I am not in control of this creative process. Not really. I seem to be coming to a comical conclusion to the tornado tragedy. My constructed paintings of cats are no longer sleeping, but catapulted. The cat falls headfirst, fighting against the gravity of the situation but if it twists a certain way, it will land on its feet. The evolution of a metaphor appears to be inevitable in hindsight and totally unexpected in real time.
In Hounds of Love, Kate Bush sang, “…take my shoes off /and throw them in the lake/ and I’ll be two steps on the water.” Painting cats landing on their feet is an act of faith, among other things. Spinning in a tornado, I am not always convinced that I will land on my feet but I will go ahead and trust God and trust the creative process and my inner voice and make these crazy images and surely it’s like throwing my shoes on the water: not a shoe-in but a step in the right direction.
Cats?! It was a cold winter. My studio is a short walk from my house. My little house is easy to heat: the high ceiling in my studio resists warmth. I spent most of the winter sidled up to my wood stove. I would look at the chair across from me to see my cat had the same idea. I soon found myself drawing him. It seemed silly at first but my cat is a tabby and as soon as I added colour to his stripes, I saw the connection between my cat and my tornados.
I drew him sleeping, curled into himself and there was another connection. He was like looking into the top of a tornado. And cats, as everyone knows, are bundles of energy waiting to leap. The more I drew him, the more I sensed he was a resting storm, a dormant tornado with muscles ready to cause havoc. The cat is, in a sense, a personified tornado and the answer to my tornado problem. A tornado signifies homelessness; a cat, more than anything, signifies home.
Who am I and how did I get here? I have asked myself that question many times in the last two years. My name is Lynne Mcilvride. I have been an artist ever since I remember. I find speaking awkward: my first language is colour. (It’s a good line that has served me well.) A little background to explain tornados and cats: I have a new studio. No, let me back up. I had an old studio in a farmhouse and an old marriage in that same house. I was happy there until I was dumped like a dog out of a moving vehicle. I grieved. I was kept sane by my friends, my faith and my art. For those of you who have followed my work, you will not be surprised by what happened next: I kept painting using new metaphors. My art has always been personal, autobiographical, symbolic, expressive. A tornado soon appeared in a dream and it started a huge series that has not completely spun out. Here is my artist statement I have reused a few times:
Weather is such a powerful metaphor for human emotion. And that writhing weather monster, the tornado, is a particularly apt way of describing the trauma, the fury, the intensity of loss. It’s hard not to take a tornado personally: it gets to the point by narrowing down and strikes a specific spot. It comes out of the blue. We don’t know what hit us. We are caught in a whirlwind of emotion. Everything is up in the air. There is no emergency plan for these twists of fate.
To put a positive spin on it, a tornado (that snaking shape-shifter) is just energy. It makes a long-winded metaphor that lasts and lasts because it wrecks and then absorbs whatever it touches down on. What starts out as an emblem of emotional devastation contorts into an expression of fury and then is reborn as a metaphor for unstoppable creativity, play, and passion. Like the flowering cross, can it become a cornucopia? Blooming tornados! Elijah goes to heaven, Dorothy goes to Oz, one thing for certain is we are pulled out of our orbit and dropped in a different place, undone.