Saturday, 15 September 2018

Little Man, Little Man...

“But that...feeling of inadequacy never really goes away...”
Lorrie Moore, American Writer

Thoughts on inadequacy and a delightful piece of sculpture that has come into my life.

The little sculpture (15 cm square) in the accompanying photographs is entitled “Little Man”. The sculptor is SaraLou Miller (Link), a talented mixed media artist from Prince Edward County. “Little Man” was part of TOUCH, an August exhibit that SaraLou shared with the painter Barbara Högenauer at Picton’s Maison Depoivre Art Gallery (Link). Maison Depoivre is one of my favourite galleries – it consistently offers lively, eclectic exhibits from a wide range of artists.

As soon as I saw “Little Man” at Maison Depoivre, I knew that I wanted to adopt him. There was a resonance with the sculpture. A soul thrumming.

Writing this blog post is helping me understand my reaction.

Feelings of inadequacy have been part of my life since I was a child. And I don’t understand why. My childhood was filled with loving parents and family; I did well in school and enjoyed learning; I took a lively interest in history, politics, writing, and reading. My life was filled with blessings and accomplishments. But...underneath it all...just hovering beyond my grasp...especially at night...came the anxiety attacks, the panic sweats, and the nightmares whose main theme was my not being good enough.

Looking at SaraLou’s “Little Man” took me back to those memories. I know the pose well – curled up, head buried, making myself small, and desperately hoping no one would discover what a fraud I was.

The miracle of my life is that those fears did not overwhelm me in the long run. I don’t understand quite how that happened. Certainly the day my Grandmother Tayler whispered in my ear, “You’re perfect enough just the way you are,” was a turning point. What I do know is that being surrounded by love – from family, friends, and two wondrous husbands – helped turn the tide.

And continues to help turn the tide. As Lorrie Moore says, those feelings never really go away. But each day brings a renewed determination to bask in the love that surrounds me...and to radiate it back into the world.

I hope this isn’t self-pitying. But it is important to give words to the impact “Little Man” has on me. He is a talisman. He is MY talisman. And he grounds me.

Thank you, SaraLou Miller, for your gift.

Sunday, 9 September 2018

Escape Into Reality, Part Two

“We don’t create a fantasy world to escape reality.
We create it to be able to stay.”
- Lynda Barry, American Cartoonist

A different take on fantasy and performance this week.

Last week’s blog post featured photos of people at last weekend’s exuberant Fan Expo 2018 in Toronto: real human beings having great fun dressed up as their favourite comic book heroes and heroines. This week’s photos riff on the September theme challenge for the Prince Edward County Photography Club: “Music, Dance & Performance”.

Only one of these photos features an actual human being: the gifted singer/musician Nicole Lisa Singer performing at the Wellington Market on July 28. I combined her photo with a Photoshopped souvenir Puerto Rican picture frame that I found at Value Village. (Thank you, Nicole Lisa Craig, for your permission to photograph you and to post the image.)

The other nine images are pure fantasy, all photographed in my basement studio. No human beings were harmed in the making of these photos - and no Photoshop manipulation.

So...coming up next on our stage:

• Toy police officers dancing and performing a precision routine with bullhorns; 
• Train engineers hoofing their way up the stairs of a 1:48 model of the Stratford Festival’s main stage that I built two years ago;
• Plastic soldiers practising yoga;
• Close-ups of china knickknacks rescued from Value Village;
• ‘Tableaux vivants’ featuring miniature eye glasses and creepy 1:48 scale humans on the Stratford Stage model.
 • An cutesy figurines of hunky synchronized swimmers. (Actually, they're wine glass identifiers!)

Nothing terribly profound – just me having fun with my camera!


Sunday, 2 September 2018

Escaping Into Reality, Part One

“The key to improvisation is motion – you keep moving forward,
fearful or not, living from moment to moment. That’s how life is...”
- Bobby McFerrin, American Musician

This blog post is the first of two where I’ll be looking at the concept of performance art and improvisation, with accompanying photographs.

Today’s post features images from Fan Expo Canada 2018 – “...the largest Comics, Sci-Fi, Horror, Anime, and Gaming event in Canada and the third largest Pop Culture event in North America...” – which is being held this weekend at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. My camera and I spent several happy hours at Fan Expo on Friday, breathing in the energy, passion, and weirdness of this annual event. I was surrounded by thousands of fans, many of whom were dressed in the costumes and paraphernalia of their favourite fantasy characters. And such wondrous costumes they were! The hairdos and makeup alone were worth the price of admission. And all these folks seemed to be having a great time. And, of course, it was a feast for the camera.

I had never been at a mass ‘Cosplay’ event before. According to the online Oxford English Dictionary, Cosplay is a term first used in Japan in 2008. It refers to “dressing up in costume as a character from anime or manga; now extended to characters from video games.”

It took a few minutes on Friday for the penny to drop about what was happening: there was a giant role-playing improvisation exercise going on, without any script. These people were joyously winging it!

I am no stranger to improvisation and role-playing, having used them for many years when teaching drama. The willingness to immerse oneself in another person’s life is central to all forms of developmental drama. As an approach to shedding inhibitions and learning about oneself and others, it is without parallel. The very act of willingly ceding control of a situation to the group while simultaneously developing one’s own self-confidence is an invaluable experience. It doesn’t matter that most drama students never become professional actors – the skills they learn, from poise under pressure to trusting one’s informed instincts, serve them well wherever their lives take them.

And that’s the joy of what I witnessed on Friday: hundreds of people immersing themselves in a giant improvisation. They were escaping into new realities. And learning about so-called ‘real life’ at the same time.

Good on them, say I!

I intend to return to this theme next week with a set of very different images. Meanwhile, enjoy!