Event Announcement: Mini Artist Talk/Tours

The New Homeland
16 x 20 O/C

This is a quick announcement to let you know that March 10th and 11th 2018 between 11 am and 2 pm I will be at Heritage Park’s Gasoline Alley giving mini artist talk/tours about my Canada West paintings and how they relate to their exhibition, Journey of a Lifetime. The talks are not posted to the website yet, but will be free with admission to the exhibition. Find out more about the exhibition here.

Dime Novel 1907: Revisited

Belle of the Brawl
(formerly Dime Novel 1907)
12 x 16 O/C
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

Last week I talked about my reasons for revisiting a painting, so I won’t go into that much here. What I will talk about, are the changes I made to this one, and why.

Amoung the many funny things I could be entertained by in this antique image of the west, one of the things that kept happening as I looked at it, was my increasing identification with the contested object of the narrative. The bull is trussed up and appears to be at risk of being re-branded by cattle rustlers. Our hero and heroine have happened upon this scene and have rushed in to defend the bull from the cattle rustlers. But they are not defending the bull, they are defending property.

It appears that when the image was made the bull clearly resided in the realm of objects which are owned, and can be stolen. Stella (who in marriage would have been classified as chattel herself) stands on the bull like a piece of furniture. Today, the bull is both an object to be owned and a being which needs to be humanely cared for. Though the bull is the centre of attention, no one bothers to ask whom he prefers to go home with. So I decided to give him a voice.

Dime Novel 1903: Revisited

Oh Zee, What Did You See?
(formerly Dime Novel 1903)
16 x 20 O/C
Debbie.lee Miszaniec

This painting might look familiar. It was Dime Novel 1903. The funny thing is, I often paint something because it is a longer form of thinking about the thing. There is something there that I need to get to the heart of, so I need to chase that thought down through the act of painting it. Sometimes the thought keeps circling after the painting is ‘finished,’ and I need to revisit it. That is the case with both of the Dime Novel Paintings. I will talk a little about Dime Novel 1907 next week.

So what was it about 1903 that brought me back? I was fascinated then as now by the conflicting image of the notorious criminal and civil war era terrorist as a fictionalized American Robin Hood character. In this particular cover I was drawn to the relationship between this vulnerable looking girl who seems to be both serving as a human shield and being shielded by the James character.

I knew James was married to his first cousin, a pastors daughter, Zerelda Mimms James. He was already active in his violent career when they wed. It seems like one of those relationships where outsiders ask, ‘what did she see in him?’

It is an interesting question to think about the intimate companions of some of our most infamous characters. How much do they see or know of their spouses actions.  Do they know their spouses true nature, be it killer or lover? Are they ignorant, in denial, or complicit in some way?

These questions led me to add the locket portrait of Zerelda, balanced against the markings in the margin representing the violent side of James legacy.

Sunflower Seed Paintings 31 – 36

These six sunflower seed paintings are the first for 2018, and the first of thirty I was able to purchase materials for, thanks to the honorarium from Taking It Global’s Wish 150 Mosaic project. Thanks Taking It Global!

In honour of the new year, I decided to take these six back to basics with black and white, and to explore active words which might give us thought about how we want to be in the new year.

Root has already gone to a good home. I am sure the rest would also like to find their homes! Go here to learn about the project and sign up to receive one free, or donate to ensure we keep this project going!

Sunflower Project 2017 Review

Wish150 Alberta Mosaic
Acrylic on Panel

One year since I started the Sunflower Project, to encourage lovers of art and of life to share their gifts with the world.

This has resulted in 30 paintings completed for the project, 18 of them with the assistance of donated funds from supporters.  25 paintings have been mailed, my gift, to people who have signed up on the web site to participate in the Sunflower Project.

And then, the project grew: Taking It Global and Wish 150 invited me to contribute a piece to the Alberta Mosaic. The detail above is from the panel I contributed to the mosaic, and is based on the Sunflower Project. The Mosaic was unveiled in Edmonton at the end of October, and there are plans being discussed to have it exhibited in Calgary as well.

As a result of receiving the honorarium for contributing to the mosaic, I am able to produce and mail 30 more Sunflower Seed paintings!

I look forward to carrying the Sunflower Project into 2018 and watching as those seeds grow into something beautiful!

Event Announcement: Journey of a Lifetime

The New Homeland
16 x 20 O/C

I am pleased to announce that the seven paintings in my Canada West series, which centre on themes relevant to immigration, will be on display in conjunction with the exhibit The Journey Of A Lifetime. The Exhibit is on display from January 23rd – April 22nd 2018 at Heritage Park Historical Village. It is built around the last surviving colonist railway car in Canada and is partially sponsored by BMO. I have included my Artist Statement relating to the Canada West series below:


To judge the past by it’s advertising literature, one would assume that immigrants to Canada were a fairly homogenous, and privileged, bunch. The Canada West series explore that assumption. The Canada West series are paintings revisiting early 20th century Canadian immigration posters that were intended to encourage immigration to the Canadian West. Each painting interprets the source image through juxtaposition, modification, or both. Through examining the cultural artefacts of Canada’s attitudes to, and experiences with, immigration from the early part of the last century, I encourage a long range view on the impact of contemporary immigration concerns on Canada’s future culture.

A Level Playing Field is based on an image circulated mainly in the United States of America, which I juxtaposed with a representation of a Monopoly board. It is an interesting coincidence that this image would have been in circulation at about the same time Monopoly was invented. Monopoly is essentially a real-estate game which was initially created to illustrate the danger of monopolies and the inevitable failure of capitalism to provide prosperity for all, in that although each player starts out at the same place with the same amount of money, through a combination of luck of the dice, attention, and shrewd development, one player triumphs above the rest, eventually owning all the property on the board and bankrupting all competitors. The homesteading program seems like a live play enactment of this game; Each homestead offered 160 acres of land at 0$ to a relatively wide base of potential homesteaders, on condition that they prove up the land within a specified time. It could be seen as a matter of luck, skill and hard work that one succeeded as a homesteader, as opposed to heredity, class and connections. Even the land, which in the original poster is depicted as flat gridded plots, looks like a board game. The idea that starting everyone out with 160 acres for 0$ could constitute a level playing field turns out to be an illusion, as not only were there restrictions on who could play the game (women and many ethnicities discouraged), often the deck was stacked against the homesteader in terms of practical experience, operating capital, access to resources and quality of land. However, the fact remains that, as in Monopoly, hundreds of thousands signed up to play the game under the Dominion Lands Act, and as in Monopoly, the majority of them lost the game.

Salvation comments on the perception, versus the reality, of immigration to Canada by people escaping poverty, oppression and famine, who then faced the challenge of homesteading unbroken land. Although the PR machine for immigration to Canada overpromised the ease with which prosperity could be attained in the new homeland, the situation that the potential immigrant was in, in their native land, was often so bleak that the chance to homestead in Canada may have been like being trapped in a deep pit and suddenly being offered a ladder to a better life. However, being an immigrant homesteader often meant they found themselves in another deep pit of hardship they were unprepared for, requiring them to learn and adapt rapidly if they were going to realize the promise of the PR machine.Finding a Dance Partner is interested in the controversy of ‘Surplus Women” in Britain. A gender imbalance if favour of females led to concerns that women unable to marry would fall into poverty. At the same time, a majority of males immigrating to Canada had officials looking for women to immigrate as domestics, hopefully to start families, thus ‘civilizing’ the west. For the government, they appear to be staging a game of the bachelorette, inviting women to step up from overseas. For women, the message is to take a big chance in the name of love, by crossing an ocean to a metaphorical dance floor where it is more likely they will find a partner. I found this early open invitation to young single female immigrants amusing from the perspective of critics of immigration today who worry that women will find shortcuts to citizenship through marriage. One era saw it as desirable, and another sees it as cheating!

The New Homeland places the figure of the original poster in front of a floating field of the flags of some of the major immigrant groups of that time to western Canada, including (in no particular order) France, Romania, Belgium, China, Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the Ukraine, Russia and Scandinavia. I am interested in the difference between the depicted characteristics of the original poster’s personification of a potential immigrant, and the actual range of ethnic backgrounds represented among immigrants of the time.

The Spirit Wrestlers engages the history of the Russian religious exiles, the Doukhobors, and their (at the time) radical beliefs of communal living, pacifism and vegetarianism, in Canada. There was a great deal of fear and opposition to their strange ways and refusal to give up their values in order to integrate and participate fully in Canadian society, particularly during some of the more extreme protests in the 1920’s which involved nude marches, and the burning of public and even their own properties in protest. I find it interesting that today we still struggle with concerns about how immigration from other religious and cultural groups will impact the culture of Canada as it currently stand. Yet if I look at the example of the Doukhobors in Canada, I can see how those values, though they stood apart then, have gradually woven themselves into our culture in a way which does not seem damaging, but rather enhancing our Canadian identity.

A Matter of Life and Death challenges the racial stereotype of the white settler through altering the ethnicity of the original image to speak about immigration by African Americans and Afro-Native Americans escaping discriminatory laws and race based violence in the United States of America. Although (or because) these settlers faced discouragement from immigration agents and extremely rigorous applications of the rules of admissions by immigrations officials due to the unofficial racism of the time, they proved generally to be some of the fittest, physically and economically, of the homesteaders who came to Canada. They tended to settle the more remote lands in a bid to ‘live in peace,’ as even among the maligned slavic ethnic groups, they were deemed suspect. It is a testament to the desperation of the situation they saw themselves in south of the border; that they were willing to face such resistance for the opportunity to raise their families in relative safety. This is still a relevant example to contemplate today as we think about individuals willing to risk frost-bite and hypothermia to make illegal border crossings from the US to Canada in order to apply for refugee status here.

Land of Fairytale Abundance challenges the cultural stereotype of the British colonial settler through altering the ethnicity of the original image to speak about immigration by Ukrainians to western Canada. It is also interested in the reasons for and cultural impact of Ukrainian immigration to Canada. Although the general perception of Slavic immigrants during Sifton era immigration policy was negative, their admission was favoured by government during Clifford Sifton’s tenure due to their skills as farmers and perceived ability to handle the harsh Canadian climate. Meanwhile, in their home countries they were often starved or starving due to political, ethnic and class suppression, as well as over-crowding. To take a big chance by leaving everything familiar behind just to have an opportunity to grow enough food to feed their families seemed like a Fairytale come true. This alone should have been enough to incur the sympathies and support of established Canadians, but the response to their impoverished and alien appearance was distaste and distrust. Often they became the unwarranted scapegoats for crime and violence. Although many were able to take advantage of bloc settlement allowances in Canada, they were encouraged to abandon their customs of food, dress, language and dance to integrate with British colonial culture. Yet today the impact on the culture of Canada can be seen across the country in dances, cuisine and architecture, and does not seem out of place or questionable at all to most contemporary Canadians, even to the point of being grouped with definitions of colonial culture in the west.


100 Rejections 2017 Review

I aimed high early last year when I decided to work through my fear of rejection by taking inspiration from Jia Jiang. My goal was to accumulate 100 (art related) rejections over 2017.

So how did that work out?

First off, I would like to say that I only got 1/3 of the way to my goal this year, sending out 34 applications. Of those, 6 were accepted, which works out to a 16 or 17 % acceptance rate. So I actually accumulated 28 rejections in 2017.

Having got a slow start during the first half of the year I had to apply myself from the last half of the summer by applying to 5 opportunities a week for the rest of the year to meet my goal.

That proved challenging as opportunities are time consuming to source as well as to apply for. I found I was spending more time doing that than making work between August and October. Then in October, as the applications I sent out were accepted, I had no time to make art or to apply for things as I was busy with framing and making and traveling and meeting and such to fulfill the proposals. Finally in November and December I had to balance studio time with application time.

Overall I found that the shift in focus, from trying to get accepted to collecting rejections, to be beneficial. I was not nearly so attached to the proposals, both when writing them and when waiting for results. I was more willing to take risks, as I was not focusing on the potential negatives of an opportunity and talking myself out of applying, or conversely on being super conservative or over-thinking so as not to lose out on an opportunity.

I am definitely going to carry on this project for 2018, with the goal being to make it all the way to 100 this year. Starting now, I should only have to send out 8 or 9 a month. I’ve done my 1st earlier this month. 1 down, 99 to go!


2018: School’s out Party’s over.

Hi again. I know, I know, 2 posts in one week? Madness!

On New Years Day I like to look back over the past year and think about what has worked, what has not, where things seem to be going and what new things I would like to explore in the coming year. Sometimes sacrifices must be made to allow other things to grow.

So, in order to put more energy into the studio, including some interesting projects that showed great potential for growth in the last year, for 2018 I am discontinuing offering Art Parties,  Art Lessons and Artist’s on a Mission programs.

I guess I’ll have to get new business cards made soon then.

New Year, New Blog

Hi all. For my first post of 2018, and my first post in a while, I wanted to start with a recap of the past year, and then introduce a few changes for the next year, specifically involving this blog:

I started this blog November 4th of 2016, a little over a year ago. In the past year I have learned that regularly posting articles to a blog in a journalistic fashion is really not for me. When I have the time, I am stretching for things to talk about. When I have a lot going on to talk about, I don’t have much time for blogging, or for going through reams of spam searching for legit comments before I write anything.

I debated scrapping the blog altogether, however I still think it could serve a purpose. My paintings typically contain a lot of references and background material. If you know that context, it really adds to the viewers appreciation of the artwork. I am often told that I should be posting that information with the art when it is on display. So the main focus of this blog for the next year will be to write about the contextual information for each piece. I will link back and forth between the blog and the art on the website, for those that want the ‘full story’.

This is a rather big project, so I would not expect every piece to have documentation right away. I’ll continue to post articles throughout the year, generally on Fridays, though it will likely be irregular.

In addition to this, I will still include project updates and show or event announcements as they occur. Thanks for staying on the adventure with me!


100 Rejections Update: Just Say No, or Not Quite?

I am going to go into this topic because I think it may be something a few others out there may have issues with too:

Recently with my quest to amass 100 rejections I have been faced with a quandry. Some of my rejections have been coming through as acceptances.

Best possible project outcome, right?

Well, yes, but…

some applications are not necessarily best fits. Some projects have red flags, but as the goal is rejections I have been less concerned with the potential con side of the pro/con list. So when they are accepted I feel the pressure to jump at the acceptance. After all, I applied for this, didn’t I? Obviously I want the position or project or opportunity. When the project has a number of draw backs, I feel a sense of guilt to then have to say no, it is not for me.

So what to do? If I stop applying for things out of a fear of success, not only do I jeopardize the project, but I also close myself off from potentially great opportunities.

The first thing to do is to recognize that the feeling of dis-ease is a psychological thing. Fundraisers and political campaigners have long known that if they can get an individual to express support of an idea early on, where it costs the person nothing, they are more likely to get the same individual to support the idea when it will cost the individual more  (donations, volunteerism, votes etc.).

So, a reluctance to turn down an opportunity that I am accepted or short listed for is in part a pressure resulting from my initial expression of interest in the opportunity. The fact that I applied for it will make me more likely to overlook aspects of the opportunity which don’t mesh with my needs, even if those aspects weren’t apparent in the initial call.

Recognizing that, I have changed my mind set on the application process:

I am not applying for the call as stated, I am expressing interest in an opportunity. I am interested in finding out more about the opportunity, and exploring how I can best solve the other’s need. In some cases, I will not be able to fill their need within their parameters, and that is fine too. It is also possible their expectations are unrealistic. They may not know enough about what they are asking for to have realistic expectations. If that is recognized we can start a negotiation anyhow, and come to a mutually beneficial arrangement. If not, I have not accepted the opportunity simply because it is offered to me, and I have saved myself a headache.

What if it then goes to someone else who takes the opportunity as is?

Great! Either they have the capability to comfortably fulfill it, or it will be a learning experience for both parties. Either way, I am saved the headache and someone else gets what they need in this moment in their career.

So, in conclusion, the 100 rejections project is teaching me, not only how to deal with rejection, but acceptance too!