Caetani Center, Self-Directed Art Residency
Vernon, British Columbia
People Matter. Love Matters.
I felt tender and restored this week. Something that I’ve been longing for.
I feel everything, all the time and because of that; I've learned to protect my heart; so much so that it's become encased in glass.
Inside the glass box are tender feelings of joy, happiness and love. Sometimes, unexpectedly... the box opens and then like an old jewelry box the feelings start to play and that’s when everything feels peaceful. Nothing is missing and everything is complete.
Carmen, the program coordinator picked me up from the Greyhound station.
She smiled, apologized that by a rare chance I'll be alone this time in the house. I told her maybe it was a blessing in disguise as I love being alone.
As I watch her drive away I took a deep breath, looked around and felt excited. Absolute silence for the week.
As I explored around house touching the furniture… Gliding my hands through the books in the library I felt a calm yet curious energy from the house.
The energy felt like a warm blanket wrapping around my body. I usually didn’t believe in energies but somehow I both wondered and knew that I wasn’t really alone in this house.
The next morning I woke up feeling refreshed. I walked towards the studio and began setting up for painting.
As I painted through the day I heard a very loud noise in my head… Talking, talking and talking.
I noticed that they were my thoughts.
Her voice at first annoyed me... I tried to drown her voice out with music but she just got louder.
“Why won't she stop?” I wondered.
After two days of trying to distract myself with music I surrendered.
I turned my attention to her and just listened as we both starred at the wooden canvas.
She talked and I painted.
She told us stories about the past and the future. People from all parts of our life reappeared. She wailed, laughed and sometimes even sobbed. She told so many stories about our past. Sometimes she re-told the same story again with imaginary alternative scenarios. She talked about our near future. Then went back to the past.
Sometimes she would stop talking. There would be intermittent moments of wonder from the painting and colors that we saw together. During those moments we felt calm.
Then, it would be back to talking again.
Somehow, someway at around day five in the studio. I started to like her stories and kind of admired her honesty about how she felt.
I continued to listen as I painted.
One chilly evening painting in the studio I (very) hesitantly stepped out to use the washroom, slightly afraid of how pitch dark it was outside…
“Here we go” I thought, “ONLY because I really need to use the washroom.”
As I turned to close the studio door, I saw a figure walking towards me with long blonde hair. Blood rushed to my head and I froze.
“Ohmygod… it’s really a ghost...” I looked down and breathed heavily.
“Oh, hello!”, a blonde woman stepped into the light.
“Oh, hello. I was just scared. I thought I was alone here!” I wiped my hands and reached out one to shake hers, “I’m Wynne, visiting here for the week.”
“I’m sorry!” She laughed. “I’m Heidi. We’re having a Toastmasters meeting at the house tonight. You should come!”
“Sure, I’d love to come hang out.”
We walked into a smaller house beside the residency. I was greeted by a group of people who looked eager for the meeting to start. I felt so inspired and warm.
A tall woman gently walked over to greet me.
“Hi Wynne, I’m Sheila. We’re here to practice public speaking together. This is a very safe space, Wynne.” She handed me the latest Toastmasters magazine and an organized agenda for the evening.
“Thanks Sheila; I’m excited to be here… Should I just sit here?” I put my bag down and turned off my phone.
“Yes dear. Again - A very safe space Wynne.” Sheila repeated, this time looking me straight in the eye with a warm smile and batted her beautiful brown eyelashes.
“Thank you… Sheila,” I replied, "Why did she say safe place again?" I wondered.
The meeting started and one by one people stood up to make speeches. I felt something I haven’t felt in a long time. Lukewarm sensations swirled up from the bottom of my stomach. It traveled through my chest and then then bursted out with an uncontrollable grin.
I felt my ice box heart; and it’s like without any effort I could feel the veins parting. That moment I loved and had no question that everyone in the room loved me too. Like an old jewelry box I heard my ice box heart unlock and out came gentle piano sounds.
For the rest of the night, I just smiled and repeatedly told everyone in the room how much this night meant for me. How I felt so grateful and moved by their kindness and love for each other. I couldn’t stop making that comment.
To my surprise everyone in the room beamed back with the same comments, thank yous and warm smiles.
For the rest of the residency… I spent both panting in the studio and exploring the community. I had delicious apple ciders and hot chocolates at Ratio Coffee House. Bought beautiful second hand clothing at Carousel Clothing and visited local galleries. I met artists and friends along the way and I invite you to them below:
Manfred Harter - Dear Manfred. I'm so glad Susan and Carmen recommended Vertigo gallery and even happier that you were gallery sitting that day! Thank you for sharing your intricate and inspiring sculptures and really happy that I even got to see you perform live!
Melissa Woodie - Dear Melissa, thank you for encouraging me to not give up on wood panels. I was very, very close to giving up after day five.
Devon Muhlert - Dear Devon, thank you for seeing me through the experience in the house. I felt so touched that the experience I felt was shared with others. I know, that we'll see each other again. Thank you for your book as well. It is wonderful.
Lana Schuster - Dear Lana, thank you for your exciting energy; you made me feel like it was home within five minutes. Thank you so much more for coming to get me to the Greyhound station and then waiting with me! It made me feel so safe. Thank you and I'm so glad you are painting full time now; your gift of painting is really spectacular to see. *big hugs*!!!!
Sarah Smith - Dear Sarah, thank you for being so beautifully open with your feelings. I agree that we are in this together. Thank you for sharing your sweet feelings of being an artist and our shared challenges. May we continue to savor all our feelings.
Janelle Hardy - Dear Janelle, thank you for sharing your moving and loving experiences on being a woman, mother, teacher, mentor and sister! I feel inspired to continue to serve because of you. You are truly inspirational. Please, if you're willing count me in for your future residencies!
Heidi Thompson - Heidi, thank you for bumping into me in the bathroom and inviting me to one of the warmest gatherings I've been to in a long, long time. Thank you so much.
Carmen Thompson - Carmen, thank you for the warm welcome and your smile throughout the week. I was always looking forward to seeing you in the morning!
In the evenings… I continued to practice painting and listening to my thoughts. Listening to her. I notice how I’m softening up a little bit to her listening without judgement. She’s doing the best she knows how.
As an aside, on the last day I also hosted a one-day workshop to share how to build an online portfolio.
It’s where I met Devon, Lana and Sarah. That day, inspired me to continue to have courage to make art. It reminded me that being an artist to me is important and it matters. It matters because making art to me is so close to who I am that without it; I no longer feel grounded. Even though it was the first time we met; it was a matter of minutes before we warmed up to each other with such similar experiences and challenges. It made me feel secure to know that no matter where I go in this world; that I’ll be able to connect with others who feel the same way as I do. Thank you for your encouragement and stories
To the community in Vernon, thank you for your hospitality, love and kindness. You reminded me that people matter and love matters.
- Wynne Leung