My Pigeon House
My pigeon house I open wide
and I set all my pigeons free
They fly all around
and up and down
and they sit on the highest tree
and when they return from their merry merry flight
they close their eyes and they say goodnight
Carroo carroo carroo carroo carroo carroo carooo
Rachel Epp Buller is a feminist art historian, a print maker and a mother of three. Her series "The Identity Series" are a beautiful, intricate series of prints based on the motif of a fingerprint. Fingerprints figure very largely in the life of a mother- finger prints on the walls, on the windows and on mirrors become a part of our visual landscape. If you were to look at our bodies with forensic dust under black light we would probably be covered with the imprints of our children. I read somewhere that a small amount of our children's cells remain with us long after they're born and have grown. We're forever imprinted.
This series calls to light the identity of a mother as it's combined with and altered by the personalities of her children. It's a complex portrait of what it means to be a mother- the occasional loss of self, but the gain of a bright new and complex self in relation to our children.
Twist, in 3 Parts, 2009
"The Identity Series marks the changes, overlaps, and transformations of identity that occur in the life of the family. Initially conceived as a grouping of representational portraits, the series later morphed into an abstracted idea of portraiture, taking as its formal basis one fingerprint of each member of our family. Printed individually, the fingerprints highlight unique genetic qualities; when layered, they can speak to the temporary masking of identity that occurs in the position of motherhood. In hand-stitched print blankets, issues of genetic difference overlap, literally and metaphorically, with larger implications of family position—individuality alongside and within familial identity. The most recent print “quilts” combine the fingerprints with fragments of the representational portraits, further playing on issues of identity and likeness. These visual memoirs of motherhood use traditional patchwork quilting patterns to draw on a lengthy history of women’s artistic creativity and on my own Mennonite cultural heritage."
-Rachel Epp Buller
Youngest Four- Patch, 2009
Buller references her own Mennonite background by using familiar quilt patterns to combine the elements of finger prints and portraits. The quilt aesthetic draws us in to the comfort of the familiar, and makes reference to family and home. Within the pattern we also see objects, outlines and forms- portraits of individuals mixed together. I feel that the fingerprint outlines make some allusion to science and DNA while the quilt pattern speaks more of tradition. I love the idea of a portrait combining different elements of one's family. I feel it's true that we are all a pattern involving those who matter to us, and who influence our lives.
Firstborn Shirting Quilt, 2009
Honestly. Roller derby, motherhood, feminism... how could you possibly go wrong? I saw Kate Wilhelm's portfolio and I was instantly drawn to it. Obviously the photographs attract me partly because they reflect my own life and my own interests. Each photograph depicts a woman decked in derby gear but set in her own home environment.
Baroness Von Spike
I love the contrast of the derby women with their domestic scenes. I love the juxtapostion of the derby gear with the softer qualities of home life. I think these are actually a fascinating exploration of women- the complexity of what makes us female. The most classic is the one below, which mimics the classic Madonna and Child theme but with derby gear and skates. I love the contrast of hard and soft- the hard gear with soft breasts and soft babies. I think it says a lot about who we are as women, the different aspects and contradictions of what makes us female.
Blister Sister and Scarlet
Teargas Tamara with Jala, Eshe, Marco and Kez
These two remind me of classic family portrait paintings, especially the one below. The family is pictured in their environment, stoic looks on their faces, and the incongruity of derby skates and coloured, dreaded hair. I think it's wonderful.
Inna'Goddess Da-Vida with Simon, Bert and Levi
"Derby throws any notions of femininity in your face. Yet many derby girls are mothers, (perhaps the ultimate "feminine" vocation), and the bouts are extremely family friendly. Immediately I wanted to get to know more about the women behind the derby personas. So, I invited myself into their homes, their private domestic spaces, the arena that is historically and culturally seen as women's space. I want the apparent incongruity of a derby girl in a domestic setting to cause the viewer to think about that incongruity and wonder if it is perhaps nothing more than a construct." -Kate Wilhelm
Spunky Rooster and Jamie
For my Halloween edition of the Sunday Feature I decided to feature ceramic artist Carole Epp. Her work is astoundingly detailed. It's simultaneously alluring and attractive as well as repellent and disturbing.
Till death do they part, 2011
A Collection of Small Miseries is a massive, extensive collection of sculptures. At first glance they appear to be small, precious figurines such as the Hummels that my grandmother used to collect. There's a sweetness to them at first glance, their poses resemble Victorian figures of children, heads tilted and hands clasped. It's not until one draws close that one notices something amiss- these figures are not the simpering hummel figurines. Each small misery displays a small tableau, a little message.
This one reads: "She felt like a joke and she was falling apart at the seams." I find this a beautiful figure. Her pose is somewhat iconic, the grace of the figure contrasts beautifully with the look of the sculls below and the chilling message. As one draws closer one notices perfectly painted clown makeup on the figure, as well as red hands.
"Her sculptural based work incorporates the production of collectible figurines whose traditional genre is subverted by revealing a more truthful representation of behaviour and morality in contemporary society. An analysis of consumer culture is unveiled and dialogue is presented regarding the personal relationship one has with global events and politics." Carole Epp Bio.
He prefered sterile plastic over warmth 2010
Many of her sculptures involve small glass domes, much as some higher priced ornaments. However these domes always serve a special purpose in the concept of the piece- in some cases they isolate and highlight each individual element. In the case of the above sculpture contribute to a feeling of sterility and sameness for each individual animal, also a feeling of isolation, both emotionally and in the sense of disease isolation. The side piece titled - "Never believe anyone over the age of thirty," uses glass domes over each individual head, suggestive of a mad scientist, or a Victorian display of preserved scientific curios.
It went beyond role playing, 2006
“Through bringing the overwhelming and devastating nature of war, terrorism, poverty, starvation, genetic technology, and environmental degradation back to a dialogue about the individual consumer, I felt that I could offer more positive outlooks for pro-active change in regards to the issues. I found that I could use the expectations of the medium and the collectible object as an accessible entry point into the work, allowing for a non-confrontational or disconcerting perspective on the subject matter. I wanted to both entice and repel; and inspire a desire to consume alongside an awareness of the consequences of that consumption.”- Carole Epp
A reality he didn’t expect.
If you wish to purchase any of Carole Epp's work, check out her Etsy page. She has both sculptural and functional ceramics available for purchase.
"The B.C. government is putting an end to a decades-old practice of ensuring every new mother in the province gets a home visit from a public health nurse."
I read that line from one of my parenting groups that the BC government is cutting back on home visits from a public health nurse. It made me think back to some of the first visits I received, in Alberta mind you, after my son was born. I was very weak recovering from 40 hours of labour and a c-section, but I was euphoric. I felt like I could do anything. When I found out a nurse was coming over my first thought was "why?" I felt I had things under control. I was brimming with joy, surrounded by friends, with my beautiful, sleeping infant in my arms. I might have been the first to refuse such a visit if it were optional. However I was very glad to have those visits. As the days pased and the initial euphoria wore off I began to experience some exhaustion and anxiety. I was relieved not to have to bundle my infant and take him to a clinic for a check up, and the nurse was able to provide detailed progress assessments of my infant. He was growing well, he was nourished, breastfeeding was going well, etc. He was a very sleepy baby, and had experienced a lot of physical trauma in the 40 hours of labour. My nurse was able to correctly diagnose him with slight jaundice, and just had us put him in the sunshine, nurse him as much as possible and keep an eye on it.
Another reason I was glad to have my nurse, and this is a very personal reason and very dear to my heart, she counseled me on circumcision. Up until that moment I was going to go ahead and circumcise my son. I didn't know much about it, I only knew my husband wanted it done, and that he seemed to care more about it than I did. My nurse actually showed me a diagram of baby circumcision. She did not make my decision for me, but she gave me all the information, nothing left out, and allowed me make an informed choice. No health professional had done that for me before. My surgeon was advising me to go ahead with it, no medical staff said anything different on the subject. If it weren't for my health nurse's visit I can guarentee that my baby would have been circumcised.
I'm not even sure what the official stance of the Public Health Authority on circumcision. It could be this was something she felt motivated to do herself. For me it was a very important part of my care, because someone actually took some time to explain the procedure to me. She said "if you feel at all undecided, it's probably best to wait. It's not something that can be undone."
My daughter was born in BC. I had the same wonderful, personal home visits as I did with my son. Again, predictably my mood dropped with my hormones at about the 5th day after childbirth, and I was glad to have the advice and attention when I was at risk for PPD. Again I would have been considered outside of their new low-income criteria. However, the fact remains, we don't actually always know when we need help most, or what sort of help we might need. New motherhood is a very vulnerable time and we all... ALL of us need all the support we can get.
If you wish to write to your Health Minister, Health Critic and Premier the contact information is as follows:
minister of health micheal de jong:
NDP health critic:
If, like many of us, you are a very busy mother you might want to copy and paste the letter below instead of writing your own. (Thank you Taai Taai for the letter!)
It has recently come to my attention that the Health Ministry is cutting back routine home visits from Public Health Nurses to new mothers.
Routine nursing visits in the early post-partum are useful for detecting health problems in post-partum women and their infants. New mothers may not know enough to ask for a home visit. It is also concerning that Public Health Nurses will be pulled from existing programs to the new program for "at-risk" mothers under the age of 25. While I appreciate the effort to offer more extensive help to young mothers, it should not be at the expense of a functional program that provides a needed service. Furthermore, the age limit is arbitrary.
It is difficult to assess risk when you are not routinely screening new mothers through home visits after birth. I think this is a public health disaster in the making. Public health nurses help new mothers establish breast-feeding, catch health problems that new mothers may not be able to identify, and are a valuable and essential service.
I think this is a short-sighted plan that will end up costing the government more money in the long run, as mothers who fall through the cracks develop health problems in themselves or their infants that require more care at a later intervention date. I hope that you will reconsider this decision.
A few days ago I asked members of my facebook fan site to post links to their artist websites. I've decided to do a Sunday Feature every week to promote the creative work of these awesome people! Stay tuned for more!
I've been familiar with artist Martha Jablonski-Jones for quite some time now, so I was pleased when she shared her artist link on my fan page the other day. I love her urban landscapes. She seems to find the special, almost sacred qualities in ordinary scenes, the exotic in the familiar. Much of her focus is on alleyways, which she transforms into arrangements of glowing abstracted colour. The above painting- "Hexagram," reminds me of Mark Rothko- glowing squares of sunlit shapes. Her series, called "CIty" is all focused on alleys.
"Inner Passage"- Acrylic/Canvas
"Urban backstreets and alleys, with all their texture, wear and tear, and imprint of human habitation." - Martha Jablonski- Jones
"New Morning Alley"- Acrylic/Canvas
Her scenes do not contain people, but they seem to contain a presence. As urban landscapes they suggest human habitation, and even the fact that they are vertical landscapes seems to reflect human forms. These vertical shapes are almost the outline, the absence of people. Jablonski- Jones writes:
"My primary artistic focus is on the contemporary urban landscape, in particular, the rich textures of things weathered and worn, run down, imprinted by time and human occupation. Although people may not appear in my paintings, they have clearly inhabited the spaces. I’m also interested in the industrial places we have created around ourselves, their formidable structures designed to serve, yet often seeming to draw us into their own service."
Transparent Radiation- Acrylic/Canvas
Another focus she takes is on power lines and electricity. Her series called "Electric" is about the force and power behind man made objects. These power lines and structures become infused with a glowing energy of bright lines and dynamic strokes. They take on an otherworldly quality, and almost a religious or totem significance in the landscape. It seems an interesting remark on modern condition, as much of our lives and activities rely on these totems of power. In her words they express:
"The balance of power between the man-made and the elemental; living forces of the invisible energies."
I used to have a boyfriend who would scream inches away from my face. I would endure it by kind of turning off my brain. I would sort of mentally blur things and eventually he would stop and I could get on with my life. He called me incredible names- whore, bitch, cunt, stupid... and I would endure it and eventually things would go back to normal. Except nothing was normal. Normal was to be constantly on guard and aware of every movement I made. Normal was sitting at the bar while he played darts, not talking to anyone because he would assume they were hitting on me. Normal was ignoring any man who talked to me in his presence, for the simple reason that he might attack or beat the man in question. Normal was watching young people laugh and flirt and thinking "I wish I was that young." I was twenty years old.
How did I let things get to that point? I met him when I first attended art school away from home. We went to a concert together, slept together on the first date, and moved in with him about a month later. When we started fighting it was more mutual. We would yell at each other and create a scene. Gradually things began to change- he started shoving me, holding my arms down, pinning me until I started relenting sooner and giving in more. One evening he became drunk and belligerent and I locked him out of the house. He called up to the windows, and was soon yelling outside the door for me to let him in. I finally relented because I didn't want to wake the neighbours. That was the first time he raped me. Soon it became routine, and I wore long sleeves and jeans to cover bruises on my arms and body. Soon I was flinching when he yelled at me, and curbing my actions and behaviour.
I asked the question on my fan page: "What in your opinion constitutes domestic violence?" I got some brilliant answers. It seems many of my fans share the opinion that Abuse is a better word than Violence, because we as a society tend to associate violence with actual hitting. Many people shared their own experiences of abuse, including one woman who said:
"I have to agree, domestic abuse is a more fitting term... I was trapped in an abusive relationship for years and though he only hit/kicked me a handful of times the emotional abuse I suffered torments me to this day. The physical bruises heal without a trace but the psycholgical ones last a lifetime. I feel so sad saying it, but way back then I wished for him to hit me so it was over with."
Why don't women leave their abusers? In my case I felt that there were many good things about the relationship as well. It's hard to believe now, or explain, but there were moments when I felt we had something beautiful. We were incredibly close, inseparable, to that point that I swear we dreamed the same dreams. We literally fell asleep together and dreamed the same thing. I wanted to leave him. I wanted to be free, but I also wanted him to be ok. I had an incredible amount of sympathy for him, and I felt like I would be betraying him if I left. I sometimes considered suicide, because it was one way I could leave him without betraying him.
"I Shall but Love Thee Better After Death"- Elizabeth Barrett Browning
As strange as it sounds I did not believe I was the victim of abuse while it was happening. I felt like my boyfriend was "passionate," and emotional, and perhaps hot headed. I did not believe I was abused because I was never hit exactly. It didn't help that people around us made the same exceptions for him- "that's just the way he is, he's just hot headed, he really does love her." People seemed to expect me to stay with him, help him, deal with him. When he yelled at me people, friends of mine and his who seemed to care about me otherwise, would literally turn their faces away. Maybe it was embarrassment, maybe they just didn't know what to do, but the impression I got was that they were condoning his behaviour. That it was ok with them. I had become so cautious and so meek that I became co-dependent. I found it difficult to conduct a conversation without him, and was unable to maintain friendships outside of his influence. I described it once as the movie "Wayne's World," the scene in which Wayne leaves Garth to finish the show alone, and Garth is completely tongue tied and cannot even speak.
(If you can't remember the exact scene just think of me as Garth, it will be good comic relief.)
While I was still in art school at the ACAD I still felt like things were under control. I was making good work, I was working hard and I felt like at least part of my life was stable. My boyfriend undermined me though and did various things to make things difficult for me at school. He pulled all the film out of my camera for my photography class, exposing the film and earning me a failing grade for that project. I believe he confiscated some of my finished artwork from my drawing class, earning me an incomplete grade in that class. He did everything he could to sabotoge me until I finally dropped out. Every time I brought up my difficulties to a professor they told me I should keep my personal life out of school. They didn't want to hear about it, and I think they felt I was just making excuses. No one suggested I get help. No one directed me to any sort of counseling or aid. I truly believed at the time that I was somehow to blame for all this, and that I alone was responsible for what was going on in my life.
During that time I got to know a man who was also an aquaintance of my boyfriend. I loved talking to him, thought he was so gorgeous and tall and I loved his smile and his laugh. Later on my mother helped me escape. I moved away to Saskatchewan, re-enrolled in Fine Arts at the University of Regina, and regained my life and my happiness. The man I met while in Calgary got back in touch with me when he was building a climbing wall in Regina. We went out almost every night, talked hours together and spent much time together as we could. He knew my ex and knew something of his behaviour, and thus we were both reluctant to officially "date" because we knew how upset my ex would be. Finally we admitted our feelings to each other, and prepared to let the news out that we were dating. My ex reacted very badly. He broke into my new boyfriends house, trashed his furniture, broke his bed frame and ripped his mattress in what I think was a symbolic gesture. He called my house and left death threats. We reported all this to the police, but nothing was done. Later he came back and attacked my boyfriend. Luckily my boyfriend was a large, powerful man. My friend's only injury was a broken little finger, while my ex was definitely worse off.
After this we received no more harassment from my ex. We were always on guard however. We had heard too much about men murdering their ex girlfriends to feel comfortable. We kept our phone number unlisted, we never hung out at the same places as before, we even saw less of former friends. After living together for a year we got married. This friend is now my husband.
Why did I share this story?
- For one thing I don't think I fit the "type" who would be abused. My point is that there is no "type," and strong feminists can be just as vulnerable as anyone else.
- Abuse is not always clear cut. It doesn't always come with bruises, nor is it always obvious.
- I wanted to pin point how difficult it is to leave someone when no one acknowledges that it's happening. So if you suspect abuse- talk about it. Talk to that person, offer help.
- I wanted to point out how very little the law or the police did to help me. I was lucky to have my husband, who is a physically powerful man, but I shouldn't have had to rely on him. This is something that I hope has/ or will change with time.
- I want to put a hand out and a few kind words of encouragement to anyone who is being abused out there. I want you to know that there is life after abuse, that you can get out, that you can get help. I hope you will make a move to escape if you feel threatened, verbally or physically.
Here is a link to a Domestic Violence website. Please check it out if you need help. There are also several hotlines, American, Canadian and in the UK that you can call for help.
If any of you have more tips or advice or websites to check, please add them in the comments section. Thank you.
Yesterday I asked members of my facebook fan site to post links to their websites. I knew I had a lot of artists on my fan site, but I was impressed by the quality of the art websites that were posted! I've decided to do a Sunday Feature every week to promote the creative work of these awesome people.
PRINT-BASED INSTALLATION (LITHOGRAPHY), 2009-10.
I chose to feature Jennifer Linton partly because of the domestic subject matter she employs. Given my current lifestyle and passions I find the domestic scenes fascinating, beautiful and disturbing all at once. I love the skill and care took with this particular installation- the Disobedient Dollhouse. She writes:
"The idealized view of domesticity that informed my childhood dollhouse is reconfigured by my adult self as a place much more complex, even contradictory, in nature. In stark contrast to the innocuous role-playing of childhood — when one could ‘play Mommy’ — as an actual parent, the actions I take have real life consequences."
This closeup I find particularly riveting. It reminds me of late nights with a squalling infant. The baby bird suggests this endless need and insatiable quality of a new baby. I like the subversive quality of the work. I feel it's important to acknowledge as mothers that things are not perfect, not easy. The Dollhouse seems to reflect some of the difficulty of motherhood, and the conflicts between our ideals vs. the reality of the situation. Jennifer writes:
"Contemporary dollhouses are decidedly not contemporary in their motifs, with the historic splendor of wealthy Victorian homes being the most frequently represented style amongst current dollhouse enthusiasts. In The Disobedient Dollhouse, I recreated the highly-detailed interiors of a Victorian-style dollhouse, self-consciously aware of the storybook view of domesticity they often conjure. While a trace of nostalgia is detectible in my project, a tension also exists in the work that simultaneously disrupts the easy consumption of these same nostalgic images. A tactic of subversion has been employed as a means of rebellion against the construction a sentimentalized view of domesticity."
"For instance, although the conventional Victorian domestic scene of a woman playing piano has been dutifully rendered, the woman depicted is a hybrid creature with the head of a bird. A chair located in the same room as the bird-headed woman mysteriously sprouts twisted floral vines that snake up the back wall. Gigantic insects infiltrate the room and swarm across the ornate damask wallpaper like a strange, inexplicable virus. These hybrid monsters, giant insects and fantastic vegetal growths disturb the inherent sentimentality of nostalgia and propose a dark, secret world that churns just beneath the veneer of domestic perfection."
Something I found really impressive was the exquisite detail of the work. The level of craftsmanship, the skill and the precision of the final piece is awe inspiring. I find work like this speaks to me as a mother- it acknowledges the intricacy of the role, the tension and the complicated aspects of motherhood. It questions tradition but also presents a very beautiful, mysterious and perplexing vision of motherhood.
I just attended the opening for the Comox Valley Community Arts Council (CVCAC) members show at the Muir Gallery in Courtenay. The title of the show- "Muertos and Marigolds" was for a Mexican Day of the Dead theme, honouring and celebrating those who've passed on. My submission titled "Icon" is actually a self portrait, and didn't have much to do with the Day of the Dead, but I felt it fit the theme at least visually.
I just took a few photos to give an impression of the show. I liked the joyous quality and a feeling of irreverence in the work. Beer bottle caps were combined with crosses and bright colours and flowers with skulls and graves. It did a wonderful job of conveying the levity of Mexican Day of the Dead traditions with some of the more contemplative religious aspects.
The show will be running from October 14th until November 15th so please stop by and check it out. Many of the works are for sale and surprisingly affordable.
So, I was conducting a contest on my facebook fan page using the following portrait and text:
Win a beautiful giclee print of the portrait you see here!
Here is all you have to do to win!
1. Like my Page on Facebook
2. Like the Photo of the Portrait you see here
3. Share this contest on your page to receive a 2nd entry!
I will randomly choose a winner from either Canada or the USA to win a giclee print worth $150.00!
Saturday morning when I woke up I found a big warning on my facebook page, which informed me that the photograph of this painting had been removed for violating Facebook standards. So basically my entire contest was spoiled and I had lost all the names of those people who shared my artwork. This is nothing new, believe me. I've had this painting and several other artworks removed repeatedly from Facebook, been given countless warnings and even had my account deleted at one point, because my work was deemed obscene. I'm not alone in this. Right after I discovered the photo had been deleted I got a message from Amy Swagman of the Mandala Journey who had had this photo of her artwork removed:
Another piece which was removed recently is this small portrait commission I did:
Believe it or not I did not actually think twice about posting it. I was proud of it, and very excited to share. It wasn't until someone suggested I was pushing the envelope a bit that I realized I might possibly lose my account again for once again posting a nude woman, nipples uncovered. Indeed- I received another warning and the image was deleted the next morning.
So, why don't we learn? Why doesn't Amy Swagman and Kate Hansen just stop posting nude artwork? Well... because we shouldn't have to. You may believe that Facebook's standards of use are applied fairly to everyone, but I argue that they are not. I've always refused to draw attention to other artists I know online who post nudes, because I do not wish their art to be removed, and I do not want them picked on or singled out. I do not in any way wish people to report other artists who post nude artwork. I have however decided to share an image from a gallery I am fond of- EVOKE Contemporary Gallery out of Sante Fe New Mexico. EVOKE gallery was hosting a beautiful figurative show called "Decadence," August 5th of 2011, and had posted some of the work on it's facebook page. I want to stress that in no way do I wish anyone to report this work. I love it, I love figurative art and I wish all figurative art had a home on facebook. I do not understand, however, why my work and Amy's work is removed repeatedly and why we are harassed when there is plenty of other nude artwork on facebook that does not receive the same treatment. Here is an example of a painting from the EVOKE page:
Christopher Rote- Armageddon, oil on canvas, 54 x 52
The difference is clear. This beautiful painting depicts a woman with guns, while ours depict women with babies/pregnancy. Violence is clearly acceptable while birth, breastfeeding and pregnancy are not.
A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.