Calgary Gets Nekked

Do Calgary Naked is a great concept! So much was going on in the city yesterday!  Do YYC Naked, Alberta Culture Days events and arts, music and sports events throughout the city. It was clearly impossible to take everything in, but it looked like Calgarians were outdoors for a good time and exploring some places that they just never have opportunity to see.  I hope that the various venues for the Do YYC Naked event will do so again because certainly yesterday was a glorious day!

We set out for the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary first.

Tour rarely-seen areas of this historic gem
and try the historical scavenger hunt.
2425-9th Avenue SE
Transit Stop #5611, 4669 (10 minute walk
east along 9th Ave SE)

It was a lovely thing to wander through the space originally inhabited by Colonel James Walker and on such a magical autumn day!

When I took photos, I was most interested in capturing the light…interior passages, windows and doors and selected archival material, particularly related to the grounds, the wildlife and the past inhabitants.

Next…we headed for the Lougheed House…first, taking the time to enjoy the gardens and grounds, still washed with colour and texture.

Once we came in from the gardens, we went to the dining room for lunch.  I enjoyed the scrumptious eggs benedict with salmon, spinach and a perfect hollandaise sauce.  It was a lovely meal with a hot cup of coffee.  Whenever we get together, we share in conversation that leaves me feeling grateful, happy and loved.

Then into the opulent home of the Lougheeds!  The curator was our tour guide and he was very successful in describing the detail of the residence and its changes over time.  I was pleased to get up into the attic where we learned of and saw a wee child’s shoe tucked into the wall, a ritual among families of this time period.  It was also most interesting to visit the lowest level where the archives are kept…beautiful period items set carefully on the tables before us.

We all felt bad for the presence of this elegant wedding cake…left sadly, on the edge of a table as the tours went through.

Ongoing Monologue…Litter

It’s difficult to look at what we throw onto the ground as public art, but sometimes I think that’s all I can do.  I feel helpless against corporations…Home Depot, Tim Hortons, CPR, South Fish Creek Recreational Center…well, let’s face it, sometimes even the City of Calgary.

There are countless tracts of land that no one wants to OWN.  The notion of this continues to amaze me, given that over the centuries, we have fought nation against nation over land.  Isn’t it ironic that even in countries in the world where nations are disputing over WHO OWNS THE LAND, they are destroying holy places, museums, libraries, schools, hospitals and the beauty of THE LAND all at the same time.  What is with us?

This is the piece of land that I keep wondering about.  If I have even a single reader who knows WHO IS RESPONSIBLE for this land…please contact me.

I have not picked up a bag of litter a day since May of 2012.  Video to follow.


My Thoughts on Tim Hortons…AGAIN

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Recently, the media shared with us that according to the Zagat Survey of Fast Food Favourites, Tim Hortons ranked within the top five.  I have to say that while the public may find their menu popular…and their coffee too, according to this one artist-chick, their stance on stewardship and the environment is in serious need of revision!  I cleaned up some days, between 30 and 50 Tim Horton’s on each walk while exploring whether I might change the landscape, one bag at a time.  In fact, one day I walked over to the Tim Hortons located on the edge of Frank’s Flats and approached the manager with 71 cups collected in a single day and asked if he might offer me a rebate or even turn those cups in for recycling.

The manager explained that, as yet, Alberta does not have the capability of washing the lining product from the cups and so the cups, primarily made of paper, can not be recycled.  There are no incentives offered for returning the cups either and so a large number of people out for their evening/morning/Sunday strolls just pitch their cups and plastic lids into the pond or along its edge.  Like many other Albertans, they surely believe that over time these products will break down in the weather and such, but nah…unfortunately, they just become smaller and smaller pieces of those things that they are.

I revisited this location to see how it has been doing…from a view of the big picture, it continues to be a pristine and beautiful place…hmmm…but, look up close and you will see a different sort of picture.

When I contacted Tim Hortons about their stewardship efforts, I was directed to their link on their website.  It explains goals of diminishing waste and environmental impact by 5%...again and again…if you look into it, over the last several years.  However, there is no acknowledgment of having reached any of those targets.  Tim Hortons sponsors various clean-up efforts in the city, but rarely do you hear of larger efforts to change the type of products they use or to design a new and cost efficient technology to deal with the recyle of their cups.

CTV News Welcomes Gorilla House LIVE ART Artists

It was dark.  There was a chill in the air.  I got up at 4:30, made coffee, brushed my teeth.  When I arrived at Tim Horton’s to pick up Elijah, it was chilly and there were only a few people shuffling in for their morning coffee.  I bought two fruit explosion muffins and waited for my buddy-in-art to arrive.  It was all very exciting, but in a very surreal, understated way.  I had only curled into bed at 1:30 a.m….this, after uploading Terry Storey’s fantastic time lapse stuff onto movie maker after a more than exhilarating night at the Gorilla House.

Elijah navigated the journey up to the CTV location…we entered, with the guidance of the security guard and found Chen, Des and Rich waiting.  Nina did a wonderful job of orienting us with the program and how to conduct ourselves and arrange all of this artist-stuff that we had heaped into the space.

I thought Rich Theroux gave an exemplary interview that can be viewed on the CTV website.

We were all very proud and excited. Jefferson Humphries and Aisling Tomei were both genuinely interested in our process and were very helpful.  It was just such a fun thing to do.

Photo Credit: CTV News

When in just a few minutes, the wheel was spun, we were given the concept….“feeling anxious one hour after another”.  I thought this suitable for the moment, but once again, wondered what would actually land itself onto my panel.  I felt the space was charged with the sense of team players, both in the news component AND on the tarp, where we began to paint diligently.  Some of us were just beginning to feel awake.

Photo Credit: Chen Li

The news monologues and the interim conversations amongst the anchors hummed in the background…E. coli….rats in Medicine Hat…weather….traffic blocked in so many directions…time passed quickly.

Photo Credit: CTV News Battle in Progress

I thought of the twelve hours, representing them through the figures.  I kept the eyes closed…limiting outside visual stimulation for the subjects.  I allowed the colour palette to dictate a sense of anxiety.

Jefferson Humphries and another gent from the control room continued to visit with us as we heaped our belongings into our cars.  I really was so impressed by the hospitality and the engaging conversations!  A wonderful time!

Overlooking the city at the end of the Battle.

Driving home was peaceful…quiet exchange of stories…a good off-leash exercise for Max-man…and a day filled with positivity.  I am grateful to CTV Morning LIVE for hosting an event that supports the visual arts in the city of Calgary and showcases a relationship between viewer and artist.

The scariest moment is always just before you start. Stephen King

Memory Leans Back Into the Branches of a Tree

When Rich Theroux stepped up to the ‘Wheel of Doom’ last evening, he had us duped for a few short moments, but then told us for the 11th Gorilla Battle, the energizing concepts were to be our own.  I stepped toward my blank panel, fairly tanked out.  There was an open space that needed to be filled in just two hours.  What to paint?

My beautiful mother has faced the challenges of Alzheimers disease and my father has been her most attentive caregiver since she turned seventy five.  It is a mysterious  and challenging disease and it is heart-breaking some times (some days some moments) as the expression of its impact on my mother’s brain demands adjustment of patience, acceptance, strength and love.

Whenever my mind is not filled up with the matters of the day…writing or painting or thinking about my three beautiful children or my spiritual tap is not turned on to the ever-supportive love of God,  that wee space is filled up with thoughts of my mother…and of memory.

I’m not certain why, but I came to the memory of warm afternoons with Laurel Beth Barclay under and in the strong arms of a tree.  The year was 1963; the place, Battle Creek, Michigan.  She was another one of my forever-friends.  We enjoyed outdoor adventures, but most special to us was the time shared in one particular tree.  Once my military father received his posting, I began again to let go.  The last picture I have of Laurel in my mind’s eye, she was leaning back in a strong arm of the tree and I was sitting down below, looking up at her.  She asked if I would always remember her.  I told her I always would.  Last night gives testament to the fact that, indeed, I had remembered.

I painted that memory.  It came to me seamlessly and somewhere in the expression of that time, were captured the memories of my mother…all of those that have already slipped away…a dream catcher of sorts…a beautiful place.

Thank you to Sabrina, for purchasing my piece at auction.  I love the painting of the winking gentleman parked on the wall behind my easel.  He seems to know something we don’t!


February by Dar Williams

I threw your keys in the water, I looked back,
They’d frozen halfway down in the ice.
They froze up so quickly, the keys and their owners,
Even after the anger, it all turned silent, and
The everyday turned solitary,
So we came to February.

First we forgot where we’d planted those bulbs last year,
Then we forgot that we’d planted at all,
Then we forgot what plants are altogether,
and I blamed you for my freezing and forgetting and
The nights were long and cold and scary,
Can we live through February?

You know I think Christmas was a long red glare,
Shot up like a warning; we gave presents without cards,
And then the snow,
And then the snow came, we were always out shoveling,
And we’d drop to sleep exhausted,
Then we’d wake up, and its snowing.

And February was so long that it lasted into March
And found us walking a path alone together.
You stopped and pointed and you said, “That’s a crocus,”
And I said, “What’s a crocus?” and you said, “It’s a flower,”
I tried to remember, but I said, “What’s a flower?”
You said, “I still love you.”

The leaves were turning as we drove to the hardware store,
My new lover made me keys to the house,
And when we got home, we just started chopping wood,
Because you never know how next year will be,
And we’ll gather all our arms can carry,
I have lost to February.

Gorilla House LIVE ART Battles: September 26, 2012

Photo Credit: Terry Storey

It is late.  I will write about the magic of tonight, tomorrow…but I was so grateful to Terry Storey for taking shots of the process throughout the two hour session that I just really wanted to post the movie.  I will share the story of a memory that was held in the branches of a tree another time.  Suffice it to say that it was a wonderful experience to paint tonight.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

This weekend was a blessing-weekend.  The weather was warm.  The leaves were a vibrant yellow.  Autumn is my favourite season of the year and in some ways each and every year, autumn surprises me.  Max and I spent time together at the parks and down at the river.  He likes the redundant fetching of a big stick again and again.  Sometimes I find it hard to believe that he is a border collie.  He has the heart of a lab.  He would not have survived a sheep farm.  I saved him.

Apart from having time with Max, I was really proud to put my nose to the grindstone (just where did any of us come up with THAT particular idiom?)…anyway, I DID…and created a website that will be developed over time in order to make connections around my art and a few different services that I hope to explore during my retirement.  You can take a peek here.  It was an intense and focused activity, but just what I needed for my particular head space.

Saturday evening my sister-cousin-friend suggested that we visit the local ‘burb-Wal-Mart and we picked up the movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (spoiler).  Back at home, we popped a big bowl of popcorn and poured ourselves some lemon water, then parking our butts on a comfy bed, we settled in for a great movie!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those movies, jam-packed with life lessons.  The colours, atmosphere and sound track, work together to create such a beautiful setting.  The actors are superb.  The story is a story about every person who faces a big transition, enters into their ‘golden’ years OR watches someone who is special to them experience any, some or all of these. (My father always says, “I would like to find the person who decided to call these the golden years!”)

If you have opportunity, catch this one.

“Everything will be alright in the end, so if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.”

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. Phyllis Theroux

Graham Krenz

I met the young artist, Graham Krenz, at the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles last week.  I had been admiring his work in a downstairs studio space for a couple of months, but had never met him.  Given my own exploration of endangered species and my longing to paint and talk about an eventual ‘complete’ Covenant Series, his work spoke to me on a more intimate level.


It is not an unusual thing for me to drive out of the suburbs and find a rabbit, lifeless on the side of a road…or the blue-black incandescent feathers of a magpie juxtaposed with the brilliant white of its lifeless body.  I’ve thought often about the proximity of human kind to animals and our encroachment on their spaces.  Graham’s work speaks of this in a powerfully sad way.

I think that submersing biblical text into my artwork causes people to read scripture.  Graham’s work creates a more ‘in the face’ statement by depicting the lifeless figures of these beautiful creatures on the surface of his work.  The viewer is compelled to ‘feel’ something about the subject matter.

In his own words about his art…

“I have, for the past year, spent almost every day in Calgary’s expansive
suburbs. Their scale and uniformity are staggering- but they are not islands.
There is a constant influx of wild and semi-tame fauna living out private lives in
every possible vacant space between homes. Many have been displaced and
many creatures have long since left the Calgary area, but some have stayed,
and many have carved out a niche that has allowed them to succeed and thrive.
Despite this superficially easy life, many die alone in fields or beside roads due
to human intervention or negligence.

There is always the argument that our effect is simply an indirect
consequence of our pursuit of comfort and happiness. That argument implies
we are accidentally constructing these vast tracts of stucco and concrete, and I
reject it entirely. We are directly responsible for an entire co-dependent
ecosystem of waste, scavenging and opportunism. A vacant lot does not revert
to nature. The layers of soil have been excavated and disturbed, the long grass
is choked with plastic bags and the dirt itself is polluted with shards of glass and
junk. It is a new ecosystem defined by the city surrounding it.

However, I haven’t noticed any profound physical suffering in the animals
I’ve encountered. I see coyotes so fat they barely bother to run away, and deer
cheerfully lounging on faux-stone front patios, safe from the comically well-fed
coyotes. They are as addicted to our food and comfort as we are.

I draw these suburban creatures after their death, whatever the cause. I
use ground chalk, marble dust, and water as my primary media and the work is
applied to supports salvaged from the never-ending conveyor belt of furniture
moving through our bedroom communities. Most of what we consider stylish
and comfortable today will not be recycled, and will surely end up buried
beneath our homes in the future. This is our suburban legacy: Animals addicted
to calories and humans addicted to furniture. Here they are, together at last.”

Gorilla House LIVE ART: September 19, 2012

I was in my early years of teaching when I came upon the books, Art Synectics and Design Synectics: Stimulating Creativity and Design by Nicholas Roukes and that is when my life as an arts educator really began to evolve.   In the second of these books, I first discovered words that described how I had been learning/thinking…to that point.  While we most often associate the word synectics with technology, in truth, our brains are wired this way (some more than others) and so we, as humans, are ‘synectic’ thinkers.

The most basic of explanations is to compare a stimuli/object/image/song to a pin ball.  Drawing back on the spring, the pin ball is shot forward, finding its way into the body of the machine.  At this point, it begins to boink off of various OTHER stimuli and the binging begins…the lights go off…the points are scored.

Finally, I was offered a description of how I thought and had always been thinking.  I was not a linear thinker.  It took me more time than others to describe my beliefs/ideas and feelings about things because there was, in fact, so much going on in my head at one time about pretty much every new idea/concept or visual stimuli.  That’s why I learned that writing and art gave me a way to archive my thoughts and reactions.  I was not the child in school who benefited from being asked to answer a question on the spot.  Instead, I sought to understand.

These last years I have learned a huge respect for a mathematics/drama teacher, Kelly, who uses strategies to engage such learners.  Students have time to make meaning while creating foldables.  Such methodology reaches into the creative side of students and gives them the time and the imagery to make sense of a concept.

Image from Open House Pizazz

Working 4 the Classroom Photo

Now…to the Gorilla House LIVE ART battles!

Creativity is the marvelous capacity to grasp mutually distinct realities and draw a spark from their juxtaposition – Max Ernst

The real poet studies the world as it is: lovely, terrible, sensible, grotesque; and would ask for no other in its place. Humor is the final sign and seal of seriousness for it is a proof that reality is held in honor and in love.  – Mark van Doren

Last evening’s concepts for the two hour art battle seemed, to me, disjointed…even more so than is typical and yes, somewhat dark.  1. hairless (Yes…that was the artist/audience reaction as well!) 2.  lessons from life and 3. self destruction.  While I’d have to agree that this piece is one of my ‘darker’ paintings at the Gorilla House, I tried to take a positive spin on the concept of self destruction.

Here’s what I was thinking…

We spend much of our time reacting.  Back to the pinball analogy!  In short, what I’ve noticed is that along the way, when I have felt things pulling apart within me, those are the times that I have re-created myself and grown into someone stronger, more evolved and generally, more interesting.  No one wishes for bad things to happen to anyone!  But let’s face it, _______ happens.  And when it does, we have basically been given an opportunity.

Photo by Terry Storey

The painting of the figure (androgynous and having no racial profile), without uniform or clothing…vulnerable…became key, but not key.  The figure contains the cosmos at its heart.  It finds itself in that moment of being ‘stripped’ of everything…and it is at this moment that the ‘spirit’ and the mind begins the process of reconstructing, re-energizing and becoming something else.

Why red?

For a zillion years I painted a ground of cadmium red medium as an underpinning for all of my ‘pretty’ landscapes.  There is a tradition, even among the Group of Seven, to activate a blank canvas by creating a ground.

In 1917, Thomson painted what is probably the most famous of all Canadian images, a pine tree, standing battered but strong against the elements. For many, the painting is the quintessential image of the Canadian spirit. The picture vibrates with colour. Presumably lakes and the sky are blue, but his picture is pink, violet, green. And to make the colours even more vibrant through complimentary contrast, he allowed spots of the red under-painting to show through.”  Written by Dale Smith and found here.

Having visited many of these paintings over time, I’d have to say that the under painting is a rich  yellow ochre.

Neil Patterson once explained and demonstrated in a painting workshop that he uses black.

In oils, I used red.  This created a real play between complementary colours and caused the eye to float through the small, sometimes unnoticed passages of red.  For me…red represented passion, pain and sadness, elation…all of it.  I patiently waited for my under paintings to dry and then generated epic landscapes on top.

Oldman at Maycroft Crossing

These days, the red has surfaced. During one of those times when I ‘fell apart’, I became far more outward looking and less inward in my thoughts.  I plugged into my faith…read scripture and also read about the demise of countless species.  I thought about my father and his gesture, saving a single pelican that had lost its wing as all of the other pelicans abandoned it on their southbound migration from a Montana river.

Then, inspired by Brian Skerry’s work and given his permission to use his photographs as references, I began to paint A Covenant Series.  The red continued to surface as I looked at the status of the beluga whale population on the St. Lawrence River and then watched the film, The Cove and learned about the struggle of the cetacean populations in various parts of the world.

I have recently learned that I only want to paint from a place of authenticity.  I want to be true to myself.  This has taken some time. The piece that I painted last night tells that story in visual terms.

Last night, Terry Storey, an awesome photographer, purchased my piece.  It is important to me that he saw something in this piece that spoke to him.  I am looking forward to working with Terry on some interesting projects.  It was another great night at the Gorilla House!

The post-battle chat was once again, inspiring.  Thanks to my friend-Gorillas.

Bruce, deep in thought.

Cosmic Love

After creating video about dark…about light…I could not help but share this music.

Cosmic Love by Florence and the Machine

A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes
I screamed aloud, as it tore through them, and now it’s left me blind

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat
I tried to find the sound
But then, it stopped, and I was in the darkness,
So darkness I became

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart

I took the stars from my eyes, and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back
Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart