Wednesday, May 25, 2011


Part of my series of ink drawings depicting my favourite "active" activities, is this drawing here called Escape. Ballet has always been an art form I've found to be incredibly beautiful. My father and I used to often watch ballet together on TV and I'd be in absolute amazement of the grace, coordination, passion and physical strength demonstrated on stage. Like many little girls, I had dreams of being a ballerina, but I never took one dance class. Well, in my early 20s I took ballroom and Latin dances for a short while, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

Years have passed, and I yearned to get back to dancing, in some form. Dance is a full sensory expression. It's a feeling, it's an art, it's movement to music, and it speaks volumes to both dancer and viewer. Regaining my health and strength back, I knew 2011 was the time to begin. In fact, I investigated options for myself while I was bandaged up after my leg surgery, and made contact with my dance teacher, Joanna at that time. She encouraged me to sign up for her classes, assuring me that in fact I am NOT too old to start ballet for the first time. No, I will not become a prima ballerina and I will not dance en pointe, but I can learn many of the steps, develop my style and grace, learn choreography, but most importantly, DANCE!

Since January, I've been taking contemporary ballet classes with Joanna at Unhinge Dance. It's been an incredible experience so far. My first class I felt really frustrated, not being able to do very many of the steps. It was a very sharp uphill climb on that learning curve, but only because Joanna finds the appropriate balance between challenge and comfort to allow us to both learn and feel confident that we have the skills to accomplish what seems challenging. I've now learned a lot, and find that with each class, I feel more and more like a dancer. I catch myself doing chaines across my floor at home at times, and get excited at the prospect of my next class.

So why is this drawing called "Escape"? It's a recent drawing I started within this past week. It's been a highly challenging week for me. I let Joanna in on what I've been going through and she sent me the most thoughtful email which resonated big-time with me. She described dance as an escape - a place you can go to when times are tough and get your mind off those things you need to get your mind off of. And dance is a place where you can return to each step with certainty, "a plie is still a plie", and if anything, those steps have more meaning and emotion attached with their execution. An inexperienced dancer like myself but that has some added life experience (i.e. the opposite of a young teenaged girl who's danced her whole life), can add depth and experience into each step I take in dance.

And so, this drawing is actually based off a photo from the Unhinge Dance website (with permission from Joanna). It's of Joanna herself, my inspiring teacher, although with abstract line and texture, she doesn't quite look like herself here. The idea is that in dance we can escape, so the dancer here is seemingly jumping or escaping right out of the picture. The texture, the lines, all are intentional to show the range of emotion, experience, and meaning placed in each dance step.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Zapatista Woman

In February I traveled with a group of 5 students to lead a service learning trip in Chiapas, Mexico working with the local community organization, Tsomanotik. I'd previously known some of the story of the Zapatista movement in Chiapas, Mexico's southernmost state. But through this experience in Mexico, that knowledge grew in both width and depth, and the story became something that moved not only my mind but also my heart; I made myself a commitment to continue learning and acting in solidarity with the community with whom I had the opportunity to make acquaintance. I spent a couple of days in San Cristobal de las Casas at the end of my time in Mexico. Of course here was the centre of the uprising in 1994, and so I noticed that to this day there is a living Zapatista spirit and solidarity that I found to be quite fascinating.

On one of my several visits to a restaurant in San Cris I fell in love with,
TierrAdentro, I began a sketch of a Zapatista woman. While doing this sketch, I realized that one of the quotes of Subcomandante Marcos written on my placemat was one that I had heard before several times in another context. This quote is of course most beautiful in its original Spanish (I'll include it for you below for those of you who do read Spanish), but some of it translates to describe a powerful paradox: the people covered their faces and negated their identities, so that they would be seen, known, and have a unified presence so they cannot be ignored any further.

This same idea, and this same quote was used by marginalized youth involved in ephemeral theatre (
Teatro Efimero). These youth I had the opportunity to work with and learn about while I was in Colombia 6 years ago. These young people too would cover their faces and negate their individuality so that a collective identity could be strengthened and recognized. I know that this connection isn't mere coincidence but an intentional act of solidarity. I just somehow failed to make the connection before, likely because my Spanish at the time of my Colombia experience was still quite unimpressive.

As I completed my drawing and my realization, I decided I wanted to spend more time on working on artistically representing the idea. I have some future project ideas in mind for this, but to kick it off, over the last week I worked on a drawing of a
Zapatista Woman. It's a drawing achieved using a mix of charcoal, conte crayon, and pastel. It was a powerful experience to create. While I was drawing the negated face of a fictional woman, she somehow came alive on the page. I wanted to speak to her about her story. I had so many questions for her. I wondered what identity I was giving her with each added line and stroke of colour. I imagined her to be around my age, with desires and dreams for her life and for her family. I thought about her incredible strength and questioned whether me creating this drawing of her would make any 'difference' to her at all:

“Y miren lo que son las cosas, para que nos vieron nos tapamos el rostro, para que nos nombraron nos negamos el nombre; apostamos el presente para tener futuro; y para vivir….morimos.”

- - -- Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos

“Para los pueblos indígenas, campesinos y rurales, la tierra y el territorio son mas que trabajo y alimento: son también cultura, comunidad, historia, ancestros, sueños, futuro, vida y madre”

-- Andrés Aubry

“La caridad es humillante porque se ejerce verticalmente y desde arriba; la solidaridad es horizontal e implica respeto mutuo.”

-- Eduardo Galeano

Friday, May 13, 2011

May 2011 Art Exhibitions

A long overdue blog post! I've been part of two exhibitions during the month of May. The visual art display May is Art Month just wrapped up yesterday at the Capilano Mall, although the performances and art workshops continue for the rest of the month. It was a fun activity to be part of, although the exhibition was in the quiet wing of the mall. It was a great way of getting exposure and a diverse mix of art work from some very talented artists. Here are some photos of the exhibition. I had three pieces displayed here:

The exhibition titled "Man's Best Friend" has been ongoing for about two weeks now (until May 28th). The opening reception on April 28th was a whole lot of fun. We got to hear about where the vision of the exhibition came from - or rather from whom! Local artist David Camisa had a number of beautiful pieces displayed in this exhibition and was the driving force for making this show happen. It was an honour to have a piece of my own displayed as part of the exhibition. Special thanks to my sister-in-law, Taslim, her blog The Artist's Review, as well as Tanja (et. al) and of course Cam who came to the opening reception and made it such a special evening.

There will be an interactive event taking place in conjunction with the exhibition - a presentation by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) on Threatened Endangered Species on Tuesday, May 24th from 6:30-8:00pm. More information can be found here.

Being part of this exhibition has inspired me in many ways as an artist. I'm relatively new to the life of an public / exhibiting artist and have a lot to learn on how to do this more effectively, to get my name out there, to establish my own unique and recognizable artistic style, and to be part of events on a regular basis. The idea of being in two exhibitions at the same time is something I'm quite proud of; but having only one piece in the Man's Best Friend exhibition was a reminder that I could be doing so much more artistically. I can't use things like lack of time as an excuse. I do have time, and I certainly have a load of motivation and drive to do this.

Like David Camisa who came up with the exhibition theme for Man's Best Friend, I'd like to work toward my own themed exhibition one day. The idea would be that I'd have multiple pieces as part of the potential exhibition - the theme of which I came up with - and a call could go out to other fellow artists to submit work that interprets the theme in their own individual way. I have a series of art I'm currently working on that could lend to this idea very nicely - and I'm only 2 pieces shy of its completion. I'm planning on putting an application in to the arts council about this current idea. If it gets accepted, I'll post more information here. Of course I only have about 2 weeks to pull it all off....What do you think? Is this too bold a move?

As you ponder that, here are a couple photos from the Man's Best Friend opening reception: