All posts by MaryBennett

I'm a visual artist and community catalyst living in Vancouver BC.

Palindromes and Labyrinths – mirror images in art

ingiritext ingiri1I went to the Capture Photography Festival opening. One of the photos was titled in girum imus nocte et consumimur igni.

As I’d been playing with putting text on a labyrinth painting so it would indicate you’re following the same path out as in, a palindrome seemed a perfect solution.

This phrase means something like, we go into the darkness at night and are consumed by fire.

It’s referred to as the devil’s verse, but if you read consumed as transformed, it’s rather labyrinthian, I think. You might just receive illumination or some consuming desire or a spark of insight in the centre.

You enter in the dark  – your own dark – of unconsciousness.

So I’m playing with it on a small wooden panel board. This is in early stages.

 

 

Labyrinth Paintings

LabyrinthTSEliot Canybrinth WhiteCentre floodstreams1 MindtheTruth TrueMoon loseaday gainadayIt’s very gratifying to get nice feedback on my art up at the Unitarian Church of Vancouver (49th & Oak). They started with maps and journeys and many of them wound up being based on the labyrinth pattern.  I’ve still got a few more in progress, from small (6″x6″) to a large one (24″x60″) that are perplexing me. I sometimes think I should have a time lapse camera on them and some way to click Ctrl-Z to go back in time when I’ve veered off in a direction I don’t like.

Here are some of the paintings that are finished and on display.

 

Incubating Stories: Art Show with Kevin Godsoe

My next show is going up this week at Leigh Square in Port Coquitlam.

Here’s the invitation and the interview the wonderful folks there did.

Incubating_invite

In Conversation with Mary Bennett

Tell us a bit about how this series of work began. Where did the fascination for nests and eggs begin? 
The first piece grew out of a previous series that I did during Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday anniversary. I was reading about Darwin’s life and then trying to learn about where his work sowed seeds for contemporary scientists.  So that led me to reading about DNA, molecular biology and genetics.  National Geographic did a series with a lot of photos, meant for people like me – non-scientists with some interest.  One of the factoids that captured my imagination was learning that the same gene is switched on when baby birds are learning to sing as is switched on in human babies learning to speak.  It was months before I had an idea for a visual expression of that. I did a bird with a circle above it that looked something like a nest and something like a speech bubble. This was also the first time I used magnetized paint in a work. I called it “Corvid Speaks” and put magnetic poetry in the nest.

What do these forms mean to you personally?

Some years ago a friend pointed out that all of my paintings had circles in them. I hadn’t noticed it but wasn’t surprised. Many important entitles are represented as circles:  the sun, moon and planets including ours, so then can make us think about the cyclical nature of days, months and the seasons.
I learned a lot about birds and nests over the past couple of years. Most people I think are drawn to birds and nests but often don’t have words to describe why.  Some of what I see as inspiring is that different birds have quite different nest-making methods that work for their own needs.  Tiny birds like hummingbirds make nests that are very difficult to see, whereas eagles and ospreys are not much afraid to expose their nests.
Some are very intricate and some look a tad messy or like the northern fulmar just scrape a few pebbles together. Some are built up over years; some start afresh every year.
It does concern me that birds often incorporate plastic, coat hangers and cigarette butts in their nests.

What role does text play in your work?

I often incorporate words in some way. The challenge I often face is how to use the text so it doesn’t look like a poster or a sign. I like to have the text discernible to someone who’s looking closely but not immediately noticeable.  Many of these pieces were done in collaboration with a poet, Keith Wilkinson. It was very satisfying to go back and forth. He would respond to the painting in progress and sometimes how he responded influenced how I finished the painting.

Which artists or writers influence you—either for stylistic, technical or conceptual reasons?
Locally I consider Jeanne Krabbendam a mentor as well as a teacher. She encourages me to be bolder and is so knowledgeable about mixed-media techniques.
I do like conceptual art.  I’m enjoying the Douglas Coupland exhibit at the Vancouver Art Gallery and plan to take my 7-year-old grandson to perhaps broaden his idea of what is art and what you can do with lego. When I was studying art at UBC many years ago, I decided Chagall was my favorite artist and I’ve had no reason to change that, although I’ve added many other favorites.  I like art that pushes boundaries a bit in terms of content, materials or even display. I’ve been interested in environmental art including objects made from repurposed materials or natural organic (even invasive) plant material.
Community-engaged art where people work with a professional artist to express themselves is a growing and exciting field.  I am working with Evelyn Roth this summer to engage Kitsilano residents in making a story-telling tent from recycled video-tape. I’m excited about that.

Is there a dream project you’d someday like to complete?
I love working collaboratively and would love to do a project with artists from varied disciplines.
A year-long process with dancers, musicians, performance artists, sculptors, digital projection as well as other visual artists and writers.  It would have to be a compelling theme that everyone had a real commitment to and that allowed a lot of interpretation. Thanks for asking that. I’d never thought of it before, although I really enjoy many art forms.
Maybe someone will read this who responds to my art and approach me with a suggestion about how to begin!

What next?
I saw an eagle’s nest built within the structure of transmission poles along the highway heading to White Rock, right near the Crescent Beach turnoff. I’d like to paint that. I’m trying to learn more about that nest and whether there are dangers to the eagles or us.
I tried to start a new series, but I seem to still want to paint nests.

Incubating_invite_back

In The Foggy Dew

When it was so foggy earlier this year, I googled “nests fog” and got inspired Mary Bennett_InTheFoggyDewto try some techniques to make a painting look foggy.

This has a lot of zinc white with Kroma acrylic medium dripped and sloshed on in various layers.

When it gets foggy again, I’ll try it again.

 

Abstract

Or as I would say, “Abstract??!!”

This piece started from a photo looking up at heron nests in Stanley Park.

It evidently became an abstract painting. A friend and colleague thinks that’s the direction I’m going in.

Mary Bennett_AboveFromBelow

Helliwell Diptych: Sea and Sky

A diptych 48″ x 48″ (each piece is 24″ x 48″) inspired by the view from the top of Helliwell Bluffs on Hornby Island.

Mary Bennett_SkyAtDawn
Sky at Dawn 24″ x 48″ $400
Mary Bennett_TheRoilingSea
The Roiling Sea 24″ x 48″ $400

 

I’ve painted on Helliwell many, many times. Tiny watercolour postcards to large mixed-media pieces. I also took a photography course there once and still enjoy the photos although ultimately returned to painting as my preferred genre.

Twirl @VPL

TwirlMediumSquare is one of my favorite formats.  And 16″x16″ is a nice size. I named it Twirl and it’s inspired by a photo of a raven’s nest right on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

This one I did a similar scene much larger (36″x36″) too, which I called “Sprawl”.

The twigs are strips cut from an Oxford English Dictionary – Compact version.

It’s part of my Incubating Poetry series – just as eggs need to incubate before hatching, it takes a lot of words to incubate before a poem emerges.

Until May 6, you can see Sprawl and also Ledges at the West Point Grey Library on West 10th. Drop in and have a look as you take your books out.

There’s also two pieces from my “Genetic Scripture” series honouring Charles Darwin’s bicentennial of this birth.

 

Vancity Art

3NestsatVancityQuite exciting to drive along Denman the other night, while coming home with my Book Club who’d met in West Vancouver to see three of my nests lit up at the Vancity at Robson and Denman.

 

Many years ago I deposited my very first pay cheque in a Vancity branch and we’ve supported each other ever since.

 

Thanks also to Mia Weinberg, curator.3Nestscloseup

Sticks and Stones

SticksAndStones1

Artists Talk – November 14

Vancouver Maritime Museum

Along with Louise Bunn and Alison Keenan, I will be giving an Artists’ Talk on Thursday, November 14 at 7 pm. (social starts at 6 pm). We will talk about our art, where we’ve been and where we’re going, and reflect on this unique experience to paint on the S.S. Master.

Sticks and Stones I

Sticks and Stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me. Not!

This piece is the first completed work in what will be a series combining abstracted landscape with ideas about the power of words. They will be exhibited at Leigh Square in Port Coquitlam next summer.

Commentary

Sticks and stones can definitely break bones, but I am not the only person who’s only imagined, heard or read about that kind of experience. But I have known the power of words to hurt. I’ve been on both sides of the wounds that fester long after the words have penetrated.

I took to words from an early age. And found them powerful as both shields and weapons. I can picture myself as a young girl (Hands on hips—a stance my mother called “unbecoming”) with set jaw (and teary eyes) retorting that phrase to some kid that teased me.

Now, I listen to Buddhist podcasts about “right speech” and I follow a facebook page called “I speak sarcasm as a second language.” Both acknowledge the power of words.

From teaching communications skills, I know that researchers estimate that only seven per cent of the impact of our communication comes from the words themselves; the rest from voice tone and facial expression. If words can be bullets, our tone and face are the guns that launch them.

The pen is mightier than the sword. Another saying we would at least like to be true.

The pen records laws and literature that can have lasting impact, often over centuries, and over a wide expanse of territory. The sword attacks one person at a time and while tales (words written by pens) of bravery or terror can last, the direct impact is limited, albeit intimate.

Some of the ideas I am interested in (but will probably not be explicit in the art) are

  • verbal bullying
  • correct versus vernacular language
  • how language changes over time; made-up words
  • learning language
  • jargon, slogans, mottos and mission statements
  • polices, laws and manuals

I’m still working through these ideas – would enjoy hearing your response.
Mary Bennett

My mixed-media paintings veer towards the conceptual and abstract. Like this piece, Sticks and Stones I, they often start as a composition based on a landscape. This is the view from the S.S. Master steam tugboat when moored at Granville Island in the summer. The view is from the stern looking towards land – the rocks (stones) and the dock (sticks).

I work on canvas or wood panel, using acrylic paints and media. On to the piece can go organic material (leaves), urban trash (plastic), textile and various kinds of paper.

As an extrovert, I find it essential to move between the solitary, focused time of working on art alone and connecting with others. Two “artist dates” to make art alone-together each week prime the pump. Studying for art education at UBC I learned that children often engage in “parallel play” – They are playing side-by-side but not engaging together by sharing toys or in group play.

My work is usually in series, the most recently completed show was called “Incubating Poetry” – a collaboration with a friend and poet, Keith Wilkinson. Images of birds’ nests had dictionary pages embedded in -the raw materials for poetry – as well as selected poems either on the piece or exhibited beside the piece. Sometimes visual art followed the poem; sometimes the reverse. We called it a creative conversation, between Keith and me, but also between our work.

I have had several significant mentors in becoming a visual artist. First, Charmaine Johnson who taught the required Art Education course for my B.Ed., who encouraged me to major in art and saw some talent there. Secondly, Barbara Bickel, who now teaches in the U.S. who led me into mixed-media work and generously shared techniques and feedback in a supportive way. Thirdly, I am one of many “Jeanne Fans” – Taking three Emily Carr courses with Jeanne Krabbendam and numerous private consultations has extended my sense of myself as an artist and given me an entire trunk full of techniques to continue to experiment with out.

 

Mary Bennett mary@marybennett.net web: marybennett.net

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