Kaya's Art Blog

Thursday, July 27, 2006

My Mom's Art Opening - “Homage” by Karen Reiss

This weekend I went back to Salt Spring Island (where I grew up) to visit with my parents and help them out with my mom's art show. Titled “Homage”, by Karen Reiss, it was a compilation of new and somewhat-new sculptures and wall hanging ceramic pieces. It was a very exciting process, unnerving at times (driving down bumpy roads into town with fifteen lovely and breakable works of art wrapped in blankets and bubble wrap - hoo boy). Establishing the figures in the space also required lots of thought and skill, luckily mom has some friends with great eyes and experience in such matters. The art itself is by and large figurative, drawing from the love she has for the land and her long-standing Buddhist practice, she has made a group of powerful pieces. Women holding deer and morphing into them, expressively shaped women with faces growing out of their sides, raven spirits with masks and faces inside of them, and bear women dancing are just a few of these inspired finds. Many of her sculptures have wooden or metal bases, some have metal embedded within them, and her glazing - oh to die for. She has been working seriously with clay -a notoriously difficult medium- since 1992 and it is really starting to show. Some pieces have vibrant colours -thanks to layering the glazes- some are dark and matte, some shiny with pieces of delicate Japanese paper decorating them. Often more than one texture and colour is at work in a single piece, and the more you look the more you see. The wall-mounted pieces are a departure from her usual standing work, they were beautiful abstract interpretations of the Buddha's footprints, inspired by her recent trip to Thailand and Laos. (Yeah, my mom's cool like that.)Anyway, if anyone reading this wants to see her stuff in person, the show is up until Saturday at Artspring Gallery, Ganges, Salt Spring Island. She also welcomes visitors to her studio (call first to book a time). She shares email with my dad, Murray Reiss, mreiss@telus.net . I have been encouraging her to set up a web site, so hopefully soon!Am I inspired by her? Heck yes. In fact, we are planning to do a mother/daughter show together next year in the same location!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Songs Part Two -Painting Voodoo

As many of you know from my website, I always choose a song to listen to repetitively while painting. I hear it in my head first when I'm pondering the painting, and then as I play it I find it takes me to a different place, and I hope the rhythms will reflect upon the painting on some level. How do I choose these songs? Ultimately I pick something that I like and can stand listening to over and over again (Kevin spent most of his time in the side room when I painted “The Life Of Pi” to the Police's “Every Breath You Take” heh heh.) Something in the song reminds me of the painting, and I often find something new as well. My painting “The Four Brothers”, from a family portrait of my great uncles who passed away in the holocaust, was done to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's “Helpless” because I remember my dad playing that album a lot and the song makes me think of him. It's also a sad and beautiful song. My painting “Salome” was done to “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas because she was dancing (the dance of the seven veils) and needed some groove. And then there are the creepy songs. What can I say, I like scaring myself from time to time. My “Medusa” painting was done to Marylin Manson's version of “Tainted Love” and I swear that painting gave me nightmares. Even now when I look at it I hear the weird wrong heartbeat/breathing sound from the beginning of the song. Let's face it, it's a dark song. But it helped me cover the canvas (how many hundreds of hours). Recently I painted my dark Marvin Gaye portrait, “Lithium”, to the Nirvana song of the same name. Dark song. Also quite sad, but ultimately a void. Again, helped me get where I was going with the piece. Well. Now that I am almost done my Marvin Gaye series I'm ready to tackle the next big painting (so exciting). I've had the (36 X48) canvas for a little while now, I have the images that I want to use, I've been sketching and playing around with them for a while now, and I have the song - “Sympathy For The Devil” by the Rolling Stones. (I had to track it down, didn't have it on disk.) So yesterday I decide to start priming the canvas, start playing the song (whoo-whoo) I lift it up, upsetting the giant glass and wrought iron lamp in my studio space and smash, it just smashes to smithereens. I am not a clumsy person! I'm not a smasher, I swear! Then as my sweet husband Kevin and I are cleaning up the giant mess I notice my foot is bleeding. (It's fine, a piece of glass flew into it but didn't go too deep.) But why do I feel the canvas is somehow responsible for all this? This is certainly the first time anything like this has happened. Anyway, way to start with a bang. Maybe I should listening to some lighter stuff.In that vein, here are the first lines to “Helpless”: “there is a town in North Ontario, dreams come with memories to spare, in my life I still need a place to go, all my changes were there.” I find dreams inspiring. Dreams, nightmares, visions, ancient myths. It's all good, even when it scares me.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Meeting Andrea Pratt

Around two weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet an online buddy of mine for the first time, artist Andrea Pratt. Andrea has a brilliant web site - http://andreapratt.homestead.com/Index.html , as well as a blog - http://small-art.blogspot.com/ , and she also posts on illustration friday, which is how I got to know her. We started writing comments on each other's entries of the week, followed by some emails and general back-and-forthing. Anyone who has encountered Andrea on the web knows she is a source of humour, inspiration, and lively good advice (only if asked for) and she is generous with her praise and time. One of the things I like about her is that she is genuinely interested in what is happening, in the web, in the art world, in other artist's lives. She has many followers, friends, and net buddies. But I got to meet her in person! In your face people! You know, usually when having people over to my apartment for the first time, I am a little worried about what their impression will be, that day it was particularly messy as the balcony was being painted and all the accumulated junk was sitting there in the living room (it's still there). And yet, I knew, I just knew, that Andrea would be cool, she wouldn't see the mess, we were there to meet each other but in a way I felt like I already know her. Sure enough, when I greeted her in the hallway (”you're tall!” is the first thing out of my mouth, I think) it was easy, like meeting family you haven't seen in a while but have many pleasant memories of. There was so much to talk about, so much I wanted to glean from her, about our respective artistic and life journeys, about her art, about finding time when you have family, city living v.s. country living, etc. Another thing that fascinates me about Andrea is her beautiful unique style. When you see her work, you know it is hers (and it looks EVEN BETTER in real life, I got one of her small art pieces and it just glows and changes in different lights, awesome) her colour scheme, her symbolism, her boldness all inspire me. And learning about her journey in becoming an artist is also inspiring. (Not my story, but check out her blog for some good stuff.) Interestingly enough, one of her recent posts was bemoaning finding a market for her style, I am pleased to say the next one was better, she sold four paintings in a show in the States. Good. Ultimately, being true to ourselves and our hearts is what it's all about. It's nice to meet someone who I believe is an example of that. So at the family barbecue on Sunday, I'm all proud of myself for having met my first internet buddy in person, and I'm telling my 14-year old stepson and his teenage stepbrothers about it. (Well I have been talking about it for weeks now.) They all of course are old hands at the “meeting someone from the internet” experience. (Is that good?) I asked Attie if he's ever nervous, after all you've never met this person before, and he was like, “no”. And I have to agree. I wasn't nervous either, because we already had met.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Do you remember that song in the eighties, Sade's “Smooth Operator”? Well I always heard it as “food operator”, I imagined all these hungry people calling up the operator and begging for food. You know, back then I thought the operator was all powerful and all seeing. I used to call the operator up to ask them math problems or the capital of Yukon Territories. The way my memory paints things, they were really nice and did seem to know everything.My partial deafness has made for some funny misheard lyric mistakes over the years. For instance, in the nineties Nirvana's “Rape Me” was a popular mosh pit song, which I loved to dance to. But I thought - I swear!- that the song was called “Payday” (a la Missisippi John Hurt) you know, “pay day, pay day, my friend, pay day again...” Well when I found out I had been dancing/violently flinging myself around on a mosh pit to a song called “Rape Me” it just didn't feel the same somehow. Yes that's right kiddies, in the old days before the internet if you didn't know the words to a song you were forced to repetitively listen and scrutinize. I still like some of my versions better. For instance in the Rolling Stone's “Miss You” I am positive Mick says (in a sexy whisper) “get me a chihuahua”. Kevin says the actual line is “whatchu doing there boy” but you know with those guys it really is hard to tell. There is a hard rock song by Disturbed called “Down With The Sickness”. Well when they stutter out the main chorus I hear very clearly “going down to funky town with your sister” which really just works somehow. Although I'm pretty sure that is not what they are saying. As a young teenager I loved the blues and in particular Muddy Waters. My favourite song of his is “Still A Fool”. I wouild listen to it again and again but the man is even harder to understand than Mick, Kurt, put together. He's a groaner. So my mom sat down at the kitchen table with a pencil and paper and we played “Still A Fool” again and again and she wrote down the lyrics.... “well I tell of two trains running, well now they ain't never, no, running my way, well one train runs at midnight, the other one, running just for one day”. The song is very simple but the way he sings it still sends chills up my spine. My mom also did that for me with Janis Joplin's “Me And Bobby McGee”. You know, I had kinda forgotten that she did that, until writing about it all just now. It's the little things that count the most in life. Thanks mom.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Learning Not To Hate Myself

Over the last several months, thanks to my illness, I have had the opportunity to do a little self-examination, and one of the things it has shown me is that I am often my own worst enemy. It's funny, I knew that I had a tendancy to beat myself up (often over nothing at all), and I remember times as a teenager and twenty-something that the self-loathing was quite extreme. But I'm thirty-something now, well-adjusted (at least on the outside), why is my favourite passtime still looking at ways that I am guilty, bad and wrong?Like many women, I spend most of my day looking after others. Usually, when not sick, I work a relatively strenuous job looking after kids at a daycare and teaching them art. I also have step kids who come on the weekends and I pride myself with keeping them busy with art or sports while they are here. And then there's my husband, Kevin, who I love and look after as much as possible (although he has always been better at looking after me, god bless him). When my schedule was taken away, days streched out where there was nothing to do... except beat myself up.I'm so mean! I mean, am I crazy, or what? Sure, even on a normal day of work, I often lay awake at night going over something I said or did that day and hoping that it wouldn't have a negative effect. I would wonder how someone felt about something and would have to apologize on the odd chance that it hurt their feelings, only to find out that they had forgotten it completely, while I had played it again and again in my head. But now, time stretches out and I can look back at my life and find out just how horrible I am, in slow -motion technicolour.Like many people who have had something bad happen in their life, I try to make sense of it by saying that I must have deserved it in some way. I lost the hearing in my right ear when I was three, and grew up losing the hearing in my left ear, I have very little hearing now but with a hearing aid I do ok. But I must be stupid. I must miss so much and the thing is I know I do, but it is completely out of my control. And maybe that's why I hate myself so much, for failing to hear what everyone else can, what makes them normal. But I know that's not true, logically at least. I'm an adult and have dealt with the hearing for my whole life, I'd like to think I've come to terms with it, but when the chips come down, it seems that I'm still that insecure teenager that is sure people are talking about her to her face.Sure, I'm fat. I'm stupid, I'm crazy. I'm depressed (if you think you're depressed does that make you depressed, or do depressed people think they are normal?). Wow. I can just pile it on myself. Drives poor Kevin crazy, because there is nothing he can do when I start to seriously beat up on myself. I know what team he's rooting for but both of the teams are inside me! And what a fight it is. So exhausting. Around and around we go, slugging away at each other. Well, really, the mean one is just sticking and stabbing the crying little one again and again. Hence, “The Hateful Eye”, an abstract painting I did a while ago. The large, green half face on the right glares with loathing at the smaller, crying blue face on the left. Between them is a space that is also a woman's body, and it also has an eye. The space is grace, the feeling that pulls me out of myself, when I get in too deep, that fogives me for my guilt, that is kind to me. And luckily I do feel that, whenever I have the internal fight that draws me down, there is an outside benevolent force saying, “it's okay, you're all right you know”.Now the challenge has been to heed that voice sooner. Instead of just (by habit more than anything else, I swear!) allowing my thoughts to continue to look for wrongs, like a tongue returning to irritate an inflamed tooth again and again, I try to circumvent them and allow myself to just be. To be, even, nice to myself. Or at least not mean.That has been a challenge, but one I plan on continuing.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Back from Hospital Part Two

It's Sunday, I'm home, and surgery is over. To recap:
I got a surgery date for last Wednesday, May 31st, thanks mostly to my last hospital visit, they tried to speed things up for me. I had a new doctor who was great, plus my other specialist who had made the initial diagnosis helped out.Tuesday - Husband Kevin going crazy with worry, parents arrive from out of town to stay with us. Drink a bottle of laxative, no solid food, try not to let Kevin and my mom get at each other's throats.Wednesday - wake up at 5am, shower, arrive at hospital. Get changed into lovely hospital gown and classy net slippers. The first nurse who tries to put an IV drip in me tries unsuccessfully a number of times (ouch) then passes me on to another angel thank god who finds a vein. Surgery. Anaesthesia. Again, the mask wouldn't fit so there was a bit of jamming involved. Woke up, pain, getting moved to bed. Nice nurses. Morphine. Tubes in me everywhere - nose, two IV drips, catheter, bag coming out of my side for fluid draining.Thursday - long night of pain and calling nurses, begin to have to move. The first time they got me to sit up I was screaming and crying (one of the nurses asked me “do I do well with pain?” I guess the answer is “no”). Did sit up and walk two more times. The surgery went well, basically the doctors went in and fixed my urether which was tangled, reattached it to my kidney, and removed a great deal of my kidney as well, since it was enlarged and cystic.Some of my nurses were so wonderful. I particularily would like to thank Laura, my nurse Thursday, who helped me walk and sit and was so patient and kind with me. What a difference it makes when you can't move and are in pain to have a kind face and a smile and a voice with a sense of humour and compassion. Thank you Daisy, Kira, and Ravi.Then there were the other nurses. Thursday night I woke up to banging and drilling sounds in the middle of the night - so loud that even without my hearing aid in they still woke me up. The ward was dark and it was creepy and I was in pain. I put my hearing aid on and the sounds were even louder. I called the nurse and they said they were doing construction, on the other side of my wall. At two in the morning. The nurse that night was not so sympathetic and well rather cruel with my catheter drip and bag. No smile, no nice talk. And I still couldn't move and I was completely at her mercy! Right out of “misery”. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but unfortunately I have an imagination (hence, not doing so well with pain, if I start thinking too hard about the tube sticking out of my side it really freaks me out) I guess that's what makes me a good artist.Friday - the doctor comes to check on me, “What? You still have your catheter in? And why isn't your bag drained?” I assumed he tells the nurse but she is going off shift so nothing happens for HOURS until I get the next nurse, Ravi, another angel. Now it's her job to remove my catherter, make sure I can walk and go to the bathroom by “myself”, check how much I ooze from my side, and then remove my bag. Unfortunately I am trembly and nervous, in pain, trying to be off the IV drip so that I can go home. It is painful and awkward, (especially the tube removal - try getting a length of tube removed from your kidney while you're awake and see how you like it) but they send me home in a wheelchair anyway. This is the BC medical system after all. The same time as me the woman across from me is being sent home in a wheelchair. She lives in Victoria, a good three hours away by car and ferry. Considering how much it hurts just to sit up I really feel for her. Hope she is doing well.Saturday - Home sweet home sweet home. Food. Kevin. My animals (trying to jump all over me, a little scary at first but getting better). Slowly being able to walk by myself.Sunday - doing a little drawing, able to sit at computer to write, so happy to be home and alive and slowly out of pain. My kidney feels better. Still have a plastic tube in me for another six weeks, but I am on the way to good health. Slowly walking and reaching. Can't wait to get painting! And to get back to work, I miss the kids.Thanks every one who wrote to wish me well, I will try to aswer all correspondance this week.And a big thank you to my wonderful husband Kevin who looks ever so handsome when he's worried and tired. I love you baby.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Attie's New Deck

Here are some shots of my fourteen year old stepson Atticus and his skateboard that I painted for him. He knew he wanted a deck in the middle surrounded by roses, and let me freehand the rest. The shots aren't terribly good quality, and he's already started to skate on it and scratch the paint, but oh well, it was fun. He is a very dedicated skater, keep your eye out for him!

Back From The Hospital

My kidney hurts. A lot. It's been hurting for three months now, and I've seen the specialist, who knew the operation he wanted to do, but he went on vacation. I had tests. (CT scan, two ultrasounds, a renogram, numerous blood and urine tests.) I had seen a gynocologist to rule out other interior organs close to the kidney. No, it's the kidney. My right kidney is malrotated, two or three times the size it should be, covered in cysts or stones (depending on who you talk to -they're not exactly stones because they don't cast shadows, but there are masses on it.) The ureter is tangled up and also not as it should be. All the doctors know that, and yet it is almost impossible to get an operation date in this province, especially when you are "just" in pain and not dying.
In the meantime, I can't work (I work at a daycare and teach art to kids, a job I love), I can't paint because it takes too much energy, and I'm taking enough painkillers to keep Whitney and Bobby happy for a week. (Bad joke? I'm sorry, I'm a little mad at the moment.)
So, I keep getting worse, nausea, vomiting, the works. My doctors suggest going to emergency and seeing if I can get operated on faster. I go to emergency Monday morning, spend eight hours crying on a bed somewhere, with no food or water "just in case" they need to operate, then a doctor says they're going to have to let me go because really I have a specialist already. He is very upset about this though and says he's going to try to get me in for tests at least. So they book me, I get another CT scan and another ultrasound and some more blood tests and urine tests (you get the picture). The urology staff decides to put me on the surgery list, which means I can't eat or drink, and I'm waiting for surgery. I'm scared but relieved because I really really want this pain to go away.
Monday night I get woken up in my hospital bed around midnight; a nurse wants to change my IV drip from my right elbow to my left hand. And she really jabs the needle in. It's quite painful, but she says that the IV has to be changed every 24 hrs and that "you should always start at the hand". She doesn't talk to me, but to the student with her, she then gives me a shot of morphine without me asking for it.
The next day, no eating or drinking, waiting for surgery, scared, not a great day. At the end of the day, another nurse, a new one this time, is giving me my meds - and by the way they NEVER give you pain medication without asking what number your pain is, they were very thourough and helpful - and I ask, "what about the IV drip, should you be changing that?" and she said, "yes, every three days, so you're okay." Oh. And I didn't rat out the first nurse. Mostly because I was scared that word would get back to her and then she'd really fuck me over.
Another night and day of no eating or drinking - I'm talking no WATER no ice no nothing. Wednesday the surgeon's assistant wakes me up and says to be ready any time, I'm on the list and it should be happening soon. I've already signed the consent form, removed my nail polish and jewelery, and he's written on my right thigh so there will be no confusion about what side to open up in the OR. Then late Wednesday afternoon they send me home. I had been bumped off the list, and since I hadn't eaten or drank in three days, they couldn't keep me there in perpetuity. They said they could fit me in June 6 or 7th so here's hoping. But I've had a lot of dates thrown around and so far nothing has happened.
And my hand hurts. The nurse who took out my IV needle was like "Oh.... there's a lot of tape here... oh... there's more, okay,... sorry, hold on," My husband said she seemed to be saying "What retard did this IV?" It's Friday and my hand still hurts like the dickens. And of course the kidney.
So, I'm home again, still no operation, taking stronger and stronger painkillers, and waiting for things to get better.