Categories
Photography

She’s a self made man

I did not want my body.

Female bodies were weak bodies. My body was not weak. I was strong. I had immense capacity.

Female bodies were targets. There to be viewed, groped, harassed, and assaulted, female bodies belonged to people with power. My body wanted power. I learned to fight and to disgust. I could burp louder than a man, eat just as much and knew how to kill with a well placed hit to the jugular. I wore my camo pants and flattened my chest. I was no one’s girlfriend: I was a comrade.

Female bodies were ill bodies. They bled, got sick and stayed in bed. My body was not a sick body. I could push through any pain, fight through any illness. I found my physical limits and challenged them. I leaned into pain.

Female bodies were subservient. Made by God to be “help meet suitable” they were weaker and more susceptible to sin. I was born under the authority of a man.

There was nothing I could do about that.

I told God he had made a critical error when he made me a woman.

Wasted opportunity.

Much later, in the violence and ruins of a crumbling belief structure, I came home to my body.

Categories
Photography

Today I put on a terrible strength

I memorized the breastplate of St. Patrick while on my way to the International Christian Youth Group in San José. I carried the ancient prayer in the side pocket of my camo pants along with traditional Gaelic songs, ballads of middle earth and Tennyson’s The Lady of Shallot.

I worked hard to unite what my unschooled mind knew about science and what I knew about Christian ontology. I knew Jesus was true because I understood how the space time continuum functioned on earth.

I knew that I moved in the intersection between the 3rd and 4th dimensions and that all life was only a shadow of the real. In a spectacular union of theology, medievalism, romanticism, and Eurocentric idealism, I came up with a formula for how to know if something was true. If it felt good, it it was beautiful or held a hint of what the German romantics called Sehnsucht, it was core to reality. In other words, it was a “shadow of truth” suspended in space and time for eternity.

Aslan is Jesus is King Arthur is Aragorn.

If you couldn’t see it, you weren’t looking hard enough.

“Today I put on a terrible strength
invoking the Trinity
confessing the Three
with faith in the one
As I face my Maker”

I mumbled the words as the bus headed south to the city. Protection against the supernatural forces that tore at my soul trying to disrupt my task as a spiritual warrior.

I left the compound in Costa Rica when I was 18 to discover what kind of warrior bard God had called me to be.

I surfaced as an ordinary human somewhere between cups of tea and chopping onions for supper at L’Abri.

Categories
Photography

Work in Progress

Last night each artist presented about the work we have done over the past year for Rural Arts Mentorship Program. Brenna encouraged us to make a short video about our work. It was a great way to condense my progress and ideas around my work into a short introduction. I am nowhere near complete, but by now I have a really good sense of the direction.

Also, I now have a YouTube channel!

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
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
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.