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Sanctuarizing and my Mentorship with Adrian Gor

I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to participate in the Ottawa Arts Mentorship Program this year. In a time of great challenge, having the chance to develop a relationship with a more established artist under the support of this program was invaluable. 

Here is Sanctuary, a small process video I created with my mentor Adrian Gor to wrap up our time together.

Video Transcript

A lot of people talk about their place of creative practice as a kind of sanctuary -whether it’s an artist’s studio, workshop, sewing room or even a favourite cafe or garden shed…these places that hold space for our acts of expression give us the safety to do something fundamental to our humanity. 

To create is to engage intimately with life. Whether or not someone self-identifies as an artist , we are inherently creative beings. To exist is to create- we live in a tenuous world with constant shifting and uncertainty. Every day we must continue foraging our life paths to navigate accordingly. 

When we create something with our hands or our voices, we mimic this process at a tangible and more fathomable level. And sometimes, projects fall apart or fail to meet expectations. Sometimes we can recycle parts. Often, there is a lesson to take forward, even if it’s “I don’t understand why, but that didn’t work”. In that sense, even our failures are contributing to the construction of our knowledge. 

Music from “CELLO COVER Forgive me in the Morning-Katrina Cain” by Tess Crowther

For more on my mentor Adrian Gor’s work and process check out Adrian’s youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/user/adigorea1

Slowing Down…

We were forced to slow down because of the nature of the pandemic- which was frustrating to me. I get impatient. I fear if I am not constantly productive, my value as an artist, as a person, will be at risk. And in a time where one of the only ways to stay connected with other people is through channels like social media- tools that are literally designed to play on our built-in addiction circuitry and drive for belonging or ‘measuring up’, it’s understandable how this can happen. At the same time, I was struggling with some of the most intense depression- even if I had wanted to ‘keep up’ with some kind of arbitrary standard of comparison- my illness wouldn’t have allowed me to.

A lot of the work Adrian and I did together is the kind of stuff for which there is nothing flashy to show at the end- and that’s perfectly ok, better even- as this constant gaze outward & testing of external approval sometimes robs us of art (and life)’s greatest gifts. 

Adrian has helped me think about certain technical and material elements of my work in totally new and different ways. In our many conversations, insights into art history and the whole idea of what it means to be an artist have come out. We read and talked about art in the age of digitization, challenges and advantages of social media, and other issues facing creatives of our day. We also did exercises in materials and technique that forced me to be deeply steeped in the here and now- contemplating drawing, forms lines, colour… 

Adrian doing a gilding demo on a page from Borys Tarasenko’s “Sweet Jesus” colouring book

Adrian has been very kind to me and shared a lot about his knowledge, interests and passions and what being an artist means to him. He and I are different and the way he has navigated being an artist is not exactly what is going to work perfectly for me. But the fact that he does make it work for himself has given me hope that I can figure out my own ways.

The most valuable part of this mentorship is the relationship we have developed. As someone who didn’t go to art school, I didn’t have professors or instructors to be a model for me- sometimes being an artist has felt kind of lonely and confusing. Having someone empathetic and interested with this regular contact, with whom I could discuss my work, was encouraging He was an excellent sounding board for project ideas, and he asked great, sometimes challenging questions. He was also one of the very few people I saw regularly in person (with the appropriate precautions) this fall. In this way it was almost a kind of lifeline. There is something difficult to exactly describe about the value of just spending time together. 

On our time together, Adrian reflected the following:

As a mentor I realized that teaching is definitely more than giving information. Art education is more about developing the artistic will and ability than the production of knowledge in quantifiable products. We should consider knowledge not as a static possession or as a goal in itself, but as a means. If we understand mentoring as a kind of nourishing, then the best method of teaching is through experience. While knowledge can suffocate, experience  can only free creativity. We  forget easily what we have heard or read, but we cannot forget what we have experienced. 

The purpose of art making and of the mentorship program should not be the external recognition, but the growth in appreciating and respecting the form qualities which reveal our emotional participation in life.

This mentorship has given me more patience with myself and the creative process, and it has shown me another kind of perspective on being a practicing artist. We shouldn’t need permission to slow down but this was a good reminder. “Efficiency” “Optimization” and other business-management type goals can sometimes get in the way. Taking the space and time to just be, to reflect, to contemplate, to be spontaneous… are so necessary for the creative practitioner. And luckily, there are many sanctuaries in which this can occur. 

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