The Truth and Reconciliation Commission released its report mid December 2015. With my duties and involvement as Chair of the Sukwtemsqilxw West Kelowna Arts Council (http://www.swac-arts.com) I made it a personal goal to read the report and to record my responses.
It’s not an easy report to read.
The content is disturbing, but it is important to bear witness to those who have lived and died as a result of Canada’s First Nation policies. That is all I will say, except that those who participated in the Commission’s research and final report, you have great strength, humility and grace.
As of this writing, I am approaching the “Calls to Action” and am eagerly anticipating and already considering ways that my community can aid in the healing of the relationships between First Nation and non First Nation peoples.
I hope the community comes out for that weekend. There is a People’s Choice as well quite generously sponsored by Blenz and Opus, $200 cash and a $50 Blenz card, and a $100 gift card from Opus Arts and Framing.
I tend to work in series and projects almost like writing paragraphs that create chapters that creates a book. This particular series of works has to do with some soul searching, planting seeds, growing within and going beyond boundaries, and of course, the process of self-discovery. I feel these works are gentler than my past bold bright colours and to me, I can almost hear water lapping at the shore on a calm day. Each one has it’s own message, it’s own story to tell. I’ve labeled them as I see them but it is very possible when you look, you will see your own. I believe that what we see is a projection of what is inside, so please don’t let my titles hold you back.
All of these mixed media works started out from a life drawing in charcoal and progressed through acrylic to oil and throughout, some graphite. There was no direct expectation of expressing a specific thought, they evolved as they wished with me acting as conductor. Where I directed the flow was in the formal elements only.
If you would like to see the rest of the collection please visit www.juliatropsart.com. They are located in the Painting/Mixed Media section of the gallery. To purchase one of these works, please contact me. 20% of the purchase price will be donated to Canadian Blood Services. Below are a glimpse of works available at the Blood Donor Clinic. You may go and see them in person if you wish.
Like many others, I have been the recipient of physical, mental and emotional bullying all my life. So many times I wished those watching would stand up for me and say “hey, wait a minute…”, but no one ever did. Even now, in the Okanagan, I have first hand experience of how loyalty to one’s friends supersedes what is morally right, or kindness to another. Over the years, through processing my own experiences and exploring my identity, I became aware of patterns of behavior, not only in myself as victim, but others, both the aggressors and the bystanders. In becoming aware of my own personal triggers of perceiving myself as a victim, I have developed thought processes to re-route my
previously traditional response. I re-vision scenarios where I am no longer the just recipient, but instead, I am a witness trying to understand the source of anger or sadness or lack of education that provoked that aggressor’s hate. Hate is an expression of pain or anger or being threatened, and I understand now that hate directed outwards is not personal, but symbolic. This understanding has made me aware of what a gift it is to both myself and to that aggressor, in witnessing and acknowledging their pain along with my own, and this act of witnessing is transformative and powerful.
In any action, positive or negative, there are two types of people: the bystander, who witnesses, and the participants. Witnessing can occur before, during or after a situation. Even those bystanders who choose not to participate cannot avoid becoming part of the scenario. By making that choice, bystanders become the witness, and they stand by and share in what they see and hear. I believe that bystanders can choose to be the people who say “no more”, and these are the people who become heroes, who stand up and effect change for both the aggressor and the victim. I don’t think anyone is determined to be a hero. I believe heroes are reluctantly so.
What if Charron, the ferryman across the River Styx, said “No more”? What if he, the bystander, decided he was not going to participate in his traditional role of taking those condemned over to Hades over the river of hate?
I have always had sympathy for Charron. I’ve always imagined Charron takes up the mantle of pain for each person who uses his ferry, and that he can see through to their pain, the pain and anger that caused these people to be evil, but can do nothing about it.
He is a witness to both their crime and their past. Instead of traveling the river of hate, what if he were to examine it? What if he employed empathy and he, as a witness, was the cause of their transformation? The ferryman Charron, a bystander, a witness, previously thought to be powerless, a victim in and of his role, becomes the most powerful of all.
Some people are automatic writers; I’m an automatic drawer. I respond with mark making, and it doesn’t always look like what I see. I’ve had clients and friends telling me they see faces and people and angels in my work, and I never really looked until this weekend. There’s quite a few in this one. I’m not sure where they are coming from. This is actually a female figurative nude based on magnificent model Donnalee, 12×16 watercolour paper.
Recently, a number of people asked me to comment on Ryan Robson’s “Lady-Like” exhibit and what happened in those subsequent weeks. I’ve taken some time to think about the events and the subject and for what it is worth, here are my thoughts.
If you aren’t familiar with it, the story is documented here:
“After receiving a number of concerns, we thought the time frame for this exhibit maybe should be left at two weeks. During that time almost all of our college community would have had time to experience the art,” Lister says.
So here are the facts as I see them:
Ryan Robson is a local Vernon artist.
Gallery Vertigo, an artist run gallery, has an agreement with the Kalamalka Okanagan College satellite campus in Vernon to have artworks on display for one month, so by my math, that is four weeks.
There was no financial cost to display the art.
Robson creates sincere and genuine works with the intention of helping herself, and helping others by opening a dialogue on a very distressing and confrontational subject.
The artworks are on display for a very, very short period of time (days?) before complaints come in to the Okanagan College administrators.
The artworks are no longer able to be up for the agreed amount time with the administrator citing the “complaints”.
Based on the actions of the administrators of Kalamalka – Okanagan College, my take is the following:
The Okanagan College failed in its role as a centre for expanded learning.
They don’t understand the value of art as a vehicle for education and understanding, compassion and empathy.
They see art as “conditional” rather than a “necessary”.
They should have stood up to the complainers and stood up for the art.
I believe that as long as the art is landscapes and flowers and fairies or objective abstracts then art is welcome on their walls.
Ryan Robson is a local artist.
Local artists are not taken seriously or their genuine work is seen as valid.
If this was an outside exhibit that they had to pay to display then the artworks would have been up for the agreed amount of time.
The College had an opportunity to expand consciousness and understanding of such a highly charged area of human life, and I am certain sexual molestation happens to more children and people than we know. I am sure they could have taken advantage of this artist’s sharing by having her come and speak to the psychology classes, or other subjects they teach. Speaking from the experience of someone who is coming to terms with my own identity and exploring the same in my work, the actions of the College are reprehensible considering that this area purports itself to be so culturally aware.
Instead, they shut her down and gave the message “we don’t want to see that”, or “we don’t care about what you went through, it isn’t valid art”. Regardless of what was said, actions speak louder than words, and that was the message, very clear to all. And again, I think it is because she was a local artist. If this was an artist from Toronto, or Vancouver, or if they had to pay for the exhibit, then this outcome would be very different.
Too bad the College succumbed to squeaky wheels and whiners instead of telling them to stuff it. They could have made themselves the example of strength and leadership by standing up for the principle and needs of art.
I was asked the other day, who is the artist who should read Art & Money?
Well, I answered, that’s a tricky question. There is no one group who “should” read it, whether beginning, mid or late career. I believe that we can all benefit from many streams of information, and that having read something is superior to not having read it.
The book talks about a lot of areas, and would be good for those who are beginning, as it gathers the information that I wish I knew about when I was first starting out.
This book would have a long shelf life because there are a great many things in the book that take years to develop, and by this I mean items on the cv, and renewed perspective on the biography, as time goes by, and you are active in your career and your community.
The book touches on the media, and how I believe they are interested in their community too, in helping it grow, and expand. It touches on the city – or at least my city – on how those in the cultural departments are interested in helping their city grow, and how the artist can be and is a valuable resource. It describes ways that you as an artist, or a believer in culture, can encourage this kind of investment of your city. This book would help the patron understand what goes on behind the easel.
The book also describes how the beginning, mid or late career artist can interact with charities, giving a number of points of view to do with supporting non profits. The charities would benefit from reading this information to see how they could change or adapt their policies to be more artist friendly. The patrons who frequent charities would benefit because they, as patrons, are interested in the success of their charity, and I believe they wish to see everyone successful. This book would help the patron or supporter understand what goes on behind the easel, and how they could help.
Am I an expert? No, I don’t say that I am. I am just an interested party, and believe in the growth for the good of all. I care enough to say something, and I care enough to believe that artists can take control of their career. This book is for those who believe in culture, who believe in their community.
I will be at Gallery Vertigo on Saturday October 19th, from 1-3 pm for an Art & Money book signing. If you would like to reserve your book, to ensure there is a copy for you, please send me a note. My email is juliatrops at gmail dot com.
The address is:
3001 31 St. #1 upstairs
Vernon BC V1T 5H8 Canada
(250) 503 – 2297
I am a long time supporter of Gallery Vertigo, and believe in their mission, which is artists helping artists at a very grassroots level. They have an event coming up called Almost Famous which is one of my favourite events in the Okanagan valley. The Call to Artists has just been announced, and interested artists can get the submission form here: online form.
Almost Famous has original artworks created by local artists up in a silent auction, but these artworks have a unique twist in that the artist “copies” or “reinvents” a masterpiece from the past. Considering that Picasso created 58 works based on Las Meninas from Diego Velázquez and these 58 works are all on display at the Museu Picasso in Barcelona (which I saw this spring), these Almost Famous works should not be under appreciated. You really don’t know where our local artists are going to be in fifty years, and if you are lucky enough to be the successful bidder, you might just happen to have a winner in your hands. I contribute two or three each year. These are fun for me, and I always learn something new about the artist on whom I am focusing. It’s a win/win.
I hope to see you there! All the book signings are set up to show the benefits of cooperation and partnering with your fellow artist, or your favourite business.
Earlier this month, my web service provider GoDaddy rearranged a few things for me, and while everything is running much smoother, I have some work to do to get it all up and running as it should. The transition was kind to Livessence, which is now completed, and thanks to Postie, it gets its updates with the emails that go out to the members.
The Okanagan Erotic Art Show is next on the list. I expect it to be up and on its way in about a week or two. In the meantime, I’d like to share what I am contemplating the theme will be for 2014. Steamy, a play on the idea of the beautiful Wellness Spa Resort at Sparkling Hill, and a steampunk influence, is what I am leaning toward. You all know I have some sort of byline so that the artist does not feel restricted in their creative process. Once that is finalized, I will post it all on the Erotic Show website.
I am looking for jurors for the show, so if you have any ideas, do send them along! The process for the jurying will be the same as last year: blind (no names), image + title + artist statement. Yes = 1 point, No = 0 points, and Maybe = .5 point. Artworks with 2 points are automatically in.
I am also looking for sponsors for any amount. If you would like to be involved in any way, let me know!
If you have any questions, I’ll see what I can do to answer them. I expect the Call to Artists to come out Nov/Dec timeframe. Some small changes have been incorporated, and as you know every year I try to make the show better. We had a fabulous year this year, so the challenge has been set before me.