For the past few weeks I had been attempting to write about the necessity of the activist artist to continually push ahead with their vision regardless of the many setbacks incurred along the way.

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The photo I wanted to use as a visual analogy was a pair of glasses (see above) that had been accidentally poked off my head when I was cutting and burning shrubbery in preparation for the installation of a sculpture marking the end of the Gaia Evolution Walk.

I somehow managed to keep working throughout the day without realising what had happened and it was only that evening back at the house after a cleansing shower that, when looking for my glasses, I realised they were missing. The next morning, while getting ready to continue with the burning off of the shrubbery, I saw them in the embers of the previous day’s fire.

How does one continue with their life’s work when accidents/tragedy/misfortune knocks the clear vision off our heads?

Is it possible to continue? Is it possible to re-group? Is it even worth the effort to continue on half blind?

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My friend Neil Lawrence died tragically this past week, suffering a heart attack while surfing with his son Tom in the Maldives.

Most Australians would know of Neil as the mastermind of the Kevin 07 election campaign.

I knew Neil, not so much through his creative genius as an advertising guru, but through his — behind the scenes — passionate environmental and social concerns for a better world. He once volunteered himself to the Greens to work pro bono on a federal election campaign, but was turned down because he wasn’t in the “inner circle”.

It was Neil who got the Recognise film crew to come to Windgrove a month or so back.

Go on-line to find more of his achievements.

Right now I just want to focus on how we deal with loss, especially big losses. And how we need to find a way to re-focus — get new glasses; possibly with a better prescription — in order to honour and carry on the work of those who have departed.

Not easy, for sure.

embers again

Just beyond where my broken glasses lay, a pile of ash and burnt wood looked dead and cold.

A little wind came up, however, and fanned a few embers back to life. They poked their red, burning desires through the greyness.

In no small way, seeing this little bit of glowing potential wanting desperately to burst into life again, helped me to carry on with the completion of the job at hand.

Find the love, find the courage, find the little spark to keep your environmental/social/artistic dreams active and progressing.

As hard as it might seem, we need to continually brave the cold waters and surf of this world.

We owe it to all those who have come before.

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Monday work blues?

June 29, 2015

I would imagine that most people when heading off to work on a Monday morning would rather be home or, at least, not stuck in traffic.

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My drive to work this morning was out towards the Point and the Wombat Circle; about a half kilometre, three minute drive. I would have walked, but the car had tools, drinking water, etc.

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With heavy duty shears, for the past few weeks I have been cutting back and burning native currant bushes to create a large circle whose centre will mark the ending of the 1.2 kilometre Gaia Evolution Walk.

Yes, the work is exhausting and by the end of the day I want nothing more than a cold beer as any decent construction worker would want.

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But while on the job and needing a bit of a rest, I just push through the gate to the Wombat Circle and rest with a cup of cold water and a packet of potato chips.

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If the view gets too boring, I can take a short walk further south to the Point to refresh myself there.

All in all, not a bad place to spend a day working. And don’t think for a moment that I’m all alone. There are delights everywhere from eagles soaring overhead to seals frolicking in the water. And on the ground, countless droppings of wombat poo.

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I receive a lot of visitors at Windgrove, but this past weekend was extra special.

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Most notably were the Tasmanian singer/songwriter Dewayne Everettsmith and a Sydney film crew of five come to shoot a Recognise Campaign ad for Australian TV audiences.

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For those people outside of Australia there is a major push here to include the first people’s of Australia into this country’s constitution — a constitution that implicitly begins Australia’s national story only from the time of British arrival and not the arrival of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people some 40,000 years ago.

A correction is needed.

So it was a real joy to be able to help out with this campaign by offering the use of Windgrove.

Such a delight to first share coffee and muffins and conversation in the house and to then walk the land with everyone.

I felt truly gifted by the presence and singing of Dewayne and the jovial camaraderie of the film crew. Yes, there’s always a bit of buzz meeting a celebrity, but another buzz came from feeling that the land I’ve been living on for 23 years is being recognised for its beauty and inherent power.

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A power and beauty that was captured on the following day in a most extraordinary photo of Roaring Beach that included the Drop Stone Bench — the very bench seen in the above photo just below the image of Dewayne.

It was taken by James McIver as he walked along the Gaia Evolution Walk with his three friends Kiata, Crystal and Emily.

I, myself, have taken hundreds of photos of the Drop Stone Bench, but nothing compares with the mystical quality that this photo captures. There is something very special about the three women sitting huddled together looking out across the windswept waters of Roaring Beach while the she-oak tree’s branches to their left are wildly being blown around. Pure magic.

I can’t stop looking at it.

James McIver Drop Stone

Gaia Walk update

June 1, 2015

Every afternoon after carving for most of the day, I leave my studio around 3PM and head out to the Point or other parts of the Gaia Evolution Walk to put in a couple of hours of work before the sun goes down.

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The first photo shows my studio with the sculpture ‘Present Time’ on the work bench. It’s about nine foot long and will (one day) stand tall like a totem pole. In front and on the sawhorses are 22 sand blasted wooden posts that are to be installed along the Gaia Walk as soon as they are prepped — holes for steel posts and a bit of sanding.

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I found this squashed creature along the Walk this past week and it somehow seems fitting to rest it on the stack of sandblasted posts.

Of the eventual 80 posts, to date forty have been placed along the 1.2 kilometre path.

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The “20” signifies 20 million years ago. I, myself, find it interesting that for most of the history of Earth, there wasn’t the melodious voice of any bird to welcome in or close down the day.

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Most of the 13 illustrative panels have been placed along the path as single units. The last three, however, representing the Cenezoic Era (65 million years ago to present day) have been placed together.

And, flat on the ground like all the others. Level, too. With a slight slope for drainage. And branches to deter wombats. Length is 3.6 meters or 12 feet.

I like the concept of ancient time buried in the earth, yet visible.

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My shadow gives a sense of scale.

While having a residency at Windgrove, what does an artist do the majority of their time ?

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Good question. But the most obvious answer — make art —is not the correct one.

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On the Windgrove letterhead is the strap line: “Refuge for learning”.

It does not say: “Refuge for doing.

Or, more specifically, a requirement to continuously make art while tucked away in a studio with or without other like minded artists busily being artists.

Usually, when artists are given a residency, they’re required to exhibit a body of work at the end of their residency. In most cases, this works well for both the artist and the facility that offers the residency, because it’s a given understood by all and easily followed.

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At Windgrove, however, other than helping to share in meal preparation and an hour or two in the garden, I like to push the notion of allowing the artist complete freedom from obligation.

If one is to be in a residency and come away with new ideas and a renewed passion for life and one’s life work, a nurturing gestation period of contemplative walks and observation is, in my view, not only a better way to stimulate the muse, but a necessity.

A necessity few artists, let alone the general population, are able to access.

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Windgrove is no Club Med. More like a Zen retreat for the creative spirit.

For that reason, I have no photos to show “the art work” that American furniture designer/sculptor Miriam Carpenter did while staying here for five weeks; just photos of her more meandering times.

If interested, Google Miriam for a look at her professional capabilities.

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What I can offer, though, is one section of an email she wrote from New Zealand after leaving Windgrove. The poem Atavism she refers to is printed below.

It will take me a while to process everything I have gathered from Windgrove and my time with you, but for now I can offer up the initial bits and pieces.  As I read Atavism to myself time and time again, and to others (as I did throughout CollaboratioNZ), I feel an ever increasing resonance.  I have done my best to see, and am aware that the world has and is happening a third time in all I suspect I will never be able to see.  Standing at the foot of Tane Mahuta, I felt my whiskers wider than my mind, away out over everything… and the strength and vibration of the forest stroking my fur.  My perception and seeing has shifted as anthropocentric thoughts dissolve into viewing life as an integral part of Pachamama. 

Windgrove is alive and thinking.  Consciousness is the land, not from it.  Your vision is sharp and I have deep respect and gratitude for your ever increasing tenacity in cultivating a rich opportunity for emotional, physical, mental and spiritual enlightenment.   I am honored to be the Maiden – for I have three more phases on this journey, and I am rich, content and inspired beyond my wildest dreams.   

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Atavism

1
Sometimes in the open you look up
where birds go by, or just nothing,
and wait. A dim feeling comes
you were like this once, there was air,
and quiet; it was by a lake, or
maybe a river you were alert
as an otter and were suddenly born
like the evening star into wide
still worlds like this one you have found
again, for a moment, in the open.

2
Something is being told in the woods: aisles of
shadow lead away; a branch waves;
a pencil of sunlight slowly travels its
path. A withheld presence almost
speaks, but then retreats, rustles
a patch of brush. You can feel
the centuries ripple generations
of wandering, discovering, being lost
and found, eating, dying, being born.
A walk through the forest strokes your fur,
the fur you no longer have. And your gaze
down a forest aisle is a strange, long
plunge, dark eyes looking for home.
For delicious minutes you can feel your whiskers
wider than your mind, away out over everything.

William Stafford

Throughout my 30 years living in Tasmania, my painting friends have constantly talked of the quality “light” found only in Tasmania.

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Not being a painter, nor in tune to the subtle changes of colour during the day, I always assumed this talk of “clarity and brilliance” was little more than… well, just local prejudice and bias.

However, two days ago I twice photographed the same protea blooming in my garden. Once in the early morning light with a thin covering of rain cloud obscuring the sun. (seen above).

And again at the same time the next morning, but this time with the full sun hitting the protea. (see below).

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I don’t know about you, but the difference between the two is rather startling, don’t you think?

In the far recesses of my brain I understand that the full sun would be comprised of a full spectrum of light, whereas, the thinly clouded sun would emit a different spectrum of light. But when I was photographing this protea, I never saw the difference in colour between the two days. The protea just appeared, to me, to be of the same (delightful) colour.

Those pesky painters certainly know something us sculptors don’t.

As an aside, notice how — in 24 hours — the protea opened up a wee bit more.

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