Thursday was a beautiful day. Cayley and I attended Teacher’s Convention together. I’m proud that my daughter has chosen the teaching profession and prouder, still, that she takes her profession to heart. She is a strong woman. We share in a lot of the same concerns for our planet and its people. We also really believe that there’s a lot of power in education and that it is essential to change, healthy perceptions and strength of character.
I have been blessed that over the last while, I’ve had a number of strong women coming into my circle, These include artists, writers, mentors and friends. I feel in awe of their abilities to inspire and build up communities, families and their own experiences in so many impacting ways. Strong women have always been in my life; don’t get me wrong. But, recently, I’ve been really looking at what these women have done to influence me. I’m noticing them more.
Our sessions in the afternoon began with a talk by Tanya Tagala, author of Seven Fallen Feathers and All Our Relations. (No photos for any convention sessions, so, I’m sharing one of the Massey Hall lectures delivered by Tanya…very similar content.)
This was a very powerful talk, delivered with humour, honesty and generosity. Tanya’s first hand experiences and personal narratives increased our understanding of our story as Canadians. I know that many of my readers do not feel as I do on issues of Indigenous peoples and their rights. We are willing to fight for the rights of others, but so often neglect our responsibilities to our Indigenous, Metis and Inuit neighbours across the nation. I just don’t see how we can walk away from the treaties that our ancestors signed, in good faith. We are all treaty people. This is not an imagined past.
I value Tanya’s work; her writing and her voice. She is strong and positive and she speaks the truth. Every child deserves safety, clean water and shelter….it is not a child’s fault that they were born under the weight of history!
Cayley and I went for a movement break after the talk. We were quiet for the most part, but talked a bit about the open mic question session and what questions we feel are still unanswered for us. We were reviewing, in our minds, what needs to happen to shift our delivery of content in our classrooms. It was lovely to meet up with Lana and Heather during the break.
Next, we heard, in the same hall, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a beautiful woman who I had met a Mount Royal University some years ago, with my sister-friend, Karen. I feel blessed to have had a second opportunity to hear Sheila speak and encourage my readers to take the opportunity when you can. Please read her book, The Right to Be Cold.
Sheila shared a great deal of information and global concern for the melting north and the melting permafrost. We need this global cooling system. There are species that now arrive in the north, never-identified by the Inuit peoples. This strikes me as a manifestation of our consumption and greed. It is so easy to forget Canada’s north, abandoning her for all of the social and economic concerns of the south. We need to make these connections and be more deliberate in our protection of her.
There were such stiff rules about picture taking…and procedural rules around book-signing, but Cayley managed to grab a quick photo from a distance of Sheila and me, together, in conversation.
This is not a very becoming photograph…but…I took an opportunity to chat, give a context and express my interest. Sheila is a beautiful, authentic and very smart woman who has accomplished great and wonderful things in her life. Thanks, Cayley for sitting on the sidelines and capturing this engagement. Does it seem like anyone around me is concerned?
After the session, Cayley and I went To Bar Anna Bella’s for a cocktail and to bond. It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere and we were all on our own. I had the Osmoz Gin from France. Yum!! Magic!
As we left, the winter festival was setting up. I found it ironic and a little sad that this is what met us just around the corner. Interesting that a great big ‘plastic’ igloo should appear out of nowhere. Calgary moved on to the Glow Festival.
Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta. My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them. Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry. I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad. There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.
In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family. At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off. Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes. I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21. Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.
On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display. Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display. I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day. And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo. Excellent.
Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in. If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.
At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch. It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie. They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history. I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum. There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display! I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway. Very interesting stories and generous contributions!
When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent. Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.
Recently, I’ve been feeling as though nature is brutal! I heard yesterday that our weather hasn’t been like this since 1940. I’m not going to research to see if this is fact, but, I would have no difficulty believing it is true. Weather impacts my feelings about almost everything. Since the light has changed, it has given hope of spring and certainly makes the day feel more beautiful…but this cold! And the snow! YIKES!
At the river, I’m wondering about the natural cycles of all of these returning birds…how they will possibly sustain their populations, given this week’s temperatures of -14 and more snow and more snow. The habitat just doesn’t seem to be available for nesting. What are the pregnant does to do? The coyotes that have begun to den? So…every evening and morning, as I walk at the Bow River, I contemplate nature and its ability to rise above such brutality. When I return home, I have heat and electricity and unlike some countries and continents, I am not in fear (at the moment) of the flood, or horrid drought and raging fires. I am so blessed. I am safe.
I’m discovering wildlife in unusual places. Geese are nesting, only meters away from Deerfoot Trail and a huge distance from the river. I noticed them yesterday, huddled together, where the tall grasses emerge out of the cold snow. This afternoon, no fewer than thirty American Wigeons were voraciously struggling for sustenance well above the river and in close proximity to human activity. This was a first for me.
The most remarkable thing, however, was to see at least five Mountain Bluebirds, flitting about in a mating dance and feeding on berries that remained clinging sadly to a winter shrub…
This sighting was a deeply personal experience for me…I felt as though these lovely birds were placed into this settling, just for me. In fact, I tried waving down some other hikers to point them out and they waved and moved on, not taking a moment’s notice. Have I lost it completely? (I’d like to thank Doug Newman for letting me know that they were hanging about…this was my first encounter and I was thrilled to learn that they are absolutely NOT shy. Their antics were more than entertaining!)
I wrote about the Crucifixion a little bit on Friday morning…I look at this post as being about Resurrection. The males were more than impressing the two females present…such charmers. I am grateful for those species that will find renewal over the coming months. We must be ever-vigilant in our care of our world, for the people living in it, and for these sentient beings that share the planet with us. Probably more bluebird photographs than any of you might wish to see…but, I am experiencing such joy that I have no choice but to include them here.
I captured a female (much more shy) only twice, both times out of focus. She was stunning in her beauty.
On April 3, I returned and captured Mrs. Happy 51st birthday to my sister, Valerie Jean.
Taking to Canada’s highways is just one of those things I love to do. Nothing is better than a road trip! While I didn’t snap a lot of photographs on my journey home, after eight weeks away, I did feel very emotional and in awe of Canada’s landscape and its people. I thought as a wrap up to my blogging about my experience this past summer, I might dig into my night time notations and see if there are some moments worthy of mention.
Leaving Belleville, I took my ‘balcony shot’. Let me go and see if I can find it. There you go. I’ve taken one of these as a ritual when leaving Parkwood Estates every time I’ve made the drive. (and there have been more than a few drives) Typically, five minutes away, I start crying my head off.
I had a small container on the passenger seat next to me, filled with Dad’s hermit cookies, a recipe that was given him by my sister-in-law, Ann Marie. The highway 401, heading for Toronto, is a rush of a place to begin a morning, but with the early start, things seemed to really move to Whitby, where I pulled off, refreshed my coffee and gave Max his first break. (And, no! I am not going to go into such detail as I continue.)
The point in all of this is that the first leg of the journey is the toughest part of driving home, because I feel like I’m leaving family behind and it is time to turn west. I am also somewhat on edge through Orillia (because I take hwy 12 to hook up with the 400), concerned that I make all of the correct huckle buckles when I arrive at the Midland sign. Once I’m on the 400, I just motor it to bypass Sudbury (my birth place) and beyond.
Driving in September meant there were fewer vacationers on the road, a few red canoes on top of cars, but not what summer brings. I was sad that driving cottage country meant witnessing a bear cub, struck by a vehicle. The road kill scene always breaks my heart, as does traveling behind transport trucks moving pigs and cattle in what I feel are inhumane practices. I pledged to myself that this trip was going to be the start of different eating practices and that I wanted to become a more evolved person in regards to what I ingest. This is not something I take lightly anymore.
However (all that eating-consciously discussion aside)…I DID stop to have fries and gravy, just because I knew it would be my last chip truck, a regular thing in this part of Ontario. Outside Parry Sound, I noticed a remarkable memorial. There are so many marks of humankind along the highways of Canada; many heaps of rock along the shield, in the spirit of the Inukshuk, and many memorials. I scratched a note in my notebook…
Once home, I looked up the circumstance connected to the beautiful drum kit sculpture. It was placed as a memorial to Cole Howard, a young man, along with three other teens, who lost his life in 2012 in a head on collision.
A Family Photo that appeared in The Star By ZOE MCKNIGHT Staff Reporter Tues., June 17, 2014
It was only a very short while after passing a sign for Algoma Territory that the weather changed. Dark clouds surrounded me, but I pushed on, thinking that I’d still like to make it to Iron Bridge for the night. I was pushing nine hours driving, but it would make the drive in to Thunder Bay do-able the next day. Max was agitated in the back. I told him everything was going to be okay. I remembered Dad’s words. Weather is moving east. When you’re traveling west, drive like the wind and you’ll go through it. When you’re going east, hold off for a few hours and the weather will speed ahead of you. The lightening was straight ahead of me and over my right shoulder. Everything boomed. Water poured in sheets across the windshield. On the highway, some pulled over. Transports pounded me with flying ground water. I was being pummeled, but persisted. Sure enough, the weather thinned and like the great monster, it hurled its way east. Ahead, I saw the sun behind the clouds and the rain became dancing sparkles as my wipers continued to thud.
We made the Red Top Motor Inn in Iron Bridge...and happily, I chatted with the owner…more about art, this time. He is a collector of Norval Morriseau and is a local enthusiast for the visual arts. His partner, in the back kitchen, prepared me a dinner of Huron White Fish, tiny carrots, green beans, braised roasted potatoes. I went back to my comfie room, after throwing the whizzo for Max countless times in the beautiful yard, and poured myself a nice tall glass of red.
The next day was a day of magic on the road…something about the rain of the day before and the sunshine the next morning. I set off early toward Bruce Mines, tickled by the romance of the Mennonite horse drawn buggies, straw hats, little girls in black bonnets. There was a 3/4 moon and a single vapour trail straight ahead, on a perfectly blue sky. The soft light hit the side of a red barn in just a particular way and a soft haze danced on the fields, now ripe and full. Red maples were set into dappled forests of olive green and yellow. Autumn was evident around the lakes, although this would be my only encounter with the season on this drive, while I thought that I had left it late enough that I would enjoy that particular Ontario colour.
I delighted in the drama of Lake Superior on Day II At 10 in the morning, I pulled over to spend time at the water’s edge. Something about Lake Superior gives me confidence and causes me to bask in a sense of celebration.
Beyond Superior, both east and west, the roads reveal the economic times to the driver…small towns are lined with abandoned buildings; eateries, motels and gas stations; and there is evidence of graffiti everywhere. Broken windows are like giant dark eyes, that lead to past narratives and histories of the people who have now moved on. Nailed boards cover over a former life. I drove past Orphan Lake, Dad Lake, Mom Lake, Katherine Lake. I sighted two eagles.
I stopped at Old Woman Bay, where a man with a very thick accent, wanted me to take his photograph, not in front of the wild and dramatic water, but in front of his sports car in the parking lot. I fixed a lunch of Italian meats and cheeses. A honey-mooning couple offered to take my photograph. A wonderful offer as I am rarely a part of my archives.
More exploring at Rossport, knowing that the beautiful and abundant experience of being at the water’s edge would be over at Thunder Bay. The third day is always the most difficult for me, given the drive in land through the most isolated and creepy landscape I know.
People were all off the highway. I had very little traffic sharing the road with me. I let the truckers chug past me on big hills. I just wanted to take in the scenery. Awe-inspiring. Miles later, we hit Thunder Bay and not a single room was available in a ‘cheap’ hotel! More than once, I’ve thought how much I’d like to be driving my own little customized pull over ‘bus’/camper. So many picturesque places along the way. But, I didn’t have a customized camper. And, I needed to get off the road. It had been another epic day by the time I rolled in and so I took a room in the only posh hotel in close proximity to the Trans Canada highway and I headed for the shower.
Max liked this place. He knows class when he sees it. I poured myself a glass of wine.
Day III, my least favourite day, but I aimed to enjoy it…to relax into it…to really look. The encounter in Upsala with this roadside attraction pretty much says it all…
A train thump thump thumped along a track, for it seems like, miles. I listened to country music. At first, the trees were dense…then ferns, gold and sepia, lined the edges of the road as the marshlands encroached closer and closer to the highway. More Moose Crossing signs. Cars disappeared. I felt alone out there, so I hit cruise. (my father would be proud) I remembered, as I do every time I drive through English River, the movie, Deliverance. Think of the Squeal Like a Pig scene…or the Red Neck Scene…the disturbing sense of these envelop me every time i drive this road. At Ignace, I pulled into the Scenic Viewpoint. I had never done this before. I drove for quite some time and came to a circle of dirt road, a bobcat, a port-a-potty and if I were to hike into the dark woods, I might be able to see a bit of the valley that the highway sign professes, is an awesome view. I returned to the car and headed back to the highway. Max was unnerved by the silence of the viewpoint.
I entered Ignace and pulled in for a coffee and maybe a tart. I learned quickly that the home made tarts were back in Upsala. I was disappointed. A burly man in a plaid jacket moved a fridge. The grapefruit juice I pulled from the other one, duct taped handle, was room temperature. At the counter, paying, the middle aged woman entered into the dance of conversation. Lonely, likely, she pulled out her phone and we proceeded to goo goo over the photos of her chocolate lab…this went on for quite some time. The man, red faced, continued to struggle with the fridge. The conversation ended as another customer drove over the bell hose stretched across the wet dirt at the pump. I was relieved to get back into the car.
There were miles of straight road. There, finally, Savanne Portage and a huge sign for the Time Zone Change.
A painted bear and moose sign dominated the side of the road, at a point, Hand crafted, it was more evidence of the remote feeling that echoes through my day. All water, from there, flows to the Arctic Ocean.
A bloated moose in the ditch was being pecked at by crows and buzzards. I turned to CBC radio after miles of listening to Spotify selections. Static, but I was absorbed by interviews and such. Jane Jacobs spoke about gentrification. Emily and Ogden played.
Kenora meant a picnic and a walk about. I always take the drive through the city. I think about Jim and Sue when I make Kenora. I feel closer to home. It happens suddenly. More up and down, the landscape edges water and feels more open, in a less mysterious way than the landscape I have left behind me. We walked under the bridge to the big muskie. The tourists were gone.
On the outskirts of Kenora, I felt about trees, the way I’ve felt about cattle…their heads stretching to see out the back door of transport trucks, eyes wide, seeming to be asking…asking me. The trees, fallen, seem to be asking…asking me. It goes on for a couple of miles.
Making Winnipeg, the ring road seemed forever. I thought to call up Angie and Rylan, but I was drained. I flopped in the Motor Inn and felt comfortable, having stayed here on route to the east.
I knew already that I would not go north to Neepawa again, as much as I wanted to visit Margaret Laurence’s home town. Two extra hours of driving north and then back down seemed excessive, given my state at the time.
Max seemed accepting all the way along…he also flopped every time we stopped. Happy to receive his walks every hour and a half, he didn’t look for a lot of exercise in the evening. He took a pose…and this was it!
We would make Moose Jaw the next day. The weather was shifting again, becoming grey as we made our way west. Many hawks, a truly unreasonable number of hawks, were seen in a field just west of Regina. I wondered if they were mousing, given that the crops had come in and just stubble remained. I’ve never seen such a spectacle. In golden fields, horses stood neck to neck, all facing west. I think that we can take our cues from animals. Weather was coming.
By Moose Jaw, it was raining. Max waited patiently while I stepped into the CHAB radio station to see if there were any archives kept. My father used to sing live on radio with his sisters. That would have been the early 1940s. The receptionist explained that it would be a nightmare to keep historical archives. This was a disappointment to me, a chronic archivist. Who are the keepers of our histories? I guess I thought that radio stations, newspapers and such would be a safe bet, in terms of our contemporary narratives.
Driving home the next day, was a celebration-drive. I felt to be floating as the sky opened up so beautifully. I love Saskatchewan and Alberta skies. I had left home for home. My father and sister and brother are HOME, my children here in Calgary are HOME. Canada is HOME. I know her well and want to know her better. I dream to drive north…to stop…and really take in what makes the north HOME.
I’ve wanted to take my daughter and son-in-law up to the Cirque for a few years and it finally happened. I also wanted to be with my hiking friend, Cathy, who has such a natural and beautiful connection with the mountains. And gratefully, friend, Michael, could also join us. So, we took our pot luck and headed up Longview direction. A bit of a late start, we got on the trail just after the first explosion of hail in the parking lot.
The hike held some really fantastic moments. I was in bliss at the beautiful showing of wild flowers. Everything seemed more lush because of the moisture. Forget-me-nots blooming, electric blue, next to yellow flowers, made me think of Mom. Pink paintbrush, wild asters, Queen Anne lace…what a show!
The smell of the air…glorious!
The company…the people I was with…fun and patient and willing.
Weather…dramatic…frightening at times, but contributed to a different experience of these towering mountains! Thunder booms in a bowl of tall mountains are just somehow, different!
Apart from two Instagram shots, I didn’t archive any of this, but will post the collected photos here.
To begin…images from my first hike up Ptarmigan in 2010.
Yesterday’s Archives, beginning with our drive to Longview. Canola field…candy purchase at the corner gas station in Black Diamond…the chat that goes on between friends, heading for the mountains. Michael Collett…the artist snapping the shot.
Also, Michael’s photograph…an opening view from the trees…stops and starts of rain by this point.
My two little Instagram shots…Cathy ahead of me on the shale traverse.
The meadow…rich green always awes me.
Cathy’s phone…she captures…or attempts to capture the flowers in the meadows. We both agreed we have never seen them like this. Spectacle!
As per usual, I am the least attractive woman at the trail! Yesterday, wearing a Pitch-In bag. lol
This photograph speaks for itself. We’re in mountain bliss at this point.
But, what of the others? Here are Doug’s photos…Michael seems to not be represented well in this set of photographs. He is an intense explorer…likely observing light and colour!
I love the artistry in Doug’s photos…the image below, I guess, shows scale. lol Erin and Michael coming down from a wee jaunt they did on a higher trail.
This one shows the glory of it all.
Proud of my son-in-law, Douglas…a great way to celebrate Canada Day weekend!
Awe! There’s Mike!
We made it to the parking lot…a tad wet, but very satisfied!
And then…the tailgate party.
And the drive home…no less magical! We stopped at that canola field. The drama of the evening’s sky evolved as we headed toward the city. This is Michael’s photograph.
I’m a single woman in the world. If I think too much about it, I can get sad about that…the fact that I don’t have a life partner, helping me reach the things high in my cupboards or rubbing my back when I get the pukes. Truth is, I realize how grateful I am for my children, my son-in-law, his family, my family near and far and my dear friends who are always there with their thoughts, ideas, tremendous support. I don’t know what I’d be without them! Thank you.
Since I was fully invested in my teaching contract the last four months of the school year, I didn’t have the energy required to do very much gallery/music/event hopping and one of the greatest losses was Wednesday evenings at the Rumble House. I decided, given the resolution of most of my plumbing problems at home, I’d head downtown the evening of Canada Day and do some ‘chill’ painting just to soak up the good feelings that I always enjoy when I’m surrounded by friend-creatives.
I took along a papier mache rabbit that I had constructed as a demo piece for one of the create! classes that I taught down at the Golden Age Club. I thought that it was time to bring the little guy to completion and to let go of him. Priscilla sat next to me and I treasured quiet conversation. It was good to meet up with Jenn and Vincent after such a long time. While the Canada Day displays and events were a huge draw for Calgarians (something like 250,000 in attendance along the river), it was nice to be a part of something peaceful and familiar. It was nice to be painting.
From Rumble, I headed past the crowds congregating at the Center Street Bridge, to my brother’s place. After he fed me, we walked ourselves down to the hill at Max Bell Arena and watched the Canada Day fireworks together. I loved being with him and we shared memories of Mom and Dad taking us out with blankets and pillows in the night, to watch fireworks together. We are so blessed to be living in Canada. I had a beautiful evening.
Art is everywhere in Calgary and I enjoy it so much! The four-gallery exhibit entitled, Oh, Canada! is somewhat overwhelming for its extent and variety. It was nice, at introductory comments at the Glenbow, to meet in some respect, the curator of the project, American Denise Markonish.
Max and I got waylaid by a ton of fresh snow at the pond, so I didn’t get up to the Nickle Galleries or ACAD’s Illingworth Kerr for two of the first stops of the four-gallery art extravaganza. Sometimes beautiful wonderful magical awesome life gets in the way of the plans we’ve made. I just so absolutely loved my afternoon that I had to adjust for the wonder and the awe.
For 6:00 p.m. I headed north on the train from Anderson, and landed at the Glenbow in plenty of time to enjoy a bag of chips and wander, in amazement, the fantastic exhibit of a portion of the original artworks on display. At some point, my daughter Cayley and a friend landed there, so I had opportunity to share a glass of red wine and exchange some art banter as I did my second run at the exhibit. It was fun to chit chat with and shake hands with such an iconic artist as Eric Cameron.
I noticed in attendance, as well, artists such as Ron Moppett and John Will. I feel invigorated about our arts community and loved this portion of the exhibit.
Great surprises…three more paintings by Janet Werner. (really really enjoyed her work at Esker in an earlier exhibit)
I’m including the first paragraph of his artist statement here because it’s so relevant to the conversations I was overhearing…
“I am drawn to the form and idea of memorials, those markers that formalize links between memory and present experience. My main fascination is for the ways in which people bring facets of these ritual systems and objects into domestic spaces in order to amplify their personal identification with them, or perhaps with the cultures that support them.”
I stood in front of this piece, and wept. All of the work coming out of Cape Dorset was powerful.
Terrance Houle’s buffalo pretty much shouted off of a wall.
Standing in line for the Bassbus, I chatted with Janet Werner’s friend from Saskatoon. What a spectacular evening and live music performed by Chelsey Hazelton waited for me on the bus. Chelsey’s beautiful vocals sang us quickly to our next stop and one of my favourite places in town, The Esker Foundation.
Once I had my coat checked, I entered into Esker and was first met by beautiful, Sue Hill…a generous and truly authentic woman, she once opened her place on Lake of the Woods to me and my family…shared chipping of wood…canoeing…crayfish catching…swimming off a dock…sitting in a biffy by candle light…good chats and refinishing furniture. What a lovely way to make an entrance at the Esker.
The work at Esker was no less fascinating than the Glenbow, but perhaps I kept my camera more in my pocket. Kim Adam’s piece,Optic Nerve, did get a photo moment or two. I enjoyed her work in the Winnipeg Art Gallery years ago.
The Artist Collective, BGL’s La clôture also made the cut. (no pun intended) The Esker runs programs for the public (please visit their website) and so I know that I will be returning again and again to this collection over the coming month.
My favourite bit of work was an installation piece…quite complex and yet so simple. I have a little bit of video from this space and when I get it ALL together, I might post it here. You must see this work.
So from upended picnic tables…
…to backwoods cabin/pubs…
…you’ll see it all.
Treated to little dixie cups filled with seasoned french fries and on the other end of the gallery space, Nanaimo bars…the evening was a lovely and intoxicating one. I hopped onto the Bassbus for another run, entertained by the music of Patrick Whitten.
Back at the Glenbow, I made my way to the train, recharged and happy about my home town and the many beautiful people I have met over the years.
Calgarians, grab your passports and get out to these four venues over the coming month. You will receive many insights into what is happening in the world of contemporary art and as Canadians, we have much to be excited about.
Just before the holiday, I read Laying the Children’s Ghosts to Rest by Sean Arthur Joyce. My father had opportunity to meet Joyce at a presentation at the Belleville Public Library and he kindly purchased this book…a gift for me. A strong historical context is given for those readers who have little knowledge about the huge movement of more than 100,000 children from Britain, Scotland and Ireland for use as indentured servants in Canada, the United States and Australia between the years 1869 and 1949. It is a part of Canadian history that has largely been swept under the carpet of our arrogance and our ignorance. This is a topic that I strongly advocate as another one necessary to our history programs. A combination of memoir and short biography, this book focuses on Canada’s home children moving west, revealing to me for the first time, a history of the Fairbridge Farm Schools.
Recently, I read both The Street Arab and Belonging by Sandra Joyce. These two books would be in the genre of historical fiction, although I’m certain, having met Sandra and heard her speak about her family, that this is closely rooted to Sandra’s own family history, as a descendent. I feel blessed to have met Sandra and her friend, Karen Mahoney, when they presented at the Calgary Public Library, just a few months ago.
They work tirelessly to educate Canadians, across the country, about the British Home Children and their struggles in the face of abandonment (in some cases), separation and in most cases, hardship/abuse on their journeys, in their communal orphanages and in their various placements.
The Street Arab: The Story of a British Home Child and Belonging included elements of romance that created emotional relief as I processed the hardships encountered by the children; Robbie, Tom and Emma. Including beautiful description and intimate interactions in family and in community, the books were accessible and ‘quick’ reads.
Already somewhat researched on the topic, having read and heard about many unsettling stories, I know that Sandra did not stray from the truth and that all of the situations that came up were based on fact.Belonging illustrated the truth that children who grew up without any roots and without tenderness, grew to be adults who suffered a particular sort of separateness and struggled throughout their lives with openness and affection. I appreciated the attention to wartime detail as my own Great Uncle Joe gave his life and rests in Ortona, Italy, one of the settings in Sandra’s book.
I think that the more books that come out on this subject, whether they be historical fiction or vastly researched biography, the more Canadians have the possibility of learning about another aspect of our Canadian identity. I think that all politicians, at whatever level, and all organizations need to further the propagation of this information to give a full accounting of decisions made in the past. Along with the appalling history of residential schools in Canada, the deceptive approach to colonization and enforcement of Treaties, the perpetuation of slavery in the Atlantic provinces and evident bias against blacks in Canadian Court systems in the day, the heartless expulsion of the french, the internment of Ukrainian and Japanese families during wartime, the recognition of injustice served upon these British Home Children must be recognized for what it is, a grave and sad mark on our collective history.
I recommend these three books…a beginning for your own discovery. I include the following short video because my own great grandfather came to Canada at the age of 13 in 1898. He died, a soldier for Canada in World War I on May 19, 1918.
It’s the ‘morning after’ writing this post and as I read it, I think that it might be a particularly challenging post because Saturday night was so FULL to exploding with art and at this single venue, a lot was going on. For those who are not familiar with the physical lay out of the building that was once called the Art Gallery of Calgary, there are four floors, each separated by a very open stairwell. Presently, on three of those floors is an exhibit titled Made in Calgary: The 1990s and on the top floor, an aboriginal women artists’ exhibit titled the Deadly Lady Artist Triumvirate. This post will explore both, although, barely touching on the 1990s portion.
An upbeat evening was had at Contemporary Calgary on Saturday night…friendship (happy birthday, Jen), hugs, laughter, great catered food and fantastic art. In the 1990s, I remember making the acquaintance of several local artists in their studios…places like the Burns Building. I think that the exhibit nicely characterizes the sorts of things that were happening at the time and it was very reminiscent to be in connection with the ‘stuff’ again.
While I won’t be able to feature or write my connection with each piece, I want to showcase a few. For example, a nice little threesome of silver gelatin prints by Lawrence Chrismas were exhibited. I met Lawrence when I attended a powerful exhibit of photographs at the Esker Foundations some time ago. The exhibit was titled Splendid Isolation…and captured the intimacy and narrative aspects of spaces. At one of the art talk events, Lawrence (Larry) had shared, during question period, an encounter with photographer, Orest Semchishen. It was a highlight for me as I was taking in Orest’s historical images of small town Alberta.
I’ve made a visit to the Paintedearth Coal Mine with my friend, Bill Webb and so when I saw the image of these welders, I was so impressed with the fact that faces were ‘put on’ the history of the area. Art sustains our narratives so that we might always make reference. I felt engaged with a small part of the archive that is Alberta mining. Beautiful.
A Wayne Giles piece demanded the viewer’s attention by its monumental presence on the lower level. The first image is the AGC’s documented image and the following one is my attempt to capture its presence at my first encounter.
Wayne Giles Mondrian’s Cat 1992
Then I headed for the Top Floor gallery space…and THIS!
Contemporary Calgary, (formerly The Art Gallery of Calgary) is pleased to announce its first Artist-in-Residence (AIR) project, supporting local and ntional artists in the research, creation, and presentation of new artwork while building mentorship opportunities between emerging and established artists. Throughout the month of January, the AIR project features three Aboriginal artists; Tanya Harnett, Amy Malbeuf, and Brittney Bear Hat.
It is my hope that my readers will find opportunity to enjoy this exhibit that runs until May 4, 2014. Opening night, the voices of female singers and the sounds of their drums filled the Top Gallery and left me, in a few different moments, silently weeping. The exhibit of works was brilliant and create a composite of deeply felt moments…stories of family, identity and healing.
Miriam Meir, Tanya Harnett, Chantal Stormsong Chagnon and Cheryle Chagnon-Greyeyes
Next, musician, Olivia Tailfeathers performed with a young lady and gentleman…exquisite! Powerful!
I had done some reading about Chief Running Rabbit, just recently, and chose to depict him in one of my paintings at the Gorilla House. It was a quick two hour engagement with the subject and a bit more in research, but to have this encounter with his story during the night’s events, was a highlight for me. I’m disappointed that I didn’t meet Brittney.
It was a magical thing to be a guest teacher where David Bouchard was doing an author’s presentation for the students at Cardinal Newman School here in Calgary. As a classroom teacher for 35 years, I had a love for books that contain life lessons and that hold the narratives of ordinary people. I wasn’t very satisfied with the movies I captured on my small camera, given that his presentation took place in a gymnasium. However, here at home, I’ve discovered some clear and representative videos.
David Bouchard’s short biography is available on his extensive website and most of David’s titles are listed here. We received two stories yesterday morning, Rainbow Raven and Papa Lost His Lucky. Amazing stuff.
I treasure listening to stories…always have. A polished presentation, David’s stories captivated the very young audience seated before him and they contained rich histories for the adults in the room as well.