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the birds under the bridge

This bird obsession is well and truly underway. I'm not entirely sure where it started but there's something beautiful and tragic about birds and I keep finding stories and mythological tales that I think we can all relate to.

I painted a few birds this summer. The first in Bristol at Upfest. I read about birds in the region and came across birds that are disappearing from the region: Swifts. The swift is one of the fastest flying birds in the world. Their flying abilities allows them to spend up to 6 months in flight and when they stop they stop in high up places where they're able to drop and swoop back into flight. Their tiny legs mean that if a swift does ever get grounded, it can rarely take off again. I found this quite apt to how some of us feel when things get hard and near impossible. The piece was called "What becomes of the broken hearted" after all.

What's more tragic about the swift is that their numbers are rapidly declining partly due to global warming affecting their migration paths, and also due to the fact that as we replace ornate buildings that provided pockets for them to build their nests with glassy high-rises, there are fewer places for them to build nests. Urbanization at its finest. There might be a little swift in all of us, afraid to stop moving in case we can't get back up again.

After Bristol I was back in Canada and went a few hours north of Toronto to Camp Ozanam, a camp set up for boys from low-income homes that can't afford to send their children to camp. It was such an all American movie-like set to be on but at the same time such an enriching experience in seeing how hard people work to instill positive values and strength in our next generations. I painted the boys a hawk as they told me about their 11 year old girlfriends and their summers at camp. Dream interpretation says that to see a hawk is a representation of self awareness, confidence and strength. They have a long road ahead and Camp Ozanam seems to be doing a great job giving them some of the essentials to get through life with integrity.

Back in Toronto I was commissioned to paint a section of the underside of the Gardiner Expressway by the Steps Initiative on the PanAm Path. It's a highway that's been on the chopping block for years and we were told it had anywhere between 5 and 20 years before it would be gone. When I was told about the site, being under a bridge down town ( :) )I thought about the birds who build their nests in these spots. Tucked away often only heard and never seen. There are a lot of invisible characters in our communities we dismiss and know nothing about. Who've flown far and wide to find a place to call home, if only for a short while. Who have left something of themselves behind. And who, given some visibility and significance, have a lot to give and share and learn from. I spend a lot of my life wandering on my own. And find some comfort in knowing that while there's birds under the bridge, you're never alone.

And finally I painted an owl at the women on the walls festival with Stephanie Bellefleur, a lovely young artist I got to know this summer. I asked her what bird she wanted, she wanted an owl. The owl's meant to have many female-related significations. Athena being the most obvious. And apparently "The Inuit believed that the Short-eared Owl was once a young girl who was magically transformed into an Owl with a long beak. But the Owl became frightened and flew into the side of a house, flattening its face and beak." The festival was a celebration of women who paint. The piece was a colab and Steph added her abstract colour work as a sort of environment for the owl. I always say I feel like a black and white girl living in a technicolour world. I think this is what that would look like.

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