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Mother-daughter art show explores grief around pregnancy loss and infertility –



A mother-daughter art show at the Guild in Charlottetown explores the grief around pregnancy loss and infertility, to find healing, but also to help others.

“We chose Metamorphosis because this whole exhibit is about transformation,” said Jennie Thompson.

“The transformation you experience when you’re going through grief, when you’re experiencing miscarriages and what that looks like, and how it can change you as a person.”

Jennie uses watercolour paintings for the exhibit, while her mother, Elaine, creates felted pieces out of wool and silk. 

Jennie Thompson says the painting called My Grief represents the heaviness that she felt as she was going through pregnancy losses and experiencing depression. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

“I wanted to do it with my mom because at its core, a lot of this art is about, for me anyway, about being a mother, that journey toward motherhood,” Jennie said.

“Plus, it’s a really personal topic and I’m really vulnerable so mom adds that extra support for me.”

Jennie Thompson says art for her is part of the healing process. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

This is Jennie’s first art show, a challenge she said she took on to help her heal after four pregnancy losses since 2016.

“This exhibit, it wasn’t just for me, but also for other people who are going through the same thing, because it can be such an isolating experience,” she said.

“For somebody to come down here and see it in colour, on walls, I think is a really powerful statement and it’s just a way to let other people know they’re not alone, and it does suck.”

Jennie Thompson calls this painting The Cycle and writes: ‘Grief during a fertility journey is like a cycle. You hope, you experience loss. Repeat.’ (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Supporting other women

Jennie is part of the P.E.I. Fertility/Infertility Support Group on Facebook and hopes to start offering virtual peer-support meetings.

“It’s pretty powerful, it’s really vulnerable, when this journey first started for me, I wouldn’t talk about it to anyone,” she said.

“But the other part of it was, there is this stigma around pregnancy loss. We’re not supposed to tell people we’re pregnant until we’re three months in, so think of how isolating that is.”

Elaine Thompson says Mother Earth has her hands holding the earth, which is her way of telling her daughter that she also is not alone. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

She said she hopes to let other women know that there are people they can talk to.

“For women who lose their pregnancy that they had hoped so much for, after eight weeks, nine weeks, they feel like they can’t tell anyone about it. So this is my way of saying, you absolutely can,” she said. 

“When you do feel ready to have people come to you and say, ‘That happened to me too,’ you find out that you’re not alone.”

Jennie Thompson, right, says doing the exhibit with her mother gave her some much-needed support. (Submitted by Jennie Thompson )

“It’s such a common, unfortunate experience for a lot of women,” Thompson said.

“I think it’s just really important to break down that stigma, and that barrier for women.” 

‘Extremely proud’

Elaine said she feels extremely proud to be doing the art exhibit with her daughter. 

“She knows that being able to speak about this, and share it with other people, that she’s not only trying to help herself, but she’s trying to help others,” Jennie said.

“I could not be more proud of her, and the fact that she asked me to be part of it, that just gives me chills to my toes.”

Elaine Thompson created the felted wool butterflies in honour of her mother who has passed away. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

Jennie echoed her mother’s feelings. 

“I feel really proud, and I feel really proud to have done it with my mom,” she said.

“I think this is an amazing memory that we will have forever.”

Jennie Thompson says she didn’t want the exhibit to just be sad but also hopes it will be inspirational. (Kirk Pennell/CBC)

The exhibit continues until Dec. 5 at the Guild in Charlottetown. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

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Spanish flu children's rhyme inspires COVID art dolls –



Charlotte Sigurdson has always turned to history to make sense of the present.

“There’s a human instinct to look back at how things have been handled in the past,” she said.

While living through the current pandemic, the Winnipeg artist started learning about a past one: the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918.

And inspiration struck.

While listening to a history podcast, she heard a children’s chant from that period. It featured a bird named Enza who brought sickness wherever he went. 

I had a little bird
His name was Enza
I opened the door
And in-flu-enza!

Winnipegger Charlotte Sigurdson was a lawyer before shifting to a life as an artist. (Tyler Funk and Carmen Ponto)

During the Spanish Flu, children chanted the verse as many of the young adults around them — their parents, teachers and neighbours — became the primary victims of influenza and often died.

A mother herself, Sigurdson was deeply moved by what she learned and began to create.

The result? Intricate and detailed art dolls, carefully crafted from clay and textiles, featuring Enza the bird.

“The idea of the flu, and contagious diseases in general, in my mind started to take the shape of this bird,” she said.

“They could be anywhere. This innocuous thing … bringing this great sorrow. It just felt really right.” 

Sigurdson’s story is also the focus of a new short film by Winnipeg filmmakers Tyler Funk and Carmen Ponto for CBC Manitoba’s Creator Network.

A handmade doll, inspired by a Spanish flu children’s song, is dressed in vintage lace. Winnipeg artist Charlotte Sigurdson has been creating new dolls during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Tyler Funk and Carmen Ponto)

The art dolls have delicately painted faces and are dressed in 1900s-style formal wear. A gentleman doll has the face of a bird while another doll is a melancholy woman holding a bird’s head. 

The dolls are a new endeavour for Sigurdson, who started her professional life as a lawyer.

Winnipeg artist Charlotte Sigurdson sews clothes for her handmade dolls. She was inspired to create the hybrid bird and human dolls after discovering the children’s song In Flew Enza, which is about the Spanish flu. (Tyler Funk and Carmen Ponto)

Deciding law wasn’t for her, she launched a bath and body products business before landing where she feels most at home: motherhood and full-time art.

Sigurdson began making children’s dolls in 2017 before graduating to the more intricate art dolls she creates now. 

“I didn’t really understand the depths of humanity until I became a mother,” she said.

“Once that happened, it was a very natural thing to start expressing myself through my art.… It’s just sort of evolved into what it is now.” 

While navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, Winnipeg artist Charlotte Sigurdson drew from history and the Spanish flu of 1918 to create her new dolls. (Tyler Funk )

Sigurdson now creates art whenever she has a spare moment, and says doing so has become a necessary aspect of her identity; she finds catharsis both in researching and creating her pandemic-inspired pieces.

Her followup art involves themes of isolation and prairie-wind-induced madness.

Sigurdson’s work can be seen on Instagram @charlotte_sigurdson_studio.

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The art of 'leaking' in the Japanese government – The Japan Times



Last week, a “senior member” of the ruling coalition fueled a breaking story in The Times that then garnered a Reuters headline story, and subsequently grew legs across the information space. That official reportedly intimated that Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito leaders had already come to the conclusion that the Tokyo Olympics would have to be canceled, and that they are only looking for a face-saving way out. Assuming this official was both senior and “in the know,” as reported, why would he or she leak such sensitive information?

A leak is an unauthorized release of classified or sensitive information, commonly to the press. While leaks can happen in the private sector, the term is most often associated with governments. Importantly, leaks do not have to be true — they just have to be perceived as factual by the individuals reporting them.

Most governments have leaks, whether intentional or unintentional. Further, the motives, manner and types of sources behind those leaks are generally the same no matter where you go, though there are features unique to each government. The story of the ruling coalition leaker offers a good case study for examining the art of leaking in the Japanese government.

Two caveats are necessary here: First, scoops do not have to rely upon leaks. Sometimes a hard-hitting story is simply the product of great reporting, where journalists have put in the hard yards to research the situation, interview critical players involved and corroborate evidence. Other times, not so much, and in Japan, sometimes those scoops are handed out on a platter.

The second caveat is that leaks are not the same as whistleblowing. Whistleblowing is the exposure of fraud, waste, abuse or other illicit activity that may be taking place — whether in the public or private sector. The fundamental aim of whistleblowing is to right a wrong; leaking is something else entirely.

With those two caveats in mind, the questions then are how do leaks happen and why?

In Japan, there are four typical categories of leakers that make the press: Liberal Democratic Party officials (aka “ruling party members”); Komeito officials (often referred to as “ruling coalition members”); members of the Cabinet or high-level staffers (senior administration official); and bureaucrats (“government sources” or “government officials” in media parlance). The important thing to consider here is how close to the issue the leaker actually is. For example, if the issue is about internal LDP dealings, a government official will not be the most reliable source, and the same goes for an unnamed ruling party member leaking information about interagency policy coordination.

There are four basic motives for leaking information. The first is to shape policy decisions. One way to do that is during a negotiation, where you might leak information that either curries public support for your favored position or generates backlash against the other side’s position. The goal is to make your position stronger and/or paint the other side into a corner in the public eye.

Another way leaks can shape policy is that they can serve as trial balloons for potential decisions. Here’s how it works: You float an idea that the government may be contemplating but fears backlash on if the decision went public. You then get to see how that decision might play in the public, while the government remains insulated because it can simply disavow the leak as false.

The second motive for leaking is to deliver a strategic signal. There is classified information that cannot be publicly released but could send a strong signal to a potential partner or adversary if even a snippet of it made it into the press. An example here is when defense officials leak details about military plans, as has happened in Japan in the past. Those officials may simply have been seeking to send a message saying, “We are watching you (insert adversary’s name), and we have a plan in place in case you cross the line.”

The third motive is to undermine a political opponent. This could be a bureaucrat that was scorned and did not get a desired promotion. It could be someone who wants to knock down a potential obstacle to advancement within the party. It could be someone who merely wants to eliminate a potential threat. The leaks in those cases are done with specific targets in mind and their goal is to drag down public approval, to spark an investigation or to discredit someone.

The fourth motive leads to what many refer to as “vanity leaks.” Vanity leakers want to appear important to others — to show that they are someone in the know. They also may want to increase their perceived value in a relationship, whether it is professional or personal. They leak information with no other motivation than to elevate their own standing; hence, the use of the term, “vanity.”

The manner in which these leaks occur differs depending on the source, but in Japan, there are two important types of relationships that contribute to leaks. The first exist in Japan’s Kisha Clubs. While there are press clubs throughout the world, the institutionalized features of Japanese Kisha Clubs affect the way stories are scooped or suppressed. Every major ministry and agency has its own Kisha Club with offices on the premises. Members of the club include reporters from the major domestic print, television and radio news outlets, and those registered members can cultivate relationships with bureaucrats, search for scoops and eavesdrop. Of course, this is where the government can leverage its power, either in suppressing stories by threatening to evict journalists from the club or by intentionally leaking information to Kisha Club members for them to generate scoops.

The other relationships that contribute to leaks in Japan are school ties. One thing that the Liberal Democratic Party, the Japanese bureaucracy and major domestic news outlets have in common is that a large percentage of their respective personnel graduated from Japan’s so-called “Ivy League” schools like Tokyo University, Keio, Waseda, Kyoto University, etc. Those school ties carry weight, especially in the political world, and there tends to be at least routine interaction at dinner and drinking parties, reunions, and other modes of social interaction. Each of those touch points offer an opportunity for leaks, as do the long-standing personal relationships that may exist between classmates.

Of course, there are always unintentional leaks, meaning the person or organization divulging the information did not intend for a reporter to publish it. There are protocols in place to prevent that. Most people are aware of the phrases “on the record” and “off the record,” but there is also “on background,” which is where a government source agrees to be quoted as an unnamed official (e.g. “a senior member of the ruling coalition”) and “on deep background,” which is where a source provides information to a journalist for contextual purposes only. Finally, there are embargoes, which is where an organization releases information to the press in advance of a formal announcement with the promise that the news organization will not release any stories on it until an appointed time.

Probably the most common form of unintentional leaks in Japan come from violations of embargoes. In the Japanese government, it is common for major domestic news outlets to break stories the night before a major government announcement. That is because whenever there are important press releases scheduled, bureaucrats will circulate briefing documents to members of the Kisha Clubs — typically the night before. This is done as a courtesy to allow reporters to prepare questions and articles with the tacit understanding that they will honor the embargo until the designated time. But precedent in Japan shows that major news outlets tend to spill at least some of the details in advance. This can be exceedingly frustrating for foreign partners, who see Japanese news outlets broadcasting details of a carefully crafted joint communique as much as eighteen hours in advance of the negotiated release time.

So, why is all this information on leaks important?

Knowing how leaks work in Japan offers an understanding how to read these stories about Japanese politics and government. It gives you a clear eye on their validity and what might be at play behind the scenes. In a time of both misinformation and too much information, every tool for discerning truth and sifting what is meaningful from what is sensational is critical.

Dr. Michael MacArthur Bosack is the special adviser for government relations at the Yokosuka Council on Asia-Pacific Studies. He previously served in the Japanese government as a Mansfield fellow.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
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Upcoming contemporary art exhibit featuring a collection of overlapping drawings as 'illegible, messy scribbles' – Kelowna News –



A Kelowna-based artist is showcasing a new type of art exhibit, focusing on a collection of overlapping drawings that are illegible, messy scribbles for contemporary art.

The Iranian-Canadian artist, Aileen Bahmanipour, has created what she expresses as ‘useless drawings that contradict the very purpose of drawing, which is to have something the viewer is able to see.’

Described as both ‘an image-maker and image-breaker,’ Bahmanipour, exhibit if one that took inspiration from milling machines, extraction tools, and other similar industrial machines that separate particles from materials.

The Wasting Techniques exhibit hosts a series of complex drawings are on clear acetate sheets and will also be sprayed regularly with a spitting machine, which will overtime wash away the drawings and turn them into stains on the floor.

The exhibit also includes multiple ways for visitors to interact with the exhibition, either in person or over a live stream. Two cameras have been set up by the artist, one in front of the transparent sheet and one behind.

“We are intrigued to see the evolution of this exhibition over the next 6 weeks as the artworks change and transform from the spitting machine. Bahmanipour has created an exhibition that avoids being static by not only the transformative quality of the work, but the multiple access points for visitors to experience it,” Artistic and Administrative Director, Lorna McParland said in a press release.

Wasting Techniques will be on view in the Main Gallery of the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art from Jan. 29 to March 13, 2021.

Visitors will also have an opportunity to learn more about Bahmanipour with an upcoming artist talk with them via zoom on Feb. 18. To learn more and register to participate, visit the Alternator Centre’s website.

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