A N D ++
November 3 - 27, 2016
(also featuring collaborative works with Vivienne Jones)
COLLABORATIVE WORKS WITH VIVIENNE JONES
February 2 - 26, 2012
Poets and Authors reflect on Susan Low-Beer’s
About Face sculpture exhibition at the
David Kaye Gallery, February 23, 2012
About Face - A Micro Drama in Three Parts
Part 1. The Artist Sleeps:
She’s transported by dreams to the end of the line, the top of the spine. “The head is divine,” Susan enthuses, and muses appear-five puffs of paper angel, radiant as white magic-and in chorus they say, “Ms. Low-Beer? The Big Guy wants to talk to you.”
Susan falls through her bed, first her feet, then her head. God has landed in the studio below and he asks (one artist to another): “In State Of Grace you captured the head and shoulders, knees and toes of my experiment. Why the About Face? Why these lonely heads?” Susan is struck by the Big Guy’s lack of pretence.
“The heart is elusive,” Susan laments. “Don’t you see? Our noggins on bobbins are coming undone.”
When she wakes she can’t determine if she dreamt of Mahatma Ghandi or Ben Kingsley. Or was it Dr. Seuss?
Part 2. A Consumer Visits the Gallery:
“This one is like a cantaloupe,
This one is like a ball,
This one has cartographic lines
O God, I want them all!
Are they cheaper by the dozen?
Could you put more in the oven?
If I bring some friends to see them,
Do you think I’d get a free one?”
In a corner of the gallery the Godhead appears. Impervious to mystery, the Consumer cries out, “Holy Christ, now that one’s nice!” and ignorant of Icarus she flies toward the light, but is reduced to a pile of dust.
“Sluice And Slurry, What’s Yer Hurry?” God mutters. He sweeps the ashes into his hand and licks them from his fingers. “Recycling keeps the cosmos spinning,” he says, chewing with an open mouth. Then from his pocket he produces Yorick’s skull and, like a ventriloquist, he adds, “Let’s just have some laughs, shall we?”
Part 3. An Untutored Poet Tries to Say Something:
The good book talks of the potter’s power as if all we was is a lump of clay. Dust of the ground, built pound upon pound, we grope for the memory of the mould that once whispered something to us.
My heart has been hijacked by my head and kept in close confinement. Over and over again I try to tell a story, but what I hear is silence and the piping of fresh clay.
Is it the head of the pin or the point that is most needful? Are you the cause of the beating of your heart?
Grant Carmichael has been a professional actor, a furniture designer/maker, and has worked in various corporate environments in Toronto. He’s been writing short fiction for several years.
a host of impregnable heads
audience or chorus?
Swimmers in a white room, crypt-quiet water,
secret, still. Nobody breathes without nostrils.
Here is dark, confusion. By the bright, orderly
arrangement of these heads, the
atmospheric lighting, do not be fooled.
Cynical, broken, clownish, hurt, with circles
encircled, with orifices closed, skulls cracked,
re-assembled, re-membered, they are
neither male nor female, and decidedly
These unchild faces charge me
with claustrophobia. I want to run.
Cracked, we were never, without speaking,
without breathing, they cry never, we were never
Why is the head, so unlike other parts
of the body, distinctly itself?
A question of sex and death.
Move in closer, approach
what is difficult.
Pondering I locate in the head, the site
of wishes and phrases, and I note
how words crack and fragment there, how
And the face?
A portal, gateway. No,
turn away. There is dark here, confinement,
blankness. Gateway? No. By these bright walls,
this orderly arrangement of heads,
by this trickery, treachery, artifice, artiface,
this artist, forebear to be fooled.
From Toronto to India Paramita flew. Was her father’s death by fallen rock - was it looming or accomplished? The awesome archetypal father flew with her.
When she landed the death was confirmed but the body required identification. Why her? With grief, her mother had cracked, her brother was a child, so it was
Paramita who travelled to the mountain site where, recovered from beneath the fallen rubble - do not be fooled - her father’s body lay. It had been decapitated.
These mute, decapitated angels,
(clownish silence, terrible beauty) -
the transfer of joy (beneath the rubble),
the shock of my pleasure is troubled
by the impulse to cry out, break away,
No. Stay. Reconnect mind and body.
Take your time.
To witness is crucial,
but do not be fooled
by these bright walls,
nor any maker soft
as a head of cabbage
rolling in a field.
Beth Follett is the owner and publisher of Pedlar Press, a Canadian literary publishing house based in Toronto, which she started in 1996 and has run single-handedly since its inception. She is a published writer and freelance editor, has studied modern dance and now keeps a mindfulness-meditation and yoga practice.
Like flowerets on a cauliflower, fractals can’t be changed,
These faces can’t be blown up, can’t be shrunk,
suggesting mountains suggesting shadows, like Jackson Pollock’s
paintings like clouds blood vessels trees and ferns they simply are.
If I try to make each one emote, try to express just what it is I see,
to understand why one fits all, I’ll blow a fuse. Tabula rasa
lightly clothed, incapable of morphing into something else?
Pardon my ignorance, but these are human heads,
I want to feel their warmth, knowing a fully functional
attachment cannot be achieved.
Strangers to amniotic fluid, these beings give off waves
Of dissonance, if I crave closure, meaning,
Narrative, I’ll be undone, for they are open
And no scar tissue has formed, they fail to bleed,
Their nerves, un-tweaked, do not respond to stimuli,
and no one questions what they were when whole.
My first viewing’s from above. Massed on the artist’s bench,
Their necks replaced by collars and industrial spools, they signal
heinous acts - I think of the severed heads of traitors
spiked on Tower Bridge, vanished, spirited away,
leaving no trace of DNA. But these heads felt no torture,
Experienced no whiff of pain or death.
Decapitation was accomplished not with a sword or axe,
But with the sharp wire potters use to sever clay from clay.
Careful mouths are zipped, but, wordy woman, I crave speech.
I try to find my own vocabulary stamped on every missing
Throat. Approaching the grouping from behind, hoping to surprise,
I stumble on a river meadow I once knew, mud-cracked, tufty,
meadow flowers hung with small life, and then I find pods
of milkweed, seminal, half open, cracked and spilling seed,
Feel the persistence of Monarch butterflies about to feed
See myself mute and standing ankle deep in grass.
Dodging round the front I see a slab crowded with heads of wounded
dolls - I’m in the Dolls’ Hospital, my childhood haunt in days when
dolls had china heads that broke and needed expert care,
their eyes wantonly put out, their noses chipped, lip paint kissed off
they spent their days in fear of the doll’s cemetery,
each one was different, each the same, each begged to be reclaimed.
I cried their homelessness, wanted to comfort, want comfort,
I leave the hospital, approach the grouping once again, this time
They turn into larger canvasses, singing we are here and we belong,
Made by one hand, a mob, I see the thousand thousand souls who wept
False tears for Kim Jong Il, the writhing snake of Tamil protestors who
Stopped the traffic on the 401, the faceless Royal wedding crowd awash
In cheer, the bobbing Syrian sea, inured to the likelihood
Of being drained, I see a single pulsing entity identical and shouting
Difference, unborn, un-dead, made up and making up all of humanity.
And now, deprived of shelter, brutally alone,
They’ve come to rest in line, divided, architectural, inhabiting
A gallery like roman busts on plinths, on painted shelves,
Reflecting on the slippery passing of the crowd, while other
Faces watch through paper portholes on the wall, milky
With rebirth, fractals, elements in three dimensional
Space, pleading for individuality; while whispering stasis
somehow they all contrive to be afloat in possibility.
Margaret Hollingsworth is best known as an award winning playwright and a novelist/short story writer. Her books include Willful Acts (a collection of plays), Be Quiet (a novel), Smiling Under Water (short stories). She is currently working on a new play but is putting most of her energies into poetry and is amassing a collection, (she’s already chosen the cover art for the phantom book).
Questions for and from the heads
Children beyond and before forgetting.
How white your heads are, as if Egyptian cotton-wrapped and sealed with plaster of Paris, each cast weathered by threadlike binding rain and the snow of art, hail pocks of perception marking your minds.
When the heads separate from the bodies, what form is this? A room full of heads, next door a room full of torsos?
In Uganda, a taxi driver drove us over narrow potholed roads north of Kampala. At the side of one of these roads, every ten kilometers or so, planted into the high grasses, were long rough rickety tables, wooden legs of uneven lengths. Human skulls, bleached rows of them, three or four deep, covering the tabletops. All ages, all sizes. I could not photograph them, I could not touch them, though I wanted badly to comfort them. “At night, we hear them wailing,” said the driver on our way back.
One summer in Turkey, I walked the empty Marble Road that was scalded by a breathless noonday sun and lined with the ruins of homes and temples and shops in the ancient abandoned city of Ephesus. Grottoes in the library’s façade held statues, some headless, decapitated by early Christians Desecration. They had stood two thousand years without their heads, but when we arrived at Sophia, the robed statue of Wisdom, a fresh bouquet of flowers lay at her marble feet.
O porcelain heads, I don’t hear you wailing, I hear the questions you want to ask instead.
Questions for the heads
But first I want to know what your eyes saw when you emerged from your plaster molds, what name was embroidered on each of your hard white pillows.
Do you speak among yourselves at night in one ceramic language?
What do your heads contain and why do you frighten me?
O little ones, what sports most attract you? What herbs and fruits, jewels, birds? What tastes - ginger or chocolate or linden flower tea?
What dwellings do you favour? Nests or treehouses or mansions?
Questions from the heads
About Face #20, 2012
Indigo-etched boy warrior, smooth-faced and nearly smiling, about to speak, about to grow quickly into old age, a blue lake mapped onto your cranium. The phrenology of our origins in Africa. You are looking beyond me into yourself, summoning the orthography of joy and achievement, how it prints itself into the clay of our souls. I see you greeting the largeness of life, the serenity to gain it all. Lips parted, you are staring into the sunrise, about to speak syllables of hope, wordless stretches of vowels that could cross desert or prairie or icefield. I lean close, tip my ear to your lips, hear “When will the lost animals return?”
About Face #18, 2012
You are my snake- and thread-headed double, wired and mechanically plated, your frightening tactility and the squashed depths of your gaze. The coiled gears and twisted yarns of my own doubts, a loop of anger spliced into longing and pain. Love rounds and smoothes your head but doesn’t soften your eyes. Your mouth open, “What melody can we sing together?”
About Face #26, 2012
You tickle me, dressed as you are for a carnival. A print bandana draped over your face to protect you from the sun’s rays, the chandelier’s glances. A bouquet of buttons or pills or after-dinner mints fixed to the hairline on your forehead - a garland to carry you forward into conversations. You are sequinned and ready to seduce the minor saints and lowly devils of the realm. But what of these small round scars, polkadots turning to bullet holes, the reminders, the remains of punctures, something that should not have entered, should not have marked you? From behind your closed and veiled eyes, your question, “Who will be my partner in this porcelain tango?”
O little ones with your bandages and pills and wires, the fragrant smoothness of your bald birth heads roughened and scored so early - you are as breakable as us.
Maureen Hynes‘ book, Rough Skin, won the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award for best first book of poetry by a Canadian. She has also published Harm’s Way (Brick Books), and, most recently, Marrow, Willow (Pedlar Press). A past winner of England’s Petra Kenney Award, she has also had a poem selected for Best Canadian Poems 2010, and another longlisted for Best Canadian Poems 2011. Maureen is poetry editor for Our Times magazine (ourtimes.ca).
How will I find you?
how will I know you
from so many
in a white space
on a long street where people from the mental hospital come this
Look for the broken one the Housemaid says
He is borne of spilt milk and the fallen cup
I have swept up the pieces, rough bits, shiny, puzzled them together
What have they wound around the wound?
What have they wound around the wound?
the Prince of Homonyms
on a street where people come this
where are you from?
I see your lips sealed tight against the blizzard
see the pure hard landscape
that you bring
its twigs of rust and bits of colour
stunted glorious vegetation
You approach me and the wall
behind you, white,
starts to particulate
We travel far to find each other
We travel far to come this close-
Look at everyone you meet &
See her well &
See him well
insists the Prince of Riddle.
What is :
but has been fired
in the same mold?
Sue MacLeod’s books of poems are That Singing You Hear at the Edges and The Language of Rain. Sue works as a freelance editor, takes photographs and, when time allows, tries to agitate against the commercialization of Toronto’s public spaces. She has recently - at long last - finished writing her first young adult novel.
After Susan Low-Beer
About Face #20, 2012
In front of me, a head, balanced
on a white pedestal; a third eye
blue-dot tika mark pressed into
the middle of its forehead. Textured
like a topographic map, inked-in cities
and continents, a sculptured island, long
as Manhattan, bordered by knife-scar waves.
And like an acupuncturist’s mannequin:
pressure points - one for art, another
for intuition, one for finding stars
shimmering on drifts of new snow.
I was born on the shortest day,
snow-plowed solstice, the drive
through a blizzard excruciatingly slow.
The head came first, down through
the cervix, crowning. Spit and fire, I was
her fifth. Eyes blinking, pink mouth
puckered, wanting the sensual - my mother’s
breast. City-white winter, icicles sharp
as branches hanging outside the frost-licked
windowpane of the hospital. The coldest day,
my body bloody, kicking pink-skin naked.
My first breath, high-pitched alive, born
of fire, cried from the crimson dark.
Jim Nason is the author of three books of poetry: most recently Narcissus Unfolding with Frontenac House Books. He is also the author of a novel, The Housekeeping Journals; and, a collection of short stories, The Girl on the Escalator published earlier this year with Tightrope Books. Jim has been a finalist for both the CBC Literary Prize in Poetry as well as Fiction; and has been published in Best Canadian Poetry 2008 and 2010.
Ruth Roach Pierson
not yet memento mori
still fleshed and featured
from their bodies
cast in clay and glazed, some
white as a Caucasian cadaver
others in tones of ochre
brindled stone or birch bark
the scalps of a few rivetted
with watch springs, fly wheels,
bolts and grommets - the gizmo
waste of a technologized world
shards of glass embed others
alongside crockery and bits of bone
china or porcelain from dinner sets
smashed in the heat of family dispute
one cranium bears multiple
perforations as though button-
holed, pebble pocked, ticket-
punched, ravished by small pox
solid dots speckle another
like the ones you see in an eye doctor’s
auto-refractor or like the bull’s eye
at the centre of dart board targets
that muffled head looks
poorly mummified as though
treated in a morgue short
on strips of white linen
did you know that the
oldest known naturally
mummified human corpse
is a decapitated head
one of Low-Beer’s
has been hollowed out
to encase a fetus
writhing with anxiety
when somewhere in Hamlet
a skull is handled roughly
there’s a line about being
knocked about the mazard
the trepanned frontal lobe of number
twenty-one is crudely plastered
over, across the way pale-green
leaves sheath an elfin head
some scalps are stenciled with henna
designs, tattooed by cartographers
blue-printed by architectural
draftsmen every head bearing
the traces, the surface scars
or knuckle-deep gouges
of family inheritance-
the financial pages
from his father’s Wall Street Journal
wall-paper one son’s face, yards of twine
are wound around a second scion’s head,
running-shoe laces, tied-end-to-end, a third’s
a former student of mine insists
we’d recognize our beheaded bodies
for as long as forty seconds, time enough
to know we were dead unlike these
and surprisingly young
to be thus tabernacled
to such relentless witness their eyes
whether cock-eyed or cornea-scratched,
whether eyelashless, lidless or pupil and iris-
less, whether clouded over with the milky
film of glaucoma every pair
focused on the eye of its inner
A retired professor of history and feminist studies, Ruth Roach Pierson’s books of poetry include Where No Window Was (2002), Aide-Mémoire (2007), a 2008 Governor General’s Award finalist, and Contrary, published in March 2011 by Tightrope Books.
About Face #3, 2012
Breathe in this head trying to form, dark triangle
beneath the left cheekbone, open gash. Sure I want
to be porous, but this head lets in more than waves
of air and light. Rain penetrates brain. Grey faces
stuck behind its left eye, a young girl’s hollow-eyed
face and too-skinny frame, bodies heaped, entangled.
Great gaps mid-face for all to see. A dark dotted line
from chin circling forehead, drawing visage. Stitch, stitch,
stitch-eye and brow. Gaze right in, the inner workings
of clay, mind, the whirr and throttle of cognition
troubled, slurry and slick wanting water and warm hands.
A thought unforming what it knows. Cup and cradle this head,
cap the skull, glaze it. Hold it in two palms. Trace its soft spots.
Body crowning, new face forming, eyes staring, lips parted:
aaaaaah, eyyyyyyy, eeeeeee, ohhhhhhh, uuuuuuu.
Stand on legs hip-width apart. Body, why have you left me?
Shoulders’ shift and hips’ sway, ribcage and femur. Nothing
to turn my head. Viscera. Tissue. Touch.
At Beginner Choir practice my own smaller head
capped in fine straight hair. Careful not to be noticed.
So easy to slip to soprano, coming in early,
mouth wanting another note, the long palate of spine.
Keep it quiet, trunkless.
Sheila Stewart’s poetry collections include A Hat to Stop a Train (Wolsak and Wynn, 2003) and The Shape of a Throat (forthcoming, Signature Editions, 2012). Sheila co-edited a collection of essays and poetry called The Art of Poetic Inquiry (forthcoming, Backalong Books, 2012). Sheila was a prize winner in the gritLIT poetry competition 2010. She is currently using poetry in her doctoral work at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto.
Her Studios, a memoir of place
Culture is expression born of place. Art is centered in place. Our lives and our memories are framed by personally iconic locations.
My list of these includes being in the bow of a canoe; sleeping in a tent with Frank; most art museums but also specific rooms in museums, perhaps the most important being the large slightly gloomy salon in the pre-renovation Prado which held the massive dark paintings Goya did at the end of his life. Also on my list is a small mound on a hill overlooking a gorge in Los Chillos, Ecuador, before that view became littered with the plastic-covered greenhouses called vernaderos where so many of our roses are grown. The seasons come and go and the eagles barrel roll outside the window of Sue Wheeler’s hexagonal log cabin on Lasqueti, a little corner on Paradise. I remember again the bright surfaces of shrimp ponds upriver from Cojimies; the best vista of them was framed in the open doorway of the outhouse-a two-seater, now there’s an interesting notion of togetherness. But my only companions were the dogs: Janeka with her torn ear and one or more of the pups she had born that had survived a host of tropical ailments to achieve adulthood.
On my list are all of Susan’s studios since I’ve known her: not just the light-filled and window-framed main floor of the pale grey house at Ulster and Brunswick. Before that she used a large room on the main floor of her home on Euclid where she plugged and worked clay into sculptures, and another room at the top of the house where she coloured the fired clay surface, seated beside a hotplate with small pots of melted wax, way before everyone else started going gaga about encaustic. That room was lined with clay figures I came to think of as personal friends, they were my height or slightly taller on their stands: stacked torsos and heads, vertically collaged. Each one read as a kind of plot, narratives of tension or passion or companionship. They were vaguely totemic but more affectionate or touch-able than didactic; more inviting than authoritative. Susan called them Still Dances. She might have called them “we’re still dancing,” because of how wonderfully that body of work spoke to the endless jive and sway, waltz and contact-improvisation that is human relationship, our often difficult need for each other. Susan has always mixed forms and visual tropes from other eras and cultures, and so being in her studio is like being surrounded by quiet visitors from the history of art and in that setting Susan and I have talked about art and work and food and teaching and love, and love and love, an almost three-decade long conversation. And although every gab session in her studio was unique, they were nevertheless the same, following an arc from frustration and disappointment to laughter, under the benign gaze of our clay confidants who absorbed our complaints, our foolishness and our tears.
They say you can tell a lot about a woman by what’s in her purse. Studios are like great big purses with tables in them. Studios have functional beauty. It’s not that they’re better than galleries but they’re less edited and more inclusive, what they contain has not been polished and revised. They are the container of containers of stuff, all of which might prove useful and become art, or that reminds the artist of something, someone, or somewhere. Imagine cords attaching the open books and keepsakes and photos and postcards and small rusted objects to the places they were found or harkened back to, then the birds’ eye view of Susan’s studio would be like a flight map in an airline magazine, with connections to ancient Syria, or Grand Matane, or Mumbai or the Montreal of her childhood. The studio is the hub where those strings are tugged and a kind of energy flows back to the work at hand, the work of hands, from distant points and infuses it with the energy and resonance of memory and history. The studio is where things are pulled apart and put together and the conversation Susan and I have been having has been a pulling apart and putting together of things that were a bit bruised or broken in our lives, the anecdotes that needed telling, the frustration that needed airing, the whines that, necessary or not, come out of a bottle of wine, or a pot of tea and circled the room. And I think it is in no small part due to our clay witnesses that always and eventually laughter chased our individual heartache and mutual concerns out the door, even just temporarily and every time, there was a little war about who should eat the last piece of dessert: you, no you, no you.
Art is spatial punctuation. It makes you stop or pause or connect. Sometimes it’s transformative, sometimes its preverbal, sometimes it’s both the pea under a dozen mattresses, and the mattresses: the prod and the deep comfort.
Kelley Aitken is a writer, artist and teacher. Her collection of short stories Love in a Warm Climate, The Porcupine’s Quill, ‘98 was nominated for the Commonwealth prize, Best First Book, Canadian Caribbean Region. She is the co-editor of the anthology First Writes, The Banff Press, ‘05. With Maureen Scott Harris, she launched The Raven and the Writing Desk in 2007, a chapbook of Maureen’s haiku and Kelley’s wash drawings. She facilitated two popular public readings: Ekphrasis at the Art Gallery of Ontario, 2009 and 2010.
February 2 - 26, 2012
State of Grace: recent sculpture
January 31 - February 24, 2008
A blue tinted magazine photograph of a young child jumping inspired this body of work. She was suspended in mid air; the muscles taut with purpose, her gesture free and joyous. Initially it was the action that attracted me. How to create movement and lightness? As I worked, more ambiguous worlds started to take shape. The indeterminate quality of the figures that exist in a space before birth or after death, or in the dream world of childhood before rationality takes root. They hover at that mysterious border separating the familiar from the obscure, a space of open possibility. Jumping up but coming down, spinning outward but meditating inward.