No. 49 – Fisherman, Farmer, Fool
and an endless supply of torn journal pieces
Welcome to the latest issue of Feed the Monster, a monthly art practice journal for people who miss getting letters in the mail.
And for those who want to… FEED THE MONSTER!
Back in the summer of 2019, musician John Guliak commissioned me to paint an “all-in-one triptych” to be used as covers for his three-part recording Fisherman, Farmer, Fool. Each of the three stages of the painting would be documented and used to release each of his three EPs.
John had seen a couple of self-portraits I’d recently painted, and wanted a similar affect (see below). Wak 1 is my adult face plus my face as a child, and Wak 2 is a combination of my face, my daughter’s face, and my mother’s face. I’d say that with John’s painting I got a little more intense about it.
At the time of John’s request, I had a big trip to New York planned to celebrate my 60th birthday in May 2020, and I intended to finish the painting long before leaving. Well, we all know what happened to the world at large—and my trip—at that moment in history. Like everyone else, John and I both found our work grinding to a halt. Those were very disorienting days… I don’t need to tell you.
Anyhoo, I eventually got back to work, but it was slow going. The painting was finally completed right around when I should have been having drinks in New York. John’s work was delayed somewhat too but he now has the first two EPs for sale here, and the third will be released this summer on Northern Electric.
John is the thinking person’s singer-songwriter. Literate, thoughtful, replete with a beautiful baritone singing voice. From his website:
With a profound respect for literature and a thirst for knowledge, Guliak’s passion for both mainstream and alternative music grew as he ventured from the farmlands of Saskatchewan to the capitals of Europe. As a result of his studies in Political Economy, he became tethered to socially conscious folk music for most of his young adulthood. Over time Guliak gradually rediscovered traditional arrangements and writing styles that had passed him by in earlier years and began generating his own variations on these timeless blueprints. The songs that result from this perspective have been compared to those of other uniquely Canadian voices such as Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen.
Happily for me, John was pleased with his painting. He noted that the final stage had a “bruised aura” that he felt suited his recordings. I can’t look at it without remembering the period in which it was painted. Bruised indeed.
This is how the bedroom is starting to look, and there’s a similar panel of covered wall in the living-room as well. Over the next three months I’ll be gradually covering the place with suspended pieces of my torn-up journals to be used in an installation that’ll be part of the exhibit Life’s Work: A Visual Memoir at the Victoria Arts Council this June. I’m pretty excited about it. I wrote six months ago about how I came to have an endless supply of torn journal pieces to make art with, so please excuse the recap:
When my mother went into care in 2014, I had to empty out the house she’d lived in for over 50 years. It took me seven months. I didn’t want to leave that amount of detritus for my daughter to deal with, so I started streamlining my own house, which included staring down my 72 journals started at the age of 17. After my mother died in 2017 I began The Journal Project, where I read through each of my journals (getting as far as No. 63), took photos of the covers, saved pertinent pages, and tore up the rest (the pieces of which are stored in a large vat). NORMAL GRIEVING ACTIVITY, RIGHT? Partway through the project, I had a very sincere thought: “Oh my God, is this my life’s work?” As in, okay, I didn’t find the cure for cancer—in fact I didn’t have any kind of real career at all—but for what it’s worth these journals represent a ton of important work. Important to me at least.
You could say it’s tedious to laboriously string up small pieces of paper over and over, which can only be done in a standing position at a high counter if I don’t want to end up with an aching back. And yes, I’m going to have to achieve a minimum number each day if I hope to have enough for the installation by June. But I’m so into it. I’m enjoying making something 3-D, something that will end up being a large presence. I’m enjoying the different papers and pens used, and identifying the different epochs of my life by the handwriting or by cryptic clues—cryptic because there are no full sentences. But I can tell. I’m enjoying spending time with all that I’ve been, because it’s all gone, and I’m okay with that.
Some of the torn bits form poems, according to my husband David. To wit:
clothed and he
sort of turned
me to hide
a public build
Something tells me that when the bedroom is completely covered in the hanging bits of paper, I’m going to want it to be that way forever. I find it ENCHANTING.
Every bit helps. It all adds up. For a few different ways you can help Ukraine, go here.
HI! Thanks for reading. If you enjoyed this edition of FEED THE MONSTER, please like, share, or comment. Or tell just one person about it! Word of mouth is how work like this gets noticed and sustained. Thank you.
If you’d like to receive Feed the Monster by email once a month, please do subscribe…
Buy my Collage Class (and complete it at your own pace)
Buy my book 100 Days of The Artist is Present
There's always Instagram