Monthly Archives: November 2016

How to be Both

There’s art–lots of art–in Ali Smith’s 2014 novel How to be Both.  The novel, itself, is a work of art:  it’s ambiguous, clever, funny, sad, truthful, and challenging.

Here are a few quotes from How to be Both to, possibly, entice you to read it:

     I think of all the sketches and dessins and paintings on panels and linens and crack-covered wall, all the colours and the willows and the hares and the goats and the sheep and the hoofs, all the eggs cracked open:  ash, bones, dust, gone, and hundreds and hundreds, no, thousands.
     Cause that’s all the life of a painter is, the seen and gone disappearing into the air, rain, seasons, years, the ravenous beaks of ravens.  All we are is eyes looking for the unbroken  or the edges where the broken bits might fit each other.


    But imagine if you made something and then you always had to be seen through what you’d made, as if the thing you’d made became you.


   Galleries are not much like life.  They are such clean places, generally.


   (Egg on poplar.  Like something made in a chic restaurant.  What would it taste like?  Think of all the paintings made with all the eggs laid all the hundreds of years ago and the blips of life that were the lives of the warmblooded chickens who laid them.)

Honor Clerk’s review in The Spectator is titled “Warm, funny, subtle, intelligent–and baffling.”  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.


Francesco del Cossa, about 1435/6 - about 1477/8 Saint Vincent Ferrer probably about 1473-5 Egg on poplar, 153.7 x 59.7 cm Bought, 1858 NG597

Francesco del Cossa, about 1435/6 – about 1477/8
Saint Vincent Ferrer
probably about 1473-5
Egg on poplar, 153.7 x 59.7 cm
Bought, 1858




Pause. Reflect. Remember.

It’s been a sad week.  Remembrance Day seems an appropriate end to the last seven days.

During both the first and second world wars, the Canadian government sent artists overseas to record their impressions. (If this seems a bit strange to you, you’re not the only one thinking so.)  According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, Canada was the first country to have an official war art program.

Molly Lamb Bobak was one of the Canadian artists recording Canada’s participation in World War II.  Click here for a summary of her fascinating life.  (It’s really worth reading.  It’s reported that later in her life, she liked to take the bus from Fredericton to Montreal so she could, possibly, meet someone interesting!)

Gas Drill by Molly Bobak

Gas Drill by Molly Bobak

Private Roy by Molly Bobak (Globe and Mail image)

Private Roy by Molly Bobak (Globe and Mail image)

Currently, the Canadian Forces Artist Program accepts applications for (volunteer*) artists to “record Canada’s soldiers in Canada, and around the world.”

*This is a topic for another time….today is a good day to pause, and reflect.


Interesting Artist Alert!

The Guggenheim Museum in New York is featuring an Agnes Martin exhibition.  I was vaguely aware of her name, guessing she was an American  painter, during the 50’s and 60’s…..or so I thought.

Agnes Martin photo credit: The Guardian

Agnes Martin photo credit: The Guardian

Well, the more I read about her, the more fascinated I am.  Here are at least seven interesting facts about Agnes Martin to pique your curiosity…..

~Agnes Martin was a Canadian.  She was born in Macklin, Saskatchewan.  (Further evidence that there is always another Saskatchewan town you’ve never heard of before!)  Her birthday is March 22, 1912, the same year as Jackson Pollock.

~She was a talented swimmer, and in her teen years, was a contender for the Olympic team.  She trained as a teacher, and taught in the Pacific Northwest before she turned her attentions, at age 29,  to studying and making art.

~ When she lived and painted in Manhattan in the 50’s and 60’s, she hung out with artists like Elsworth Kelly and Robert Indianna.

~In 1967, she gave up everything, bought a truck and an Airstream trailer and disappeared, heading west……

~18 months later, she ‘appeared’ in New Mexico.  She hand built her own one room adobe house, as well as a separate studio on a remote mesa. She lived a monastic-like life, and eventually resumed painting.

~Agnes Martin painted until the end of  her long life.  She moved into a retirement home in 1992, and indulged in a white BMW she used to drive to her studio. She worked through 2003, and died in December 2004.

If you want to learn, or read more, there’s a wealth of great writing and film about Agnes Martin.  Even if you only have a minute to spare, click here to see an excellent, short  (yes! 1 minute and 19 seconds) video about Agnes Martin and the current exhibition at the Guggenheim.  (It’s worth it just to see some gorgeous shots of the museum.)  Here is the (brief!) Guggenheim’s biography of Agnes Martin. For a more detailed discussion of her life, and her work, this article from The Guardian is excellent.

Friendship, 1963 by Agnes Martin

Friendship, 1963 by Agnes Martin