I can’t count how many times this semester that I’ve been running to a class and have made mental notes to myself to take pictures of the floors in the education stairwells. I don’t really know why, they’re not overly spectacular mosaics but for some reason or another, they’ve consistently caught my attention. Tiled mosaics always make me think of a fond memory I have from when I was growing up. A close family friend of mine is a fabulous artist (and teacher!) and when I was younger her daughter and I helped her create a tiled mosaic top for a coffee table that they still have in their home. Being that I was only probably eight years old, it’s interesting that a seemingly ordinary memory was evoked by a somewhat mundane tiled mosaic. It’s interesting how memory works that way, that you can almost be transported to a particular day just by seeing something that correlates to the specific memory. In my opinion, art is magical because of the use of memory. It’s natural for humans to make connections and categorize visual indicators into rational opinions by first referencing it to something in our personal histories– even if that whole process only takes a split second, it’s definitely present. In my opinion, the tiled mosaic in the stairwells of the Ed. faculty is not overly spectacular in itself but for me, it gives me a sense of nostalgia which, in a way, does make it overly spectacular because it was able to transport me to a memory that holds significance in my life. Not only that, but I was consistently reminded over the semester whenever I took the stairs I’d think of Katherine and Marion and smashing colourful plates in their backyard. Sometimes, I’ve been reminded throughout this project, that art is the aesthetic magic, the odd happenstances, the serendipitous seconds that happen in the world that comes to you from unlikely places, people, and environments. Humans learn to refine it, categorize it, quantify it, read it, express it, but what’s really neat is that the world gives us organic opportunities to experience this magic everyday, we just have to be willing to see it!
I’ve always been a sucker for a good texture, and natural Earth toned pallet… even if it’s in the form of a failed dinner. I had burned my pot of rice and wanted to soak the pot swiftly to aid in the cleaning up. When I scooped out the scorched rice, I noticed that it had created an intriguing artistic pattern on the bottom of the pot. I first noticed the colours, the gradient of the outer rim lightening towards the middle part of the pot. Next, I noticed the patterns that the rice had created, this kind of erratic marking that had interesting movement and definition. Again, I was reminded of how my cat had become an artist born out of curiosity of the snow and how you can find art in the most unexpected places IF you’re interested in seeing it. Perhaps in some cosmic way, I was mean’t to burn this pot of rice for this design to come to fruition… or maybe it’s simply a reminder to myself to not try to multi-task while cooking dinner!
It’s interesting to take notice of your day-to-day routines that become so habitual that you overlook certain aspects of the experience. This week, I noticed this particular stage of my day and how artistically staged it looked. I live in a quaint, ’70’s style house with arched doorways, a weird glass tile configuration in the living room and a bathroom the size of a cupboard. I love this little place and sometimes think, due to it’s quirky characteristics paired with my boyfriend and I’s haphazard, unique and artistic infusion of things, that it looks staged. Sometimes, I see my house as a movie set for a quintessential film depicting hippie, artists navigating their 20’s and coming to terms with their adulthood. Lofty, I know but, it’s moments like today where I am getting ready in my tiny bathroom and I look down to how I’ve precariously perched my make-up on the ledge of the sink and think: that looks like it was staged! Which is interesting when you think about movie sets from an aesthetics perspective because they’re replicating the colloquialisms of everyday life but, when you come across those appealing arrangements in their natural environment you think, “oh, that looks like a movie set”. It’s interesting to me to see that logic loop and ultimately circumvent it in order to enjoy these organic aesthetic moments.
This is my cat Gray, I know, inventive name. Gray is the focus of this week’s post because, low and behold, she’s an artist! Recently, we’ve discovered that Gray is a winter cat and will go to great lengths to run outside at any opportunity to sit on our front stoop. However, following the theming of winter beauty: Gray’s footprints on one of her expeditions have created an interesting exploration into footprints as “brushstrokes” and what they can tell you. I am aware that this is a skill learned by many hunters to track animals but, it is also interesting to think of tracks in the context of art. It is quite apparent to see in Gray’s footprints her enthusiasm for the snow. The sweeping paw prints as she digs into the snow, the precision of her separate toes prominent because of her putting weight into that foot while she swept the other paws. Thinking about the idea of expressionistic brushstrokes, she is doing just that! It was actually pretty fascinating (and amusing) to watch her in action and then to see the tracks she left behind in the snow. Almost as if she were an expressionist painter wildly flailing her arms and etching out enthusiastic patterns on her sculpture. As we progress in our studies through art education and the continual emphasis on process rather than product, it was an silly connection to make however, completely legitimate (perhaps I’m bordering on crazy-cat lady status here!). What is interesting is that when you start thinking a certain way, such as process over product, you see value in simplistic things like your cat exploring the snow. Art is definitely everywhere, it’s more a question if you take the time to see it.
Alan Watts, a brilliant scholar from the mid ’90s, talks about a Buddhist philosophy that if you look into a dew drop, inside the dew drop you see a million reflections of everything surrounding the dew drop continuing on into infinity. Therefore, we can take this idea and apply it to humans: we are comprised of the reflections of what has come before us and what is before us in the present moment. Obviously his explanation is way more eloquent and profound than my mini-bastardization of that beautiful thought however, I was reminded of this idea through a visual experience at work today. As I was patiently awaiting customers, I was staring off into space (a.k.a. the espresso machine) when I noticed that the silver bits on the machine created warped mirrored reflections of me, and my surroundings. I think this particular scene caught me off guard because I’ve looked at that exact machine numerous times but never from that perspective. Which made me think— cleverly, I assume that that is the point of this entire project— how many visual experiences have I passively passed by? Not only visual experiences, but experiences in general— if we are to think as a Buddhist. This fragment of my day-to-day life when looked at, really looked at, is so much more interesting than just an espresso machine. Because, it would not exist if it were not for the people and circumstance which demanded it’s creation: the coffee shop! Likewise, I would not be here if my parents, and grandparents, and great grandparents had not existed before me and created the circumstance to which I find myself living in presently. Perhaps too abstract of a thought? Perhaps a good philosophical debate to have… perhaps over a nice espresso!
One of my jobs currently is at a cafe located in the middle of a luxury furniture store. Although I have spent a decent amount of time perusing the incredibly crafted decor offered in the store, I’ve really come to admire the light fixture in the woman’s washroom. Random, I know. I have not been employed there long and today on my visit to the little girls’ room I was compelled to look up and was met by this beautiful kaleidoscope of light. I’m a sucker for good lighting but I’ve never seen a light fixture quite like this one. The design of the glass reminded me of this collection of crystal decanters I have at home but, for your light bulbs! I begrudged the fact that I was not at least a few feet taller so that I could examine the craftsmanship of the actual fixture. However, the ambiance it creates (yes, even in a washroom) was fascinating. I really became transfixed by the patterns the light made when it refracted off of the glass, the tiny reflections within each sharp cut of the glass and the way it seemed to sparkle with the light dancing through it. I will say, I do not make a habit in spending copious amounts of time in public washrooms checking out it’s decor, but I’m glad I took a few minutes to notice this one!
Whenever I travel through Saskatchewan, I’m overwhelmed by the space. There are few places where the sheer magnitude of the distance between the ground and the atmosphere becomes apparant, but Saskatchewan is one of them. If you think about it, space is essential to the creation of well… everything. In a classroom we create a space but the students and activities within the space create the magic. Our bodies are containers but what happens inside is miraculous, daunting and nothing short of a miracle. So in a pinch, Saskatchewan is the land of possibility.
My grandmother– Jean Elliott– was a decorated potter and artist based out of Regina. When she passed, my family inherited a lot of her work including this piece that hangs over the mantle of my family home. When I travel through Saskatchewan, I try to think like Grandma Jean. Formulating colour palettes in my mind of what you’d have to mix in order to get the perfect shade of blue. Or how you’d layer the image like a mobile where you look at it at a precise spot and all of the images line up to give you a rich depiction of what is in front of you.
Whenever I drive through Saskatchewan, I think like an artist. Whenever I drive through Saskatchewan, I am humbled and grateful for this spacious, vaccumous void filled with possibility.