You are Invited to An Art Exhibit.


You are invited to see a selection of my work, “Yearning for Kin,” in a virtual exhibit.

The eleven pieces in this exhibit focuses on our yearning for kin. Unfortunately, because of the platform, we are unable to include sculptures and ceramics. We’ve included one acrylic and four oil paintings on canvas, two intaglio, two lino block, one monoprint and one lithograph prints on paper.

If these were in a different time, my mama would have made hundreds of her “lumpia shanghai,” my sister Rocille would have made huge trays of fresh, rice paper-wrapped lumpia, there will be salabát to drink (fresh, hot ginger tea), trays of rice cakes, mango, lanzones, rambutan, chico and other good things. My papa would have his ukulele or his musical saw, playing “Dahil sa ‘yo.” I would have been inviting people to sign on a guest book and agreeing to show my studio to a few who will promise to be quiet and not bother the other artists. But this year, 2020, everything is different.

On February 27, Akin X Collision Gallery Residency Program invited me to work as one of the artists in their Commerce Court studio and gallery from March to August 2020. In a planned launch party and exhibit, two of my pieces (painting of Abraham and Sarah[1] and sculpture of Carmina[2]) were to be on exhibit in the gallery. Shortly after moving my pieces, easel, canvas and painting materials, the city went on a COVID lockdown on March 16. The launch party and exhibit were both postponed and or cancelled. It was a challenge to work in a city that was closed down and there was very limited access to the use of the gallery space.


On May 25, a police officer under the authority of the Minneapolis Police Department knelt on the neck of George Perry Floyd Jr. for eight minutes and forty-six seconds and watched the breath of life seep away from him. Yet he seemed to have an acted on authority from a wall of support that allowed him to do just that.

It has been said so often that this is a challenging year, “unprecedented,” etc. And this is what we have, as we enter another year, as we yearn for kin, in times like these.

Thank you for visiting this exhibit. Please sign the guest list.

[1] Sarah thy wife shall have a son, Genesis 18:10, https://macconlon.com/2011/08/08/98/

[2] Carmina, https://macconlon.com/2018/02/16/the-breath-between-us/

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The night someone asked if I were a moose.


The summer of 1980 was to have been the first of two summer internships required in my candidacy for ministry in the United Church of Canada. The woman who has given me hospitality to stay at her house woke me up at 2am. There was a distress call from a woman who needed to see a minister.

Locating her address on a map, I quickly dressed and realized that it was far too long for me to walk. At that time I did not drive and was too short for the bicycle that was given for my use that summer. I went to the main street and tried to hitch a ride. At 2:30am, there were hardly any cars on the road and nobody was stopping to pick me up.

A big truck up ahead was slowing down and as it stopped in front of me, I realized that it was a huge truck, with wheels that went higher than me. The driver opened the door and invited me to come up. As I was easing myself into the chair, he began asking, “Are you a squaw? Where is your papoose? Will you be my moose tonight? Which bush are we heading to?” He was laughing so hard and I was puzzled.

I looked at him and said I did not understand what he was asking but I told him who I was: a student minister responding to a distress call. Then I told him how I was told that because it was summer time, I should not expect to have a heavy load of work as most of the people in the church will be on vacation in their cottages. That was why I was also the minister on call for two additional churches in the area.

He asked what I was learning and so I began telling him how I stated visiting members from the church from a list I was given. I was startled to find a recurring story from the people I was visiting.

The family usually came from the east and found that in Alberta, they can earn in a week what they took months to earn at home. So they relocated to Alberta but because Fort Mac could not accommodate families, the man went to the work camp while the wife and children stayed in Edmonton.

The work camp was difficult, heavy work but the money was good. The men were lonely, being away from their families but the money was good and so they stayed in the camps to earn as much as they could for their family’s future. Then the entertainment caravans came. Gambling, drinking, sex workers all offered a diversion from the pain of loneliness. Soon, the money they earned was gone in a night of entertainment. Then realizing their money gone, guilt sets in. After the guilt, and looking for someone to blame, they ask, “If this happened to me because I was lonely, what was my wife doing then while I was away?” His guilt over spending the family’s future turns into anger and accusation, beatings, separation and then divorce.

I heard this story about 30 times and I was still on the letter “C” on the list. I started telling him about the Bible readings I was reading from that summer and the way that Jesus loved women in the Gospel of Luke.

Then I heard him sniffling as he stopped the truck in the intersection I was to get off. He cried and told me that I was telling his story. I stopped to hear his story and he asked me to forgive him. I told him that Jesus loved him and we prayed together before I headed down to respond to the distress call.

That Sunday, the parking lot of the church had the truck with the huge wheels. The driver who picked me up was there, then the remaining Sundays the church was full, and we were all revelling in the Gospel stories in Luke, about how Jesus loved women.

Then the elders of the church grumbled and said that the church may be full but the offering plate was nearly empty so I was asked, “And who will pay for all that coffee and all those cookies these people ate?” My supervisor then asked what I was doing with all these people and did I not know that there were happily married families in the church?

Later I saw a form for single mothers to complete in order to make them eligible to receive social assistance. It asked questions such as who the “putative” father of the child/ren is, what his weight was, when her last period was and was she offered marriage and why has she refused. We spoke out against this form, campaigned, passed petitions and talked about it. I was accused of being a Toronto feminist. When I returned to Emmanuel College, I was pleased to hear that the campaign won and overturned the offensive form for mothers to complete.

Summer 1980, Year C Lectionary Readings in Luke. While he was saying this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!’ Luke 11:27. And Jesus’ response was that women need not be defined by the children they bore and brought to the world. Women are not baby machines.

Many years later, in March 2007, I watched the performance of Kurt Weill’s – Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny. Little did I know that Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill already recorded the stories I experienced from the “oil rig widows” of Alberta.in God's hands

As I now also read about the stories of MMIWG, I realize how close to danger I have been and am grateful to have been cradled in the hand of God.Red Dress

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The Sovereign Couple


Saphira

At yesterday’s Festival of Homiletics, I heard Willie James Jennings speak at the workshop, “Speaking Words Against Whiteness: Remapping the Message of Reconciliation.”

In that workshop he spoke about “The Sovereign Couple” in Ananias and Saphira. As a Missioner and a wanderer in the West Don in 2009, I gathered a group of artists, poets, actors in what was then called the Old Town ARTbeat. In one of our gatherings, we put together an exhibit:

Salon 3X3 poster

and the poet, Ann Elizabeth Carson, wrote the following poem:

Testing the Spirit

by Ann Elizabeth Carson

(In response to “Saphira”)

You were “privy to his plan”, agreed

to keep

a portion of the proceeds promised to God

Money for a poor crop, a rainy day? —

(I’ve done that, fudged the grocery money

a dollar here and there, every day, week by

week —

for an emergency, a special dinner, new glasses,

a birthday gift for the one I love,

or to get ahead just enough to feel secure.)

Or was it that God’s law seemed unfair?

To give

all the proceeds to the church, thinking,

“Who would miss so small a portion

who has so much compared to us?”

It is said that the heart and mind of the

community

beat as one.

Was yours a promise or an expectation?

Given freely? Or did women routinely

go along with their husbands, who voted as

God’s

representatives in the earthly family, assigning

how to manage their commitment to wives

and daughters? Your upraised arm

in fear of whose reprisal? His? Neighbours?

Your own

foreknowledge of the lies? Or did you see

– too late – that your lie alone would strike

a fatal blow

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Recycling Love


Coming to Canada in 1972, we were surprised with what Canadians throw away.

We found fish heads, meat bones and vegetables that did not sell late Saturdays at the market that made great meals. We found clothing in thrift shops and food packaging that were washed and rewashed as food prep or serving plates.

One day our papa brought home a bulb that he picked from a trash can. We saw him put that bulb in a pot with some earth he dug from somewhere and he nursed it. Every day he fussed over it, like a mother hen fussing over her chicks. And then a stem pushed up from the bulb and one day he proudly showed the flower. Amaryllis. One, proud, and beautiful, red flower. After weeks of nurturing.

On November 20, while ill at home, a friend dropped some gifts. I wrote back, “Thank you also for the oranges and for the Amaryllis. I nearly cried as this was the flower that my father, rol lampitoc, discovered when we first came to Canada. He nursed it like a baby and marvelled at its growth. He thought it was a most beautiful flower. He died on May 16, 2010. He was an artist.”

My daughter painted a portrait of my papa, her lolo.

On November 23, 2020, the day after her 91st birthday, our mama died. In the pain and grief over that loss, my daughter drew a portrait of her lola, my mama.

The Amaryllis box has instructions on recycling the bulb when it is spent. Love and nurture can be recycled when the beautiful bloom is gone and spent.

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Rainy Night on the 504


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Lola Tia Maria


MaC Conlon's Blog

She came at summer’s end and needed a place to stay for a few days. She stayed  for almost  a year.  And in my heart, forever.

She was quiet, mostly kept to herself, made sure to be helpful
with household chores and when  she took her turn in the kitchen, it was often a memorable meal.

She was my mother’s aunt. She called her Tia Maria. All elder women are grandmothers. So we called her “Lola.” Lola Tia Maria.

summer-endWe were told to be kind to her and to be specially quiet when she was quiet.

Sometimes, in the late afternoon when the sun begins to cast shadows that taller versions of ourselves call us to play from the ground, we could hear her sighing and singing a tune, and sometimes she would be dancing, as though waltzing with someone from the shadows, or somebody we could not see. Then she would…

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TIFF 2018


It was a few weeks left before leaving my teens in July 1974 when I was invited to the Brunswick House. I did not drink beer but thought cider was safe as it was a drink made from apples.

These new found friends seemed really interested in me, where

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A pizza party in Silvi


Chopping wood for the oven.

Olives at bloom

Olive leaves

Olive bud in detail

Pouring wine from the barrel.

Guest of our dear friend Tony in Silvi, met his friend Lorenzo who hosted a pizza party baked in an outdoor, wood-fired oven. Lorenzo has 200 and 400 year old olive trees that produced Lorenzo’s oil, other trees include laurel, pomegranate, nespole, pear, peach, a vineyard that produced the wine pouring out from that barrel, etc… And chickens!!!

Met many new friends. Shared stories. Ate a lot.

Hope Lorenzo comes to visit the wood-fired oven at Davenport Perth.

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His parents’ sculpture


The soapdish had no fresh bar of soap.

Instead there were bits and pieces of a variety of soap bars that have been put together and formed into a ball.

He told his parents to throw these bits out but they insisted on saving every little piece, using every little bit and squeezing them together.

On touching the ball, he realized that this was the very first piece his parents touch each morning, the object that is squeezed and formed and re-formed each day.

It was his parents’ sculpture.

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Riding the Rails


During the Great Depression, many people forced off the farm hopped on freight trains, illegally, to chase after work they heard of from hundreds of miles away. If they are lucky, they would have prepared for provisions along the way, or will accept the kindness of strangers they meet along the way.  A shower, a shave are not amenities included in “riding the rails.”

Born of immigrant parents in Philadelphia, Pablo Davis worked as a coal miner at age 14 until he became involved in a strike. He noted an ad in the paper that Diego Rivera was to begin work on murals at the Detroit Institute of Arts.  The teen-aged Pablo Davis, determined to meet Diego, then rode the rails to Detroit.

On reaching Detroit, yard workers could not tell him where the museum was. When he eventually found it, the guards will not let him in.  He sat sadly on its front steps and a woman came by and said to him,”You look like you just lost your best friend.”

The woman – Frida Kahlo – took him into the museum and introduced him to Diego Rivera. This was an important meeting, as Pablo assisted Diego in the layering of the fresco murals.  In tribute to him, Diego depicted him, alongside workers, on the south wall of The Detroit Industry Murals still standing at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

In 1985, Pablo Davis was the only person depicted in the murals still alive, and he was used as an advisor in the restoration work of the mural.

Our visit to this museum last May 11-12 was like a pilgrimage.

20180512_122349_HDR

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