8 paintings, oil on panel, silver Mylar, electric lights, title plaques
About Reckless Days
Reckless Days came out of an eight-week residency in St Jean Port Joli, Les Lieux Communs: culture populaire et art contemporain, curated by Gaston St-Pierre. The time was fast and furious. I had to do research in the area, conceive the idea, construct the panels, and finish the paintings all in that time period.
The strip of highway along St Jean Port Joli was full of small shops selling handmade crafts, a lot of it woodcarving, which had been taught in the area by the Bourgault family, renowned Quebec woodcarvers. The artists all stayed in the Bourgault mansion, which was full of carving: dining room moulding, fireplace moulding, staircase banister; my bed had a carved headboard; there was a statue in the front yard. The rooms were paneled in dark stained wood. Much of the “craft” being sold in these shops had degenerated into a totally kitsch souvenir sentiment.
I spent the first days perusing the shops along the highway. One of the first figurines I saw was a small carved squatting dog. The dog had a small twig (turd) coming out from its bottom. There was one whole glass shelf full of these in replica. The dog with the turd was $5.95. I purchased it. The dog turd appeared in two of the paintings. I continued my quest for meaningful figurines. Most of the Reckless Days paintings used the figurines I purchased as inspiration.
One hot, sunny Sunday in July I went with my daughter Ev and Marlene Creates, another resident artist, to what was rumoured to be a nice swimming hole. It was very isolated, down a long trail through the forest. It was a pristine, sublime setting. There was a very high waterfall flowing into a small pond, which then cascaded to the valley through another waterfall. It turned out that this pond was a nude pick-up spot for the locals. There were two very gorgeous naked men displaying themselves in serene poses on the top rock of the waterfall overhead. When they saw Ev, who was about four at the time, they modestly retreated. The waterfall was beautiful, and I decided to swim with Ev across the pond to the waterfall so she could get closer to it. It didn’t seem that wide a space to traverse. So, with her on my back, I got about halfway across, then realized that I couldn’t make it either there or back. I was swimming as well as I could but getting exhausted and could no longer support her. I panicked. I screamed “help, help” as loud as I could, but the falls muted my voice. I waved my arm frantically, the other holding on to Ev. Marlene finally saw me and swam over to rescue Ev.
With Ev rescued, I sank to the murky bottom. I saw my life flash before my eyes, thinking it was such a stupid way to die, but feeling relieved that Ev was safe. I kind of blanked out. Then I felt this really violent tug on my arm near my shoulder. It was one of the naked men, come to rescue me, after diving down from the top of the waterfall! He dragged me to shore. I could barely get my breath, having swallowed lots of water. It took me a while to recover enough to walk back to the car. When I got home Marlene had to look after Ev while I cried in my pillow all evening. I was so shaken: I had been so stupid. (My shoulder was sore for months after that.) So my stupidity that day was maybe inspired by those Reckless Days paintings which were almost finished by that point. Unfortunately, I never got to thank the naked man for rescuing me.
The painting of the dead deer under the waterfall had been done prior to that experience, and I always think of it as an omen.
So, that’s the story of the Reckless Days paintings! I’m sure there will be more reckless days to come.
Sandra Meigs, "Telling Stories, Secret Lives," Agnes Etherington Art Centre, 2006