I'm working on this show at the present. It will open at the Dufferin County Museum and Archives July 11, 2010.
The address is 936029 Airport Road, corner of Airport Road and Highway 89, Rosemont, Ontario and I hope to see you there!
Gumboots and Drawing Board; Fields and Streams of Mono, Artist Statement
My parents bought Bobbie Holmes’ place on the 25th sideroad when I was five. Ever since then my heart has been in Mono. I am a hybrid. In the week I would go to school in Toronto; on the weekend we would come to the country. Because of this I am a lucky girl, because I know equally what the country is and what the city is.
When I think of myself at the farm as a kid I think immediately of being in rubber boots. In rubber boots one can do anything. I loved to squoosh around in puddles, walk thorough dewy, grassy fields and wade in the stream. A favourite game was to wade in the river and see how deep I could go without getting a soaker. Gumboots are a passport to interesting country possibilities.
When my parents bought Bobby Holmes’ farm house, it was fabulously rustic. To my child eyes everything was different as could be from how things were done in the city. Life was an adventure. There was no furnace, so sleeping was under a mound of blankets. No plumbing, so the toilet was a potty affair in an unfrequented hall. There was an enormous wood stove. Baths in a tin tub.
Out in the barn, in the beginning, Bobby still had his animals. There were chickens that laid their eggs all over the place in a wildly undisciplined manner. The cows lived in the dark in the lower part of the barn, and the white work horses lived in a stable in the upper part. Periodically they’d fall through parts of the floor. There was a huge wooden box of cow sculls.
Life was a mysterious, fascinating, unexpected thing. Anything could happen. Outside, swallows swooped in the day, bats at night and the river was filled with fish hiding in the dark grassy overhangs. There were secret places and all the time I was reading, reading books of adventure and possibility, which might take place on this new and interesting stage.
Gradually I learned about the inter-relationship of the creatures with the growing things. Life was always gently and imperceptibly changing. The seasons moving on, the expectant green spring turning to lush, vibrant summer, turning to orange and yellow fall, then to sleeping winter.
I have a place in all of this. I am a small piece of the wildly complicated puzzle. I still wade through the tall grass in my gumboots, then take them off and sit in a field drawing. In this way I settle in to the quiet turning of life.
It is night time in winter. I am lying on my back in the snow looking up at the stars. It’s really, really quiet. If I’m still, there is no snowsuit swishing sound and all I can hear is the blood moving in my head. This is my first experience of no sound, the sound of everything sleeping and everything holding its breath.
In the city, there is always something making a sound- cars, people, airplanes overhead, and even when there isn’t anything to hear there is a general sound of lots of air systems going, or things thinking in a waiting kind of way. The sound of machines on standby.
In the country nothing is on standby, but there are sounds. In the too early morning there is a cow calling her calf over and over. There are crows far away. Instead of machines going, there are insects going and going. There are birds, frogs, wind.
In the city the wind in the trees is eclipsed by other things; in the country rustling leaves or the swishing in the pine needles is a big centre stage thing.
It is night time in summer and I wake up to the sound of the horses galloping in the field, closer and closer like dream thunder rolling towards me. Their hooves strike the ground in a tumbled rhythm. There is an excitement of sound, a jostling, a release of energy, a joyous expenditure of speed as they pass in the dark. The crescendo rises under my window and then recedes, fading to crickets, leaving only moth wings against the moonlit glass. I go back to sleep.
I am half way up the ladder looking up. The barn roof is way up there, the tin cover clicking randomly in the warm outside sun. It is very quiet except for the soft pigeon cooing coming from the rafters. There is the smell of ancient dust, accumulated over a hundred years of so of hay and grains and a gentle sifting of it sparkles in the sunlit stripes coming in through the cracks between the boards of the walls.
There is a decision to be made here; go up to the ceiling or go back down. The problem is what about the challenge of the ladder? There it was, rungs hammered into one of the huge upright supports of the barn, asking, no suggesting, to be climbed.
My inner voice is speaking loudly. Somebody made this ladder a hundred years ago, nailing in each wooden rung. The only things keeping me from falling are two nails and an old thin piece of wood. I am dubious about my safety and cling there, imagining the next rung, firmly held, coming away and falling backward into the void. I look down to the dusty floor below. There would be no survival there, so the decision is to go up or go down.
Why am I here? Well, the challenge. It was there. The Everest in the Barn, the wondering what things would look like way up there. I hook my arms through the rungs and look around, savouring my pigeon high view. Everything is there, each object and architectural detail without opinion. I can see the top of the house-like structure that they built so long ago to store grain. One year I had gone in there and found tiny, just born kittens.
There are old metal abandoned farm machines, I don’t know what they’re for and doubt that they would work now that they are so abandoned and rusty. There are corners with ancient hay. There are nests high up with pigeon poop on the floor boards way below. There is that quiet, waiting silence. The pigeons wonder what I will do. Nobody knows where I am.
I look up again. Would the view from up there be a lot different from this? I have no intention of going through the trap door onto the roof outside. Already I have done something to be proud of, since I am afraid of heights. I look around again and savour my position, hanging in the centre of this huge space of sunlit stripes and feel a oneness with it.
I have a place in the time line of this barn. There was “then” when the people made this barn and there is “now” with me clinging in the centre of it. Though I am trembling from the fright of being too high, there is also a sense of peace. I did this. I am here. I climb down.
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