the thought-stream of an artist and writer

I am in a perpetual state of bemusement.
I am always searching but don't always know what I have found.
Putting things together physically, visually or mentally in the language of symbols, or letters, or of clues of some sort is a life long obsession.
This blog is a narrative, a daybook of sorts.

Tracey Physioc Brockett

Monday, April 2, 2018

Travelling On The Map's Edges

She punches Mountainview Nursing Home in on the GPS. Her cell phone service is iffy and she can’t find a physical address. She isn’t even totally sure of the name. The last couple of weeks have been a blur, conducted on the phone with distant voices, or in whispers, with strangers who know so much more than she does. Her mother, small in the seat beside her can’t seem to tell her the way.

She is tired beyond tired. They are driving on the backside of the lake, and now beyond the lakeshore, into the space that is no longer New Hampshire vacationland. There are small strings of scruffy stores, a gas station at a cross road, many farmhouses sinking into themselves, trailer homes with lean-tos attached. Occasionally her mother says “that’s where I get gardening supplies”, or “Dad and I sometimes stop there for a sandwich and coffee.” So it isn’t the wasteland it seems, perhaps, being familiar to her mother though her parents moved here only 3 years ago. “That’s where I got paper goods and my craft supplies!” she points with a little more vigor. There is an excitement attached to that shopping trip apparently, that had seemed missing in every conversation, and in any sense of their new lives that Grace had managed to gather. Her parents have been a mystery to her since they so suddenly packed up and moved here, living first in one house she had never had a chance to visit before selling and moving to another. The GPS points it’s long line to the distance, somewhere towards The Presidentials, which she sees with their snowy heads floating and commanding, in the way of a large mountain range rising out of the flatland. Then her mother says, quietly, looking at a road that points into the woods, “That’s where we turn.” 

The GPS does not agree, and Grace, not knowing what to trust, says, “Should we just keep on a bit and see?”, and her mother, who has retreated before every decision hard made these last few weeks is silent, absent again. The wide, mostly empty highway seems as barren of promise as the moment when she realizes that the GPS too is just punting, and there can be no road where it has suggested, now that she is up high enough to see the vast swaths of forest that slope upwards and away.

“It doesn’t usually take so long.” Her mother sounds peevish.

Grace is suddenly struck by the question of whether a place of memories is more painful than one that is not, now that she can see the long scramble to hide from the blankness of dementia. Then they had thought it was her father, whom they are going to see now, who was running from confusion.

She turns the car around, and at the corner into the woods that apparently is the right turn, the correct turn, she remembers keeping herself awake in the back of the station wagon, decades ago, and quite nearby, on their way to cousins in the White Mountains now at her back. They had never been there before, and coming from flat pre-Cambrian Canada, the mountains seemed alive, and restless in the dark. While her father slept in the front seat, her siblings in back, she had hung over the driver’s seat, watching for signs. She who will never trust her mother’s judgement, terrified that she will lose them all irredeemably, watching, as if it might ever be clear when the losing started.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Turnings and Findings

I dreamt that I took apart my grandfather's bed, the great 200+ year old four-poster in which I sleep, and put it out by the street in front of my childhood home. 

Our house was the lodge or gatehouse for a great estate built in the roaring 20's in Toronto, buttermilk coloured limestone and half-timbered on the upper story. It was surrounded by a limestone wall with wrought iron gratings and great heavy wrought iron gates, in front of which I set the bed parts, right by the road. Though I left them lying there, they were intended somehow to be a display, an installation,  but someone took it all away. I went to tell my father, (it had been his father's bed), and we went out to look. I found 2 of the posts returned inside the wall next to where we always had a little vegetable garden. I did not feel very disturbed by any of this. When we went back out to the street, we found that someone had also returned the headboard, which was lying upside down on the ground in the rain, and the remaining 2 posts. But they had crudely cut up the posts as if they had wanted to use them for something else but it hadn't worked out. I thought to myself, no problem, I know I can put this back together again.

Pieces of the Game, wood, hair, fur, circa 1999. various dimensions.

Last night on a walk I discovered a number of old poster beds by the side of the road, offered free to any who wanted them.... offered by different people, in front of several houses. It seemed the universe wanted me to notice them, wanted me to have bedposts. So I got my car and I took them, though I have no place for them in the house or garage. Or my studio. Many years ago I was given a chair and sofa with turned mahogany legs, and they spoke to me in the same way. Gradually they stopped being furniture and became something else. All my life there have been threads of things that appear and disappear, compelling me to act without a plan...or discovering the plan as I am acting on some mysterious whim.

more blog on dream constructions:  Properties of Association

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tracking Sign

I am exploring a new neighbourhood.
Any time I am out of my comfort zone I have a blankness in my brain. All the chatter turns to white noise. I don't know why my brain does this, a kind of emptying out, preparing to receive.

I know people who see conspiracy in everything. Or God in every system, the devil in the details. In the city it is easy to see what one is looking for. Most of life it is sheer accident  what one sees, what one notices; the deer running down a driveway, a friend on a busy street corner..
An avatar, a savior.
A warning.
Like the Khabbalah the math is everywhere, ones and zeros combining and separating.

When I work on my boxes, this is what I am doing; looking for signs. They are each a story I haven't told yet, but one that exists somewhere. They all have a truth that is immutable, even if words can be arranged and rearranged, exchanged and refined to tell it.

sometimes I think of painting as if I am tracking a wild animal...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Where to Put your Feet When your Head is Occupied Elsewhere

I am working on something I know nothing about. It's thrilling like a spy novel.
I wanted to write about words, about language. About defining things. There are patterns, hidden affinities, meanings I sense and am longing to explore. But there is a barrier between seeing and naming that I cannot cross. I keep trying.

I need to let my body take over. My head is so tired it hurts. It's been holding too much in, juggling and sorting, holding the reins too tight. And my heart... well it usually leads, galloping ahead and falling all over itself like an overexcited puppy, bound for hurt and disappointment. Somewhere in between my body holds it's muscle memories quietly and deeply.

 My hand is like a dancer who has rehearsed so much the music has taken over. I need to be abandonment.

I must suspend belief, judgement, taste.

What ever I think I am doing is bound to have other meanings, like a double agent. Nothing is what it seems. 

The intention that I nurture isn't always what I end up loving in the end.

There is code imprinted under my eyelids, if I can just get in there and learn to read it.

Previous blog about sketching:

Plans and Diagrams; Intention Manifest

Monday, January 23, 2012

More Lessons From The Dancing Master

Diagram B
For better or worse I am done with working on this piece. Imagining the layers that are there has been like playing chess in my head. The painting pleases me at first glance. I can't tell if I worked it to death, if the mystery has been scraped out of it yet. I'm such a worry wart. The joy is there, underneath.

Diagram B unfinished 1/29/12

This is one of those paintings that may never justify to time and materials spent, and yet..... I have dragged this piece kicking and screaming from wall to wall and I am only beginning to hear what it's been trying to tell me.... that there is something I want/ need to follow, some will o the wisp breath/touch of the ephemeral truth....

Diagram B unfinished 2/6/12

I keep hoping it will reveal more. I am addicted to adding and scraping. I had always hoped to film the process by which I uncover a painting, but the lengthy time I have needed for each canvas has mothballed that idea over and over. I am getting better at throwing out the jabs of colour and line, seeing what they have caught. When I start to go wrong I can usually save us from total chaos. I thought that perhaps being able to witness it again over my own shoulder might give me some idea of what it is I am doing. Understanding what it is that gives a painting that one little puff of a breath that sends it off breathing on it's own. Beginning is easy. Finishing wrenches me hand, heart and soul.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lessons From The Dancing Master

Untitled Sketch from The Dancing Master Series
The question of Influence and Inspiration.

Three weeks after the intensity of New York, the false cheer of several fundraisers to aid the flood relief after Hurricane Irene, and the complications of multiple family birthday celebrations, I am back in my studio, facing my own work. There is no avoiding the issue of why I am an artist when all the introspective thought I allow here in this space comes galloping at me as I settle in at my work table.
I come from a very artistic family, with professional artists of many generations on both sides, cousins, siblings,nephews. Nearly exclusively they were or are working at the representational end of the realism/abstraction spectrum.
I have always known I was an artist, but I didn't really start painting until I was in my twenties, in my last semester of college, and after many drawing and printmaking classes. It took a while, and many frustrating classes before I realized I was most influenced by landscape, longer still to give up trying to paint en plein aire. 
I try to walk and hike in nature often. Only recently I have been bringing along the small camera I bought last year to take photos of work I saw in New York. The idea of recording things visually in photographs is very new and foreign to me. I have very few until recently, and there is a swath of nearly 2 decades of my life were there are virtually no photographs of me or my life at all. The  idea of actively seeking out and capturing the inspiration for my work seems even more foreign. For most of my career I have only known what I was interested in by looking at my paintings. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Learning to Dance

Diagram X, ink and acrylic on paper, 9 x 11, 2011. 

John Playford published a collection of English country dance tunes in 1651 called The Dancing Master   and they haunt me whenever I am lucky enough to hear one. One of my current favorites, because I recently heard a stellar arrangement by the Ensemble Galilei is Woodycock. Others, such as The Black Nag  have also been played and rearranged for three and a half centuries by many musicians in many styles.

Dancing Master 9/11/11, ink and acrylic on paper, 10 x 11, 2011.

I think of little old dancing masters going from great house to great house, teaching children the complicated patterns of the English set dances. I think of the itinerant musicians, and the loneliness of those people who did not have a home, who lived apart, neither landowner nor servant, who lived on the pleasures and whims of others, and who made gaiety even if they did not feel it. Sometimes all one can do is dance a little while in the company of others. The music haunts, because it seems to me to suggest all of that.

Jig, acrylic, ink, conte crayon and water soluble crayon on paper, 16 x16, 2011

I think of pattern, the wonderful quarterings of those tunes, the divisions that take the tune into a more and more abstract region with each turn.... taking the simple line as far as possible into complication with, often, just one instrument. And I think of the twirling dancers swinging back and forth in space, making into three and four dimensions all the joys and complications of our brief turn on this swiftly rotating planet.