I get a great deal of questions about the writing behind my drawings. So I thought I would share the evolution and synthesis of the idea in a blog post.
The original inspiration for the writing came to me while I was living in St. John’s Newfoundland. It is one of my favourite places I have ever lived. An artist and poet friend Amy Evans and I lived at 13 Garrison Hill, the blue house. We didn’t realize it at the time but we had moved into the houses that are on all of the St. John’s postcards. I had always lived in Toronto before moving to St. John’s, so for me it was pretty unbelievable to have a four story house a backyard and a view of the ocean working a retail job in the St John’s version of MEC.
The lifestyle was grand and we made friends easily with all of our neighbors, soon becoming a vibrant part of the social art world. During that period I worked as a volunteer for the Artist Run Center Eastern Edge Gallery and eventually took on the position of chair of the board. We lived right in the shadow of the Rooms International Art Gallery and Museum, and overlooked the downtown core. I felt like we were at the center of everything.
My appearance socially was carefree and outgoing, but I have struggled with depression much of my adult life. So despite the positive social environment my mood swings could be intense.
It was during one of these bouts with depression that I began writing love notes to myself. I would feverishly write them huge all over a piece of paper in charcoal desperately wanting to feel that love, to believe in what I was writing. Then I would rub them out and make drawings over top of them of the things I genuinely cared about and loved my beautiful cows.
It was after I moved back to Toronto that I made the connection to use the Tao Te Ching. I was very ambitious in my move back to the city of my youth. I wanted to make my mark, so I agreed to every opportunity that arrived. One of which surfaced because of my connection to the Yoga community in Toronto. I was asked to be the artist in residence at the Yoga Festival Toronto in 2010.
This was incredibly inspiring for me as I have a strong connection to yoga. I feel the same meditative calm when I practice yoga as I do when I’m painting.
I choose the Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu because I was drawn to the “short, declarative statements and intentional contradictions,”1 that marks the 82 chapters of Stephen Mitchell's translation. It matched my own decisive style of portraiture, while bringing a depth and meditative calm to the work in place of the wild emotional abandon of the love letters.
I like that the poems are precise, but difficult to intellectualize. The meaning comes out in them when you least expect it to, like the memory of a dream. You can feel the meaning, but if you try and qualify it or analyze it eludes you. My hope is that the meaning will be subconsciously absorbed by those who are exposed to the work.
The best part about the poems for me is that they remain mysterious and elusive. No matter how many times I will use the same poem the meaning changes and I feel a little closer to generating love and understanding for myself and for the world around me. In the way that I can always find a new love and new beauty in each portrait I approach.