In search of lost time – what real and woven trees can teach us


“Without a trace” – woven willow by Ken Clarke, 2016, at the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island.

How long does it take to weave a tree? Canadian artist Ken Clarke would know – a long time. Ken has woven thousands of fine willow branches into the shape of a magnificent tree, which dazzles the eye and mind of the observer.

A piece of art like this only comes to life through a vision, complete dedication and focus. It’s not an endeavour for the impatient.

Everybody seems to be busy these days – even busier than 150 years ago when Alexis de Tocqueville already observed that North Americans are “always in a hurry.”

We have too many choices and tasks. We are leading a scattered life dominated by an urgency to make every moment count. Trying to do everything at once, multi-tasking is what usually makes me feel pressed for time. So how do we manage to focus on the essential? As I have noticed that I feel better when I give undivided attention to one thing, my answer to my question is – focus.

But what to focus on when so many things need doing?  While I am looking at the intricate patterns of this woven willow, I am starting to wonder about my own busy life and how I try to manage my precious time on earth.

Life is not about making a choice. It’s about making the right choice. As I am walking around the woven willow tree in the Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park on Salt Spring Island, I remember the following passage by Hermann Hesse from his essay “Trees: Reflections and poems.”

“So the tree rustles in the evening,
when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts:
Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful,
just as they have longer lives than ours.

They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them.
But when we have learned how to listen to trees,
then the brevity and the quickness
and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts
achieve an incomparable joy.
Whoever has learned how to listen to trees
no longer wants to be a tree.
He wants to be nothing except what he is.
That is home. That is happiness.”




Further information:

Ken Clarke:
Ken Clarke is a sculptor and artist in Vancouver British Columbia specialising in architectural and water features, and figurative and organic fine art sculpture.

Also watch Ken Clarke’s video on Youtube.

Duthie Gallery Sculpture Park

The Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island, Canada, represents art for the landscape such as Michael Dennis’ monumental figures, Brent Comber’s site specific installations, Peter Pierobon’s Illuminati and sculptures and Ron Crawford’s singular stonework.

More represented artists:

Photo credit: Dean Baltesson and Daniela Herold, Copyright 2018


The art of musical story-telling: Canadian songwriter Dean Baltesson is “Covering Ground”

eMail Cover Photo

“Maybe you wonder why nobody seems to try. And they never give anything, but they want everything”. All morning I have been singing this line from Dean Baltesson’s new song “Lonely Ghost”.  The Canadian musician uses his music and lyrics to tell a story, I use my paintings. 

For thousands of years, people have told stories to share their experiences and we do – in many different ways – to this day.  In the old days stories were passed on by word of mouth, often in the form of verse ballads, or songs.  And wherever pilgrims, merchants and wandering people travelled, they took their stories with them.

Songs are our fears, hopes, dreams, losses, celebrations, memories and experiences. And they are each a story. Good musical story-telling is an art, as proven by the Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, who composed the symphonic poem “The Moldau” to musically represent the course of the great river Vitava as it flows through his homeland past a forest hunt, a peasant wedding or the city of Prague. Dean Baltesson’s CD “Covering Ground” is the story of his journey from the Canadian Prairies to the West Coast, and I had the chance to talk to the songwriter in detail about the art of musical story-telling shortly after the release of his new album “Covering Ground’.

Dean Baltesson, your musical journey began on the Canadian Central Plains, a land of gently rolling hills, burning summers and hard winters. ‘Covering Ground’ is the title of your new cd. What ground have you covered before you began writing the lyrics, composing the music, playing all the instruments and singing your songs three years ago?

Dean: My music is a reflection of the country that shaped my life as I made my way slowly west – from the Prairies to the Rockies and eventually to the Pacific Coast. This geography has an influence on us all in some manner, and that is something I find worth writing about.

5 - Empty Road - FraserIs “Covering Ground” the musical story of your life?

Dean: I suppose that my journey “Covering Ground” is in a way an autobiography, but not in the sense that it is a story of my life and what I accomplished, which – if I may add – I don’t consider remarkable.

Growing up, I was a solitary person and retreated into music, specifically the singer-songwriter album oriented music of the seventies. The other things that impressed me were landscape, weather, and the beauty of the land. I loved all kinds of landscapes, even unnatural ones. I remember one frozen winter morning when I arrived at work in downtown Edmonton, seeing the sun rise over the refineries to the east of the city. Ironically, I was even drawn to this kind of industrial beauty.

It seems like music and nature have been the 2 staples in your life that particularly speak to you?

Dean: Absolutely. They have made life appealing for me, and I guess the obvious result of such a combination is a collection of songs about the land. That is really why “Covering Ground” exists.

Pocket Beach

When you think back to those lonely highways and endless distances during long winter nights, what music comes to your mind?

Dean: There were so many different kinds of music I listened to growing up that it’s difficult to identify a particular song or artist that characterizes my original home. In 1979, however, I started listening to the music of Pat Metheny. I love the album “New Chautauqua”, which is sparse, brooding and beautiful. Its songs, and also Pat Metheny´s “Cross The Heartland” still take me back to the prairie.

To this day those songs awaken your feelings and memories. Dean Baltesson, you mentioned that just as powerful as music were the photographs of Canadian photographer Courtney Milne to you. Why is that?

Dean: Courtney Milne published a book in 1985 called “Prairie Light”. I was infatuated with his images because I felt they captured my emotions and sensations about the land I lived on.

As is happens, “Homeless hills” is one of my favourite songs on your album “Covering Ground”. Were you inspired by a certain image or memory?

Dean: One of the photos by Courtney Milne entitled “Almost Home” is in fact the inspiration for the song “Homeless Hills”. It is a picture of a single light shining on a dark blue winter night. The mood conveyed by that photo is something I know very well. I would have loved to meet Courtney, but unfortunately he passed away in 2010. The book was filled with many similar images that were very compelling to me. I tried to acquire the use of some of these photos for my CD, but it was not possible.

Dean, you sing about hills that were peaceful and safe. Have you ever wondered if you once believed in truth because of your innocence?

Dean: I believe that truth exists, even though some people may argue that the truth is relative or arbitrary. I do admit though that defining the truth can be complicated, particularly when it gets entangled with our beliefs and desires.

On “Covering Ground”, I am suggesting that truth seems less complicated during childhood, the setting for “Homeless Hills”. For example, if you are lucky enough to have loving parents, you can trust them and therefore believe what they tell you. As a child, you believe in truth. But after you grow up and move out on your own, it starts to become more complicated.

Where did you find peace when you were young?

Dean: I often experienced a strong feeling of contentment, but it didn’t always have to be peaceful – it could be passionate and emotional, and always came from nature, music and books. I was a dreamer. I wandered in the fields and the forests surrounding my home, where my imagination would really run away with itself. I loved the idea of living outdoors primitively, really being a part of the earth, the rivers and the sky. I liked the urgency of dramatic weather and wind blowing in the trees. Those things soothed my mind and energized me.

Did music consume you in the same way?

Dean: I could become lost in an album looking at pictures and following along with the lyrics. I imagined playing each instrument as I listened to songs. Of course reading books also activated the imagination, so I would say that dreaming and creative imagination were the activities that occupied my youth and gave me peace of mind.

Dean Baltesson, as a boy, which instrument did you choose to play first and how did you learn it?

Dean: I was always drawn to the drums because I liked the precision and the texture of the sounds. My favourite drummers showed me that it wasn’t just about keeping time. Drumming is musical and creative. I was fascinated with their ability to play time, but also to fill a space at just the right moment.

Did you find rock the easiest music to learn to play drums to?

Dean: Yes, because you can get up and running pretty quickly. Learn a few things and you can find yourself playing along with almost anything on the popular radio stations. I taught myself by listening to Elton John and mimicking the drums on those big hits of the seventies. I treated it like learning a musical score and memorized the drums of entire albums. It was an obsession. Before I owned my first set of drums, I would look at pictures of drum sets and play songs on them in my head.

Would you say that musicians choose different instruments to express different emotions? Like a painter may choose between bright and dark colours?

Dean: That is an interesting question. I love trying to play any musical instrument. When you are teenage boy, it can be very difficult and risky to express emotions, but if you play a musical instrument, it’s like an accepted, even a cool way, to be emotional. Playing the drums could do that for you, but it is probably the guitar that best illustrates what I am talking about. It offers great freedom. You can cry out with a guitar. No wonder so many kids play them.

3 - Lonely Ghost - TorontoYour song ‘Lonely Ghost’ is about people trying to cry out in their own misunderstood way, unable to identify the true source of their pain. How, do you think, is this kind of suffering a result of our modern world?

Dean: I think that the modern world amplifies suffering, which is a problem as old as time itself, or perhaps we should think of it as a mystery rather than a problem. The mystery is that we just don’t know where we are, why we are here, and where we are going. As progress occurs, life becomes apparently too easy, and I say apparently because there really is no easy way to be alive …

… although we never seem to stop looking for one!

Dean (chuckling): One of the things that I’ve noticed about my own life is that it has usually been possible to coast. There have been – and still are – issues and challenges I could better serve myself by dealing with immediately, but it’s so easy to push them aside and distract myself with an easy form of gratification.

When problems are too much to deal with, I sometimes wonder, “Can I just stop pedalling and coast without any real detriment to my lifestyle?” I’m not going to fall off the bike. It is just luck that I can do this – luck and the fact that many, many people have taken the trouble and sacrifice to create a society that makes this possible.

The modern world strives to make our lives one long downhill coast, but one wonders whether this doesn’t lead to stagnancy and disaffection in many ways.

9 - Sorrow And Sky - Ross Bay

One of your songs is about a wide, deep river that is calm on the surface, holding a strong current in its heart. You say of yourself that you have become used to searching constantly. Is this your quest, like the river’s current could not be halted?

Dean: The river in “Treading Water” is a reference to a little story at the beginning of Richard Bach’s book “Illusions”. In the story, there are creatures that live by clinging to rocks and twigs, and the big challenge for them is to let go and let the river take them. The song tries to convey the difficulty of letting oneself go in the current, and also the idea that it will lead to the sea, which is where my album is headed as it travels from the Prairie across a widely varied geography to the ocean.

The ocean is also symbolic of life in the song as we are treading water in a directionless place and have to keep moving until we are drawn back into it.

I heard you recall calm moments in the mornings, carefully making a fire,
waiting quietly for sun to break above the high peaks, touching the flames. You were just a teenager when you learned to appreciate mountain weather. Did the patience you discovered then become a valuable skill while letting go of all expectations as you got older?

Dean: Unfortunately, most of the time I discover patience in hindsight, which as you know has 20/20 vision. But when I look back, I remember quite well the moments when I just stopped struggling and trying to force things.

I remember my first time in Vancouver. I was hell bent on walking everywhere and seeing everything, but as it was raining continuously, I finally had to stop. So I sat down outside at a little cafe out of the rain and relaxed. I find that these “what’s the rush”-moments feel incredibly satisfying. It is only when you are in that state that you can observe things and are open to experience.

A particularly enjoyable moment for me is the one you mention – a cold morning in a campsite when you get the fire going to keep you warm until the sun gets over those high peaks. And then it’s a great feeling. You’re suddenly ok again and the sun is going to keep you alive. I’m happy to say that as I get older, I am able to be patient more often. Patience is always available to us.

Dean, it seems like you are very driven to find answers. Will you keep covering ground with new music?

Dean: It took me three years to write and record “Covering Ground”, and I’ve really been looking forward to stopping the obsessive momentum now that it’s finished. I thought I would just sit back and enjoy the destination and do nothing, but this attitude, I think, is really no different than resisting change and trying to stay in the same happy place all the time.

I have plenty of notes and ideas for new music. “Covering Ground” has been a great journey me for literally and artistically. It has helped me shed some of my seriousness, at least for the time being. I’d like to write some happy songs for a change. Life and love have to move onward in whatever way possible.

Dean Baltesson, thank you for this interview and all the very best for “Covering Ground” and your future musical journey.

More information:

Dean Baltesson:

Courtney Milne:

Photo credits: Mark Petrick, Derek Ford, Daniela Herold and Dean Baltesson





Artists as willing participants in a force of nature



My artistic highlight last weekend was the discovery of ‘Forestrial Brain’, a collaborative installation-painting by Canadian artists Matt Shane of Pender Island and Jim Holyoak of Montreal at the Open Space Gallery in Victoria B.C. The artists wrapped a room 40 metres long and almost four metres high with rolls of Italian drawing paper, laying in the graphic elements with ink lines followed by tonal washes to create a stunning tapestry of images and memories of their hike along the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.

In a world of many choices, offerings and oeuvres one does not often stand in awe in front of a piece of art. When compelling art finds you, it not only captures your attention, it touches your soul. And I can truly say that ‘Forestrial Brain’ has done that to me.

This time, I will let my pictures talk, while encouraging you to read the whole story HERE (Times Colonist, Aug 13, 2017)




Seen and liked: Blue Whale exhibition and Henry Moore Sculpture Centre



Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), Toronto

The Art Gallery of Ontario is known for its extraordinary collection of Henry Moore works. The Henry Moore Sculpture Centre opened in 1974 to house Moore’s original gift to the AGO, now totalling more than 900 sculptures and works on paper.

The collection of the AGO includes more than 80,000 works spanning the first century to the present day. The gallery has 45,000 square metres of physical space, making it one of the largest galleries in North America.

Click here to read more about the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre.


Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), Toronto

In 2014, nine rare blue whales became trapped in ice off the coast of Newfoundland and died. Their loss represents about three percent of the Northwest Atlantic’s blue whale population. Blue whales usually sink when they die, but in an unusual occurrence two of the blue whales washed ashore in Trout River and Rocky Harbour, Newfoundland and Labrador, offering an unprecedented opportunity for research.

Working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Research Casting International and the local communities, scientists of the Royal Ontario Museum de-fleshed and recovered the bones of this endangered species, transporting them to Ontario. After a two-year process where the bones were buried in manure, and de-greased, one of these awe-inspiring animals is now displayed at the ROM.

Click here to read more about the exquisite Blue Whale exhibition.

Intuition, Experience and Blind Faith: Morley Myers and Clem Crosby collaborate for the first time to make sculpture

Being an artist can sometimes be an isolating experience. Even though some say that collaboration means giving up your individuality, I believe in the power of collaboration. Having a team of people united in one effort can bring about amazing results. “A partner’s different perspective is valuable’, Astronaut Ron Garan once said, ‘but the very fact that it is different means that it will require work, humility, time, and resources to incorporate that perspective. At times, this will require checking one’s pride at the door.”


When I ran into sculptor Morley Myers a few weeks ago, he introduced me to his friend Clem Crosby. The London-based painter, whose art has been exhibited at the Tate Modern and the UC Berkeley Art Museum – to name but a few – is working at the radical center of a growing circle of painters who accept the accumulated legacy of art history and contemporary culture in their work, but ‘without any traces of the irony that characterized a generation of appropriation’. (1)

‘Are you working on a project together?’ I asked.

‘Yes, we’re working with raw emotions’, Morley said.

‘Rather than calling it ‘raw emotions’ I prefer to call it intuition’, Clem added.

Morley and Clem – who grew up on the same small base in Suffield, Alberta, where their fathers were posted with the Canadian Forces and British Forces in the Seventies – decided to spend 10 days focusing on a collaborative project at Myer’s home on Salt Spring Island after having talked about it for years.

‘Clem’s approach to creating art is very different to mine’, Morley Myers says, ‘which is why I was very interested in seeing this process at work.’ Clem, in turn, was very receptive to the idea of creating sculptures as he had done little 3D work up until this point.

Morley, can you tell us more about your artistic collaboration with Clem? 

Morley: Clem’s approach is much looser than mine. He is constantly looking to turn convention on its head. For instance I would be setting up a starting point – usually involving a recognizable figure – and then Clem would start to deconstruct the piece.

We used a lot of foam for the armatures and built upon that with plaster, cloth and sticks. It had a sense of fort building, the stuff I did when I was a boy. We basically used what we had on hand, and then let ‘it’ happen.


Clem, you have never made sculpture before. Can you tell us more about your artistic collaboration with Morley? 

Clem: I have been painting for over 25 years so I guess it’s important to recognize the experience an artist accumulates from making something from nearly nothing. But let me start by saying that being on an island – Salt Spring Island – is both a blessing and a possible hindrance. The place is ridiculously beautiful so in my mind there is little point in trying to record nature through paint or otherwise – it already exists. Secondly, I was away from any distraction and overt criticism so I felt a certain liberty to fail, make mistakes and have fun making a mess with a good old pal and super artist Morley Myers.

We decided pretty much immediately that we would try and keep it loose, not get too technical – lucky for me! We literally grabbed some paper towels a couple of bags of quick drying plaster (important because less time to pontificate) from Morley’s studio and twigs and sticks from the yard.

The first pieces were modest in size, neither abstract nor representational although they did have an anthropomorphic quality. Morley would slap the plaster on an armature fashioned out of styrofoam and twigs then I would step in and do the same.


Only when we decided to push the scale did Morley’s preference for the figure become apparent. He would start by carving in to the foam and i would do my best to undermine the emerging form by skewering the foam with sticks and having Morley’s outline disrupted only for him to then start again.

Sounds like the actual figure is not necessary for Clem?

Morley: That’s right. He is just interested in raw emotion and has a way of expressing that in the true abstract.

Clem: I prefer to call it both intuition and experience. I think ‘raw emotion’ makes the way I work sound like it’s coming from nowhere, I prefer to call it a mix of intuition and experience. Also, I wouldn’t say that my painting is truly abstract in the concrete sense of the term, for example, it’s not just about the materials I use.

I read that Clem Crosby works in relentless cycles of revision, corrective erasure, and overlay, ‘mixing topical concerns with reference to the past as seamlessly as he mixes colour and drawing’. The resulting paintings have been described as ‘at once emotional and yet rigorously intellectual, improvised and yet painstakingly considered’. What theme did you choose for your sculpting project and why? 

Morley: If there was a theme, then it was to disregard how we had been working up until this point. The project was mostly an exercise for both of us – an exercise for me to loosen up, and an introduction for Clem to sculpt with real hands on.

Clem: I think it helps if you know your collaborator because you have to be able to let go of preconceptions. In London, I never have anyone near my studio when I am painting so I knew this would be difficult enough.

The maddening thing about Morley is that he is so talented, he fixes old bikes and cars, he’s always known about nature and incredibly informed about almost anything, he’s the most self deprecating fellow I know and he makes amazing work. There is no doubt that if he were living in London he would be showing! And he’s as funny as hell so I knew it would be a great, creative atmosphere. At the very least if it didn’t work we could throw it all away and have some beers.

We added plaster, wrapped the paper around the styrofoam, pushed in the sticks, cut the foam, pulled out the sticks, added more plaster….and on it went, trying not to make ‘art’ but to go out there and make that ‘something else’ happen. Sometimes we talked a lot whilst working, sometimes we said very little. Then these wonderful, raw, immediate, unfussy, figurative/abstract sculptures emerged.

I think that the last piece we made is amazing, so too the are the first couple and i’m thrilled that we pulled something out of the experience. I learned a great deal about having an object sit in space, to make a convincing ‘thing’ that has volume and that one can believe in.

Then the beers did come out…….

The history of art, music and literature is filled with many unusual partnerships, or at times stormy, passionate affairs between creative spirits – like Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat in the Eighties. What did Clem and you accomplish together that you would not have been able to do alone?

Morley: The finished work – some of which is very good – would otherwise never have happened. I have the luxury of living with the fruits of our labour and have been enjoying their presence in my studio. There is a freedom in the way Clem works that I had the chance to experience and internalize.

IMG_2084What was the most inspiring moment during your collaboration?

Morley: I think some of our walks together. As Clem comes from London, I wanted him to experience my environment on Salt Spring Island. I wanted him to see what living in the pines is all about, and we talked about the importance of being healthy and connected to the earth through exercise and food. I have been dealing with cancer for a while and don’t know what my time line is, which brings an urgency to who we are and what we do as artists.

Morley Myers and Clem Crosby, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and insights with my readers.


About Morley Myers

Morley Myers was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 1956, and grew up primarily in the Medicine Hat region. A self taught sculptor, Morley has been working with stone since 1991 and has been involved in exhibits on the west coast and has displayed in galleries in New York, Vancouver, Victoria, Tofino, Salt Spring Island, Calgary, Winnipeg and Medicine Hat.

About Clem Crosby

Clem Crosby is a British painter living and working in London, UK and is represented by the Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London

Crosby’s work is represented in the following Tate Archive, London, UC Berkeley Museum, USA, and the Microsoft Collection, USA amongst others.

He recently exhibited his paintings at the Armory, NY (2016) with Houldsworth and is being featured in an interview with the artist Ian Davenport in Turps Magazine (July, 2016)

Other collaborative projects in the art world

The history of art, music and literature is filled with many unusual and passionate partnerships, and at times stormy, love affairs between creative spirits.

– Painter Dalí and filmmaker Luis Buñuel were still relatively unknown in their fields when they created the classic surrealist short film “Un Chien Andalou” back in 1928.

– When in 1949, LIFE staff photographer Mili went to visit the Picasso at his studio in France, the painter became so fascinated with Mili’s light painting technique that he suggested to have pictures of him taken as he painted in the air.

– After meeting Warhol in 1980, Jean-Michel Basquiat entered into a collaborative relationship with the artist that lasted until 1985 and created many products of the admired and refuted 1980s Pop art.

– Abstract expressionist Robert Rauschenberg contributed this “money thrower” to an installation for an exhibition of Tinguely’s work in the garden of the Museum of Modern Art.

Creative couple collaborations:

The following couples dared to mix business with pleasure, establishing compatible relationships on both a personal and professional level. Their professional collaboration often produced extraordinary results: the intellectual souls Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre; the Mexican painters Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera; Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock – two of the best known American artists of the 20th century – and the poets and writer Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes.


Recent work by M. Myers



Oscillatio – a show about the reverberation of the heart


Canadian artists Sarah Cowan and Connie Michele Morey have spent this last year in a mutual and collaborative journey that has included a joint drumming practice as well as “personal, philosophical and studio exchanges – that have resulted in the unfolding of a resonant body of work.” An inspiring exhibition for the month of January that put a smile on my face every time I walked through our gallery XChanges in Victoria, B.C. No matter how often I was passing by those hundreds of small felt balls of every colour and size pinned against the while gallery wall, I enjoyed seeing their grey shadows move from right to left, feeling light and inspired. ‘Quirky’, ‘magical’ and ‘fun’ come to mind, when looking at Sarah’s and Connie’s pieces of art – elaborate and intricate paper installations, delicate drawings or a little toy sheep, whose head and legs are sticking out of a ball of felt. 

Connie and Sarah – What kind of work has your current show ‘Oscillatio’ been focussing on?

Connie and Sarah: Our show consists of installation and sculptural work that makes use of materials and techniques related to contemporary craft (paper, felt, thread, fabric, wood). The work centers on the theme Oscillatio.

felt ball

Where does the ‘Oscillatio’ come from?

Connie and Sarah: It originates from the notion of Oscillation – a back and forth movement. It is the reverberation that the heart makes while beating, the back and forth movement of the tides, the vibration of a viola string or the sway of the movement of walking and dancing.

When things oscillate they move around a center. Does that have any relevance in your work?

Connie and Sarah: Indeed. Our work has developed out of an oscillation between ourselves, and our practices as artists. Ove the last 14 months, Sarah and I have engaged in a back and forth movement of sharing our practice and live experience.

Image C

As a viewer, what qualities do you think make for an interesting piece of art? What piques your interest personally?

Sarah: This is a hard question to answer. I don’t have a specific genre that I like exclusively. I am most intrigued with any work that makes me want to look at it more. Work that pulls me in and makes me ask questions, not so much about the process but more about what the artist is asking themselves and what it asks of me. I like work that makes me feel slightly uncomfortable, when I feel compelled to turn away but at the same time intensely drawn to it. And then, there is just beauty.

Connie: I feel inspired when I look at a work of art that is both visceral and critically engaged, a work that invites you to look at the world from new perspectives. I appreciate work that engages an aesthetic experience in the viewer.

What do you mean by aesthetic experience – the opposite of an anaesthetic, which functions to numb your senses?

Connie (laughing): Yes, something that wakes up your senses and makes you feel alive.   To produce a work of art that can wake up the body, soul and mind simultaneously takes great insight and trust in the creative process. Works that induce inspiration for making, thinking and moving are gifts to the world.

paper art

Do you sometimes look at particularly inspiring work of art and have a strong visceral response?

Connie: Absolutely – I literally want to jump, dance, speak, write or make in response to it. Annette Messager, Louise Bourgeois and Ann Hamilton are artists whose work has this kind of effect on me. Hiraki Sawa’s recent exhibition at AGGV also elicited a visceral and joyful response in me. I found it inspiring, full stop. Work that challenges me to think on a deep intuitive level and also elicits a visceral response is a catalyst for creative engagement with the world; art that offers that kind of experience is a gift.


Image B

Being an artist can sometimes be really frustrating. What are the obstacles you’ve run into and how do you go about navigating around them?

Sarah: The biggest obstacle I contend with is myself. I doubt myself all the time. You see, I don’t really think I am a very good artist so I need to keep working at it. I now know that it is what I need to do. Whether I am good or not doesn’t really come into it (but it’s lovely when things do work out!). A day or two away from the studio is very disconcerting for me now.

Connie: Being an artist is a gift, an absolute pleasure. I know that there are limitations that make it challenging for people in general to make art; e.g. financial constraints that put limitations on the artist’s time, or instances when people struggle with developing ideas or trusting themselves as artists. However, I honestly don’t think of these things as limitations – they are important parts of the process of engaging with the world through making and they inform art practice in essential ways.

Sarah: I agree – they provide openings for us to know ourselves better as artists.

Connie: Sure, I would love more time to make art, but it is ok that I have to struggle for that time. As for the process of developing ideas and engaging with the process of making… truthfully, I have great trust in the process of making. It is a space where I can let things unfold on a deep intuitive level with joy and relatively little effort. The process of making art, like writing, is a process where I feel completely at home with myself.

felt balls

When you go into ‘work mode’, do you have a particular agenda or something in mind that you are hoping for?

Connie: I think in a way I am always in ‘work mode’… even when I am teaching or driving a car, reading to my daughter, dancing or preparing breakfast I am in the process of making. I see the boundaries between different areas of my life as very fluid and open. Art is a way of engaging with the world for me. Art works are markers of that continuous process.

Sarah: When I go into ‘work mode’ it’s usually materially based. I have an idea about creating or exploring with a material to see what I can come up with. Or, I see another artist’s work and it inspires me to try or play. I am never without my sketchbook and use it constantly to explore or just play. My legacy to my son will be my sketchbooks!!!

Image E

Both of you have an interest in working with felt, paper and mixed media. Where did you get the idea for a collaborative exhibition?

Sarah: Connie called me one day in 2013 and asked if I would be interested in putting in a proposal to Xchanges. We have a similar sympathy and sensibility in our art practice as well as our personal philosophy toward life. I admire so much Connie’s approach to her work; her dedication and commitment as well as her all out passion and creativity!

Connie: We’ve often met in each other’s studios and talked about the points of intersection between our work and the ways that each of our practices has impacted each other. Although articulated through different means, our work shares certain commonalities in its intricacy, repetition, and focus on care-full processes that are in some ways obsessive. I’ve been inspired by Sarah’s work since an exhibition she had in 2012 at Xchanges. We were delighted when the jury accepted our application and we started drumming together and meeting on a monthly basis to share ideas, work and life experience.

Connie, what have been your two favourite shows that you have done and why?

Connie: I don’t know if I can speak of whole shows that are my favourite… this is a difficult question for me. Making art is significantly about the process for me. Sharing the work through an exhibition is important too, but more because it is an opportunity to exchange – and in this sense is really a process in itself. The finished work is less important than the processes of making it, sharing it and shifting perspectives through that sharing.

It sounds like collaborating is integral to your process?

Connie: Absolutely, and more so as time goes on. I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Sarah and with other artists, writers, scientists, and philosophers to expand my thinking through making. I don’t think of exhibitions as finished works, so this question is hard for me to answer.

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Sarah, what have been your two favourite shows that you have done and why?

My favourite show was my graduation exhibition at the Vancouver Island School of Art in 2011. I converted one of the closets into a drawing using pen & ink, charcoal, wire, paint, thread, paper, photo-transfers, pins and other mixed media. The other show was at Xchanges where I took the idea of the closet, the contained space, the safe space, and built a free-standing closet drawing on the walls and ceiling. Both of these exhibitions were based on my long history of living with an eating disorder and trying to find my own space in the world.

Any upcoming events?

Connie: I think Oscillatio is the beginning of future collaborations.

Sarah: Indeed. We will be showing together in another group exhibition in May, and have plans to collaborate for another show in November 2015.

Connie and Sarah, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts with my readers.


Sarah Cowan plays with the concept of connection/disconnection between her internal self and her relationship with the external world. The materials she uses are pen and ink drawings, text and thread, oil paint, paper cut work and now needle felted sculpture. She graduated from the Vancouver Island School of Art in 2011 with a Diploma in Fine Arts and continues her art practice in association with Gallery 1580 as resident curator.

Connie M. Morey is an artist, writer, teacher and practice-based researcher whose work is ecologically situated.  Her current studio practice includes the permeable genres of installation, sculpture, contemporary craft, performance, ceramics, drawing, painting, artist’s books and critical-creative writing. She received her BFA (Visual Arts) from the University of Lethbridge in 1995, an M.Ed. (Art Education) in 2007 and is currently a PhD Candidate at the University of Victoria.