Friday, November 4, 2022

w h a t . h o m e coming to BC's Sunshine Coast!

With huge thanks to the Gibsons Public Art Gallery and Canada Council for the Arts for putting their confidence in me, I can FINALLY announce that  w h a t . h o m e  will be coming home to BC, where it all began. 

In 2017 I began interviewing residents of BC's west coast on the subject of 'home'. I had some idea of where the topics might go, but I was surprised again and again by the amazingly heart-full, extremely unexpected, and often challenging stories that emerged. I've discovered through this work and other interview-based projects I've done that in any cross-section of humanity there will be a deep exploration of belonging, and a desire to make the best of always surprising circumstances. This project puts this on display. 

w h a t . h o m e  installation in Amsterdam -- photo by Igor Sevcuk

The woman in this image went from living as a small child in a mud hut in Mexico to living in a mansion. She now resides with her partner and children in British Columbia, and has a lot of experience with our housing crisis, particularly as it applies to those whose mobility is challenged.

I've spoken with people who live rough on boats, who rent and live always on the verge of homelessness, who own property and who feel that property ownership is wrong. I've interviewed a woman who doesn't believe in citizenship, and immigrants who treasure theirs. Our experiences and struggles with home are as diverse as we are, and yet the conversation always comes down to the same thing: belonging.

I felt such a good sense of belonging in 2018 when I developed the videos into an installation at Goleb in Amsterdam with Igor Sevcuk, with whom I attended art school, in the 1990's. He invited me to complete this project during a residency, and I was grateful for his and other artists' input in the development of the installation. This experience itself was such a gift to me! I spent time with my old friend Igor, his wonderful artist partner Go Eun Im, my own partner and assistant Markus Roemer, and developed a project that means so much to me, in the country where I first studied art. I've never been truly at home in the Netherlands, despite having quite a bit of family and history there. But this experience reminded me of the things that make us home: community, acceptance, and a feeling that what we do has value. This project is all of that for me.

Igor and Markus during installation.

Would you like to see more? Well you can! Over the months leading up to the Gibsons installation of  w h a t . h o m e  I'll be sharing some of the clips from the project via these two feeds:

w h a t . h o m e  instagram feed
w h a t . h o m e  YouTube channel

Please do follow along; share with your communities, and of course... come to the installation in February, where you can walk among the landscapes and people of our west coast and add your own silhouette and stories to the project.

Gibsons Public Art Gallery, Gibsons, BC, Canada
Feb 9--Mar 5, 2023

We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.

Nous remercions le Conseil des arts du Canada de son soutien.



Sunday, September 18, 2022

Learning everything all over again--only different again, too...

1994, Royal Academy of Visual Art, the Hague, Netherlands: My first painting instructor showed up to my studio during the first week and told me to get rid of the acrylics. He pointed to a painting sitting drying under the table, and described the dullness; the surface quickly losing any and all beauty it might have possessed just minutes before. So I did, and have been bonded to a series of ever-more-ecologically-friendly oil paints and mediums ever since.

I've used oils for nearly thirty years now, and I LOVE them. I love the smell, the feeling of them, the way they layer and all the ways I can scratch and draw through them. I grew up as a painter with oils... and in less than two weeks I'll be participating in a live painting event where oils are not an option (not allowed due to VOC's, and also because paintings must be dry and hung by morning!) So here I am teaching myself a new skill in a hurry!!! It turns out very little of my painting style and technique translates to acrylic, so I'm having to reinvent myself.

Anyway, here's my beautiful mama in one of her happy places. She's my first attempt at finding a new style and technique using only acrylics. It didn't go at all the way I thought it would, but I'm getting somewhere I like, anyway. And it's already dry!

Monday, June 20, 2022

The Unboxing Project at Sainte Croix de Mareuil

Un-boxing at Plas Bodfa (Wales) photo from Julie Upmeyer
It's been interesting to follow the Un-boxing project on its travels so far. Gudrun Filipska's Arts Territory Exchange creation, a box of contributions from artists all over the world, has been making its way slowly from one exhibition space to another, and as an artist participant, I get to witness the remarks of curators along the journey. So here I link you through to curator Jane Linden's essay from La Vieille Closerie, Sainte-Croix-de-Mareuil in Aquitaine: "Curatorial Reflections on Un-boxing at Sainte-Croix-de-Mareuil by Jane Linden". 

Jane has also posted some photos from the box's visit to France on her instagram:

process of Un-boxing at Plas Bodfa photo from Julie Upmeyer

part of my own contribution to Un-boxing, displayed at Plas Bodfa photo from Julie Upmeyer

Monday, May 23, 2022

Do You Really Want Your Kid to Be an Artist?

Me at 7, trying to be an artist.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be an artist. Or a botanist, or a hair-dresser. My parents and grandparents gave me wonderful art supplies, and my father even made me a palette with a hole in it for my thumb, and positioned the kitchen stool in front of the wall of our trailer for me to use as a painting stool. That’s me in the photo, in the early nineteen-eighties, feeling wonderful and accomplished, but with absolutely no idea of what it meant to “be an artist”.

So What, Exactly, Is an Artist?

I'm an artist, now. Twenty-five years and two kids after I got my degree in visual arts, my career is built on helping people reach beyond societal expectations to un-silence themselves, and connect genuinely with the world we inhabit. I do paint, and I do have gallery exhibitions, but I also tromp in the forests, use materials I never imagined would one day be called “materials”, and make art I never imagined would be called “art.” The focus of my work is to connect people with our own deeply-held stories; as an explorative learning consultant I also encourage parents and teachers to do the same with their children. It turns out art was just a vehicle for something more important to me. And I’m still an artist.

The stereotype of the famous artist making masterpieces in his (he's almost always male, white and powerful) studio has almost nothing to do with a successful art career. I wish somebody had explained this to me when I was a kid. Picasso was an abusive, deceitful creep, and we don't have to appreciate his work to be artists. There’s SO much more wonderfulness in being an artist than I had imagined! So much more diversity!

Artists are responsible for not only the beauty we see in our human-made world, but also for the connection we make with neighbours, for the realizations we make about our own lives and feelings when we watch movies, listen to music, or read books. Artists determine how easy it is to use the devices we buy. Through media, artists determine which devices and foods and colours will be more popular. They understand the influence of shapes, colours, sound, movement and texture on our emotions, and... like it or not, our emotions govern much of what we do. Artists are powerful. A “career in the arts” is a massively open-ended term, but also, having a grounding in artistic practice and theory means a deeper foundation or influence in any career we choose. Moreover, having the ability to express ourselves is an important foundation of meaningful connection.

I like to imagine a world full of people who were encouraged in this way. How happy, satisfied, and valuable could we all be? How would our chosen paths be enhanced by a facility with self-expression and material, sound, or movement exploration? Do you really want your kid to be an artist? And if so, how can you support them?

What NOT to do: Unsolicited "Help"

It's incredibly easy to break kids' confidence in art (or anything) and less easy to build it. As with so much in life, the first thing we can do to "help" our kids succeed is to get out of their way. It's not easy, especially when we're watching them struggle with something we know there's an easy solution for. But we zip our mouths, find something else to occupy our attention, and trust that they'll get where they need to go. And never, ever critique.

Criticism is more likely to break our confidence than to teach us something, and a shattered confidence is a massive barrier to success. My daughter is a writer, and was recently working on her second novel. I edited her first novel for her, judiciously reporting back on only glaring typos and missing punctuation. It was an amazing realistic fiction coming-of-age story, written from the bold heart of a young girl whose grandfather had recently died. I love it so much I heartily recommend it to readers of all ages. Her next novel, though, was a departure from the world she knew and understood so well, and required a steep learning curve. It was an epic fantasy, full of people from different cultures and a massively complex magical world... all of which she dutifully researched and developed before writing. But then she was challenged by trying to fit this enormous complexity into a single story. And when it came time for me to edit her book, I didn't hold back with the criticisms and suggestions. Some chapters were confusing, some events seemed out of place, and mostly I was confused by the timeline. Sure, she was only fourteen, but I just knew she was capable, so I critiqued! Despite my attempts at being gentle with my criticism, it all seemed insurmountable to her, and after a few attempts at editing, she abandoned the book. To her credit, she's keeping an open mind about the possibility of writing it in the future, but unfortunately I feel I threw a hammer at a beautiful glass sculpture she was creating, that actually she just needed more time with, alone. Without my critiquing.

So that's how not to build confidence. Just think of all the ways we're doing that, in every part of our kids' lives, and even our own. So many of us have an overachieving inner critic. And a culturally-supported fear that that critic is what's keeping us on the straight-and-narrow. But you know what? It's not. What would happen if we just didn't correct our kids? Well I have some experience with that, now, both in teaching and parenting. It's ridiculously hard to shut up my inner critic sometimes, but when I do, the kids thrive.

My daughter is truly an excellent writer--so much so, that in her frantic enthusiasm she charges ahead, forgetting to put periods at the ends of sentences, capitals on names, or sometimes misspelling words. She edits herself, and (as we all are prone to doing) sees right through her mistakes to read what she intended to write. What if she asks me to edit and I just ignore those mistakes? I've experimented with that. Sometimes she looks over her work later and discovers her mistakes. Sometimes she puts it aside for a few months, grows and learns, and comes back to it to realize she would now write it differently. Sometimes, even, she submits or publishes something with mistakes. And you know what? That's just fine! I frequently go back to my own work from years earlier, and see how much I've learned and grown since my thirties--and yet my work was appreciated then, as well. Have you any idea how many typos I still find in my writing? Tons. I'm especially accomplished at missing words and totally redundant examples. Sometimes I don't even bother to correct them. Because they're part of my humanity. Our kids deserve that space to be human, too.

Honouring Growth

Rhiannon, age 5, experimenting with paints.
As a visual artist, I love to look back and see all my mistakes. I look at portraits I painted years ago, and wonder why I did them the way I did; sometimes I also notice things I thought were problems at the time, that now inform new directions in my work. Growth is where it's at, people! Otherwise what are we living for? In some deep place, children know this, as from the moment they're born they challenge themselves to grow by exploring different tastes, movements, and expressions.

Children, like my daughter in the photo, above, want to represent their world. But it isn't always as we might expect! As parents, we have a choice about whether to show our children how to draw things the way we think it should be done, or to allow them to discover their own ways, through experimentation. My son was once drawing a whole page full of lines, and I asked him what he was drawing (something I've since learned not to do), and he told me it was a drum. I was totally perplexed, and asked him where the parts of the drum were. This was a boy who had no problem drawing a circle--why would he choose to represent a drum with a whole lot of unconnected lines? "It's the sound of the drum." He said. Boom.

He didn't need my assumptions. He needed my appreciation, and the freedom to keep exploring. As long as we respond to our kids' experiments with curiosity and loving encouragement, they'll continue to know that where they are on their journey of growth is perfect. And that will be the impetus they need to keep growing with enthusiasm. I have no idea how my son's drawings of sound influenced his life, but considering he now is employed as a visual artist and makes music to accompany his personal visual projects, I'm relieved I didn't get in the way of that particular growth pattern by showing him "how to draw a drum."

Asking Helpful Questions

I realized during my children's earliest years that questions like "what are you drawing?" are extremely limiting. In that question I have determined that my child must be trying to represent a specific thing, and the assumption is usually that it's a visual representation of something we know. But what if it's not? What if it's our children's experimentation with colours, shapes or lines? Or sound, as in the drum example? That kind of experimentation--without intent to satisfy outside demands--is essential for learning to use materials. Professional artists actually bill for material experimentation; it's called "research". We even sometimes mount gallery exhibitions composed entirely of experimental output--often to great acclaim. So why would I limit the possibilities of my own child's artistic output?

But we want to ask questions! We know it's important to engage and encourage! So how can we ask questions that promote growth-dialogue about art (or anything), without limiting our children's growth or expression?

Think about the words in the question "What are you drawing?" The word 'what' carries the assumption they're trying to represent an object. The word 'drawing' means we assume they're focused on the output of the material in their hands, as opposed to the feeling, taste, smell, or movement of it. How are these assumptions limiting the range of acceptable answers?

Drawing by Taliesin, age 3.

Maybe we have a kid who is happy to contradict us, and says, "I'm not drawing anything. I'm dancing the pen," or, as in my son’s drawing, above, “Nothing. I didn’t tell you.” (I learned a lot about parenting from that bold rejection.) But more likely, our kid wants to please us; to learn from our example, and will find a suitable answer, like, "some lines," or as my daughter used to do, look at a bunch of lines she was experimenting with and come up with a wild explanation like, "it's a dog on a house with the family having dinner." It's tragically very common that kids learn to minimize themselves to match what they perceive coming from adults. I've seen plenty of kids who were making successful attempts at depicting what might have been people or animals declare that they were “just scribbling.” Why? Because maybe they feared hearing our criticisms, or maybe we've previously defined their drawings of animals as 'scribbling', or maybe, because their own inner critic is already developed enough to silence their voice.

Adults are notoriously bad at asking kids questions, and kids generally have rote answers ready to respond to each of them: How old are you? How is school? What are you making? What is your favourite colour/subject/sport/etc.? How are we so uninspired?! These questions aren't about engaging with kids or developing rapport; they're expected. What if, instead of asking what they're drawing, we invite them to tell about what they're doing? This is an open invitation to consider what they're doing and talk about it. It's up to us to be open to hearing their response, no matter how long, unexpected, or confusing it may be. Not all questions will be helpful for all kids in all situations, but through practice we can become better at asking good questions. Here's a list of interesting open-ended questions to use in engaging kids to talk about their art:
  • Interesting! Can you tell me about this?
  • Does this have a story or feeling?
  • How do you feel about what you're doing?
  • Show me how you like to use [material]...
  • What do you think about the materials you're using?
  • Are there any other materials you'd like to use?


Ah how I love shopping for materials!! And hoarding them!! Don't we all?! How much of our parenting waste is comprised of once-used adorable kits that were soon replaced by something newer and more exciting? I won't go on at length about this, because I've previously written a whole article about Supplies and Practice of Open-Ended Art Exploration. But suffice it to say that well-chosen art materials are the foundation of good artistic experience. And I don't mean the expensive stuff. I mean well-chosen. Materials can be anything from kitchen supplies to mud and sticks outside, to a mish-mash of mark-making, gluing, cutting and melting tools. The important feature of all of these things is that they do not come with instructions or intended uses. How we present and use materials is much more important than what they are.


From the moment they were born, and possibly earlier, our kids have looked to us to lead them. The important thing to remember about modelling to our children is that it's happening all the time; not just when we do it intentionally. Our kids see our hesitation and fear with art as much as they see our enthusiasm. They see us avoid trying new things, and they see us when we courageously do them, and when we have small successes and failures. They emulate not only our actions but also the way we emotionally deal with these things.

With this in mind, the absolute best thing we can do for our children is to use any and all materials available to us to explore creatively, for our own happiness. That last bit is important. Kids can smell a fraud from a mile away, so we have to be creative in the way that we want to be. Otherwise we're just teaching our kids to put on a show for someone else's benefit, and that's nothing about authenticity.

And we should stretch ourselves. If we're accustomed to buying craft kits and following the instructions, we should absolutely try to break that habit (more on why in the materials article, above) and try experimenting with new materials. We can also stretch our definition of art-making. Try experimental baking! Try sewing or crocheting! Try putting on your favourite music, getting dressed up in fancy dress or costumes and dancing your heart out! Try painting your whole self and rolling around on an old sheet, outside. In the rain! It doesn't matter what or how you engage in art, just as long as you do it. And if your output isn't what you expect? Even better. Keep experimenting. You're modelling growth to your children.

Living a life full of joyful exploration and learning, ourselves, is the best way we can teach our children.

Nurturing Important Skills

Me, age 4, being an artist.
We’re culturally trained to associate specific skills and attributes with art: dancers should be thin and flexible, visual artists should be able to draw realistic depictions with technical skills like shading, perspective, and colour theory; musicians should first learn to read music and do scales. Unless we’re born talented, of course.

Oh hell, I hate the word ‘talent’! It's such a harmful concept. I wasn't born talented; I developed some skills in accurate rendering of my observations by having a keen interest in observing how things are put together; how the light plays on them, and being given room to experiment with materials throughout my life. It was easy for me because I loved it, just like my daughter loves telling stories, so writing is easy for her to learn. We develop the skills we need when we realize we need them, and as long as we're not discouraged from exploring them.

As parents and teachers, we need to help build foundational skills for life, and trust that those material skills will come when needed. As an artist, I owe a huge amount of my career satisfaction to some less-concrete skills and passions:

  • seeing the big picture in life, art, etc.
  • a keen interest in social phenomena
  • a passion for exploration and discovery

We really can't know what skills will be foundational for each of the unique kids we work with. Neither can we know the cultural landscape our kids will grow into, nor what careers will be common, when they’re grown. Who knew, when I was in art school twenty-five years ago that people would be making virtual and even invisible art to sell online, one day? Who knew I’d raise a son who gets paid to make thousands of geographically plausible planet renderings by using procedural generation techniques? His art process looks like a bunch of visual programming. I could never have predicted this, never mind taught him these skills. So when trying to support kids I parent and teach, I try to encourage growth of all sorts of skills. Life is not divided by subject. Careers are not determined by skill-acquisition. It's all interconnected. The more we learn, the more we can learn.

So Do You? Really?

Yes. I guess I really do want my kids to be artists--however that looks for them, and however it looks in the future we can only dream of. I want them to explore all the materials and develop all the skills I can’t even fathom right now. I want them to change the definition of the word “artist” to mean new and wonderful things, and I want them to keep on growing as the world grows, around them.

Friday, January 28, 2022

One Solar Year

I've begun a new project!  

One Solar Year is an observation of our shared, fragile, resilient humanity over the course of (surprise!) one solar year! I began the project at the previous winter solstice, and plan to write over a hundred poems before the next winter solstice, each inspired and combined with a portrait of wildness around my home. Our human experience isn't separate from the ecology around us; it's completely integral to it. The dewdrops, the haggard plants emerging from the snow, the wilting blossoms in the heat dome; they're part of our psyche, even when we don't notice them. I'm noticing them.

One Solar Year is an Instagram project, which may or may not become a book in the future. If you'd like to follow it, go here:

 Thank you for your support. 🧡

Monday, January 24, 2022

Stay-At-Home-Feminist-Mom: Why I Traded my Early Art Career for the Privilege of Parenting My Children

Visual and film artist Lidia Patriasz paints the silhouette of my mother, Lyn van Lidth de Jeude, during a performance of my work, SuperMAMA, 2010. All the women who participated in this production were mothers; most were also visual artists or musicians, and these two were also preschool teachers. Photo by Adrian van Lidth de Jeude.

As a teen, I never really thought about becoming a mother. Finding the elusive “true love” — yes! But not kids. I was going to find a man who was supportive of my political views (and would understand there is nothing actually “political” about equal rights), and spend my life busting up the patriarchy with gusto! Through the amazing art career I had planned, I was going to save us from climate change AND our degrading societal norms, by showing the world what absolute tools for the patriarchy we’ve been, and getting us out from under the shoe of the Man. Yeah.

So… that didn’t go quite as planned. My man was not unsupportive, he was just mild-mannered and uninterested in the big angry mission I was on. But he loved me. And also: hormones. Somehow my hormones side-swiped my passionate goals, so that suddenly, and for a few years, there was nothing more important to me than having babies. (My teenaged self gets whiplash here: HUH?!) So I had my baby, and determined when he was nearly two that it was time to go back to my career… or have another baby. I chose that latter. The timing of this choice coincided with our first child’s registration for preschool.

Preschool is such a wonderful thing! These devoted people take our kids so we can go back to the work of tearing down the patriarchy! My mother in law tells of the glorious day she left both children at preschool, and walked away with her body upright for the first time in years! It’s the place you go to drop off your beloveds for a beautiful day of mind-building play and learning, and you — the newly freed mother — go back to your world-changing career!! YES!! (I was SO naive.)

In my case, the first two years of preschool were spent back and forth between nursing my youngest and tending to the eldest while he very slowly acclimated to a system that never worked for him: school. I said he acclimated. He never thrived. By the time my youngest entered preschool (where she absolutely did thrive), my job became accompanying my eldest to his Kindergarten, where he continued not to thrive.

It wasn’t a heartfelt thinking-through that led me to leave my career behind. It was just circumstance. I could never have left my son in that world that wasn’t serving him, and homeschool (unschooling, in our case), seemed like the best option. Nobody picks the second best option for their kids if they can help it. My husband and I rarely even talked about our life as a choice, and when we did, it was only that I apologized for not making any money, and that he reassured me my work with the children was equally important. I had found the equality I’d been fighting for: not in equal pay, but in being equally valued — at least by my partner.

Financially, staying home with my kids was certainly a sacrifice. On one income for the foreseeable future, we abandoned our dreams of owning our own home. We are incredibly lucky in being able to rent from my parents, which has meant we have a kind of home security unavailable to most renters, today. But it was a mouldy and rotten home, and has necessitated over a decade of my husband’s free weekends and vacation time spent rebuilding (he’s still not finished, actually). So we sacrificed free family time, as well. Of course all this meant that unlike many of our kids’ friends’ families, we rarely had money for vacations, new clothes, or sports and arts programs.

What we do have is an amazing attachment. That alone, and the benefits I knew it would have for my children’s lives, was enough to keep me home. It was enough to make every sacrifice of money, freedom, and career worthwhile. And I was so passionate about my work as a mother that it really became my life. I volunteered at various family-related organizations, served on and chaired various boards in my community, and founded and ran a few programs, all geared towards supporting healthy families in our community. I somehow never even saw the irony of becoming a stay-at-home-mom, after my passionately feminist youth, until people began pointing it out to me, as my kids grew older, and I continued staying home. It seems it’s reasonable for a feminist to have kids and attachment parent them, but then apparently one should put them in school and get back to work on smashing the patriarchy.

Well hold on! What if my work as a mother IS smashing the patriarchy?! Is feminism now relegated to single, childless women, or those who leave their kids in the care of others? What does that say about our respect for other women? Day-care workers and teachers are some of the forgotten sacrifices in this equation, disrespected in wages, benefits AND the mainstream feminist viewpoint. Like stay-at-home-mothers, they’re the people feminism blindly relies on to raise the next generation of feminists, while feminists are out doing “more important” things.

In the process of changing the world, there is NOTHING more powerful than raising children.

The way we raise our children determines how successful each generation of women will be at improving our lot. When caregivers aren’t valued as much as our economy values shareholders and industry-builders, we all lose. That goes for daycare staff, teachers, AND stay-at-home-mothers and homeschooling parents. Many stay-at-home-mothers are the volunteers in our communities who make the programs that support women and children. 

And all that is not to ignore the unbelievable power of setting an example. As parents, we are the greatest teachers our children will ever have. When they’re sixty they’ll find themselves blindly doing what they saw us doing. There is no such thing as “do what I say, not what I do”… our children will always do what we do. So when they see us living powerful lives, when they see our partners respect us; when they see us respect ourselves, they will follow suit. And if we take in other children to care for, we’re influencing those children, too, and their children’s children. In everything from the choices we make in life, to the ways we speak to our children to the ways we glance at ourselves in the mirror, in passing, caregivers are POWERFUL. We’re the grease in the wheels of feminism. I argue, actually, that women who put down other women for choosing to stay home with children are just part of the blind patriarchy. 

Without regular vacations, without owning a home, without being socially acceptable, I am privileged. I’m privileged to have watched my kids grow up; to have shared my own life with them, and to have grown alongside them. I’m privileged to have had opportunity to make a difference in my community, and to model that for my children, so that, as young adults, they’re now busy doing the same. I’m privileged to have developed a very close relationship with my kids.

The experience I’ve had in staying home with my kids and unschooling them is not available to all women: especially not to single mothers, or those with partners who are not supportive of the idea. Even as I now struggle to develop a career as a middle-aged woman with disability and not much documented work experience, I know how lucky I am to have lived the life I chose. My career has shifted from some-kind-of-subversive-artist to an artist that is deeply rooted in my own experience as a stay-at-home-feminist-mom. The first big installation I created was about giving voice to other mothers. Being a parent has given me a perspective on humanity that was deeply needed for my art-making, but not available to me until I’d had the experiences I have.

I didn’t trade my values and career for having children; I traded my early career for the extremely powerful, feminist privilege of parenting my children, full-on. Or, to shift the focus a little, I am using my chosen experience as a stay-at-home-feminist-mom to build a stronger foundation for my career, and thus hopefully to smash the patriarchy, even harder.

~ ~ ~

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