The Peel Project

My children are warm-hearted and inclusive.  Last night I was very excited to have been invited, very spontaneously, by Cayley, to the viewing of the documentary, The Peel, in the intimacy of The Blank Page studio.

It was Cayley who, 27 years ago, picked purple flowers for me, while surrounded by wolf willow, at the edge of the Oldman River at Maycroft Crossing.

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 005

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 008

I had missed the huge public viewings of the film the night before.  So, as I look back on last evening, I’m very grateful that I was able to curl up on a sofa and enjoy such remarkable vistas coming out of the Peel Watershed documentary and to enjoy, in part,  the narratives of the participants on this wondrous adventure.  I could not help but connect with the narratives, struggles and histories in the documentary, given my close connection with the Oldman Watershed in southern Alberta in the mid 1970s through the 1980s.

OldmanWatershed

First, to describe the Peel project, directly from the website, this…

The Peel is a multi-layered project bringing together film, the arts and sciences as a means of telling a uniquely Canadian story of art, adventure and Canadian identity. The Peel highlights the landscape, culture and wildlife of the Peel River Watershed (PRW) in Yukon/Northwest territories. This watershed is one of the last undeveloped watersheds left in Canada, spanning nearly 68,000km2 of intact arctic wilderness.  As of January 2014 71% was opened for economic development related to mining and oil exploration — that decision has been continuously fought.

There is something very interesting about aging…one collects a whole bunch of experiences that later, become reference points for others.  I’ve always treasured the words and stories of my elders…now, very slowly, I become the elder.  It makes me smile.  Life marches forward.  We are left with the photographs and the archives and the documentaries.

Surprisingly, as I sat down this morning and did a search of the internet for the steps that we took in defiance of the building of the Oldman River Dam, there was very little in the way of an ideological footprint (there have been a couple of books written, one newspaper archive and the mention of the Oldman River Expedition appears sparsely on a whole number of artists’ Curriculum Vitaes) and so I decided to dig up my own archives coming from the late 1980s.

First of all, SAAG in Lethbridge celebrated the works of the following artists in an exhibit, as a response to a shorter but similar journey down the Oldman River.

In the summer of 1990, a group of well-known artists in all media from across the country took part in a week-long rafting and camping expedition down the Oldman River, arriving in Lethbridge on Canada Day. This exhibition will document that trip by showing that the work was initiated by that experience. Participating Alberta artists are: Barbara Ballachey, Carroll Moppett, Stephen Hutchings, Jeffery Spalding, Janet Cardiff, Billy McCarroll, Catherine Burgess and others include Dan Hudson, Tim Zuck, Judith Schwarz, Toni Onley, Tak Tanabe, Terence Johnson, Robert Blake and Landon MacKenzie. Although the work in this exhibition is diverse in media and approach, it is unified in its tribute to the southern Alberta landscape. – See more at: http://www.saag.ca/art/exhibitions/0516-the-oldman-river-expedition-exhibition#sthash.Z0dUPaWF.dpuf

I continue to admire the work of several of these artists and have followed their careers and work with great interest.

While painting could not be my sole focus through this precise period of time, I had been painting the Oldman River as a subject for a number of years.  Nestled on the edge of the river, the University of Lethbridge had already been my home for four years at this point.  The river became an obsession with me for many years and I had spent countless days/hours exploring and dreaming in the coulees and at the river bottom.  When the politics became heated over all aspects of irrigation and development of a Dam on the Oldman, I was consumed and soon became a contributing member to the “Friends of the Oldman”.  My own grandfather, the owner of Magrath Wool, Card and Spinning Mill, had taken a position on the Oldman Planning Committee.

Grampa Moors 2

The number of connections I made and conversations I shared around the river, grew. I remember meeting and speaking with Joane Cardinal Schubert at the time.  It was an image of hers that became the poster for our legal and artistic struggle.

Joane Cardinal Schubert and the River 2

Joane Cardinal Schubert and the River I began painting a series titled Oldman on the Edge and continued to paint the river right into the 1990s.

Maycroft 3

I snapped some photographs from my albums this morning…as our family, like many others, headed out very early in the morning and drove from Calgary to Maycroft Crossing for a musical festival to raise funds and to voice opposition of the dam that was already in the works.  That day, I met Ian Tyson, Gordon Lightfoot, Andy Russell and Chief Crowshoe.

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 010Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 009Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 013Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 001Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 007Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 006Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 003Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 004

Kath's Canon, March 2, 2016 Maycroft Archives 012

So…was it any wonder that I felt deeply about the documentary, The Peel, last evening?  I’m glad I had opportunity to talk with both Katie Green and Daniel J. Dirk for a short while.  I admire their attempts to integrate the power of the journey, their artistic practice and their strong desire to preserve, for future generations, this last remaining watershed in North America.  It’s crazy what has happened to our rivers, in the name of progress and in support of industry.  I understand their efforts to articulate what their journey on a portion of the Peel has come to mean to them.  I know that, given my own physical/emotional/psychological efforts on  a 31 day Outward Bound experience (white water and mountain climbing), what it means to try to ‘be an artist’ on a journey and how it must have been challenging for the artists on the Peel Project.

Reflecting back, again, on ‘my’ river…take a look at this…the land use…the cut lines.

Land use Oldman Watershed

I’m publishing a few pages that come out of a 2010 report on the Oldman Watershed…I think it touches on the history of a river and might give my readers something to think about.  I guess something that really touched my heart last night were Daniel’s words to me…and I paraphrase…

I guess even if our voices aren’t heard and we are unsuccessful in our efforts to create sustainability, where the watershed is concerned, we will have been defiant and stood in opposition.  Maybe that’s the best we can do sometimes.

2010 Oldman Watershed Report Preface

2010 Page 2

2010 Page 3

2010 Page 4

2010 Page 5

Aldo Leopold’s words ring true…

“We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the 20th century; our tools are better than we are, and grow better faster than we do.  They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides.  But they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history; to live on a piece of land without spoiling it.”

Congratulations on the North American premiere The Peel, a free Art!Flicks documentary directed by Calder Cheverie and Anthony Wallace.  Congratulations to six artists; Aurora Darwin, Carleigh Baker, Anthony Wallace, Katie Green, Daniel J. Kirk and Callan Field.

 

 

The Postman by David Brin

I saw the movie, The Postman, ages ago and I liked it. It was first released December of 1997. Since then, any time I mentioned it or tried to get a conversation going about it, friends rolled their eyes.  Evidently, I saw something in it that no one else did.  In fact, I remember making an old boyfriend sit and watch it with me.  I’ve tried to make my daughter watch it with me.  Regardless of my positive outlook on the work, I couldn’t find any one else who liked it.

It might be as simple as people don’t like Kevin Costner.  The movie is quite different from the book, which has it’s own problems.  The film deals with a faction of post-apocalyptic AMERICA (Why all caps?  It is very nationalistic in the stars and stripes sensibility.) struggling against another faction.  In comparison, the book deals more with the power a single individual can have to create change for the positive.

Over the Christmas holiday, I enjoyed a family dinner with friends and during our post-dinner conversation, Peggy, mentioned the book, The Postman.  She was the first person that I’ve ever bumped into who showed any appreciation for this piece.  I borrowed her second copy of The Postman by David Brin and took it home to read in three evenings.

All this aside, I wanted to write about why I enjoyed both the book and the film.  I like the idea that written letters become, especially in the movie, the thread that bonds the survivors together.  I liked the exploration of the fact that letters create hope for the citizens and that a postal network rises out of the chaos and violence of the time.

This concept raises up the concept of resilience and hope for humanity.  It talks about the power of word.

 

Postman

Four Artists Paint One Tree

Oh my goodness…University-friend, Robert Waldren, posted this Youtube video on Facebook this evening!!  I must confess that for the first ten years of my 30 year teaching career, I booked out the 16 mm. film, Four Artists Paint One Tree, from IMC.  If one of my readers is a student from that period, let me know if you remember it!  In the day, it was sometimes tricky dragging the equipment into the classroom, pulling down the screen, and successfully threading the movie in the projector.  More than once, I looked behind the cart and found meters of film poured out onto the floor.

4ArtistsPaint1TreeBelieve it or not, this was very innovative for the time.  It makes me laugh as I listen to the background soundtrack and musical choices.  After this viewing, I stressed the point of developing an individual style and even more particular to that, determining your favourite mark making tools and marks.  One of my art teachers had really made an impression with me regarding mark making some time before 1976.   This film was originally made in 1958: Walt Disney made observations of how Marc Davis, Eyvind Earle, Josh Meador and Walt Peregoy each painted one tree and background.  LOVE THIS!!  This was a huge walk down memory lane and I thank you, Robert Waldren!

It seems as though every artist has particular subjects that they draw and paint over and over again from their earliest explorations, discovering an approach to things…for me, it was a tree and an eye.  It is no wonder I was drawn to this movie.

What amazes me is that as I search, I learn how many people have written about this particular film.

Mr. Patterns, Featured Documentary at the Esker Foundation

Last night I had opportunity to view the beautiful documentary, Mr. Patterns, at the Esker Foundation.  I was so happy to meet up with Wendy Lees of Love Art in Calgary and to sit back in such a perfect space, nibbling on popcorn and sipping lime bubbly.  If you have not yet visited the exhibit Fiction/Non-Fiction, please do.

The thirteen artists in Fiction/Non-fiction challenge mainstream cultural and political narratives by offering transcultural critique through works that propose counterpoints, rhetorical questions, and revisionist statements (often as increasingly abstract forms of representation) to official historical records or archives.

Sometimes people appreciate my book suggestions.  As related to the topic of the documentary, I recommend two books.  A 1986 book, Songlines, written by Bruce Chatwin is directly related to the Dreamtime of the Papunya Tula artists.  I had tears in the dark when I saw in the documentary, the artists singing the Honey Ants…a powerful piece of iconography, strong symbols, on the side of a building.

Papunya Tula Honey Ants

Papunya Tula Honey Ants

I also recommend, especially for my women-readers, Marlo Morgan’s Mutant Message Down Under.  These two books will introduce the reader to a context as it relates to the status of the indigenous peoples of Australia.  The documentary presented parallels to the stories of indigenous peoples the world over.  A must-see.

The Papunya Tula art movement says so much about the human spirit and Geoffrey Bardon is to be commended for his vision and his promotion of the artists throughout that period of history.  The documentary was laced together with 16 mm. footage.  I enjoyed that sensibility as it contributed to themes of memory.

Charlie Tararu Tjungurrayi

Charlie Tararu Tjungurrayi

Gorilla Mouth: Art Talks October 4, 2013

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On Friday evenings, there are a number of talks given by a wide range of individuals at the Gorilla House on 15th St.  Bassano del Grappa, thanks so much for a hugely entertaining narrative about the summer you hoped to read 48 books.  I want to meet Ron and Bob!  Last evening was another great conversation that covered a variety of topics, but the keynote was Aaron McCullough, Red Dot Photographer, speaking about his experience of collaborating on the Gorilla House videos, since video #6.  Aaron’s work is essential, I think, to the continued success of the Gorilla House LIVE ART events, simply because participants, both artist and audience, enjoy watching the videos.

This one is one of my favourites and I have several.  I just so treasure the community of artists who gather to paint once a week and I think that Aaron tries to capture that spirit in the individual artists, but also, the collective.  Great talk, Aaron!

P1130307As well, we listened to a short talk about the banana and how it relates to the art process.Thank you, Jarmo Sanvictores.

His thoughts… “Dualities are a necessity to creating definition….. I rekon you should serve bananas at the art battles, I’m sure it would bring in many primates. Everyone needs more potassium in their diet.”

We ended up having a great conversation about painters block…creativity block.  We talked about strategies to get over it…and it kept coming back to a few points.

When artists are not painting, they are typically incubating ideas and the act of NOT painting is sometimes/usually essential to the next expression.  Another point, “look at the diverse gifts and abilities that you have and try to dance through the block, write through it, sculpt through it, cook through it…and as is the rare case and I seem to be doing, sand through it.”

The following four steps of creativity, while seeming to be a recipe and some artist-friends will dispute ‘the package’, I think that Maria Popova shares some very valid research here,

The Art of Thought: Graham Wallas on the Four Stages of Creativity, 1926

1. PREPARATION

During the preparation stage, the problem is “investigated in all directions” as the thinker readies the mental soil for the sowing of the seeds. It’s the accumulation of intellectual resources out of which to construct the new ideas. It is fully conscious and entails part research, part planning, part entering the right frame of mind and attention. Wallas writes:

The educated man has, again, learnt, and can, in the Preparation stage, voluntarily or habitually follow out, rules as to the order in which he shall direct his attention to successive elements.

2. INCUBATION

Next comes a period of unconscious processing, during which no direct effort is exerted upon the problem at hand — this is where the “combinatory play” that marked Einstein’s thought takes place. Wallas notes that the stage has two divergent elements — the “negative fact” that during Incubation we don’t consciously deliberate on a particular problem, and the “positive fact” of a series of unconscious, involuntary (or, as he terms it, “foreconscious” and “forevoluntary”) mental events taking place. He writes:

Voluntary abstention from conscious thought on any problem may, itself, take two forms: the period of abstention may be spent either in conscious mental work on other problems, or in a relaxation from all conscious mental work. The first kind of Incubation economizes time, and is therefore often the better.

T. S. Eliot would come to echo the value of incubation seven years later in his own meditation on the role of idea-incubation in the creative process, as would many other great minds: Alexander Graham Bell, for all his deliberate dedication, spoke of the power of “unconscious cerebration” and Lewis Carroll advocated for the importance of mental “mastication.”

Wallas proposes a technique for optimizing the fruits of the Incubation stage — something our modern-day psychology of productivity would come to confirm — by deliberately building interruptions of concentrated effort into our workflow:

We can often get more result in the same way by beginning several problems in succession, and voluntarily leaving them unfinished while we turn to others, than by finishing our work on each problem at one sitting.

3. ILLUMINATION

Following Incubation is the Illumination stage, which Wallas based on French polymath Henri Poincaré’s concept of “sudden illumination” — that flash of insight that the conscious self can’t will and the subliminal self can only welcome once all elements gathered during the Preparation stage have floated freely around during Incubation and are now ready to click into an illuminating new formation. It is the moment beloved graphic designer Paula Scher likens to the winning alignment of a slot machine, the same kind of “chance-opportunism” masquerading as serendipity that fuels much of scientific discovery.

But, Wallas admonishes, this Illumination can’t be forced:

If we so define the Illumination stage as to restrict it to this instantaneous “flash,” it is obvious that we cannot influence it by a direct effort of will; because we can only bring our will to bear upon psychological events which last for an appreciable time. On the other hand, the final “flash,” or “click” … is the culmination of a successful train of association, which may have lasted for an appreciable time, and which has probably been preceded by a series of tentative and unsuccessful trains. The series of unsuccessful trains of association may last for periods varying from a few seconds to several hours.

[…]

Sometimes the successful train seems to consist of a single leap of association, or of successive leaps which are so rapid as to be almost instantaneous.

Decades later, the great science communicator and MacArthur “genius” Stephen Jay Gould would come to concur that such “trains of association” — connections between the seemingly unconnected — are the secret of genius.

4. VERIFICATION

The last stage, unlike the second and the third, shares with the first a conscious and deliberate effort in the way of testing the validity of the idea and reducing the idea itself to an exact form. Once again borrowing from Poincaré’s pioneering theories, Wallas cites the French polymath:

It never happens that unconscious work supplies ready-made the result of a lengthy calculation in which we only have to apply fixed rules. … All that we can hope from these inspirations, which are the fruit of unconscious work, is to obtain points of departure for such calculations. As for the calculations themselves, they must be made in the second period of conscious work which follows the inspiration, and in which the results of the inspiration are verified and the consequences deduced. … They demand discipline, attention, will, and consequently, conscious work.

But perhaps most important of all is the interplay of the stages and the fact that none of them exists in isolation from the rest, for the mechanism of creativity is a complex machine of innumerable, perpetually moving parts. Wallas notes:

In the daily stream of thought these four different stages constantly overlap each other as we explore different problems. An economist reading a Blue Book, a physiologist watching an experiment, or a business man going through his morning’s letters, may at the same time be “incubating” on a problem which he proposed to himself a few days ago, be accumulating knowledge in “preparation” for a second problem, and be “verifying” his conclusions on a third problem. Even in exploring the same problem, the mind may be unconsciously incubating on one aspect of it, while it is consciously employed in preparing for or verifying another aspect. And it must always be remembered that much very important thinking, done for instance by a poet exploring his own memories, or by a man trying to see clearly his emotional relation to his country or his party, resembles musical composition in that the stages leading to success are not very easily fitted into a “problem and solution” scheme. Yet, even when success in thought means the creation of something felt to be beautiful and true rather than the solution of a prescribed problem, the four stages of Preparation, Incubation, Illumination, and the Verification of the final result can generally be distinguished from each other.

The Upside to Being Ousted

It is good to have my paintings come home to me. This is truly the upside of down! When paintings DO return, I am able to look at them with fresh eyes and really enjoy them.  This particular painting has not yet been professionally photographed, but it is such an important piece to me, I thought I would feature it here!  The painting was inspired by two very special people; one, a poet named Paulette Dube who lives in Jasper and the other, a gent who uses film as his medium, Cam Koerselman.  You can enjoy some of his work on Vimeo.

Paulette gave me permission to embed her words into this painting.  I cried in the dark, while she gave her reading of these very words while Cam’s film rolled during the Caribou Blues festival two years ago.

Paulette’s words…as a response to my request of her words, were these…

You could “sail through an army of angels and not notice anything more than a mere freshening of the air.” (Thank you Ms. Lessing.)

Kathleen, well, right off let me tell you two things.  I went for a walk today and I dreamed that my work would grow legs and walk into someone’s life.  Looks like it is yours.  Next, I opened the jpg and saw the elephant and the number 5.  Elephants and me, well, I love them, and the number 5 is truth.  So, long story short, of course I will send you the text I made for the Caribou piece.  And I will do that after supper – right now, my sauce is boiling.  Wanted you to know that I am honoured to send you the little bit I have to offer right now.

Thank you,

Paulette

SUCH GENEROSITY!!!!

The text embedded in the piece are, as she describes…a bastardation of works collected from, First Mountain, Thistledown Press, 2007, Gaits, Thistledown Press, 2010 and scenes written for the event.  All rights reserved by author:  Paulette Dube

Cropped: Paulette’s Words Take Flight

Detail: Atmospheric Environment inspired by Cam Koerselman

Huge  ‘magic’ led me to Ellen McIlwaine and her music as she played for the Caribou Blues festival that same weekend.  The first caribou piece was featured on the information publication for Parks Canada because of Ellen’s recommendation and for that I will always be grateful.

Porqupine Herd