Categories
Photography

Jessamyne Polson was my closest friend in Costa Rica

Jessamyne Polson was my closest friend in Costa Rica/ Alexandra Ross/2021/digital photograph

Jessamyne Polson was my closest friend in Costa Rica. I don’t know what normal teenage relationships are like, but teenage friendship in isolated zealous Christian expat communities in the mountains of Costa Rica was intense. I was an isolated unschooled American expat living on a family compound in the Mountains of San Isidro de Heredia. Jess was a homeschooled Canadian MK living with her family in the missionary compound a forty minute walk away.

We entangled each other in the webs of our primary social circles and forged our own tangled friendship. She was my closest friend and comrade against the constraints of family, but she was my fierce competition when it came to establishing my social identity.  

Sometimes I think about what my relationship with Jess would have been if it had been safe to be friends. I play the what if game.

What if I had seen examples of healthy relationships?

What if it had been safe to be intimate?

What if we had lived outside a patriarchy?

What if it had been safe to inhabit my body?

What if it had been safe to be vulnerable?

What would friendship look like in that context?

I try to imagine our friendship in that context, but I can’t. It’s an impossible task for my cynical imagination that only knew one reality.

I play a reverse game what if game:

What if you only see abuse of power in relationships?

What if intimacy is used to control?

What if you believe women are the cause of human ill?

What if you believe your body is sinful?

What if any vulnerability is exploited?

What would friendship look like in that context?

I can tell you.

You come away with intense moments of beauty, and painful moments of regret, and a shit ton of dissociation.

If you’re lucky, you meet a friend who, throughout the tangled web of life, is resilient as fuck and can cut through the knots of teenage friendship and see its core intention.

Jessamyne Polson, you are one brilliant, beautiful, resilient woman.

Categories
Linocut Personal

Daily Practice

Cultivating a daily practice is possibly the most challenging thing I am trying to accomplish with my art. The only thing I do daily is have a cup of coffee. I don’t even sleep everyday.

I am tackling a giant multipiece linocut. With over 150 individual pieces and measuring 42″ in diameter, the only way completing this by July is possible is with a daily practice. Everyday I sit down and carve 1 to 3 pieces, and little by little I make it through the work.

I have set out an impossible task for myself. I might as well go find gold fleece.

I have tried really hard to keep my work in frontline crisis and trauma training separate from my art practice. I dislike it when I am at work and people find out I am an artist and jump to the conclusion that I am or want to be an art therapist. I also don’t want the goal of my art practice to become my personal therapy. I want a clean lines between art, work and my personal life. This time, I want nice clean orderly boxes.

But these days my trauma informed training is seeping pretty heavily into my art practice. Working so closely with my personal narrative I am applying all the skills and tools I know from my frontline training on myself as I piece together my past. My intention of cultivating a daily mindfulness practice coincides with my attempts to cultivate a daily lino carving.

In the mentorship program Brenna walked us through goal setting and “habit stacking” as a way to achieving goals. I drink a cup of coffee everyday when I wake up. I stack a mindfulness practice to that. I stack a linocut practice to my mindfulness practice.

In this way, my daily linocut is stacked together with my coffee and my mindfulness. This has an unintended effect of placing my art practice into this nebulous realm of the personal and therapeutic.

Exactly where I didn’t want to it to be.

But exactly where it has to be.

Good thing I am practicing nonjudgement observation. I am mindful of the tension.

Transformation is a bitch.

Categories
Photography

The Public Brewhouse and Gallery

Folks, I have been sitting on this big announcement for a while now, and I am SO excited to finally be able to go public with The Public!

Together with my dear friends and husband, we are starting a microbrewery and art gallery in Steinbach, Manitoba! Based on the idea of a public square, we have designing a place where you can meet up with people, view the work of rural based contemporary artists while you drink beautiful craft beer made onsite!

Along with a gallery for viewing work we are also bringing The Tiny Gallery on board and it will travel around to rural towns with a reproduction from our main gallery.

I cannot even express how excited I am.

There is a shit ton of work to do, but for now, I am just so proud to be making this announcement!

You can follow the adventure on Instagram: @thepublicbrewhouseandgallery

Categories
Photography

The Experience of Conversation

Panel discussion from April 21st, 2021.

This past month I participated in an online group exhibit titled, Momentum. Last week we had our online opening which consisted of a zoom panel hosted by artist and professor, Sarah Fuller. A week prior to this Dana Kletke, Co-Executive Director of MAWA interviewed me about my work in the exhibit.

It is my first exhibit experience that has included not only the opportunity to craft a group curatorial statement, but also to experience both a panel and an interview specific to the exhibit and my work. What I now know: I really enjoy the process of making work coupled with conversations about process and ideas. I love how both the process of making art and the art itself brings this expansive capacity to conversation and allows viewer and artist to experience, view, and talk around ideas within the art.

As a new experience, this feels like such a generous “art world” tradition. Every artist should have the experience of exploring their work with safe, curious, interested viewers. What a thing.

Though, now that I am reflecting on all this, it occurs to me that I should credit the organizations of MAWA and MAN (such an unfortunate acronym) for being safe, positive spaces for artists to talk about their ideas.

The exhibit and the interviews have been really helpful as part of the Rural Artist Mentorship Program. I will write about my participation the program soon, but I just want to just to mention this exhibit and interviews on my blog. Momentum lands as a mid-point in the mentorship program and, as such, provided a fantastic opportunity to forge and small body of work, and fine-tune the ideas, complete them, document, and then communicate about them.

Conversation with Dana, April 12, 2021
Categories
Photography

The Day After Earth Day

Look Slower/ 35 mm bw film/2019 Hunt Lake Trail

I grew up saying grace at every meal. It stopped making sense to me when I was 8 years old. I had made the PBJ, not God. Why would I thank God for something I clearly did?

Fast forward 28 years and I am nearly full circle–except now before I eat, I thank the bacteria, the soil, the lichen, the rocks, the trees, the water, the clouds, the wind, the sun, the solar system, the galaxy, the universe…

Look slower/ 35 mm/ 2019 Hunt Lake Trail

It is mind blowing to me that what I put in my body has taken literal eons of time. Life that emerged, lived, adapted, thrived, reproduced and died in timescales and quantities I cannot fathom.

One day for Earth is, well, a nice symbolic token. A gesture, or perhaps more cynically, a political and late-capitalistic ploy, to momentarily redirect our attention.

When it comes to grappling with the complexities of it all, the beauty and pain of the story, and the sheer weight of the earth in this particular time and space–I think the topic doesn’t need a day.

It needs a life long art practice.

Look slower/35 mm bw film/2019 Hunt Lake Trail
Categories
Photography Print Making

Go Big or Go Home

Time to go backwards.

Print has not connected with me since 2018 when I took a print class. It is odd because in many ways that print class sent me on a trajectory into my current interest in emergent order. I began the class as an angry environmentalist. Through the process making the 3 assignments over the semester I realized the earth and eco systems will adapt, but humans might not. But that’s another blog.

As you can see, it is not a far stretch from my final print “Easter” to my URA project, “Old Order, New Order.”

Old Order New Order

And now look where I am!

Photography, clay, and assemblage have connected with me. But since summer of 2018 I have felt like I have struggled to produce a good print.

I have been thinking about what it is that has not connected me, and last week I came to the conclusion that I let go of working big and that it is time to go back.

Now print is beginning to emerge in my head again. I have some ideas on where I need to go with this. No more small prints on their own. My small prints will be based on larger prints.

I am picking up where I left off and am dusting off my giant lino from the summer of 2018. I always felt this could be more.

I envision this being one giant zentangle-like linocut. It will take me a while. Within this there will be a combination of Celtic knots, swirls, and my chaos knots. Within these will be little illustrations of my past. These illustrations will be lifted into the documentary style screen print for each root ball. So the screens will be a series of 12 prints with the hashtag, #thisoncedefinedme. The larger sections of the print will be printed onto my containing vessels. It’s all making much more sense to me.

I love it when there is a breakthrough after years of wrestling. Note to self: sometimes go backwards to go forwards.

I hope you’re following, but if you’re not, the main point is: I’m going back to big.

Categories
Photography

I can make myself small in a home

I can make myself small in a home

I come from a filthy home. I come from a home where creative production and personal leisure were valued above domestic labor. Home was filled with a mix of hand-me-down furniture, unfinished project piles, and valuable dumpster finds. Dishes crawled out of the sink along the counter and our dirty laundry was the domain of cockroaches and black widow spiders. The materiality of domestic life was at constant war with the materiality of creative production.

Other People had clean houses but We The Smiths were creatives. We were culture makers, trend setters and gifted visionaries. Other People spent their time mowing their perfect lawns and dusting their china, but We The Smiths recycled concrete sidewalks into mosaic pathways and made our own china. We didn’t have time for status makers like perfect houses or nice yards.

Creativity requires life energy. Energy to think, energy to feel, and energy to make. There is not enough energy to also spend on whether you clean the stove top after cooking.

Creativity requires space. Space to flood into the living room, kitchen and dining room table. Clean surfaces are for non-creatives.

Creativity requires you to put aside social norms and embrace a life of chaos.

The cost of creativity is domestic and personal neglect.

But if you can make yourself small in a home you can find tiny unclaimed spaces to inhabit.

Categories
Mid Month Mugs

Mid Month Mug Sale

In an effort to be inconsistent, and also to make some money to support my art habit, I am beginning a Mid Month Mug Sale.

I have confessed to you how I am not a production potter, and that anything I produce will be not reproduced. This all still stands. However, I do find myself with an occasional mug to sell.

Tune in to my Instagram account on the 15th of every month at 12pm to I will post the mugs I have available for sale to my story. My IG handle, incase you need: @alexandrarossworks

Today, I have two little mugs. They are $30 each, plus shipping. DM me on Instagram when you see them in my story if you need one of these mugs in your life.

Folks, I’ll just say it, they are not perfect.

Categories
Art

Working Title

When I had my first studio visit with Brenna George in December I had just made the decision to focus on personal narrative in my work for the year.

I should backup.

I applied for the Manitoba Art’s Network Rural Art Mentorship Program in September. This program, produced together with Mentoring Art for Women’s Art in Winnipeg, offers 5 rural based artists the opportunity to be mentored by a professional artist for a year. The program culminates in an exhibition of works in the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.

The program has been phenomenal. It was everything I felt I needed right after an intense four years at the School of Art. With the pressures of academic deadlines gone, and a pandemic summer in full swing, I spent the months after I graduated recovering from the pace of school in my 30s. After four years of sprinting between classes, homework, nightshifts, family and some semblance of social life I took the summer off. I didn’t even plan to. I just found my motivation to work on much art was not there.

Just before the pandemic hit. I’m exhausted just looking at my old day planner. #yesiwasbornbeforethedigitalrevolutuonanditshowsidontcare #iknowhowtohastag

As fall approached I knew I needed something to pick up the pace. It was helpful to hear Brenna phrase it as a “vulnerable” time for my art practice. I think she is right. It’s that time when ideas, knowledge and skills are fresh, the pressure is off and there is a loss of structure to channel the energy. I had this sense if I didn’t connect with something I could risk letting my practice slide, and after a year of no exhibitions, talks or opportunities, the goal of becoming a professional artist slips away.

That hasn’t happened!

Instead, I was accepted into this mentorship program and over the last five months I have been mentored under the gentle and insightful guidance of Brenna George.

In the first section of the mentorship, usually a weekend intensive but during a pandemic spread over 6 evenings on zoom, we went over goals. Brenna strongly encouraged all of us to focus our energy.

Folks, this is a near impossible task for someone who thrives on stress and variety in life. I narrowed my topic, and refined my mediums.

Here I am. Next Monday I submit the first of my works for an online exhibition in April through Manitoba Arts Network. My working title is “My Roots.”

I am learning the ropes. Again. So many ropes to learn in art. I am learning how to balance life and art, how to set productive goals for my practice; how to be motivated primarily through intrinsic means rather than extrinsic structures; and I am also learning that my work is always in progress. I know that sounds cliché, and I should have learned that by now. Maybe it is just that as I learn to stand on my two art feet I feel the weight of it a little differently.

Over the next few months I hope to bring you into my studio and into my thoughts around my practice as I make my first independent body of work. It feels ridiculous to say “independent” because I am making it under the caring mentorship of Brenna George, and in the social context of a loving community around me.

Nevertheless, this is the first body of work that I am making, and I am excited to share the studio process. Today, I would like to introduce you to my working title. Are you ready? Have I already said it out loud? Whatever.

The working title for my first body of work is My Roots.

Work in progress
Categories
Photography

Whimsical Dark

Another thing I have learned: I am not a good family photographer. I am really good at taking pictures of ditches, the forest floor, and weeds growing in the sidewalks.

I am not good at taking nice pictures of humans.

When I do, they turn into a category I call the Whimsical Dark.

#Whimsicaldark

So be careful if you decide you want me to photograph you. It might just turn into a piece of art rather than a holiday card.