Thursday, June 30, 2011

Daycare, Busses, Kindergarten, Special classes for Deaf/Hard of Hearing kids

My daughter Mei (pronounced "may"; it's Chinese for "beautiful") was diagnosed with a moderate to severe bilateral sensorineural high frequency hearing loss five months ago, when she was three and a half. We had no idea that she had a hearing loss because she was talking (albeit unclearly) and responding. When I would call her and she wouldn't respond, I just assumed she was doing the whole "I hear you but I'm not going to answer you" thing that toddlers do. I actually thought she was a little slow. Not dumb, but not a genius, which was fine by me.

Because Mei's speech was so unclear and no one could understand her, I took her to Speech Therapy through the Toronto Preschool Speech and Language Services She went through the therapy but every time we finished a session, I would get very discouraged because she didn't seem to be improving. It wasn't until she had her hearing tested at the Canadian Hearing Society
that we found out, much to our surprise, that she had a hearing loss! Suddenly everything started making sense. Mei's hearing loss is mostly in the high frequency range, which means she can't hear "S" and "F" and "V" and "B" very well, hence, Frosty was a "No-man", and "I love you" was "Iluwyoo". You can hear what Mei's hearing is like through this cool site here (click on "Moderate")

The last six months have been a whirlwind of audiology tests at the Sick Kids Hospital, visits from the Ontario Infant Hearing Program, meetings with the TDSB (Toronto District School Board) Itinerant Hearing program, Auditory Verbal therapy, hearing aid fittings, etc., etc..
We are so happy that we live in Canada, and that there is so much support out there, but it can be overwhelming.

Mei will be starting Kindergarten in the Fall. She will be bussed to a special program for Deaf/Hard of Hearing children in the morning, and then bussed to her mainstream school in the afternoon. We just found out today that Mei was squeezed into a spot at the daycare at her school. Phew!

Throughout all of this, I would like to write and illustrate a children's book entitled, "Princess Mei-Mei and her Magic Ears." Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

First days

This is my first blog! Since my studio is in my house and I am *supposed* to creating "masterworks" (!), I decided to create this instead. It's a form of creativity, right? The house gets amazingly organized and clean when there are blank canvasses in the studio.

I usually have a show to work toward, but this time I don't. As a result, the process in the studio has been very interesting. I am trying to practice what I preach: focus on the creative process, watch the painting unfold, as it is a dialogue between you and the canvas (or wood panel, or stretched silk, whatever your support may be). Other "JJ-isms": let go of the ideal that you have established in your mind. Your actual painting will never achieve what you dream of, nor should it. It should act as a guide.

As a result, the work is going very slowly, quietly. I will make a few marks, move from canvas to canvas, as the paintings unfold.  These paintings are, like this blog, a record of that day's mental state.

I received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts to focus on a body of work without the distraction of teaching. While I love teaching at OCADU because of the dedicated and enthusiastic students, faculty and staff, sometimes all of the "JJ-isms" get stuck in my head while in the studio: "Push that area back with a desaturated colour", or "What message are you conveying but juxtaposing these two images?" I feel sorry for those poor students who have a little JJ sitting on their shoulder while they are working away on paintings. Or  maybe I don't!

About art, and art funding and art education:

On my way back from dropping my daughter at daycare, I started thinking about why art programs are cut in school, why there is such a backlash in the mass media about creative expression (think: dancer Margie Gillis interview (attack?) on SunTV ( As an arts educator who believes very strongly in art education for developing lateral and innovative ways of thinking to further society as a whole, I get discouraged with this kind of backlash and misunderstanding. I think it's a way of the government trying to keep a handle on the masses so that independent thinkers who operate 'outside the box' don't cause revolutions.

 Well, if revolutions hadn't happened, where would we be now?


a painting from my last show at Loop Gallery.