Gorilla House LIVE ART: May 29, 2013

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Oh man.  I took up the early-in-the-day challenge presented by visionary, Rich Theroux and painted based on Wendy O. Williams. I departed from the three concepts that arrived on the creative wheel before the battle.   First off, I don’t like Punk/ Metal. Not liking something goes beyond not appreciating it.  I find that Metal and Punk grate on my nerves.  I find that these genres are not ‘musical’, at least not in my mind.  However, I decided that since the Gorilla House always shakes me up artistically for one reason or another, I would take up the challenge.

I watched some of the Plasmatics music on old Youtube videos in the afternoon.  I wondered why Wendy had to wear such provocative clothing.  I wonder the same thing when I see Lady Gaga.  I wonder about the provocateurs, more so, from the female side of things than the male side.  (look, I’m just being honest).  I don’t get why females need to play on their sexuality while male performers seem to play on their strength and their gritty sweat.  I just don’t get how that can equate with being ‘heavy’, as Wendy professes in this interview.

I once bought tickets for Metallica.  My son, daughter and I bought the t-shirts…the hat.  And quite honestly, I was impressed!  I thought that the drumming, in particular, was fantastic.  My first encounter with Metal.

When I thought and read about Wendy O. Williams I could not help but encounter a river of sadness running under the surface of her bravado.

So, the painting.

Recently I’ve had two amazing encounters with bald eagles at the river bottom.  On one of these, I was visiting a place where I used to walk my old boy, Laurie-dog.  I had Max out and had not yet set him off leash, but was heading to the ridge.  Out of nowhere, the swooshing of massive wings…a diving and pitching of a form in front of a perfectly blue sky, seagulls cawing and screeching and speeding toward the target. Then everything came into perspective a mere ten meters above my head.  The eagle was carrying a huge writhing fish in its talons. Its head and tail shimmered a brilliant white.  I could see the wounds on the fish’s body…that’s how close I was.  Up it rose, sending the seagulls in a swoosh of white energy, in multiple directions.  I stood perfectly still, in awe…of strength, beauty, struggle, survival.

The second encounter was quite a bit north on the river, near the irrigation canal and the Bow River Canoe Club.  Less dramatic, but also so overwhelmingly beautiful because of its proximity to me…this time I might have touched the bird had it dipped a tad closer.  The eagle carried a mass of nesting material in its talons…likely a full cubic foot of dried grasses/sticks and such.  I’d never seen anything quite like it.  I focused on its wings, the strength of them, the propulsion of the amazing animal north and away.

In the ending, the painting combined my thoughts on music, power, self expression, evolution, transformation.  I took the eagle of my experience and transformed it into this ‘metal’ beast, a bird that represented anything but the natural forms that I encounter on a personal front at the river.  This piece is a departure for me.  The Gorilla House art battle tends to bring experimentation with materials and subject matter to the forefront.  Thanks to Daniel for your purchase of this piece at auction.

I’m including here, a series of embroidery pieces hung in the recent GH exhibit that represent my concept of transformation/deconstruction as well.

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Artist Szebo One

Artist Szebo One

Artist Szebo Two

Artist Szebo Two

Artist Szebo Three

Artist Szebo Three

Glanmore National Historic Site: Couldery’s Victorian Animal Paintings

This image was lifted off of the internet.  There are multiple copies floating about, with no photo credit.

This image was lifted off of the internet. There are a zillion copies floating about, with no photo credit. 

On exhibit upstairs, 42 Victorian animal paintings by Horatio Henry Couldery.  Couldery’s paintings made me smile and while I couldn’t grab very good photographs, my readers might get the idea just how whimsical this collection is.  There is such a sentimentality about the work and I could not help but wonder how my own border collie, Max, was doing at home in Calgary, with the dog-sitters.  When I looked at the paintings of cats I had to take pause and think about the seething resentment in my cat, Peanut Meister, at being abandoned yet again!  Couldery was a noted British artist and his collection contributes to Glanmore’s international significance. “One of the most extraordinary collections of Victorian dog and animal paintings in the world” – Wm. Secord, art expert.

My own photographs (no flash) do not do justice to the paintings.

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Restoration of the Glanmore National Historic Site, Belleville, Onario

Walking from the hospital to my Dad’s apartment on Bridge Street, on my last trip to Belleville, I stepped into the past for a couple of hours.  I was emotionally exhausted upon my arrival, but on each visit I’ve made home, I’ve wondered about this beautiful building.  The banner on the front yard read OPEN.  I entered into the front foyer, where I was met with a warm greeting and smile, received a brief history and headed into this beautiful and somehow-enchanted space, quite a departure from the cold and discomforting experience of the hospital room.

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors ©

Photo Credit: Kathleen Moors ©

The building is in the process of restoration and so I was granted admittance to most of the three floors apart from the back of the house.  I was alone to wander and so I felt as though history was holding my hand.  I am one who loves that sense of nostalgia, so to be transported to this magical time was wonderful.

I have visited Virtual Museum Canada and located a concise history of the building and collections to post here.  I purchased, upon my departure, the book about the personalities who lived here and more detail about the architectural elements of the building itself, but I thought for the purpose of a blog post, a concise bit of writing would suffice.

“Glanmore National Historic Site of Canada

Glanmore National Historic Site, was designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1969 in recognition of its exceptional 2nd Empire architecture. Glanmore was built in 1882-1883 for wealthy banker J.P.C. Phillips (1842-1912) and his wife Harriet Dougall Phillips (1839-1915). The grand interior features beautiful hand-painted ceilings and ornate woodwork. Many of Glanmore’s rooms have been restored to the 1890s and feature period room displays containing some original furnishings as well as beautiful objects from the Couldery Collection.

The museum cares for an extensive collection of antique furniture, paintings and ceramics. Local history is highlighted in Glanmore’s lower level, and includes the Pre-Confederation Homestead exhibit and Maid of All Work: Domestic Service at Glanmore. The Museum is open to the public six days a week and offers a wide variety of programs and activities for schools and the general public. Guided and self-guided tours are available year-round.

About the Collections

The Couldery Collection of European and Oriental furniture, decorative art and paintings; Phillips-Burrows-Faulkner Collection of artifacts original to the site; Paul Lighting Collection; History of Hastings County Collection; Manly MacDonald Collection.

Approximate number of objects in the collections: 35,000″

Glanmore National Historic Site of Canada Video Tour Highlights from Gerry Fraiberg on Vimeo.

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Sometimes we are helpless in our circumstances.  Tonight I’m writing about helplessness.  I want to make an important distinction, however…because I am not writing about hopelessness. For me, they are different.


1. Unable to help oneself; powerless or incompetent.
2. Lacking support or protection: They were left helpless in the storm.
3. Impossible to control; involuntary


1. Having no hope; despairing.
2. Offering no hope; bleak.
3. Incurable.
4. Having no possibility of solution; impossible.


Tonight, certain situations come to mind.  Some are very large.  Some smaller.  But, in the scheme of life experience, it all matters. With all of my heart, I lift up prayer for those in utterly impossible circumstances. On the east coast, a family has lost their eighteen year old daughter.  Also…somewhere…a sister has lost her brother.  A mother has lost her child.  A child has lost his mother.  And yet, every moment of every day, a new life comes to be.  Birth does not, however, exclude the pain of loss.  Grief is a huge reality.  I pray for you all in your grief; for your loss… divorce, separation, abandonment, disloyalty, death, illness.


Lola passes at the Hellabrunn Zoo Munich, Germany-Photo: Bancroft-Landov

A facebook offering from Information Blitz.  Orphaned elephant.

A facebook offering from Information Blitz. Orphaned elephant.

My mother sleeps in a long term care facility room and I wonder how she is sleeping and try to remember her laughter.  I want to pull her blankets around her.  I do not know and can not know her thoughts.  She can not communicate any more about the things that hurt her.  I feel helpless.  I have to trust in the love of her care givers.  I pray for all of those who have family members suffering dementia, loss of memory, loneliness or depression, ill health.

P1100418Today it was reported that a baby was left as sewage and then miraculously saved when “a tenant heard the baby’s sounds in the public restroom of a residential building in Zhejiang province in eastern China.”  This and many atrocities against the innocent come to mind and I feel helpless.  Most days it feels like it is not enough to be appalled.  I pray for the unborn…and for children…that they are protected, sheltered, fed and loved.

(Photo: AFPTV AFP/Getty)

(Photo: AFPTV AFP/Getty)

 Photograph: Imaginechina/Rex Features

Photograph: Imagine China/Rex Features

I found a wee nestling when I arrived home yesterday, Mr. and Mrs. flying urgently about, helpless to aid the still-breathing moving bird.  I slipped it cautiously back up into its nest and reinforced the broken vent.  Assistance was generously given by Peter and Rick.  Taking action minimized my feeling of helplessness.  But, today it is quiet at the nest…Mr., as though by instinct, returning again and again, to look in.  Helpless.


Before the Fall

Mrs. Before the Fall

Mr. After Nestling Returned and Entrance Reinforced

Mr. After Nestling Returned and Entrance Reinforced

Matthew 10:29-31

New International Version

29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.[a] 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

We live in a big world full of remarkable circumstances and moments that change us forever.  Some of these moments can only be described as miraculous and others, on the flip side, devastating.  We are very fragile beings, each one unique and irreplaceable.  Love hugely and in the deepest sense.  And when you feel helpless, pray.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: May 22, 2013

An evening spent in conversation with Vincent Varga…wowsah!  This was a surprise.  I guess this was some sort of an artist’s profile experience at the Gorilla House.  I arrived as per usual sometime around six thirty.  The gorillas were sitting on the front step.  It was a grey evening, but the air was beautiful.  I was anticipating PAINTING because I had missed last week, pushed down into covers with a chest cold, and while I had good intentions around the studio this week, I ended up spending more time in the garden in the sunshine than anything else.

The guys told me that I was on film…”Go back to the bushes, they said.” Take TWO!  So funny.  I don’t know what I talked about while I painted, but I really truly didn’t shut up.  The thing was…I was super focused on what I wanted to paint about and so to have a conversation was likely going to distract a little from that.  Vincent, though, was a natural and his interview questions were endearing and brought up a lot of stuff for me.  As I left at the end of the evening I was thinking about a lot of things.

First: My intentions for the evening.

Earlier in the month, I wrote about an exceptional book written by Joseph Marshall III.  I know it’s had a huge impact on me and unless I can get some of it worked out of my system, I’m afraid I’m going to somehow ‘contain’ the content and I feel that I need to express it, not hold on to it.  The Day the World Ended at Little Bighorn: A Lakota History is a book for everyone.

First Nations Artist, George Littlechild, has recently put me in touch with a huge archive of old photographs posted here.  When I saw an album posted of the Sicangu Lakota, I knew that I wished to portray one of the many people captured in the collection. When I heard the themes for the evening, I was especially happy because the third concept selected was pulled out of a BC comic strip, “struggle to defend himself and justify his place in the universe.”  GO!

I chose, out of a number of references, to use a photograph of Tacha Sinte Sapa (aka Black Tail Deer) the husband of Nite Win (aka Hip Woman) of the Oglala Lakota.  No date was available on the photograph and certainly, in the end, I did not capture much of a likeness.  I DO know however, that I am going to paint Black Tail Deer again.  I began, as I typically do when painting a portrait, by turning the image upside down.  In this way, I do not focus on capturing THAT likeness, but rather, focus on the forms of dark and light, this after writing out the last paragraph from Marshall’s book.

“True,” the grandfather replied, “but like all stories, it has a lesson.  You can be like the young man in my story who forgot where he came from.  Or you can choose never to forget who you are, and where you are from.”

While I painted, I talked to Vincent about my father…about endangered species…about rose hip tea and cactus berries…the gorilla house…about painting and recollections of small pots of oil paint, the smell of linseed oil.  It seems that I’ve had quite a history and Marshall’s words were coming to life in me as I painted.  I can not forget who I am.  I can not forget where I have been.  Notions of place, identity and memory permeate my work consistently.  It took talking about it to figure that out.

There were some wonderful conversations that circled my easel.  Thanks to all of the people who seem to care hugely about these same issues that concern me.

Thanks to Ryan for your generous purchase of this piece at auction.  It was a wonderful thing to learn afterwards that you are working with folk who are marginalized by their addictions and struggling to rise above them.  I mean it.  Phone me and I will deliver some volunteer art programs and do some portrait work with your gaggle!

Thanks to Jenn Arguin for archives.

Thanks to Vincent Varga, for expanding my heart.


Tacha Sinte Sapa (aka Black Tail Deer) the husband of Nite Win (aka Hip Woman) of the Oglala Lakota

Ryan and Gabriel

Ryan and Gabriel

Ryan and Kath

Ryan and Kath

May 22 GHouse

Ryan lowers the veil.

Ryan lowers the veil.


It’s just after eight in the morning and I’m sipping coffee, wrapped in my warmest pyjamas.  Outside, it spits rain, sometimes pours, and generally looks grey. I haven’t posted photographs of Mr. and Mrs. this year.  Each year, across from my kitchen window, sparrows build a nest in my neighbour’s vent.  I’ve seen many a tragedy at the base of this location, but, I’ve also seen babes take flight.  It’s a challenging world out there; the world of cats and crows, cowbirds and magpies…the world of people!

Here is a photo of the new Mrs., on guard after madly preparing nesting materials and tripping back and forth to the feeder.  The original couple to this nest this season was found dead on the ground, mayhaps attacked by other birds.  It is a ‘man-eat-man’ out there in nature!  Not certain, but I DID solicit the help of someone else to remove their tiny bodies.  It wasn’t 24 hours later and the new family had moved in.


This year’s Mrs.

Yesterday I taught for Mary and it just happened to be that Calgary Birdman, Andrew Stiles, was building bird boxes with several classes of grade three students.  The last group to go through was working with a class of grade nine helpers and these seemed to be as swept up in the action as the younger students.  I don’t think any of us get tired of being stewards or with creating things with our hands and a collection of tools.  For a short time I helped at the pre-drilling holes station.  Children are excited, just as adults are, to use power tools!  It was a wonderful morning watching children delight in this process.  I wish children would spend more time outdoors.  I think they would be amazed!

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Changing the Landscape, One Bag at a Time: Meeting Erin

Erin, of the City of Calgary, came to my place on Wednesday and dropped off some supplies, as well as officially registered me as crew leader for my volunteer position at Frank’s Flats.  I will be receiving support now, from the city, where the maintenance of this park land is concerned.  Since the city crew came out, I’ve been able to keep the park in good shape, one bag full of litter every single day.  It will never be pristine, given the public’s casual disregard for the environment, but at the very least, I am able to keep most of the garbage from making its way to the pond.  One area I am unable to maintain edges on the slope from the sports fields and Bishop O’Byrne high school.  There are huge ant’s nests in that section and I’m sporting bites again after trying to pick litter in that area.  I told Erin that I’m unable to go in there, even with my rubber boots on.

P1100961A few words to the wind…

“To those of you who play football and soccer on the fields and those of you who are spectators:  you need to learn that there is a consequence for the world when you pitch your plastic slurpee cups and straws and your Tim Horton’s latte cups down onto the ground.  What do you suppose is happening with those?  Do you even think?  This has been a week of Lucky Beer at the pond.  Tin cans have been pitched the entire perimeter.  But don’t fret guys…I’ve got your backs!  I wish that you might observe the animal and bird life that makes its home in this very same environment.  I wish you could see the number of different species that depend on this particular wetlands area.  When you look into my eyes as you walk past me, do not look at me as though I am a marginalized person.  Know that I am educated.  Know that I am a steward.  Know that my mission is NOT hopeless, but hopeful.

To those parents who have tail gate parties on the south end of South Fish Creek Recreational Center, while your kids are playing games and practicing inside, please walk the twenty meters to the garbage dispenser to ditch your chip bags, your Tim Horton’s coffee cups and your beer cans.

To those dog owners who run to your car with your dog when I ask if you will pick up your own dog poop, why not walk down the hill instead, to pick up?

If you wish to join me in this mission,  please take a small container when you go for your walk and stoop down to pick up the plastics and packaging that you find along the way, even if it is just a small bit, it will make a difference.  Find a place in your own neighbourhood and become a steward of that place.  Make it your own.”


RCAF Station Claresholm

My cousin Peter and I headed out to Claresholm yesterday, stopping in to Nanton’s antique shops for some browsing, along the way.  It was a beautiful day to spend time with my ‘boy-cousin’ and especially when he opened up about my Auntie’s meeting up with my Uncle for RCAF dances in Claresholm.  As we made our way along some back roads, he spoke and I felt transported back to a different time when his parents were young and so in love.  Pete’s father was another military man…a pilot…and it was in Claresholm where he learned his wings.  There was a mysterious sense of everything as I explored the old hangars through barbed wire fences.  It was a blessing-time…but also melancholic. Being children of military families, perhaps we can only understand. The photographs will say more than words, perhaps.

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Birth Days and Mother’s Days

I was born on Mother’s Day in 1955.  This May, I’ve thought often and hard about my mother who has struggled the past few years with Alzheimer’s disease.  I thought about Mom on my birthday.  And I thought about her again on Mother’s Day…and I’ve thought about her pretty much every day since I left her bedside last month.

Christmas St. SylvestreI want to thank those of you who brightened my days with your love, your wishes, your prayers and your cards.  It has been another year filled with blessings as numerous as challenges.  I am grateful for all of it.  I am grateful for you.



Whut Cha Been UpTah? Balletlujah With the Alberta Ballet

P1100992 P1100993 It’s been over a week and I am only now sitting down to write about Balletlujah! It was a brilliant  collaboration between Artistic Director of the Alberta Ballet, Jean Grand-Maitre and k. d. lang.  My friend told me that she began to cry during the second half…I cried from the time I saw the magical prairie landscape open up during the first number, Inglewood.  Suddenly, I was flooded with memories of times shared with my grandfather, miles traveled on Alberta roads and my years of painting the landscape I’ve treasured so much the past thirty years.

P1110002I can not possibly capture for my readers, the gist of the performance.  The dancers were exquisite.  The costumes were perfect.  The lights and video effects were spectacular and the music created for me, a narrative that moved me beyond belief.  The images of buffalo, crows, fish and star studded nights were dreamy.  The contrast of prairie and city experiences was so well-developed through the music and the ballet.  I definitely felt that the piece was encompassing themes of place, home and identity…of what it feels like to love completely and without holding back.  A spectacular night!  The second last tune resonates with me personally and so I am going to link to it here.

If given the opportunity to see this ballet in the future, please do.