Annnndddd…we’re off!!!

The gallery renovation and grand opening during the Hamilton Supercrawl darn near did me in, but I’m finally rested and throughly enjoying my new role as volunteer facilitator and resident artist. The artists participating in the gallery this month are a joy to work with and the patrons who have purchased art so far this month (only 14 days in yet?!) have been delightful to meet.

The work of artist Keith Green of Urban Chaos www.urbanchaos.ca has been a hit and interest is growing daily. Happily, Keith will be returning in October with new work for us all to enjoy.

Linda Towart at www.lindatowart.ca has awed the audience with her sculptural masterpieces. We are lucky to have seven of her very best works available until October 2nd. You’ll be lucky if you ever see these prices on her finest sculptures again so I do suggest you make your way down to the gallery at 243 James St. North. Linda has rented wall space for her display so no commission goes to the gallery. The above “get it while you can” statement was for YOUR benefit, not mine! 

The various artists of L’Arche community centre for adults with intellectual/developmental disabilities have enchanted patrons with their wonderful visual arts collection. So much of it has been sold I keep having to move the remaining pieces around so the display doesn’t look so barren! L’Arche will also be returning next month with new work for sale and enjoyment.  Their homepage is www.larchehamilton.org

And I…(artist nom de plume Kirsten Hill)…have enjoyed seeing at least 10 pieces of my artwork sold so far to benefit the gallery and its intiatives. I am happy to be able to help get the gallery off its feet, but more than that, I was happy to hear so many people tell me how delighted they were to finally be able to afford to take home some “real” beautiful art that was always out of their price range. I never want to undercut my fellow artists who work so hard for a living, but for the grand opening month I wanted to do something special; I donated my art to the gallery and set very affordable prices to give everyone a chance to bring art into their lives. Art should not be a privilege nor for the privileged. Everyone deserves to have thoughtful, thought-provoking, reflective beauty in their homes.

Being disabled myself meant spending at least half of my adult life in deep poverty. That’s how I started in the arts. If I wanted anything beautiful in my home I had darn well better learn to make it with my own two hands. No one was more suprised than me to find out I had the ability to do so; the skill came with time and practice.

Monkey Hill will always provide creative arts for every wage group. There will always be something worthwhile for $2, $20, $200 and more. The gallery’s mandate is about inclusion, not just regarding invisible and intellectual disabilities, but simply the beauty of compassionate inclusion.

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Blessings to All…and I hope to see you this weekend. We’re open Friday nights from 6pm to 10:30pm, Saturday and Sunday from 11am to 6pm. Coffee, Tea and sweets, books for sale, and comfy seating!

Steph

Success!

The grand opening weekend of the Monkey Hill Creative Arts gallery at 243 James Street North in Hamilton, Ontario was a grand success and for that I am deeply grateful. My artists are happy, the patrons were entertained, and I am TIRED!

We will be open every Friday evening from 6pm until 10:30, and every Saturday and Sunday from 11am until 6pm. We will have couches and chairs for comfortable seating, books for sale and a resource section of writing and art books not for sale that patrons can use to take notes. Free writing materials will be provided for that purpose. We will be selling coffee, tea, hot chocolate and soda as well as a small selection of dessert and pastry treats to enjoy while perusing the books. Monkey Hill hopes to create a welcoming and relaxing place to rest and nourish onself. Art is life and life is art.

And…well…honestly…I don’t want to sit in the gallery all weekend by myself just waiting for people to walk in and look at the art. Truth, darlings. I am a social creature by nature. The coffee and desserts are not for the purpose of making money. They are really about my personal enjoyment of having people around. We will most *certainly NOT* be charging frou-frou coffee shop prices for our bevvies and yummies!

I’ve been online today hunting down the best place to buy delicious syrups patrons can add to the coffees and hot chocolate if they like. The prices may not be exhorbitant, but that doesn’t mean we won’t offer a few nice frills like syrups, whipped cream, and sauce toppings. Life is short. Enjoy it we must.

Now…time to get to work on some of those personal touches for the gallery I didn’t have time to get to in the rush to get the door open in time for the Supercrawl. Ta!

Blessings to All…

Silence is golden, BUT…

I know silence is golden, but I have taken it to the limit on this blog. I have been busy in my creative pursuits since May and every time I think of settling down to post about something I’m working on I end up just drifting back upstairs to work on it instead. Such is the obsessive-compulsive state of artisthood.

But at last! I have news to share. I am in eleventh hour negotiations to bring Monkey Hill Creative Arts to a flesh and blood – or brick and mortar, as it be – reality!!! If all goes well Monkey Hill will make its debut appearance in the lower level of an existing gallery on James Street North in Hamilton, Ontario. The Blue Angel Gallery at 243 James North has been a second home to me for years and it will be my pleasure to work in partnership with the gallery’s Grand Dame, Cynthia Hill, an eccentric and delightfully talented artist who has been a pillar supporter and Creative on the art scene for more decades than she will allow me to state publicly.

The lower level of the gallery has been closed off to the public since it opened so no one knows that it is essentially the same size as the gallery above, though without the lovely high ceilings, of course. They’re not a bad height though and I think I can work with it. It will be a mad, mad, MAD dash to ready the space in time for the Supercrawl on James North which takes place on September 14th and 15th this year. *Thousands* of people will swallow the art disrtict whole!!! It will be a whirlwind of activity and music. Bless us all…oh my… 

Because I am slated already to have an exhibition in the gallery on the main level I may be renting out the entire Monkey Hill studio space to others for the sake of my sanity for the month of September. Thereafter I will delight in renting out half of the space to one or two other artists for about $125 each, no commission, each month. Keep in mind now, the space is HUGE! And it is on the Art Crawl and will receive at upwards of a thousand or two patrons per month. A steal of a deal. I cannot bear to merely hang art on walls. ACK! Darlings…I put on A *SHOW*

In my old gallery I took *immense* pleasure in redesinging the space each and every month. People came back just to see what I’d done with the space THIS TIME, and THEN they got a kick out of the art displayed. Without the ubiquitious uber-high ceilings of regular gallery spaces I will have my creative display fun cut out for me. But I am sooo up to the task! I’m already pawing through my collection (albeit small for now) of luxurious fabrics and props. I will definitely – as is my style – be setting up a small cozy space for patrons to stay, lounge, and talk. Monkey Hill Creative Arts is not one of those space you herd through with a glance at the walls. You stay. You talk with the artists. Have a coffee or a glass of wine and some treats and enjoy the atmosphere and the friends you brought with you. One of my favourite activities I enjoyed in the old gallery was the inclusion of at least one public interactive display. I can’t wait for the fun to begin!!! anyone interested in renting space with me to get in on the fun –  or to get more info about it –  please email me *soon* at monkeyhillarts@yahoo.ca

It was 5 years ago this last Saturday August 11th that my daughter passed away and I closed my brick and mortar gallery to go into mourning. A mourning that went deeper and longer than I could have imagined. I am taking it as a strong sign that this business proposal to re-open my creative space and come back to my Life as hostess and art promoter came on this anniversary. For these five years since my life as I knew it literally came to a crashing halt I have been existing. Yes, creating art….after a very long hiatus, that is, and showing and selling well, too. But still spending most of my days and nights at home, away from the energy of crowds and parties and daily fanciful hoopla that ebbed and flowed around me when I was centre court running my gallery and raising my family, both gone in a blinding flash.

I have taken a couple of solo trips during this “Who the hell am I now?” and “Will anything ever matter again?” mission to reconnect with the world as is to me now and with myself as a person and no longer a list of Roles. One trip covered a couple of countries and lasted a month. It was the Game Changer. It brought me back home, on many levels. The other was a shorter one that set a few more things straight in my head, some that I didn’t expect, and some that I didn’t like! But there is truth. It’s like that. It doesn’t care if you like it or not. It just *is*.

My last exhibit ran from May through June, held over for a second month because it was a success and very well-received. It was the visual manifestation of the experiences of living with Bipolar type II, which is largely characterized by depression. All of the pieces sold went to who were Bipolar except for one person. I was and remain humbled by the welcome and warmth and understanding that the art and expression was received by all who attended, whether they were similarly afflicted or – as it turned out to be common – knew and loved someone, family or friend, who was afflicted and living their best lives possible with either Bipolar I or Bipolar II, or Depression. I was deeply pleased these kind people were able to identify the natures of their friends’ and family members in the images I created.

The motivation for this next exhibit come from an old friend who passed away in a suicide. His name is Donny, and I’ll love him forever. Donny suffered deeply from depression, but he was adept at remaining postiive most of the time. A time came, however, when it was too much for him. The Big Lie that Depression tells us is that what we’re feeling right at that moment-day-week-month is what we will feel forever-and-ever-amen. Suicide happens when we believe The Lie. But the show is not about suicide. It’s about a great, great gift Donny gave me one night (one of many gifts). I

After a get together with a group of friends I was leaving late one night, getting a drive hom with someone else, when from out of the pitch darkness across the street I hear Donny’s voice call out to me, “HEY! What would you be doing right now if you weren’t afraid?!” I stopped in the street and just stood there, shocked. He caught me flat out without an answer.

Donny and I talked often, sometimes all through the night, and he knew I was stupefied by my many fears. I was suffering desperately from agoraphobia still then and couldn’t go two feet out my door without a companion, and then only to a small place with people I knew. I had so long, so so so so long been afraid that my life had been cut off to just about every choice, every avenue of change. My world was as small as I could get it and keep it. And I had given up trying to fight against the limitations. I had resigned myself to my weaknesses. I no longer dreamed of places to go or things to do. I had no fantasy trips or fantasy houses in my mind. Not even any fantasy relationships to sigh over. I Just. Didn’t. Go. There. Anymore. I had given up. But until he asked me: What would you be doing right now if you weren’t afraid? I honestly hadn’t realized that I had totally given up on any future freedom for myself, any future pleasure and joy and experimentation…any ‘newness’…anything different at all.

And that is the show. What would you be doing right now if you weren’t afraid. The art I’m working on is not like the art I’ve shown in the past long while. It has bright – wild, even – metallic colours paired with background colours you may not expect. Or like. Ah well. It is a Dare, a Fearlessness I’m flowing with. Every day I sit down to work I say, “Okay Donny…let’s go…what do I really want to be doing right now? Help me out?” and I summon up the guts to paint what I want to see today and try to shrug off the cringes when I think of how the public will react. It’s about Freedom and Fun right now. After the last show, I simply feel that I need…out. To dig out those instincts in me that aren’t just about survival, be it survival of emotional tragedies, of the stresses that accompany bipolar illness, or of the ceaseless daily cycle of pay-all-the-bills-and-eat-and-clean-stuff-and-STILL-get-enough-sleep.

I am looking forward to September. Judging by the weather it’s already here. What a change, my lord. It’s a nice break for the utility bill, in any case. I was afraid if I didn’t turn the air conditioner off soon it would explode from constant use! I would enjoy some sunlight to paint by, but I will enjoy the cooler weather break for what it is. The rain is a delicious soothing sound. Just the right background ‘music’ to create art to answer the questions of a fearful heart and mind deserving of some fun, freedom, and flights of fancy.

And if any of this art matches your couch, honey, I’d like to see where you live.

Blessings…

Kirsten

moving on

It has been a beautiful few days here on Monkey Hill. I spent yesterday and most of today pulling the weeds from between the patio stones in the backyard and around the pool. One of the main reasons we bought this house was the privacy of the enclosed backyard and the pool. Our daughter was disabled and had issues with fine and gross motor skills, but she could swim in her own fashion and it was one of her few true freedoms and joys in life. She practically lived in the pool, and for it.

After she died a few short years ago we stopped going out back ourselves and really just lost heart in the house and property, letting the whole place just go to seed. Money problems came along and the house started falling apart. The pool fell into disrepair and has been an empty hole in the ground for a while now. I can’t really say that things are better so much as they are simply different. Life does indeed go on. People have loved us unfailingly until we have both begun to care again ourselves.

And so yesterday I was sitting in the sun looking at the weeds and thinking, “You don’t belong there.” The house is no stately mansion, but it would be a grand blessing in the lives of so, so many people, and I felt a shame creep over me for treating it with disregard. It is a blessing. It deserves some respect and appreciation. I have spent enough time grieving what I have lost. It is time to be grateful for what remains.

One of the hardest prayers I was ever taught is thus:

O Great Creator,

Thank you for what you have given me,

Thank you for what you have taken from me,

And thank you for what remains.

Amen

I have suffered, as has every human being, but what remains is understanding and compassion. These are no small things. They are represented in my latest work showing at the Blue Angel Gallery in Hamilton, 243 James St. North. The show is a success because of the people who were touched by the artwork, who understood it and appreciated its meaning and the fact that I had represented the experiences of people like myself with Bipolar Type II. To be able to communicate and relate is a grand, grand blessing. It has helped me to feel, not just intellectualize, that there is more living for me to do, important living. After my girl passed on, I was sure that the only truly important thing I would ever do has passed away with her. I am beginning to see otherwise.

Blessings to All,

Kirsten

what a beautiful night

I sit here at my computer on the second floor of my home, not the home where I raised my children, yet I remember…

Too early in the year for such nights but I’m drawn to the memory of my oldest daughter. She used to overheat so easily. It was her physical disability and her medications that made it difficult for her to regulate her body heat. I am reminded of that by a post from a friend on facebook who stated that her apartment temperature was 28degrees and holding. Wow!  My girl would get so very hot and the body heat would stay high and she would have seizures as a result.

In the summer I would wait until her younger sister was asleep and see if her body temp would cool down after lying still for a while…if not I would secret her out to the pool…sans bathing suit because she would fuss about that something awful ( she was autistc and routines were everthing…not bathing suits at night…not normal, you see) and we would skinny dip in the cool evening pool and chase lightening bugs that hovered over the pool. Oh god…what a beautiful memory.  She knew to be quiet not to wake her younger sister who would demand explanations of the non-routine activity. Who wound say, “HEY! It’s BEDTIME!” Who wouldn’t understand. And so we would float and relax and quietly whisper to one another and chase lightening bugs in the pool lights and the moonlight until she was cool enough to go back to bed and back to sleep safely.

Nothing can replace those times for me now that she’s gone. To the other side. Peacefully. Death finally took her. But peace has not taken me. I take some measure of peace in days like today in days like today that echo days past. When I walk up a steep hill and feel the sweat on my brow. When I look out at the pool waiting to be filled with the first water of the year. Staring out at the empty gardens from her empty room. Her joy in this newly warm seasonal sun is not lost on me. She has taught me to enjoy. I hear her laughter still.I hope I always will.

 

ever the professional beginner

After many weeks of health issues and hospital visits I’m still awaiting physical relief but figure if I stay away from my work any longer I’ll officially be virginified artistically all over again. I’ve been taking some pain medication to at least let me get started making a bunch of ugly crap that got thrown out or set aside to get painted over. My fellow artists know that’s just how it rolls after a hiatus.

A goal helps. A shout out to my colleague, illustrator Allen Swerling, who has a blog entitled Out of Allen’s Mind. He hit me up to join him in a group steampunk themed art exhibit at The Pearl Company in Hamilton, Ontario on June 16th. The Pearl’s website is www.thepearlcompany.ca Give them a look. They’re a multifunction space – art, theatre, music – that is the jewel of the city. 

The steampunk genre is more than just goggles and clock parts, though a peek through Google images would seem to have you think otherwise. Think “Mad Max”. Remember that movie? Leather, feathers, chains, masks, allll kinds of attitude, but sleek and sexual instead of thuggish and manly with a strong old Victorian style vamped up run through it all.

Having a show in mind definitely got me focussed in a hurry (thank you MUSES!) and I spent hours poking through the hellandish messes in my house hunting for bitty good-ses I can use to create a few pieces of artwork for the show. I prefer to work on a body of work at once instead of an individual piece. Working on just one thing at a time is too difficult for my mind; I get stuck on the too-too many choices thing. 

Now…if I get around to putting some batteries in my camera I can post with pictures and try to be interesting or something near to it. Let me know if I come close.

Monkey

a reminder

After eating lighter foods for just a short while I am already changed. Reprogrammed to receive different food in different amounts. Didn’t know that until I went out to Boston Pizza tonight for a quick late dinner. I was starving so I just had what my partner was having: cheesesteak with yam fries. Ick. ACK.

I feel like I jammed a pillow in my gut!  All that bread! Totally unnecessary. Left half the fries. Couldn’t jam them in me. My stomach hurt. But I used to eat that all the time. Apparently I really *don’t* need that much food. And now I don’t want it. Yeah..I feel like some little food troll is lurking, waiting for me to say something like that so he can steal all my food and teach me a mean lesson. Somewhere inside I still half-believe that it’s better to have too much than too little. Ha. As I type this a notice pops up to tell me I have an email from Baskin Robbins. (no I don’t go there)

I will be happy when I finally digest this pillow and I can get back to something I can swallow more easily…like a little wee tuna fish sandwich or a chicken and spinach salad.

Kirsten

I’m calling human resources!

MERCY IS NOT STRAINED, IT DROPPETH AS THE GENTLE RAINS…

LOL I work my fingers to the bone and my brains to a frazzle between the art and the website these days and does my mascot cheer me on? Does she bark her approval and urge me forth? No. Gawd no. She uses me for a pillow as I sit with my laptop in the wee hours of the night.

That’s alright. She has no idea I take pictures of her in embarrassing positions to post online and laugh like hell. Payback for forcing me to buy a king sized bed just so I could have somewhere to put my damn feet.

Back to work.

Kirsten

BFF (maybe)

BEST FRIENDS FOREVER (MAYBE)

I love food.  Dearly.  For many (too many) of my younger years I starved myself brutally for the sake of body image until an indescribably low point in my life turned me to food for solace and I found out how deeply soothing food can be.  Food went from mortal ever-taunting enemy to BFF.  I made the connection between my perpetual exhaustion, nervousness, usual bad mood and hunger.  I wasn’t a weak-assed jerk; I just needed a sandwich! 

My intense reaction to food is fodder for humour among those who know me best.  It is well known that after a hearty meal you could easily talk me into helping you paint your house.  If you really want something darling, feed me first.  (Yes, I am in a committed relationship now.  Sorry guys.)  After the last guy fed me for a while I raised his children for ten years.  What can I say?  His specialty is prime rib.

Okay, so fourteen years now of being fed by Prime Rib Man has led to the need to re-evaluate my relationship with my BFF (food) if we want to avoid a drastic parting of the ways.  Every year I’ve had to buy new clothes to allow us to live comfortably together but this year I’ve reached a limit.  Any further clothing concessions would mean crossing that department store aisle into The Big Girls side of the clothing department, and it’s a line I’m not willing to cross, even for an old friend. 

I promise you it’s not about looks.  I know many large and luscious women who are beautiful and happy.  This is about sheer stupidity in my circumstances.  It’s about my health and about what it feels like to be in my body.  I used to have a bounce in my step; now I have to concentrate on not dragging my feet like some irritating mannerless teenager.  I just about stroke out climbing up stairs.  When I walk to the grocery store people pass me on their way to the store and pass me on their way back with a bag or two before I even get there.  Is that slow?  Guess what?  I’m only 42. 

I wear ‘regular’ size clothing, but while my clinical ideal weight for my height is 120 lbs., though I look best and am most comfortable at 135 lbs., I’m 50 lbs. off ‘comfortable’ mark.  Yes, wow.  Let me put it to you this way: next time you’re at the grocery store pick up a 20lb frozen turkey and put it in your backpack.  Heavy?  You betcha.  Now stuff another 20lb turkey in another  backpack and hang that on the front of you.  On your way down through the vegetable section grab two 5lb bags of potatoes, one for under each arm and carry all that around everywhere you go all day, all the time, at home and around town. 

If you did would that make you a glutton for punishment?  A fool?  Would it be sheer idiocy?  I’ve been carrying around two 20lb frozen turkeys and two 5lb bags of potatoes for three years now.  I don’t want to have to do it anymore.

I’m not buying into the cry and hue of the typical New Year’s advertising to “Lose Weight and Get Fit!” I’m remembering the epiphany I had last night when I grabbed the new bag of dog food Prime Rib Man bought last night and did my best to lift it up to pour some food into the dog dishes.  I barely got it off the ground because it was too heavy for me to handle and damn near hurt myself trying.  I was shocked to see that it only weighed 28lbs.  I sat and mused long and hard about what in the holy hell I’m doing (supposedly) sanely carrying around an extra 50lbs of chow on my body.

Kirsten