An edited version of this essay was published in the June issue of FotoNostrum.
In hindsight, art became my vocation because I had no choice. There are always choices so, like most high-sounding statements, that first sentence isn’t even true. But it feels this way — like if I hadn’t become an artist I would have been eaten from the inside by some sickness.
That’s not to say I didn’t do other things. Not having chosen my parents wisely, I needed to work for a living — survival being the artist’s first imperative — so I had a day gig…
Imagine: a single moment waited 63 years for me, hidden in a blue shoebox. And when I say a moment, I mean it: a sixtieth of a second, maybe less.
I wasn’t there for it back when it happened. I wasn’t even born.
The moment I’m talking about — and which I’m going to talk about (boy am I ever) — takes place in 1951. That’s a few short years after World War II, when human beings tore each other apart in all kinds of new ways, six years that now seem to be falling out of memory.
My mother was tiny, her bones delicate, like a bird’s. When the young woman at the Mount Royal Crematorium handed me her remains, she said, “That’s the lightest box of ashes I’ve ever seen.”
Sealed with tape and never opened, that plain white cardboard box sits on the fourth shelf of my office closet between a pile of bubble wrap that I’ll use someday and a stack of three-ring binders I won’t. The label on top of the box reads:
CREMATED REMAINS OF:
Registration number: 278718
Like my father, my mother grew up poor. She never lost the…
There’s music in everything, even defeat.
So, here’s a funny story. Or maybe it’s not funny at all. My mother told it to me when I was around 25, swearing it to be truth not mischief, though she sometimes couldn’t help mixing the two together. Here’s how our conversation went:
“On the day you were born, do you know what your father did when the nurse told him he had a son?” I told my mother no.
“He fainted. He really fainted. Out cold.”
I said, “You mean he fainted because, what, he was overcome with the emotion…
Your elder self is charging into winter. To be more exact, it’s the hours that charge forward; I follow, slower and less certain. When the time comes, you’ll find me less a comet and more like Riley, the chocolate Lab retriever who lives next door. Gray-muzzled and slightly stiff, she still—charmingly, to me—strains at the leash when pointed toward the park, splendor and lavatory calling like sirens.
You may be tempted to dismiss this letter as the product of old age. Careful with that. (And for god’s sake, avoid the word “curmudgeon”—if not for my sake, then yours.)…
Lots of people have already done this, so I’m late to the party. (And by the way, as of this writing I’m still on LinkedIn though I’m not sure why — it doesn’t seem to have the nasty rep the other platforms do, but I don’t use it so it’s probably next on the block.)
In any case, why did I quit? The following reasons aren’t comprehensive or in order of importance, but I’ll list a few that come to mind.
Social media is being used for nasty stuff
The first thing that spurred me on was that these platforms have…
Way back in 2013, I googled “self-esteem” and here’s what I got from a site called Psych Central:
Have you wondered about what self-esteem is and how to get more of it? Do you think your self-esteem is low? Do you know how to tell? Do you know what to do about it?
We’ve been gnawing on this bone for a long time. Writers have churned out mountains of books and articles on self-esteem. It’s made careers and filled thousands of therapy hours. Television heads and bloggers have droned on about it. …
Written in conjunction with the exhibition Untitled Selves: New Work by Frank Rodick, Ryerson School of Image Arts, Toronto, 2018.
It lasted years, not months; and during that long season of falling apart I watched those last waves of stardust sweep through my parents, breaking them into pieces. It took long enough never to stop, and so little time it was ash before it began.