Rebellious Alberta Women Artists

Last night, I attended a session titled Rebellious Alberta Women Artists, hosted by the Esker Foundation.  Thank you and gratitude to Esker Foundation for another class act! AGA’s Curator, Lindsey Sharman, did an amazing job of moderating a discussion/conversation with Toyo Kawamura, Teresa Posyniak, Lylian Klimek, Vera Gartley and Katie Ohe, allowing for a beautiful organic flow and powerful conversation about art, feminine presence, space, materials, context and making.  Nicely paced and not forced, this platform was beautiful from beginning to end.

Peppered with humour and heart felt grit, I found myself both weeping and laughing tummy laughs.  While a hugely-attended program, it seemed as though I was in a living room, hearing the voices of friends.

This morning, as I sit to write this post, however, I wish that I had the notes that were pouring out the tip of my neighbour’s pen and into her notebook.  I told myself to just savour the words and to let them surface as they will over the coming days, weeks and months.  I feel forever-changed.  Some experiences just do that for you.

Toyo Kawamura was such a gracious participant.  In terms of her narrative, a few stories were particularly special to me.  First, I was caught up by her memory of 15 minute drawing practice every morning while attending school, as a child in Japan.  I was impressed by Toyo’s consideration of the ocean currents, the use of sand in her work and recent meaningful shifts in her work.  Toyo shared several recollections of teachers, especially, her private art lessons with Mr. Michio Kuwada (a member of Shinseisaku association of artists).  Finally, I was delighted to listen to her describe time spent with her grandson, teaching him the art of Ikebana and her consideration of the space/atmosphere around an arrangement, as much as the elements within the arrangement.  This reminded me, very much, about my observations of a single bush at a pond and how light/atmosphere and weather impact the appearance of that bush.

Teresa Posyniak and Lylian Klimek then proceeded to amaze me.  When it gets to writing about Teresa, I have to say that it gets way too personal.  First thing this morning, I made certain that I left her a note via her website. Her words took my breath away.  (I know this post seems overly dramatic, but I refuse to understate my experience.)  Beginning with her artistic timeline and speaking about Sanctuary to the near present, I could relate with so many of Teresa’s concerns and why she responds through such powerful work.  Please, if you have the chance, link up with Teresa’s website. These are two very strong women who have explored large format works throughout their careers and have an amazing connection with the diverse qualities of materials.

I enjoyed Lylian’s description of her childhood wanderings and discoveries.  How the structures and experiences of the space and the land in Saskatchewan served as jumping off points for her work and her thinking.

I have to find a way to go north to Edmonton so that I can enjoy the exhibit presently on display.

Finally, Vera Gartley and Katie Ohe took the platform. I can only say that I felt as though I was sitting at a kitchen table delighting in the warmest and most authentic conversation ever between Vera and Katie.  Please tell me that someone was recording this.  I found myself in tears through this section…quiet weeping, however…I certainly didn’t embarrass myself.  At different points I was saying to myself, “This is historical…this will never happen again in quite this way.”  It was rich, thoughtful and inspiring to the greatest degree.  Thank you, Vera and Katie for your generous contributions to the evening’s event.

You spoke of humour, space, community, choices, dedication and the art.  Two inspiring mentors for the women of today!

Thank you to Lindsey who had the sense to let things flow.  Thank you, again, to Esker.

My Friend: W.H.Webb

That’s Bill on the Left.

To most, he is an artist, but to me, he is a friend.  Bill Webb and I were connected by painting during the Alberta Centennial Exhibit hosted by the West End Gallery in Edmonton.  We shared the exhibit with Walter Drohan, Glen Semple and Don Toney.  I wrote in October of 2005, the following…

“Bill Webb.  Well…what can I say about him?  He is an absolutely marvellous person!  He is so interested in hearing from others and he REALLY listens.  He included everyone in conversation and listened with intention.  I knew that Bill was listening to me by the next question he would ask.  Only certain people can do that; keep their focus on others, rather than themselves.  Bill has that gift.  We had great discussion about his grand-daughter Emily-Ann who walked up to one of my paintings and asked, “Why are the leaves turning?”  We spoke of gator board and shipping art and framing art and stretching canvas.  We spoke about transparency and gesso and all things artistic and otherwise.  It was completely remarkable!  It was so very special.  He turned off the road toward Camrose…but had led us to the edge of the city after the event.  It was a warm gesture to share a hug through the open van window and to wish us safe travel.  W.H.Webb to Canada and the world……Bill to me.”

Celebration Dinner

Since 2005, we have shared many wonderful conversations about art (good and bad), books (good and bad) and life (good and bad).  We’ve also climbed Chapel Rock, a beautiful hike that opens up to the Livingston Range, a place close to W.H. for the people who live nearby and the sprawling landscape.

View From Chapel Rock Lunch Stop

Oh!  And we’ve shared lots of GOOD food; let us not forget that!  This weekend Bill is enjoying another exhibit after a couple of months of very concentrated work in the studio.  This is why I’m taking the time to recognize his efforts.  I am very proud of him and want to share some of Bill’s process, archived on a trip up to Forestburg to the W.H. Webb Studio, a place we informally refer to as the northern studio.

W.H. Webb Studio

The thing about going north, was that I learned about the wide open spaces that surround the northern studio.

Red Tractor...where else?  Suspended before a blue screen of Alberta sky.

Red Tractor…where else? Suspended before a blue screen of Alberta sky.

A view, yummy enough to want to paint.

The neighbour’s work place.

I also learned that Bill enjoys ballroom dancing and that he has adopted several cats and a beautiful dog over time.  His cats have a good home with him.

Now an angel…sleeping on the property.

Bill uses the written word to be creative, both in journalling and in writing letters.  He creates photo albums with a twist and belongs to a special Film Society that meets regularly with friends near and on :0) Lumbreck Falls. As well, Bill enjoys many ‘magical’ friendships to the north of Alberta and always has time for an intelligent conversation on history, religion, teaching and all else.

It’s hard to tell, I know, but these two listen to Opera in the evenings, while sharing a sip or two.

It takes some sort of artist to share in these sorts of experiences…calving time, harvest, keeping the driveway clear of snow and keeping the lawns mowed!

Springtime…and new life!

So, it is plain to see that this is a multi-faceted artist, Mr. W.H. Webb.  Sometimes he just amazes, particularly when he took on the challenge to read Moby Dick, cover-to-cover!  Now, on to his process!

Air-brushed sky for that pristine Alberta-sensibility.

The reader will notice right away that this studio is pristine, also…very light on decoration OR clutter, quite a contrast to the southern studio.

Southern Studio

Underpainting vegetation…the small strokes of paint begin with almost an umber underpainting…some cool tones, some warm.  The darkest values first and a very gradual build up to the lightest tints.

Close-up underpainting.

The colour is applied…rich variety of greens…acrylic paint.

Home base.

There are many trips back and forth from this palette to the wall-mounted easel.  There is an exact science to this!

The image is projected…not so easy as you might think.

I know…this might come as a shock to some of you, but honestly, this technique and incorporation of technology has been used for a zillion years (not quite) to master proportions and such…more recently, an approach used by Ted Godwin and others.

The apparent building up of layers.

Max is sleeping, at this very moment on the red chair, just under a W.H.Webb piece.

My boy, Max, 1:00 a.m.

Thursday night the West End will be hosting a lovely wine and cheese event to celebrate Bill’s new work and then an opening on Saturday.  I am sending Bill much success for the weekend.  He is a true friend and I am grateful to know him.  Best wishes, Bill.