Finally took photos of some of the oil paintings I’ve been working on over the past year. All centre on the theme of natural flow systems.
Petal Veins 16 in x 20 in
Feathers 2 ft x 2.5 ft
So excited to announce the release of ‘I Love the Shape of Me,’ a song to accompany The Body Book! I dream of kids (and parents) getting this song about loving their own unique bodies and shape stuck in their heads.
This painting is part of a series about natural flow systems in nature. I began thinking about this when I read a book that proposed the “constructal law,” developed by Adrian Bejan, a mechanical engineering professor at Duke University and expert on thermodynamics.
“The law of physics that accounts for the phenomenon of evolution of organization (configuration, form, design) throughout nature, inanimate flow systems and animate systems together. A principle that essentially places the recurring patterns we see in nature into the world of physics.”
I found this deeply comforting, as it spoke to a sense of order amidst chaos and interconnection on the deepest level. I often think of nature as an anchor, especially in our modern frenetic and anxiety provoking mental landscape.
This painting is based on an aerial view of a river in Iceland, and centres around concepts of flow, transformation, and cleansing. Though inspired by personal and emotional experiences, the moving through and washing away that flowing water symbolises are welcome acts as we witness Trump’s first days in the White House, and the chaos and harm that he is creating. The idea that something greater than the human brain has dictated that life must be in a perpetual state of flow, change, and impermanence is comforting.
Moving water is also raging, violent and transformative of the landscape it flows through. I am not proposing that we are passive witnesses of the world’s craziness, but part of the rapid, turbulent currents as well. Our energies of anger, seeking justice and united strength are essential to this project of transformation.
Nature, societies, technologies- all exist in a state of perpetual evolution. If this is a stage, and we are on our way somewhere else, let us transform intentionally, together, into something better.
This is just a little commission- 5 x 7 inches, to honour the memory of Bailey. This image shows Bailey as a puppy. He and his owner loved spending time in the North Shore forests, providing inspiration for the background colour scheme.
Jill Andrew, PhD (ABD), is a prolific woman with a mission. She is a body positive activist, writer, educator, fashion blogger, co-creator of the Body Confidence Canada Awards, founder/director of BITE ME! Toronto Int’l Body Image Film & Arts Festival Awards, and spearhead a petition going to the Ontario Human Rights Commission to make discrimination based on size and appearance illegal. She wants to end fat shaming, and change our culture into one that accepts and celebrates all bodies, not to mention the people in them.
After learning about the Body Confidence Canada Awards, I wanted to connect with Jill and let her know about The Body Book, thinking it could be an educational tool to help the cause. Kindly and bewilderingly given her full schedule, Jill found some time to share her thoughts. In my opinion, she summed up perfectly why I feel this book is needed.
“Roz Maclean’s The Body Book is a welcomed edition to the Body Positivity Movement! MacLean seamlessly demonstrates that everyBODY has a story and that each and every one of our bodies not only deserves respect but should be acknowledged and celebrated as the only one we’re going to get! Our bodies usher us into the world, make us better community citizens and allow us to develop healthier and stronger relationships with our loved ones. We may look and move differently in these bodies of ours but what we can all do is appreciate one another and admire each others journeys in the skin we are in! Through the use of vivid colour and fun imagery, MacLean’s characters reach countless readers as they are not defined by any one gender or race, for instance. This allows a transcending of stereotypes which truly provides the opportunities for each of us – young and old – to ‘find’ each of these bodies within our very own.”
Thanks Jill for your thoughts, I look forward to following your incredible work. I encourage everyone to do the same!
For the past seven years, I have worked as an Intervenor in mainstream schools. This means that I have supported students who are Deafblind in a one to one position. When people who work outside of the world of education, and specifically, disability, hear this they are often curious. How do you communicate? Usually, a Deafblind person does not have complete vision or hearing loss, but a combination of a degree of both. This creates a disability that is unique amongst other types of sensory loss, but also unique to each individual, meaning that communication needs are also unique from person to person.
Deafblindness is an “information gathering disorder,” meaning that the Deafblind person does not have access to the information that allows them to make sense of the world. So, to communicate this person needs as many opportunities to access information as possible – through voice, object and tactile cues, touch, visual cues (symbols and photos) and sign language. This is called a ‘total communication system.’ Sign language can be presented for the Deafblind person to see if they have adequate vision (often the signer must be close and in a preferred field of vision) or can be used in pro-tactile or ‘hand under hand’ sign. This is when sign language is signed onto a person’s hands, with the “speaking hands” on top, and the “listening hands” held open underneath. The ultimate goal when working with a Deafblind person who does not have expressive language is always that they will become an expressive communicator.
The students who I have worked with have had complex needs in addition to their Deafblindness. I have worked with three students, and each has had physical disabilities, cognitive disabilities and medical issues that have additionally informed the way that they learn. In a school context, relationships with peers, sense of place and belonging in the school community, and learning goals are always central themes. For classmates who want to connect with these students who obviously learn and communicate differently, sign language has been a kind of meeting place. Typically abled peers can learn sign language as a way to connect with these Deafblind students. In contrast to Deaf culture, where exclusively signing spaces are the norm, for Deafblind students in mainstream schools a signing environment must be created. This is also true of any non-speaking student who could benefit from sign language as a way to communicate.
Part of the reason I was inspired to focus on the American Sign Language alphabet in my artwork was because I wanted to show that communication is of primary importance, and assert that it is actually a right. In mainstream schools there is still a danger that students who don’t communicate typically will drift through their schooling without learning meaningful alternative ways of letting those around them know their needs, wants and life narratives. Amidst concerns of medicalization, convenience (it is often easiest to anticipate the needs and desires of the student and automatically fulfill them) and appearing “normal” (and doing tasks that are not meaningful or goal fulfilling for the student, but are the same as their peers) it was crucial to me that the students I worked with were always seen foremost as communicators.
Communication is necessary for individuals to assert their personality, needs, wants, and individuality, and to feel a true sense of connection to others; to feel fully known and understood. Often one’s personhood is assessed by others, though probably not intentionally or consciously, based on that person’s ability to communicate with formal language. In a context where caregivers and educators might take for granted that disability corresponds to child-like passivity and co-operation, communication is essential for agency, individuality, and self-determination.
People with disabilities and their allies have been advocating for their rights to these human needs for a long time, and people with disabilities continue to fight to be treated as equal citizens of our country. Institutionalization as a default practice for housing people with intellectual disabilities is very recent, continuing to this day despite the fact that it goes against Article 19 of the UN Convention of Rights for Persons with Disabilities*, which Canada ratified in 2010. The absence of communication, or voicelessness, perpetuates the belief that people with disabilities should have their decisions made for them, and settle for what they get.
So enabling a form of voice has been a huge theme while I’ve supported students. Matching vocabulary to the day to day life and readiness of the student, I have learned some ASL vocabulary and have been practising signed English with students. Signed English is distinct from ASL because it lacks the grammar and syntax of ASL, and instead matches the signs to spoken English.
I am not fluent in sign language, and I am not part of Deaf Culture. So I have asked myself the question (and been asked), is it really my place to make and share this artwork? Will I appear to be taking a position of authority over a language that is not even my own? This year I have taken two beginner ASL courses which also teach students about cultural issues around Deafness. Appropriation in the name of sharing and celebration comes up. The topic of taking away opportunities from Deaf artists comes up. Both are not okay. The more I learned about the complexity and sensitivity surrounding ASL, the more I had to ask myself- what am I trying to accomplish?
As I move away from Intervention, and go forward to support students with other types of needs, I am contemplating what this past seven years has taught me. Within the small Intervenor community I have been part of, the phrase “Intervention is 50% PR” (public relations) comes up a lot. When we face challenges around defining learning goals in a team environment, finding a place socially for our students, creating physical space for often bulky communication and calendar systems in already crowded classrooms, and making sure our prep time is spent creating the resources our students need, we practise the delicate art of PR.
With the ASL drawings, I guess I am in part falling into this practised role of intermediary. I want to draw the hearing and typically abled community in to engage with a language they may not have contemplated before, to see that it is worth spending time with, to see that it is worthy of recognition and respect. I want ASL to enter the mainstream, so that any learner who does not speak can have access to natural, embodied expression in a community that can understand and know them. I know that pen and paper are not capable of accomplishing all of that, but they served me well in giving my own voice to this wish.
To address the concern of ASL and Deaf artists, I do not want to claim any space that could be filled by Deaf people. My drawings are a contemplation, honouring and sharing, a visual place for my thoughts and feelings about what I’ve just written about, but they are not an authority and are not intended to perpetuate systems of the disempowerment of Deaf people. I recognize that Deafness is not disability, though I imagine there are shared experiences between people with both identities. I recognize that Deaf people are capable of speaking for themselves, and do not need me to speak on their behalf.
I also feel that sign language is needed in places it is not yet being used, for various reasons such as lack of community based and accessible training (versus four-year programs through formal educational institutes), a belief that technology can serve the same purposes, and that sign language isn’t common enough to be a life long practical communication tool. Now that ASL may become a third official language in Canada, perhaps we are seeing a change? Maybe teaching sign language to those who need it will be properly funded and organized in the near future. But until then, we need to do our best to make sure everyone who does not yet communicate has access to the means to do so.
I encourage you, dear Reader, to learn about Deaf culture and history, as well as the history of disability, and to explore the visual art, theatre and writing of both groups. I have included a couple of links below to get you started. I invite you to learn with me, how we can better communicate with everyone in our community.
Canadian Cultural Society of the Deaf – artist directory
Christine Sun Kim- TED interview and videos – explores the concept of sound through visual art
RIT National Technical Institute for the Deaf– artist directory
Zoée Nuage– Vancouver visual artist and Queer ASL founder and instructor
update: The artwork from this project will be used as educational resources and fundraising purposes by the Canadian Deafblind Association, and the BC Provincial Outreach Program for Students with Deafblindness.
This was a fun though somewhat melancholy event at Renegade Studios. This multidisciplinary space was home to musicians, theatre groups, and visual artists, and is another soon to be casualty of condo development. A bit of an unofficial extension of Vancouver’s Eastside Culture Crawl, this space was the art home to my talented friend Maddy Andrews. Maddy is a multidisciplinary artist who uses acrylic, textiles, and oils. Wall space was also shared with my mom, Jan MacLean, who paints in acrylic. The informal space was a nice way to share my newer work in oil, alongside some older prints of pet portraits and kids books.
I was honored to be a part of Shoutback! fest this year by taking part in their first visual arts show at Artbank gallery. Shoutback! is a lot of awesome things, such as diy, anti capitalist, anarcha-feminist, queer and all ages. Ultimately it is a “celebration in smashing patriarchy, showcasing artists who are under-represented.” Amongst a plethora of shows and workshops (on such topics as anti oppression and colonization, direct unionism, feminism and hip hop, fat panic!, skateboarding and bike fixing) this year they showcased art for the first time in a show curated by arts supporter and enthusiast ambitioustron extraordinaire, Selina Crammond. A rad zine was made by the fantastic Adrienne Labelle (both are of Movieland fame) with artists’ statements and manifestos, music was played to a jam packed venue, and even though people were very sweaty art was not, in the end, sweated upon. Times were good. I even took pictures.
Also, the manifesto of the show/ festival (written by Selina Crammond) was so inspiring to me I had to write it out here:
The name Shout Back! Festival was directly inspired by the title of Bell Hook’s 1988 book Talking Back: Thinking Feminist. Thinking Black. In the book, she outlines the transformative power of writing as a tool for addressing oppression and encouraging social change. For Shout Back the emphasis is on voice and sound as a tool for challenging the heteronormative structures that perpetuate inequality. This year we are going beyond music-making by including expanded workshops, a documentary screening and this art show as a way to offer (quieter) space to foster dialogue.
Be it through sound, writing or talking there is no ‘one size fits all’ way of sifting through such complex realities. The songs performed, the uber cool shout back t-shirts worn and even the art in this show are not the most important part of this festival. For me the power lies in the process of screen printing a t shirt and even the process of hanging art on the wall.
This art show, like the festival itself, is a celebration of process over product. Though all of the pieces in this show are wonderful, weird and thought provoking in their finality, the act of making them is what I’m most interested in. For it is the curl in Aili’s riot grrl manifesto, the pencil marks behind Roz’s watercolour, the tiny knots in Kristine’s tin foil jewelery, the pixellated splotches on Jill’s computer monitor, the rip in Vanessa’s paper canvass and the stitches in Caitlin’s banner where ideas become action.
Many feminist scholars have proclaimed the importance of working collectively through difference. But difference doesn’t exist without the normal. And I think, perhaps, the time + space that breathes between ideas + products are where difference + normal can collapse into an active togetherness that will set us free!
For if the duty of the feminist movement is, as Bell Hooks says, to work collectively to expand our awareness of how sex, race and class interlock to create oppressive narratives, then what better way to build a new narrative than by sharing the space where ideas become tangible? Let us always be talking, listening, laughing, reading, writing, drawing, editing, organizing and shouting together!
Today’s been an inspiring day. I started out at the Roundhouse Center talking with the lovely people from Papergirl Vancouver about art, then stumbled upon a comic/art convention in their gallery. I picked up some art for my walls, and came home to work on a new project for children’s illustration. I’m working on developing a new style of illustrating kids in watercolour. At the moment its all a work in progress.
BTW: Papergirl is an amazing event that shares art with the unsuspecting, breaking chains of commodification in the process. CHECK THEM OUT. Plus, join in!