Peerings & Hearings

Occasional Musings on Arts & Community in the City of Glass

Sun carving: Aboriginal peoples of Canada, a sign at The Native Education College (NEC). Image: Vincent Wong.

Welcome & Acknowledgment

Together we have arrived at the tenth (!) installment of our every-other-month conversation on arts and community in Vancouver.

And, as we gather together, let us respectfully acknowledge the traditional territories of the Four Nations in the Greater Vancouver Area: Musqueam Nation, Squamish Nation, Tsawwassen Nation, and Tsleil-Waututh Nation.


Post #10 — Tiny Interview Project #2

In this post, as in the first of its kind in June, I share with you two more sparkling responses to my Tiny Interview Project (TIP). Tiny because the interview consists of but two questions:

1. What’s your artistic medium/form of expression?
2. How do you define community?

Since May, as I bumped into people at art galleries, poetry readings, in bookshops, at cafés, I invited them to participate and offered the following directions:

Thanks for agreeing to the Tiny Interview Project. I’m going to give you the two questions. The idea is that immediately after you read them, you respond to them off the top of your head. Set aside pondering. Be straight and in the moment. Shrug off pressure to be definitive. Answer for today. Then, without editing or futzing, send your answers, still glistening with freshness, right back to me.

By sharing their responses with you, who care to congregate here at the site of this blog, I intend to manifest community —that is, to think and talk about what arts community is… to assemble it around me… and to celebrate the conspirators in my personal arts community.


Conspirators

Two conspirators in my personal arts community are Jenny Hawkinson and Judith Penner.

Jenny Hawkinson & Judith Penner. Images: their friends.

Judith and I met at a monthly dinner meeting of women writers, initiated by Vancouver poet, novelist, and principal at Nomados Literary Publishers, Meredith Quartermain, who expresses her interest in community by coordinating this gathering. When I first joined the group, Judith reached out to me; hers was a gesture most necessary for a newcomer to feel welcomed. From there, our conversations about poetry and shared interest in walking drew us closer. Judith is a no nonsense, and therefore my kind, of woman.

HYPERLOCAL HERENOW exhibition at Visual Space Gallery, featuring The Significance of a Journey, a photo collage, 2016 and NYC Collection, found object collage and wheat-paste, 2011–2012, among other art works by Jenny Hawkinson. Images: J. R. Welch.

Jenny and I met at an exhibition featuring her work at Visual Space Gallery. The longer I stood before Jenny’s artwork, the more interested I became. Jenny’s work dialogues with proportions; real life large things (e.g. houses) are shrunken and small things (e.g. inch-high wood carvings) enlarged to enact scale and comment on monumentality. Jenny and I share an interest in assemblage and pilgrimage. When I asked Jenny about her work, she shined openly and responded generously. Jenny’s vivacious — and that is not only her red hair talking — she is a genuine, warm spirit.

Now, dear reader, to the second in the series of responses to the Tiny Interview Project from Jenny Hawkinson and Judith Penner. May their thoughtful answers inspire you as they did me.


Judith Penner

Judith Penner Published Works: readymade bespoke (prose poem) in READYMADES (Smith Foundation, 2016) & Misericordia (fiction) in GEIST, spring 2009. Images: Matt Penner.

What’s your artistic medium/form of expression?

I’m a writer — of poems, prose poems, short fiction and essays.

Judith Penner Published Works: short essay in SUSTENANCE Anthology (Anvil Press, 2017); chapbook manuscript of THE BED OF HALF FULL: A LANDSCAPE (Nomados, 2018); a response to Lisa Robertson’s workshop in September, THE CAPILANO REVIEW (33.3). Images: stock & Matt Penner.

How do you define community?

There’s the community I live in, my neighbourhood — then there are my communities of interest and/or profession, such as the writing community here in Vancouver.

This isn’t really one community (as I see it) but several overlapping communities…

that cluster around certain venues where readings are held, certain magazines or publishing outlets, and certain ideas about writing or preferences for particular styles of writing. So I might identify as my community one that includes people whose work I read (they might live anywhere and I might never meet them), people I recognize but might not know or not know well and people I do know.

It becomes (is still becoming and always shifting)

my community over time, over repeated sightings and conversations.

I know some people very well individually. Some I know only in groups. Over time and conversations general associations sometimes move closer to friendship, and

sharing work can help us feel supported for even trying to be writers.

But there is also my sense of belonging or not belonging and that can depend a lot on how confidant I am about my work on any given day or who has expressed interest in it.

Sometimes I think I don’t belong anywhere; …

sometimes I have a cosy sense of being amongst familiars. I often like getting to know the private person as well as the public writer, but as a writer (obviously also a person but in this instance not focused on the personal),

I feel community when I read or hear a piece of writing that draws me in and inspires me.

When I come across writing that is so good I am blasted into a vast sphere of possibilities I feel, oddly — even when I’m not sure I can ever write as well — at home.


Jenny Hawkinson

Jenny Hawkinson at her studio entrance; an in-process print for Open Book Art Collective exhibit at Vancouver Writers Festival, 2017. Images: Jami Macarty.

What’s your artistic medium/form of expression?

I am a visual artist who works in a variety of mediums.

I work conceptually, …

so if an idea doesn’t work in a medium that I am familiar with (for instance, collage) I will learn how to carve wood and make a sculpture instead. More recently I have been using video as a way to document performances that are more ritualistic in nature.

I am a maker, …

I love working with textiles and small sculpture, so these are usually the objects used in my performance/videos.

I also love text, and though I don’t consider myself a poet, I use text to provoke and add layers of meaning to my artwork.

Small things, dubbed by Jami Macarty Miniature Monuments, by Jenny Hawkinson. Images: Jami Macarty.

How do you define community?

Community is the family around me that inspires, fuels, supports and sustains my artist practice.

I was just reading this morning about someone’s Kickstarter campaign for getting his album project off the ground. It brought me back to the (very recent) times when I reached out to my people with a dream that was financially unattainable and I was overwhelmed by the response and support.

All of my good ideas are at some point a collaboration…

with the people around me. Whether it is an intellectual or spiritual conversation that sparks my interest on an issue, a gift someone gave me that begs to be transformed into artwork, apprenticeship opportunities, friends who sow into my work financially or attend a fundraising event, the stranger in the NYC subway who gives me a tract that later goes into a collage, or the hospitality of new friends who host me while I am on a travel assignment.

I don’t know how (or why?) people try to live the artist life alone.

There is so much richness and depth to be had from letting other people in.


Mural detail of The Nest Community by Jenny Hawkinson and collaborators. Image: Jami Macarty.

Thank you Judith Penner and Jenny Hawkinson for letting me in, for answering my call to the Tiny Interview Project. Thank you Vincent Wong for generously allowing me to share another of your thoughtful photos here.


Thank you, dearest readers for being here with me!

Look for the next P & H in another two months.

In the meantime, reach out, leave a comment. Tell me what you want more of and less of in this blog — and in your community — and what’s just right. It’s always good to know what’s just right.

You can also follow me @herkind to discover my other articles.

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