In the spring, as the weather warmed and restrictions eased, people flocked outside to be with each other. Social media flooded with hikes and picnics and patios, budding flowers and re-budding friendships.
But I stayed inside. In the dark. In the quiet. Trying to figure out how to make art, a living, and a life with constant searing pain.
On April 26th, I got what felt like a regular migraine. I expected it to just go away, as all migraines eventually do. But it didn’t. The pain persisted day after day, through Tylenol, triptans, edibles, and IV drips.
A few weeks later, I had a neurologist and a diagnosis: Status Migrainosus with intermittent Hemiplegia. It’s basically a single migraine that forgets to end, and can last for weeks or even years. The auras are severe, blazing through my vision like a laser light show, never giving me a clear look at the world. Hemiplegia means that sometimes the right side of my body goes numb, and my mind gets fuzzy. I’ll forget my own phone number and lose to my husband at Jeopardy.
It’s not great.
For the first few weeks I didn’t make much art. I avoided my studio. I was anxious and mourning my health. And heck, it felt like there was a demolition derby in my head.
When you’re sick, time gets sucked into the vortex of treatment. I’d have all these appointments on top of a daily pain-management routine, and all the time spent researching, commuting, and waiting outside the pharmacy for yet another ineffective drug, wearing dark sunglasses and a grimace. It doesn’t leave much room for an expansive art practice.
The few things I made were quick and lazy, low-commitment drawings in front of the TV. I suppose anything you can make with a migraine is a win. It was a hard time, and these perfunctory scraps were the best I could do.
Somewhere under the laziness, there was a growing craving to get back in the studio, to a real practice. Mixed into the throbbing pain was a deeper desire for real creative fulfilment.
It wasn’t about needing to make “serious” art. But there’s value in giving space and attention to even the silliest idea. And slouching on the couch between appointments, with Too Hot to Handle in the background, isn’t exactly honouring the process.
So I started tapering off treatment and taking back my life. If this migraine won’t leave, I can’t spend all my time trying to evict it. I have to learn to live with my unruly tenant.
When I finally got back in the little 70-square-foot bedroom I use as a studio — about two months after the migraine started — it was a stagnant mess. Oil paint was dried to my palette, half-finished paintings leaned all around, and my studio plant sulked by the window refusing to make eye contact. And who could blame it?
So I eased back in. I bought a diffuser to fill the air with peppermint oil. I tidied. I swept. I watered the plant, and apologized to it profusely. I tucked away all the paintings I’d started before the migraine. I scraped the crusty paint off my palette, and squeezed on fresh oily globs.
Now all I had to do was remember how to make art.
And decide what to make.
And figure out how to make it with a pounding head.
I’m no stranger to tackling these questions, but this was different. The part of my body I rely on to come up with these answers is the exact part of my body that isn’t working: my dang brains.
That’s absolutely the toughest part: how much it hurts to think. No matter what painkillers I take, trying to force a thought through my mind feels like trying to swallow a porcupine whole. Even writing this sentence is like gently massaging my cerebral cortex with a belt sander.
I hadn’t realized how blessed I was before this. My mind playfully riffed and schemed, offering me juicy little threads to pull on. Now, it’s like the ideas are still in there — they’re just far away and limping.
But I have managed, at last, to spend a little time sitting at my easel smooshing paint around. I haven’t made anything of consequence, but I’ve lovingly completed a couple small and tender failures that the world will mercifully never see.
And thankfully, in the process, I’ve figured a couple things out.
I know that whatever I make, I have to keep it loose. Tension only increases the pain. When something’s not working, I’ve got to let it go. I literally cannot stress. And honestly, I’m not mad about that.
I know that I can’t overthink. Heck, I can’t even medium-think. Thoughts hurt. I have to make art from places other than my brain. It’s got to come from my guts, my heart, my spleen, who knows. I have to trust whatever emerges without doubting myself. I’m not mad about that, either.
I know that I can’t waste time anymore. My capacity is so reduced with fatigue, I can’t muck about with perfectionism. I’ve got to paint something once and move on. And you know what, usually it’s good enough the first time.
I also know that I will figure this out. I’ve already learned to do things with a migraine I never thought possible. With pain and auras so intense that I used to cower in the dark, I can now carry on simple conversations, go for short walks, and write semi-coherent articles for CBC Arts. And that’s pretty nifty.
So even if I don’t have many answers yet, I’ll keep on smooshing paint around, and slowly, something will come of it. Because that’s just what happens when you keep going.
Oak Bay sets aside $27,000 for Indigenous art at muncipal hall – Saanich News
Oak Bay’s newly renovated chambers will feature a new piece of public art commissioned from an Indigenous artist.
The district allocated one per cent of the budget for the hall renovation, $7,000 to public art. Combined with the annual public art allocation, the district has $27,000 to spend on a work for municipal hall.
The move to work with a local artist, specifically from the Lekwungen speaking people on whose land Oak Bay sits, was unanimous among council members.
“This is a rare opportunity to have the resources to do that and as the renovated municipal hall reopens, have that be one of the centrepieces,” Coun. Andrew Appleton said during council discussions July 12.
Still in the earliest of stages, conversation surrounded the how of the project.
Oak Bay is between arts laureates, but liaison Coun. Hazel Braithwaite said the public arts committee is taking on that leadership role.
Coun. Tara Ney lamented the district’s lack of policy or set protocol for engaging in such initiatives.
She voiced a need to create pathways for engaging so it’s not done piecemeal, and instead with confidence and in culturally appropriate way.
Mayor Kevin Murdoch, who is routinely in conversation with local First Nations leadership, said the district is doing well in the absence of policy, always seeking guidance and building relationships in small ways.
Council agreed working toward something more formal is something they could pursue.
“This does require more formality and we need to start to establish those connections so we’re consistent and so we’re completely aware and sensitive to their needs,” Coun. Cairine Green said.
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‘Lynn Valley LOVE’: artist collaborates with public to remember victims of stabbing tragedy – News 1130
NORTH VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Earlier this year, the tightly knit North Vancouver community was shaken after a stabbing claimed the life of one woman and injured six others.
One local woman says, since the incident, the community has had its security threatened, which is why she is behind the newly unveiled art project “to bring some love and positivity back into that space.”
Modern quilter, Berene Campbell, has worked on projects across the country and world, but her latest artwork “Lynn Valley LOVE Project,” was sparked by the tragedy right outside her home.
“This one was just down the road from my home. So for some reason, it just felt like I had to respond to that since I’ve done it for other communities. And now there was a tragedy in my own community. I felt like I needed to do something.”
So, Campbell went to work, collaborating with residents in the community and people across the country.
Today, if you walk into the Lynn Valley Library, you’ll be greeted with quilted panels spelling ‘LOVE’ “hung there to represent the general community to bring love back into that space.”
Banners made by hundreds are hung over the library stairwell.
“People do it to give back to the community to make them feel good [and] it’s also very healing for the participants to be creative and to make something beautiful and also to be a part of the bigger whole project and to feel a part of the community. So when you see that many people participating, it’s amazing.”
And Campbell says the turnout of participates was unexpected but incredible adding, she couldn’t have done it on her own.
“There’s something incredibly powerful about bringing multiple people together, and the healing of collective energy is much more powerful than one person making all of that work themselves on their own.
“There’s something just amazing about people working together for the greater good.”
VIDEO: Greater Victoria master carver says Indigenous art a way to restore culture – Oak Bay News – Oak Bay News
For internationally recognized master carver and lifelong artist, Temosen (Charles) Elliott, his art is a way of communicating with the public that First Nations Peoples are restoring their culture, once lost to colonialism.
A member of the T’sartlip First Nation, Elliott’s works are cherished in collections worldwide.
As a child he practiced art in many forms and when he attended T’sartlip Indian Day School, he won a drawing contest meant to advocate for awareness around tuberculosis.
It was through carving small pieces and drawing daily that he knew art would be a part of his life forever.
“Every evening in our family home, I’d wait until dishes were done and I’d sit down after dinner and draw and draw,” Elliott recalled.
His work can today be found at the University of Victoria, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital, Butchart Gardens and many more places across B.C. and in private collections worldwide.
“When you’re doing the artwork, you’re just putting the words to images,” he said, explaining that his work stands as a silent ambassador for First Nations Peoples.
Elliott has also mentored many emerging artists, including his own children and grandchildren who he said will carry on Indigenous artistry as part of their family legacy.
“I want younger First Nations Peoples to pick it up and do it, because it’s like speaking your language and holding your culture in place,” he said. “Don’t be discouraged; if you are, keep going because there are teachers around like myself who want to share their knowledge.”
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