Rebecca in the Woods takes us up the tree as if we were insects in three short videos (well under a minute), accompanied by a Carolina Wren. She writes: spiders, skinks, treefrogs… little things that can’t step back and admire the whole tree but experience its labyrinthine branches close up. Really close up. How about if I took some video clips of how a spider or skink sees things?

Speaking of oaks, and following the insect theme, here is a recipe for 'Spring Oak Leaf Wine,' where, we are told, by Jasmine, of Nature Whispers, to Wash the leaves in cold water removing all woody stalks, damaged leaves, caterpillars and other hedgerow stow aways (I found several green caterpillars and a black and red caterpillar of the White Ermine Moth).

The wine looks quite magical, and I'd love to try it midsummer night's eve, or Solstice eve, for I'm sure it would offer special arborescent visions.

Tree-Pot Teapots: David D. Gilbaugh writes that he listens to the sounds of the earth. Wind, breezes blowing grass and leaves, falling rock, water falls, thunder and lightning, falling rain; any sound the earth makes that I can hear. They are authentic sounds that can be felt kinesthetically and experienced as they take place in my presence in real time. These are my favorite sounds, the sounds of earth and life expressing itself. And that the act of creating a work of art... always involves relationship to something or between at least two things. At least one of those things always me. His sculptures are knotted, whorled pieces that, even if sculpted out of different materials, like paperclay, carry the imprint and energy of wisened trees, Gandalf trees, grandfather trees. Whether he's made a teapot (let me tell you, these are the receptacles for that oak wine on Solstice), or a lamp or a surreal imaginist sculpture, the magic of trees is everywhere. Because his images at Flickr are copyrighted, I can't copy an image of one of his pieces to show you, but do click on this link and delight yourself with rich imaginings as you view these unique pieces.

A.Decker, of A.Decker Art, writes: of Vision Trees, which immediately brought this gnarled old catalpa, still standing in Mom's front yard, to mind. I was Tarzan in this tree; I was an ape in this tree; a dinosaur; a dinosaur hunter. Sometimes I just climbed up as high as I could, just to be away... Yup, I spent a lot of my childhood, forming my imagination up in those limbs and leaves, so if I have a "Vision Tree" that has to be it.

What memories this wonderful drawing of the old catalpa has.

Another tree that evokes powerful childhood memories is the mango tree Beej writes of in his blog, The Green Ogre. Beej has titled his submission to FOTT, Assassins in the Garden: For 20 years the mango tree that my father planted had stood its ground. It took less than 20 hours to bring it down. And all of us were complicit assassins. Like his father, I, too, am an excessive mango lover -my memories rising from eating mangos off trees as a child in Africa. A sweet mango is heaven itself. The story Beej tells in a photo-essay is a painful one. The mango tree, from stunted beginnings, grew to give copious fruit, but a tree plunges roots, seeking out water veins. A crack in the wall of the sump demonstrated that our tree was rather thirsty. Roots were also wedged in the foundation of the house, threatening its durability. After years of painful procrastination, my father made a decision: The tree would have to go.

The photographs chart the death of the beloved mango tree, and the essay covers its breadth through the years to the last, sad day. Because they are copyrighted, I can't include an image here, but do go and read and look and ponder on the relationships we have with our trees.

Gregory Vincent St Thomasino, of E-ratio, sends a very sad link, a photo he en-scripted, The Anti-Christ is not a person, the Anti-Christ is an action.  He says, click on the sentence and it'll take you to the story. If you click on the photo you'll see the aftermath (but beware, it's upsetting). A tree that has been the focus of collective vision for two millennia.

A Holy Tree has been cast down by vandals,  the NPR article continues: Last week, vandals sawed the limbs off the Glastonbury Holy Thorn Tree, reducing it to a stump. The tree is thought by some to have ties to the earliest days of Christianity, and each year local children cut sprigs from it to garnish the Queen's Christmas dining table.

Legend has it that the thorn tree sprouted from the staff of St. Joseph of Arimathea after he arrived in England from the Middle East 2,000 years ago. Experts says this type of thorn tree usually lives for just 100 years, but Glastonbury residents have kept the line going by periodically taking clippings to plant new trees.

All is not lost, according to Tony Kirkham of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. He says of the tree: It will obviously be deformed but it will put grafts out next spring. The Holy Thorn Tree could recover in about 10 years.

The demise of trees, for whatever reason, is always a sad affair. And, yet, don't we all get cut down at some point in our lives, and then after we grieve, a small recovery begins, like little shoots...

Let's turn to an animated video of a tree who inspires us to be joyful. Michaela, of Ove Pictures, writes, we have recently made a small animated music video with the trees and we hope that it will be suitable also for your Festival of the Trees. Free To Be Me is simply delightful - happy, easy, inspiring, and the animation is superb...

Diego Stocco, 'a sound designer and composer,' who 'loves to create new sound experiences in unusual ways,' on Vimeo, writes, of his unique tree music, Music From A Bonsai: I always liked bonsai trees, and I was curious to try the approach I used for "Music from a Tree" on a smaller scale, so I bought a bonsai and recorded this little experimental piece.

To determine the key I used the lowest note I could play and recorded the rest around it.
Besides playing the leaves, I used bows of different sizes, a piano hammer and a paint brush.
As far as microphones I used my Røde NT6, a customized stethoscope and tiny MEAS piezo transducers.

I played all the sounds and rhythms only with the bonsai, I didn't use any synthesizer or samplers to create or modify the sounds. I hope you'll like it.

Hugh, of Rock Paper Lizard, takes us on a tour of the arboretum known as "The Crescent" in the heart of Vancouver, on the West Side, a bulls-eye among the old-money mansions of Shaughnessy,. The Crescent is a circular roadway, or a circle, in the centre of which is planted with many old and unusual trees

Silvia Hoefnagels, of Windy Willow, takes us through a musing on which trees to talk to as our theme this month is arboreal conversations. Her post is called, 'Tree Confabulation.' She writes, The first tree that came to mind was my willow, as it is always in motion, with that lovely gentle rustle of leaves. I love to stand inside its flowing branches and look out into the world beyond. There is a peacefulness in its embrace. Silvia also considers beeches, sunburst honey locusts, but decides to go out and chat with my willow this morning, but when I got outside, I had a different kind of confabulation. ;)

I simply love the wordless dance of this video, the bodily teaching of the willow, and its correlation to how to bend and sway in our emotions, in our openness to our lives. Something comforting, like a lullabye, about willows, at least when you talk to them (as I did) or are inspired to a poetry of motion, as Silvia is, and she lets her camera record this moment of communing....

Ingrid Nelson's photographs of trees in water are beautiful: 'Pavement Trees': Last summer I started shooting concrete and parking lots and dividing lines, fading paint and patterns. Alongside my compulsive inclination to take a photo of every tree branch I see, this contrast to the natural world was a break from the norm. With all the rain this winter, my eye was drawn into the glistening cement and of course...puddles. I am fascinated how my two worlds seem to magically intersect and become one dimensional galaxies both in reflection and in print. It's almost like tree trapping ... yet transient as we know that summer is just around the corner and these accidental worlds will exist no more.

Kathryn Esplin, who blogs on Gather, writes: Here is a pdf link not written by me, but about some famous trees in our area, that were ancient - between 400 and 900 years old, the famous Waverly Oaks, 23 white oaks that grew here until they were finally destroyed by ice and storms prior to 1920. Few huge and ancient tree stands existed in the US even in the 19th C. The giant sequoia trees are 2,000 years old and during the Mesozoic era circa 250 million years ago to 65 milion years ago, mega Flora like the Giant Sequoia redwoods of N. California were populous over the earth; today, these redwoods are upwards of 375 feet high.

And from Nora, a link called 'Make a Forest': ‘Make A Forest’ aims to raise awareness on environmentally sustainable forest management by creating a link between nature and culture. Imagine a cultural forest as diverse as a real forest, what will it look like? Cultural organizations and educational institutions around the world are invited alongside local artists, architects and designers to help create this virtual forest. It will take shape in 2011, the year declared by the United Nations as the Year of Forests. The platform will become the meeting place of all activities. Looks exciting!

And, lastly, my offering, 'Vision Trees.' For this Festival I thought to do a painting of some trees of significance to me and to make a video of the process, so hooked up my camera and set to work. The footage is sped up 1200% to create a time-lapse painting video. Afterwards I added voice: The voiceover relates a tree story. The magnetism of certain trees. A story of my vision trees. About finding home through those trees. The voiceover is perhaps a bit loose - I begin by reading a piece and then just start talking - but I wanted something colloquial, expressing the extraordinary in the ordinary, a vision in a rambly monologue. It's a real story. I hope the way I've layered it into the video works for you.

This painting is my first landscape, maybe ever. I'm a figurative artist normally. But these trees are special.

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India and permanent acrylic inks, oil paints, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

'One of the most beautiful pieces of art on earth is the bird's nest. Your video reminded me of a bird building her nest,' a Pastor who blogs wrote. I hadn't seen that. The sped-up video, ink, pen, paint, fingers, constructing the nest, the voiceover story, a nesting story - yes, I see it.

Nesting in our trees, perhaps we all nest in our trees.

Inspired by Dick Jones' The Green Man, a hint of what's to come next month, so start working on your submissions.

The next edition of the Festival of the Trees will be hosted at Via Negativa, and you can send submissions to Dave Bonta at (bontasaurus) at (yahoo [dot] com). The theme is open -- but since it's the 5th anniversary, Dave is especially interested in new discoveries about trees and forests, both scientific discoveries and those of a more personal kind.

from Macbeth (written around 1604-1608) by William Shakespeare, Act 5, Scene 5, pg 2:


           Thou comest to use
Thy tongue; thy story quickly.

           Gracious my lord,
I should report that which I say I saw,
But know not how to do ’t.

           Well, say, sir.

           As I did stand my watch upon the hill,
I looked toward Birnam, and anon methought
The wood began to move.

           Liar and slave!

           Let me endure your wrath, if ’t be not so.
Within this three mile may you see it coming;
I say, a moving grove.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Vision Trees, my painting

Vision Trees, 2011, 74cm x 56cm, 29" x 22", India inks, acrylic inks, oils, 300lb Arches watercolour paper.

Perhaps this needs more contrast? One of the difficulties with trying to do a painting quickly - usually something like this takes about a month - an hour or two 4 or 5 days a week. And perhaps I will continue to tinker, who knows.

The sheet of thick paper is large. I videotaped the making of this painting. It nearly crashed my computer, and I had to copy large blocks of files to a quickly filling external hard drive to make room for the 3 hours or so of footage that are an unbelievable 160GB (which I'll delete after I've made the video). That's been sped up to about 13 minutes, and I have to edit it today to half that. Then add a voiceover of the story of my vision trees.

I don't know why they look so delicate. These trees, on the real street where they dwell and where I pass them daily, are too big for me to put my arms around, diameters of maybe 6'-12'.

Also, trying to paint a whole painting in an afternoon/evening (there were, as always, technical glitches, like I had to rush out and buy a USB extension cord because the 10yo USB hub I was using transferred the video so slowly I'd be still waiting today if I'd kept using it).

In pen and ink I laboriously drew the gaps of light in the trees, but when smearing paint on with my fingers and scratching it with my fingernails, that got covered up. Do I spend more money I don't have and purchase some pale lemon green acrylic ink and try to lighten those areas? The layers of paint as you see them here are not thick enough to give the painting enough presence for me, and yet I could not apply the paint more thickly without losing the detail of the ink lines of leaves.

On the other hand, the lightness may grow on me and I may leave it as is. We are in the exuberance of spring, the budding greens, vibrant, pale, luminescent everywhere.

I went back through old emails to find the ritual a friend who I am unfortunately no longer in contact with suggested when I lived in Vancouver, and the story unfolds from there. But that's for the video, so you'll just have to wait.

Festival of the Trees tomorrow! There's still time to get an entry in -send me your link. I'll be composing the essay tonight, and have it posted by 6am tomorrow at the latest, promise.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Vision Trees

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 60

On my walk this afternoon, a tree, whose energy is perhaps conveyed by this image, with whom I feel a strong magnetic pull each time I pass. This tree played a part in my coming to live on the street you see here, I am sure. I'll relate the story in my post for the Festival.
Do you have a vision tree?

Is there a tree, a tree who calls to you? Whose rhythms speak to you deeply. Whose energy resonates with yours. Is there a tree who has inspired you in your life, your spirituality, art, relationships, body? Remember this tree, the vision of this tree, whenever it was, or go there now, rest against the bark, listen.

Can you record this feeling, conversation, vision in writing, art, photography, video? Please share your vision here, at the Festival of the Trees.

If you're inspired, write, paint, compose, perform your communion with a tree or trees, post in your blog, or Picasa or Flikr , or YouTube or Vimeo, or SoundCloud or Jamendo, wherever you hang your on-line hat, and send me the link, and I'll include it in the round-up on Festival Day! I'm hosting the next Festival of the Trees at my blog, Rubies in Crystal, on June 1st. Any and all entries welcome!

Host: Rubies in Crystal - here!

Deadline: May 29, for a Festival of the Trees post on June 1st.

Email to: brenda.clews [at] gmail [dot]com — or use the contact form on Festival of the Trees Submit page

*Important! Put “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line of your email

Theme: Trees in sound and motion: arboreal conversations

All tree-related submissions are considered, so as you wander the web this month, keep the Festival in mind and send us links to any tasty trees you find! Submission deadline is Sunday May 29th.

Festival of the Trees (home site)

Friday, May 27, 2011

Is the genetic code a language?

Is it true that "the genetic code has nothing to do with a language"?

Deleuze and Guattari: "First, there exist forms of expression without signs (for example, the genetic code has nothing to do with a language)."
They go on (for context, though only what I've highlighted caught my attention):
It is only under certain conditions that strata can be said to include signs; signs cannot be equated with language in general but are defined by regimes of statements that are so many real usages or functions of language. Then why retain the word sign for these regimes, which formalize an expression without designating or signifying the simultaneous contents, which are formalized in a different way?

Signs are not signs of a thing; they are signs of deterrirotialization and reterritorialization, they mark a certain threshold crossed in the course of these movements...

(Thousand Plateaus, all I can say is p. 476/4093 in the ePub version on my iPhone, landscape mode).
I thought our genetic code was a particular and unique mapping of us, and I'm thinking of our DNA code, which is a definite identifier of our bodily genetic history and presence (and immutable evidence in a court of law), and hence a language of our bodies.

Isn't our genetic code the language of our bodies? Isn't our DNA a sign of us -through a mapping and reading of our bodily fluids- that we were here? Isn't DNA, which I'm using as a synchedote for genetic code, a 'map' of our unique individuality, a 'text' that can be read by experts? A genetic text that identifies us, hence signifies of us? Isn't our genetic code a sign of us?

What am I missing here?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

'Festival of the Trees' Submission Deadline this Sunday, May 29th

The deadline for the Festival of the Trees 60 is Sunday, May 29th.

Send your tree-related submissions to me (brenda [dot] clews [at] gmail [dot] com) for inclusion in the Festival held at Rubies in Crystal  on June 1st!

Talk to the trees! Send me links to your recordings of your arboreal conversations. While I'd love video, all  poems, stories, photos, are most welcome. Read the call for submissions for details and inspiration.

Remember: you can send more than just your own links.

We invite you to share your May tree discoveries too.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A Floral Opera

A Floral Opera is a nature poem. An ecosphere of mind and nature. A portrait of a woman singing in a garden. Quite hallucinatory, combining Deleuzian philosophy, surreal images.

My plan is to add this poem to the poems I'll be reciting in my long videopoem, Tangled Garden. If you'd like to read it, and offer response or feedback (I'll probably start recording on Friday, so before then if possible) email me for the password. (brenda [dot] clews [at] gmail [dot] com).

Encrypted poem:

Black Moon Reigns

direct link: Seraphic Tears by Catherine Corelli on Jamendo

In the second track the Russian artist, Catherine Corelli, sings, "From the hidden depths of you I come…" and we know we are in shadowland, in the world of the black moon, what we've negated, hidden, repressed is returning with fury and grief.

An occult album of secrets. Of madness and sexuality.

Lilith (whose story is told in the album's introduction) is a threatening, powerful archetype of female creativity, power and sexuality, and feared in the dominant male culture of politics and religion (which is falling away, which is falling away at last). The black moon, in astrology between the moon and earth, is always prominent in the charts of creative, powerful women. Catherine Corelli is such a woman.

Lilith is made to suffer for her beauty, strength, passion, fire of creativity. Born equal, equally out of the earth with Adam, she won't bow to her partner, won't surrender herself to become subordinate to him. Faced with his angry resistance, she flees instead. Adam complains to G-d that his wife has gone. Angels are sent to find her and bring her back. She refuses, knowing she has been relegated the hideous task of harming infants for her claim to equality which is seen, by G-d and Adam as insubordination.

This is how the album opens for me. The horror of Lilith's life on on the edge of existence. The infants who must be protected with the names of angels in the amulets they wear. The creativity and sexuality of women that is hidden, cast aside, used. Ladders is a beautiful riff, Catherine's vocals contain much complexity, yet there is horror, too. Lilith knows horror in a way that Eve never does. Lilith is the true and ancient Babylonian Biblical goddess who reigns with the power of unfettered womanhood.

Lilith became queen of the witches through the centuries as her mythology was twisted into demonic proportions by the Jewish, Christian and Islamic religions. She came to represent unbridled lust, impossible-to-resist seduction, a burning of sensuality, unbridled lust, dangerous sexuality.

I hear all this in the neoclassical-metal of Catherine's voice. The passion, the screams, the tenderness, the horror, the love. Whatever Catherine Corelli has done to train her voice to traverse the range she does in the album, and it is an emotional experience to listen closely, whatever determination to reach beyond her range and still further brings a vision alive to us as we listen with rising indignation, and a fury of understanding in our hearts.

In some of the songs we get the sense that Lilith, in her degradation, the disrespect she received for her powerful creativity, her insistence on equality, is sexually abused. That throughout history perhaps the story of Lilith, the lamia, the whore, the lustful sinner, the one who is disobedient and poses the greatest threat to the dominant order, the succubae, her licentiousness, which is blamed for the death of infants (how outrageous!), perhaps these twisted labels justified the rape of women.

One of the most disturbing, and paradoxical pieces on the album, "amJZZ (HR Giger. Erotomechanics IX Fellation)" reads one way, as a seductive invitation, and yet is sung the opposite way, as a woman who is trapped in something abusive, who has to please her tormenter. It's a double-edged 'come hither'; like the two-tongued serpent she must swallow. She takes on the passion of Lilith, indeed:

i no longer fear.

kitten's noses burn,
your blood pressure's high,
i know all you yearn,
nothing i'll defy.

slide it down my throat...
push it down my throat...
slide it down my throat...
push it down my...
push it down my throat...

that's what i like,
that's what you want.
slide it down my throat,
lemme drink your 'am' jizz...

This is a dangerous, furious album, the dark beauty of Catherine's voice will make you weep, the strength of her scream will echo in your ears, the indignation of the injustice done will leave you shaken with recognition.

In the final song, "Adieu (Coherence Dissolvation)," she leaves Adam, the world of a repressive hegemonic dominance, in the last track, "Listen, you! /What I say’s, adieu! /Fucking… /Listen, you! /What I say’s, adieu! /Adieu!"

She gives us a volcanic album. Of grief, loss, abuse, fury, beauty. Of a woman who is in her creative power, who is on fire with inspiration, who is achieving as an artist a magnificent realization of her vision.

Here is our true Lilith, first woman of creation. Full with occult power. Sexually, sensually, creatively alive. The genius of women. Lilith is not madness but fertile sanity. Mother to us all. Lover of the world.

She rises in consciousness with a perfect title, "Seraphic Tears," written backwards on the album's cover over the sign of the black moon.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tangled Garden in-process

Recently I shot some footage that I really liked. The camera was on a monopod and held quite still, so the movement (other than the slow lateral panning) is the wind. Because the footage of the leaves is in shadow, it's a slightly fuzzy recording. I did everything I could think of to sharpen it up, and a few of the filters required a 13 hour render! I saved that render as a Quicktime file, and continued working with it.

Recently I have also discovered Catherine Corelli on Jamendo, a Russian musician, artist, writer, a brilliant young woman whose music range, as described in a biography in her blog, is "from nu-metal or death-metal to pop-music, jazz, rap and even symphonic and chamber music."

On her album, Seraphic Tears, and you should click the link and go and read the mythic story of Lillith she has written for the album, and listen to and download the album if you like it, and donate something to the artist if you are in a postion to do so. The lady should be platinum (all her records, I mean).

Anyway, there were a few tracks in Seraphic Tears of Catherine singing without words. I don't know what you call that - extended arias, the semiotic of songs, from before where it began, travelling from the intensity of note to note, transforming, a deterritorialized voice, the substrata of language, where the rhythms and pulsations are, glottal vibrations expressed in a continuous balance between breath, voice, muscular contractions and expansions of the diaphram, the emotion of the heart that becomes the singing of a neoclassical goth angel.

So I worked for most of two days last weekend, mixing three of the songs with the footage, oh they are so beautiful, and then doing a minor bit of splicing and mixing since the clip, at 21 minutes, was longer than the sum of the songs.

I uploaded my effort to YouTube, kept the video private, sent it to Catherine. Since I couldn't see where to include a long note, I wrote it in 'info,' where you can read it, along with her generous response.

Every day for the last week I have recorded something on the track, it's very difficult for me to create a videopoem of 20 minutes when I am used to 3-5 minutes. I have two poems that work, 'Tangled Garden,' and something I wrote when I was 27 called, 'In the Hands of the Garden Gods' (unpublished, and written after I had successfully overcome bulimia by myself, my own transformative journey to healing, and it contains some darkness for sure, but it works surprisingly well with the neoclassical metal of Catherine's singing).

But these poems are not long enough for the full length of the video, and I'm not sure I can hold a viewers attention for that long with a few poems, and some dream talk recorded watching the video. I think it needs a narrative, a story. I am not a narrative poet, however. My poetry is not anecdotal, does not contain little stories with profound or quirky endings. The stories are there, but they are included from another level of realization, another layer of consciousness embodied in its languages. Anyway, it is quite a task to consider weaving a story into a long poem.

I'm also finally reading Deleuze and Guattari's, Thousand Plateaus, in an ePub format on my iPhone (the pdf from the University of Santa Cruz converted from pdf to ePub by an open-source program called Calibre) - backlit is beautiful, small screens of this dense work is a marvelous way to read it, and with the app Stanza I can bookmark, highlight any lines or sections, and create notes that hang out like stickies. So the piece I am writing is *very* Deleuze. That is ok, I've been coming to Deleuze all my life. (Saying this even though I've owned A Thousand Plateaus since 1994, when the translation was published in English, and read the intro chapter on Rhizomes at that time.)

Last night, finally, finally, I wrote a few pages, by hand, but it is process and still no story to entice and interest you. Perhaps I can embed a story in sentences of process? I may put what I wrote last night in another post but password protect it since it's still in gestation (you'd have to email me to get the password).

Here is the video, a 363MB quick-show version of a 14GB original. After Catherine gave her permission to use her music in the video, I changed it from private to unlisted (it won't appear on my public site or in any search engines). When I finish it I will upload a higher resolution version for public viewing, though it will still be a little fuzzy - which is okay, this works beautifully with Catherine's voice (and to my eye the organic dream weaving of the clip works better than, say, electronic colors and shapes generated by a computer when playing music).

direct link: Tangled Garden play at 720p for best viewing (an early version, without title or credits yet) (the very fuzzy first 25 seconds or so are where the title will be)

The footage is of the middle, where the grass bends. Neither the roots nor the sky. All the things that appear in the fluttering leaves, twigs, branches, with light breaking through. I love it.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Birthdance (updated)

direct link: birthdance

A few weeks ago I composed another version of this video slideshow of my birth paintings using iPhoto. Then I gave the reading of the birth poem a little reverb, and added a background of chanting (taken from a section of the poem and layered and looped) birthdance but sometimes it sounds like earthdance. Each painting is held longer and is therefore clearer than in the Picasa version I did last year, though of course I am also pleased with the Picasa version.

Paintings and poem may be found at my website:

On the paintings:


...pigment of flesh flowing under my fingers, magenta, alizarin crimson, cerulean blue, cyan green, cadmium yellow, dark violet, colour so rich it's almost edible, bodyscapes of colour, landscapes of fertility, erupting in the swirl of water and paint...

When I was pregnant, my body changed in fundamental and drastic ways. It was a crisis: the freedom of an old self was dying to make way for the mother I would become.

The "Birth Series" paintings became a visual journey of my changing body, a way to comprehend what I was undergoing in the tumble of hormones as my belly grew. The paintings focus on the woman who conceives and carries a baby into life, who nourishes and awaits the child who will hopefully emerge from the nine-month gestation of her body like a dream become real.

In reaction to an increasing invisibility in the world: the averted gaze, perhaps arising out of a cultural discomfort with the swollen belly, I wished to present the pregnant body as sensual and sacred. Despite my desire to confound the categories of alluring woman and maternal body, I found myself deep in the mystery of creation itself.

At the beginning of the series, the body is portrayed clearly; as the forces of labour, birth and then breastfeeding unfold, the clarity shifts into flowing colours suggesting the transformative experience that carrying and delivering and breastfeeding a baby is.

These paintings are about a rite of passage, about the strangest body on earth, about the mind-blowing transformation of skin, belly, heart and perception of the self, as a woman ripens and delivers her fragile and beautiful fruit, the newborn, a miracle of the world.

On the poem:

BIRTHDANCE took two years to write. In 1987, after my first child, my son, was born, I tried to write about birth. At the time, I was unable to find any poetry or literature by women on what giving birth 'felt' like, on their inner birthing experience, and I wasn't sure how to express those powerful birthing hours. It took some years, and many revisions as I worked towards how to express this powerful moment of my life, and finally chose to allow the stages of labour to structure the poem. Each woman has a different experience of birth, the many stories, poems and artwork by women in the last decade or two have been an important sharing of what was previously hidden.
The Birth Paintings and BIRTHDANCE were painted and composed from 1986-1989.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Hands that Are Birds

Feel birds fluttering in the room.
Yet I have no footage of seagulls. My
hands flutter. I shall matte them, same
background, same video, colour is
right, and flutter them in the clip.
Works with sculpture created by hands,
by touch. The feel under the fingers.
Fingers liberated, fluttering like birds.

(ok, shhh, I wrote this about a year ago)

Currently I'm working on a 20 minute videopoem,
and it requires total focus. Meaning I'm
around, but busy. Distract me if you want,
though. :-);))

Monday, May 09, 2011

Lacemaker: An Early Draft and Sketch


I wrote Lacemaker in July 2007. A week ago I recorded it on my iPhone, a quiet reading, and added a track in the background from the Music Text Composition Generator that I had entered the poem into. While the midi file that the MTCG created is layered a few times, the poem is its own music, yes.

A few days ago I was tidying my desk, and came across a notebook from that year, and found a drawing I did in Starbucks during lunch and a draft in pencil of part of the poem. Click for larger size.

You can read the poem here: Lacemaker (it'll open in a new tab or window, which won't interrupt the recording if you're listening to it).

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 60

Talk to the Trees!

If you're inspired, write, paint, compose, perform your communion with a tree or trees, post in your blog, or Picasa or Flikr , or YouTube or Vimeo, or SoundCloud or Jamendo, wherever you hang your on-line hat, and send me the link, and I'll include it in the round-up on Festival Day! I'm hosting the next Festival of the Trees at my blog, Rubies in Crystal, on June 1st. Any and all entries welcome!

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 60

Host: Rubies in Crystal - here!

Deadline: May 29

Email to: brenda.clews [at] gmail [dot]com — or use the contact form on Festival of the Trees Submit page

*Important! Put “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line of your email

Theme: Trees in sound and motion: arboreal conversations

The Festival of the Trees 60th edition is all about expanding your arboreal horizons. This month the Festival is hosted here, at Rubies in Crystal. Share a conversation with trees. We are asked to observe our own engagement with trees, and record it—with video, audio, slideshow, or any other creative composition we can dream up.

Consider this your Director’s License, complete with the big high chair (wooden, of course). When you create your tree submissions, be conscious of the role of the spectator. Each viewer will have a different experience from your own experience with the trees. Share something which invites your audience to take a seat, listen, and reflect on the different ways that humans perceive trees – or become more aware of their own regard for trees and forests.

Here’s a little multimedia arboreal inspiration to kick things off:

cherry blossom haiku (who else is listening with you at dawn?)

The Beauty of Denmark, Botanical Ecosystem (does the camera follow your eye, or does your eye follow the camera?)

Ecology: Forest Canopy Freestyle Rap (what’s more to explore than the eyes can see?)

Tree Bird Moon Ghost (what do you hear in the forest? how would you translate it?)

All tree-related submissions are considered, so as you wander the web this month, keep the Festival in mind and send us links to any tasty trees you find! Submission deadline is Sunday May 29th.

Festival of the Trees (home site)

Friday, May 06, 2011

When Actors Deny their Best Performances

[Wrote this, it looks like, on November 8, 2010, but never got around to posting it.]


Last Tango in Paris (1972), re-watched 30 years later, contains a disturbing aspect. Researching the film, I discover the two main actors, Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, both felt, in Bertolucci's final film after editing, raped by the director---even though this film was probably the 'performance of their life' for both actors.

Watching Breillat's, Sex is Comedy, in which a director elicits a moving sex scene between an actress and an actor who hate each other in real life, and Breillat is perhaps notorious for not using stand-ins, dummies, tape, but filming actual sex in her films, opened these questions for me. In Sex is Comedy the film becomes an obsession of the sex scene which, when it is finally filmed, is unforgettable, the camera held steadily on Roxane Mesquida, and we see her vulnerability, anger, shame, pain and defiance in her success as an actress as 'the act' is performed. Though it occurs under the sheets, and we see no nudity, we are watching a real scene; this is not make-believe.

None of Breillat's actors or actresses have turned against the performances they achieved under her brilliant eye as far as I know, but seeing the breakthrough of life in a scene, a moment clearly not acted, made me aware of moments in other films where I've seen actors cross the line from acting to revealing themselves on screen.

It is an intimacy that can be shocking to the performer. There is no gloss, nothing to hide under. Naked and revealed. As Maria Scheider was in the infamous 'soap scene' in Last Tango, of which she later said she had no idea was about to happen, there was nothing in the script, nothing was explained to her, and when it happened, and it was, of course, simulated, her response was real. She carried her anger over that scene all her life, apparently.

I remember it as a memorable scene, sudden, with a threatened violence, it was a moment when we left cinema, sitting in our seats in the dark, and witnessed a kind of rape of a 20 year old woman, albiet one who was willingly having an anonymous affair with the mad, grief-stricken character Brando plays.

Why it contained the hue of reality is because Schneider wasn't acting in that moment.

Is that what frightened and infuriated her later on? The jokes about that performance afterwards too close for comfort?

When actors who give superlative performances turn against their directors, the film they have starred in---is it because there are moments when they weren't acting in the performances elicited from them?

Does it disturb an actor not to act?

After Basquiat (1996), directed by Julian Schnabel:
...was released, the actor Jeffrey Wright said that "I think my performance was appropriated, literally, and the way I was edited was appropriated in the same way his [Basquiat's] story has been appropriated and that he was appropriated when he was alive. [...] Julian made him out to be too docile and too much of a victim and too passive and not as dangerous as he really was. It's about containing Basquiat. It's about aggrandizing himself through Basquiat's memory.

Yet Schnabel's film opened Basquiat to me. Jeffrey Wright's performance, superlative. I fell in love not with Schnabel, but Basquiat. How can this be appropriation? Schnabel includes himself in Basquiat's story. It is his lived experience, his truth. How could it be otherwise?

When I saw Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, a documentary by Basquiat's friend, Tamra Davis, with real footage of the artist, and his actual art, my love deepened (the Basquiat family declined to allow Schnabel to use Basquiat's real work in his film and so he had to create facsimiles, which certainly decreased the power of the film).


Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights (1997), starred as a porn director named Jack Horner, for which he received an Oscar nomination. Reynold's sacked his agent, divorced himself from the film, said no to a sequel.

Not talking about actors responses to bad movies they've been in, of which every actor has a story.

Talking about actors denigrating films in which they gave realistic performances that are recognized as great performances.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Lady of Green Fire

'Lady of Green Fire,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, acrylic inks, gel pens, oil paint, oil pastels, watercolour pencils, Moleskine sketchbook.

[Above, scanned; below, sketchbook snapped with a camera on my marble coffee table.]

A Venus arising from a sea of leaves. A green garden goddess. Perhaps she is Spring welcoming the sun. Not fully clothed yet. Or the Woman Clothed with the Sun. Yes, I like that.

You can't tell in this scan, but the gold and the blue are iridescent colours. A very different style for me, but then I continue to explore, always open to the new.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

2 Lady of Green Fire [in process]

'Lady of Green Fire,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, acrylic ink, gel pens, oil pastels, oil paint, watercolour pencils, Mokeskine sketchbook.

A Venus arising from a sea of leaves. A green garden goddess. Perhaps she is Spring welcoming the sun. Not fully clothed yet. Yes, I like that. This is as far as I got tonight; I'm needing some iridescent blue ink to make leaf motifs in the sky, and of course, it's late and the art store is closed.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Lady of Green Fire [in-process]

'Lady of Green Fire/Greet the Sun,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, gel pens, oil pastels, watercolour pencils, Mokeskine sketchbook. [Detail]

What I did tonight... it's not finished, I don't think. I may want to create a mesh of leaves in the background in gold ink but don't have any.

This, and the last poem painting, Wing of Chrysalides, are, yes, mystical drawings.

[full size]

Monday, May 02, 2011

Wing of Chrysalides

[Above, taken indoors; below, scan before it was quite dry, or sprayed with an archival fixative. The colours in the one above are more accurate, but I like the softness of the scan. Click for larger size.]

'Wing of Chrysalides,' 2011, 20cm x 27cm, 8" x 10.5", India inks, oil paint, oil pastel, watercolour pencils, Moleskine sketchbook.

He stands between two worlds; he is about to leap. His wing, of chrysalises. In his hand, a green butterfly. He is nearly undifferentiated in the green as he straddles the blue where he is clear.

On him, glued, a piece of a shopping bill: 'Please retain receipt for purpose of completing the online survey.'

Another piece of the receipt, which hangs like a white fish, or perhaps only a rhythm.

Earlier version (scanned). You can see that I re-drew the figure who was sketched in here.

Sunday, May 01, 2011



I wrote this prose poem in July 2007. Today I recorded it on my iPhone, a quiet reading, and added a track from the Music Text Composition Generator that I had entered this poem into. The poem is its own music, yes. I'm thinking to go back to the way I was recording before I got freaked out by, oh I don't know. A feeling that I was over-reaching prescribed bounds with layering voices, readings, allowing passion in my voice, that sort of thing.


In a moment words will appear from which everything unravels.

Or begin with an explosion of lace.

Lace that is white, or whitened with the sun's steaming. Looped, twisted, braided threads, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spider webs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk.

How many fine stitches I see everywhere.

Seams of perfect clothing, backs, shoulders, arms, waists, hips, the tight stitching of form-fitting shoes, the interlapping folds of purses. Fabric. Like skin. Woven tightly or loosely. Draped, tucked, formed, fitted. The soft velvet of the armchair in the cafe in which I sit, rounded, plush.

Colours in swathes, patterned. Different attire for different scenarios. Layers of warmth or mere covering if it's cold or hot. Whether a garment can open or close or covers in one swoop. Pieces of cloth fitted to hold the shape of the wearer. Clothes that adhere, drape, flow for sitting, walking, sleeping, dancing.

Looms and sewing machines and bobbins. Billions of miles of thread around the world. Stitching, this way of composing, holding together, covering ourselves, these metaphors, textual narratives.

What if I don't want to take a stance? What if I don't want to weave a garment out of these threads? A story out of all the stories filling my mind? If "Narratives, or more precisely plots, synthesize reality," (Snaevarr) can I exist without telling a tale of myself to you, or even to myself?

The flow of language like clothing, fashions that encase shaping how we present ourselves. Can we be naked without the speaking that stitches the world together, seam by seam, reams of bolts of cloth, patternings?

What was lost in the scrap lace pile, discarded, worn-out, old, the remnants, unraveled in the tears and rips, bleached out by wear?

How do I hem these words so they don't fray?

Shawls of Shetland lace are knitted first in the middle and then out to the edges and is so fine it can be pulled through a wedding ring. Can we marry ourselves to words that knit us to ourselves, each other, the world?

Social customs inform the attire of any given era and shape the body, but does the weave of worsted wool or soft cotton follow the curves and hollows of the skin and shape the wearer?

Or are the words we clothe ourselves with what we hide under?

Presentation and fashion. The way I compose myself every day; every piece of writing. Gathering myself in this historical time, a product of my age.

All the stitches of the world held in syntactical rhythms of meaning, social fabrics.

Is that why we want words to unfold in comfort from us? Wave-white words wedded. Words that aren't performative; that are dream-like, real.

Unraveling, I came to this, and I can't obscure it, truth, death, the words of the lover, and she who knits, knots, tapes, crochets, sews the world into being with her openwork, the lace maker.