Something Fishy

Gentrification in any fast-growing urban center is a notion to be reckoned with.  Some of my readers will have noticed that there have not been any recent Gorilla House LIVE ART posts.  I have to tell you, on the wheelings-and-dealings behind the decisions/negotiations/done deals, I have no insights.  I only know the outcome and how the outcome impacts many.  I especially know how this ‘move’ impacts me.

The short-of-it is that Gorilla House, the building AND the community, was over run by development and its central and convenient location is being transformed into a sushi restaurant.  Yes, indeedy, another Calgary restaurant!

From what I can tell, the inaugural battle was held on July 17, 2012.  Its archive can be viewed on YouTube and its impact will be felt for years to come, at least in the sense that the Gorilla House experience was transformative for individuals, whether they were/are artists or observers.  It was just a really nice shift.  The experience was NOT pure-perfection, but it was inspiring.

I remember well before July 17, Gorilla House founder, Rich Theroux was bandying back and forth with me in various message boxes about his vision for live art battles.  I would have to say that I didn’t initially understand his concept, but I WAS supportive and excited for him in regards to his vision.  His enthusiasm was incredible and he was completely accepting of my wait-and-see attitude and I hope that he knew always that I had his back.  I consider it an honour that he respected my thoughts and feedback as he moved through this process.

Let me introduce you to Rich.  He is an artist, teacher and friend.  He had a vision and it was the Gorilla House.  Like a mat, it was pulled out from under him.  Now there are ‘rumblings’ of a shift.  In the meantime, a network of new artists and friends are also shifting.  It will be interesting to see what happens.

Rich TherouxI considered introducing my readers to the personalities that came into play during the experience that was Gorilla House LIVE ART…but then there were too many to write about and I wouldn’t want to leave a single person out.  We grew to love one another by sharing this really unique experience.  Art bound us, but oh, it was so much more.  I would never have met such a caring bunch of people had I not spent time creating two-hour paintings for such a sustained period of time.  I often wondered how I would have met these people had it not been for ‘the house’.  There were people from every ‘walk’ of life, each a treasure, each a teacher, each a creative and each a friend.

I’m going to especially miss this lady, Jennifer Stinson.  She is pretty much the kindest person you could ever run into.  If I could, I parked my easel up against her lawn chair.  Of the lawn chair and this photograph, she writes.

“This was the very first night that I came to Gorilla House, Aug 22, 2012. I can’t believe there was a photo of it. Yes Kath, it started out in a GH Red Dot album!

After this I began bringing a camp chair to sit on. Eventually, Rich offered my chair a home in the vault so I wasn’t hauling it back and forth weekly. Eventually this chair disintegrated from use… so this week Rich sent me home with three replacements. Gorilla House was like that. Anything good you brought, you took back threefold.”

I wish Jenn many blessings and can never truly tell her what her friendship has meant to me.

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

Jennifer Stinson: Photo Credit Red Dot Photography

People came and went, some for a very short blip of time and others for the long haul.  It didn’t matter which.  Each individual was a part of what made it gel and caused me to return again and again.  There are people who will remain forever-friends and I am grateful for each of you.

Because of Wednesday painting, I created all of these paintings and more.  Over a year, I found the ‘gorilla’ in myself.

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

Photo Credit: Red Dot Photography

The original video was filmed By: Vincent Varga and Andy Szarka

Edited By: Vincent Varga

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 27, 2013

I was distracted by all sorts of things after my day of guest teaching.  There were so many things going on that I lost track of time.  An interesting concept…LOSING TRACK OF TIME.

In a couple of the language arts classes yesterday, the students were reading chapters from their novels and this gave me opportunity to read from mine.  I always try to carry a novel with me, but most often don’t have the chance, during the day, to read.  I had finished  A Rhinestone Button by Gail Anderson-Dargatz the night before and so selected one l had picked up at a second hand shop some time ago. Amazing book!  My Mother’s Ghost by Fergus M. Bordewich!  A memoir, this book fell into my hands when I most needed it.  The thing is…the intensity and the authentic voice, somehow impacted the way I saw everything after setting the book down.  Honestly, for me, this is an always-event, when I am reading a well written book.

I realize that I spend an excessive amount of time considering family, family history, family stories, family records and family photographs…and I am always seeking out a resolution to this sense of nostalgia and memory that pervades most things I do.  Fergus M. Brodewich seemed to be on the very same road in his novel…and so, more than once, my eye brows turned up.  His is a memoir that deals almost exclusively with the resolution of reality and memory.  A rich amazing story!

The story stuck…and so, I painted it.

My focus…the John Lennon lyric, In My Life.

There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all

And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem’ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more

And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
In my life I loved you more

I pulled out the iconic photograph of Yoko Ono and John Lennon taken by Annie Leibovitz, hoping to capture, in a painted sketch, the contrast of light world resting up against dark and to allow the wood grain to inform that composition.  I didn’t particularly want to go into a busy social environment…I was feeling pretty singular…so, I pulled out pencils and did some sketching at home.

It was quite late when I headed down to ‘the house’…and I only had about an hour to paint ‘this thing’.  I was grateful to find a fairly quiet place next to my friend, Jen, at the table…my back to a wall…a very rare experience when painting in that public space.  I had a couple of  conversations with people.  I treasure those.  (Jen finished early and she headed across the street to her apartment to pick up her four liter of chocolate milk to share with people at the Gorilla House…she just didn’t think that there was any way she could drink it all before the stale date.  I share this wee tale because it gives you the idea of how close knit we’ve become at the Gorilla House.)  Last night, painting was a quiet, introspective act.
Thank you to Teresa, for purchasing my piece at auction.  Thank you, Rich Theroux, for the hug and to Enriquito for being there.  Thank you, to the dear lady who is taking painting lessons at the Kirby Center…”I so appreciated your conversation and your dream to attend Thursday figure drawing.  I chatted with you for a good while.  I took your photograph while you sat in front of the beautiful purple canvas.”

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 20, 2013

I began writing this post at 3:33.  Cool.

I heated up a bowl of cream of mushroom soup for lunch.  It was prepared the way Mom used to do it (apart from the addition of a can of water) when we were just wee things.  I sat at the large feast table by myself and pretty much ruminated the soup away, with thoughts of Mom and her love and care of me.

P11401590019_###After that, I spent the afternoon on my kitchen floor, working on a painting of a soldier and his daughter.  It should be finished this weekend.  Max and I took off for the off leash park and while my lashes froze during that one, I enjoyed getting up and moving after the intensity of my afternoon work-out. Painting is a huge work-out, the way I look at it.

I hesitated to go down to the Gorilla House because of the cold.  In the end, I made the trip out of commitment to myself and my friends who also attend every week.  It has something to do with the practice…the community…and the brain gym.

All of the driving concepts had to do with Mathematics… Game Theory and Deformation Theory (something to do with P).  HUH?    Math was a struggle for me in school…a struggle last night as well.  In the end, I thought simply of the relationship of a mother to her child.  Is that in any way mathematical?  Thanks to Rich for picking this one up at auction.  I was glad to see you, Angie. Be better. Thanks, Bruce, for the beverage.  Congratulations, Jess, on getting those cards done!

P1140177I finished writing this at 4:03…and that, with a consoling conversation with daughter.  I love you, Erin.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: November 13, 2013

I spent my daytime hours painting a soldier…a young lad from Newfoundland; he was deployed to Cyprus and separated from his family.  He suffered huge loss and died very young…before his time.  As I painted, I felt as though I was immersed in his life.  My efforts were more to honour his life in each stroke of paint, than to ‘do a painting’….a prayer, I guess.

Words adhered to the panel came from Walt Whitman’s preface to The Leaves of Grass…

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body… . The poet shall not spend his time in unneeded work. He shall know that the ground is always ready ploughed and manured … others may not know it but he shall. He shall go directly to the creation. His trust shall master the trust of everything he touches … and shall master all attachment.

I think those words are powerful and certainly apply…I experienced them at my core.

So, having spent a day in this manner, I was ready to cut loose at the Gorilla House.  Artists had already been notified that our concepts of the evening would conclude with “…but Heavy Metal made me do it.”  I went in search of references for a pop culture figure that people would easily recognize, thinking I’d like to represent also, some form of robot.  Clearly, I didn’t want to focus on the Heavy Metal sound…but rather, on a metaphor for the sound.

I chose Master Chief, after a number of suggestions.  Tyler, thanks for the idea.   Anyone who has encountered Halo will be familiar with the character, especially gamers and those with gamers in their lives.

I began by creating a series of block letters…I don’t know where this idea came from.  The experience of Gorilla House-painting is always surprising.  Without measuring, this process went easily.  Friend and artist, Jen and I were discussing how the world of graphic art has changed over time and the fact that fonts are designed through computer imaging where as ‘in the day’ letters and signage was done manually.  Quite a shift over years.

I laid my guide down quickly in pencil and then the words, R.E.S.P.E.C.T, REACH and in cursive, Forward Unto Dawn…and the selected theme of the evening, coming from Dylan in 1966.  “I never wanted to be a prophet or a savior...but Heavy Metal made me do it.”

Block LettersThe words all have some sort of connection with the Halo game, but also speak to me in a completely different context.  So, this painting is really a clash between two different worlds or realities. Master Chief, the other-worldly soldier, was a pleasure to quickly block in and paint before the end of the two hour session.  I am grateful to Cherise who purchased this piece at auction.


For the non-Halo player, this from Wikipedia.

Halo 4 is a 2012 first-person shooter video game developed by 343 Industries and published by Microsoft Studios for the Xbox 360 video game console. The game was released in most territories worldwide on November 6, 2012. Halo 4s story begins four years after the ending of Halo 3; the player assumes the role of the Master Chief, a cybernetically-enhanced supersoldier. The story is mainly set on a Forerunner planet, where Master Chief encounters the collection of alien races known as the Covenant and ancient warriors of the Forerunner empire known as the Prometheans. Master Chief is accompanied by the artificial intelligence construct Cortana.

Setting and characters

Halo 4 takes place in a futuristic science fiction setting in the year 2557, four years after the events of Halo 3.[21] Backstory details that hundreds of thousands of years before the modern era, humans were one of several interstellar civilizations. Following a war with the parasitic Flood, the humans came into conflict with the Forerunners, a powerful race that upheld the Mantle of Responsibility, a policy of benevolent shepherding of other races. After years of conflict the Forerunners defeated the humans and stripped them of their technology and empire. The Forerunners soon fought the Flood themselves; after exhausting every other strategic option available to them, the Forerunners activated weapons of mass destruction known as the Halo Array. The Array’s firing killed all sentient life in the galaxy to deprive the Flood of their food. Life that the Forerunners catalogued was then reseeded throughout the galaxy.[22][23]

In the 26th century, space-faring humanity (organized under the United Nations Space Command, or UNSC) comes under attack from the Covenant, an alien collective of species that worships the Forerunners as gods. The Covenant believe that activating the Halos will bring about salvation, not destruction.[24] The human supersoldier Master Chief John-117, along with his artificial intelligence companion Cortana, are instrumental in stopping the Halos from being activated, and the Flood from once again menacing the galaxy. At the end of Halo 3, Chief and Cortana are left stranded in unknown space aboard the remains of the vessel Forward Unto Dawn.[25] Much of Halo 4s campaign and Spartan Ops’ missions take place on or near the Forerunner planet Requiem. Part of the game also takes place on Ivanoff Research Station—a human base in orbit around the Halo ringworld Installation 03—and in Earth’s orbit.

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Gorilla House LIVE ART: October 30, 2013 A Perfect Day

As my readers know, last week we lost Lewis Allan (Lou) Reed.  The inspiration for last night’s painting were Lou Reed Lyrics.  I wasn’t feeling up for attending OR painting last night, but ironically enough, it was my father on some form of social media messaging, who encouraged me.  Beautiful, Dad.  It was good to paint.  Now, for the back-story on the poppies.

As a junior high teacher, I had attended, over the years, too many funerals for my students.  I have recently lost Jessica…and Sheri many years back…but so many boys, other people’s sons.  Visiting a funeral home along with other teachers, greeting families at the loss of their child, was surreal over and over again.  When Jarrett passed, I painted a show titled Pieces of Gold: A Tribute to Two Sons…and then when Chris and Peter passed in a tragic accident out highway 22X on October 22 of 1997, I began painting furiously in my studio.  One of the lines in Peter’s obituary…”One of Peter’s favourite hobbies was sketching.”

I painted large scale oriental poppies…approaching Remembrance Day that year…I simply wanted to remember.  Born in 1979, how was it possible that such young lights had been snuffed out?  I was having a very difficult time with the tragedy that other families were suffering and was fearful for my own children.  When I painted red, I painted the pain, sadness, utter joy of life and the history of children…the huge impact that they have in our lives.  No issue between children and their families can stand in the way of love.  Mothers…fathers…love your children.  Do the best you can.





I saw my work as a tribute and felt that I could ‘work’ the struggle away.  Recently, a dear friend mentioned my poppy paintings…the Red Green Show came to mind, so it was only instinct that as a tribute to Lou Reed, I paint a poppy and after months of neutral colour, at the loss of Mom, I squeezed red out onto my palette.

I wrote the complete lyrics to A Perfect Day in gold text from top to bottom.  The words poured out of me.  With white chalk, I sketched in the two blooms…one about to burst open and shed it’s protective cover, the other, fully open.  Thank you to Phil and Laila who purchased the piece at auction.  Remember.

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Phil and Laila

Phil and Laila



Just a perfect day
drink Sangria in the park
And then later
when it gets dark, we go home

Just a perfect day
feed animals in the zoo
Then later
a movie, too, and then home

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spend it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

Just a perfect day
problems all left alone
Weekenders on our own
it’s such fun

Just a perfect day
you made me forget myself
I thought I was
someone else, someone good

Oh, it’s such a perfect day
I’m glad I spent it with you
Oh, such a perfect day
You just keep me hanging on
You just keep me hanging on

You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow
You’re going to reap just what you sow

Gorilla House LIVE ART: October 23, 2013

Late again. It had something to do with my dog, Max, and getting him out for some good exercise.  We lost track of time…this, after an afternoon raking leaves, cutting back the perennials and mixing new soil into the flower beds.  I emptied and hosed down the shed and took some photos of items that need to go on Kijiji.  It was a very physical and productive afternoon.

As a result of my conversation with the little lady at the cash at Home Depot last Wednesday, the bins were well-stalked with 1/4″ plywood, so I bought two panels.  Whoot! And off I went.  Upon arrival, I set up my easel, but then went about visiting with my artist-friends.  It was nice to see Rich after his trip to LA.  He was spilling over about the Getty Foundation and started in about a spontaneous drive with vans and trucks loaded with Gorilla House artists.  His enthusiasm, as always, made me smile inside.

I pulled a big wash of black paint over the board…mostly transparent so that the beautiful grain would show through and inform the piece.  I then walked away from the board so that it would dry and I might be able to work into it with a piece of white conte.

Thank you to the beautiful lady who makes popcorn every week.  I munched on popcorn and watched audience members approach the board and talk about it.  I listened to their analysis and predictions and marveled at what ‘viewing the process’ does for people.  With some, I had fun little conversations…with others I just observed.  Magic!

The new show in ‘the house’ features Jeff Watt’s work and it is a powerful collection!  I hope that if you have a love for colour and pattern, you will find your way down to the Gorilla House.

P1130753 P1130754 P1130757The three motivating concepts…and I chose, “Make art. Share love.”

P1130719 P1130720 P1130724Our auctioneer, Bassano del Grappa (an alter-ego), does a fantastic work for the Gorilla House…with his monologues/perceptions of life and art,  his entertaining and perceptive visits with artists and audience alike and his constantly-developing skill at auction, our experience is funtastic!  I knew he had to be featured in this one!

BassanoAnd…what else?  A gorilla!  I began by applying the ‘Bassano del Grappa’ collage bits and progressed with layering of paint…from dark to light…creating depth and texture until the giant beast emerged.  Thank you to Matt for purchasing this piece at auction.

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Meeting Max Licht at the Gorilla House

Recently I’ve been thinking about the number of amazing individuals I have met at the Gorilla House.  This is a place where art boings creative spirits, one against another.  Before I typed ‘boings’, I typed ‘slams’…then I was thinking we sort of ‘rub up against’ one another, but that doesn’t work either.  Don’t really know how to describe it, but we more than ‘meet’ one another…that’s for sure!  Mayhaps this is where the term ‘connection’ comes in…the Gorilla House is a house of connection!  On Wednesday evenings, I shake my head as I head for home.  The artists…the visitors…every individual provides for a truly unique sort of community building.

As Max stepped up to the front, during the auction portion of the evening, he was introduced and I remember shouting out, “Max?”  Lindsay looked over at me and said…”He gets that all the time.”  I told her that my beautiful border collie is named Max…she openly laughed and said, “Oh…I guess that’s a first!”  We laughed together.  As I looked at the piece he then raised up to auction, I wanted it to be mine.

My Max set strategically close to one of my Covenant pieces.

My Max set strategically close to one of my Covenant pieces.

Max and Lindsay were visiting from Victoria.  I only wish that I had captured a photograph of Lindsay’s work! Thank you for your courage and your belief, Lindsay! Both Lindsay and Max were just super open to the Gorilla House experience and gratefully, I was able to purchase Max’s gouache illustration at auction! I recommend that my readers take a look at illustrations by Max Licht here.  I am so over-the-top thrilled to own this piece, titled The scale of the problem; there are no words.  Thanks for visiting us, you two, and please stop by again!

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The Scale of the Problem, poorly photographed by Kathleen Moors, painted by Max Licht

The Scale of the Problem, poorly photographed by Kathleen Moors, painted by Max Licht

Gorilla House LIVE ART: September 11, 2013

When I selected a random photograph from the studio photographs by photographer, King, John Howard Havelock, 1873-1963, I was in a bit of a rush and had no time to conduct any research on the man I was about to paint.  Poet-writer-friend, Shannon and her partner, Lonnie DID share with me that they believed that Aatsista-Mahkan (Running Rabbit) was one of the Blackfoot Nation chiefs to sign Treaty 7.  I have included, below this entry, an historical context for the painting that I took on.

Given the short two hours allotted for painting at the Gorilla House, I see several flaws in my work, (most having to do with proportion) but I did feel as though the piece basically painted itself.  I didn’t feel stressed as I worked, but as the audience gathered at 9:00 for the auction, I really wondered if I would complete the piece.  At that point I had not painted the hands…and was picking away at a very small face.

A lesson we learn early in painting/drawing this subject matter is that the face is basically a hand’s length…and here we see the issue with my drawing.  Given studio time, this would be further analyzed and likely overworked.  Another thing that we learn in life drawing classes (with a focus on gesture and quick poses) it is acceptable to create a head, smaller in proportion with nondescript features, rather than to pick away at those sorts of details and sacrifice a strong gestural component.  Ideally, in ones practice, proportion becomes second nature.  Running Rabbit’s face needs to be wider, his head larger.  What happens in a situation like this, when the hands are portrayed larger than the face, is that the figure becomes foreshortened.

What drew me initially, to this image was the background used for the studio photograph…a romanticized water fall and large boulders in the foreground.  I intentionally excluded the background, pleased with the beautiful grain in the wood panel and how it felt to inform the piece.

Running Rabbit

ProportionIn the end, the piece was generously purchased at auction by Jordan, for his girlfriend.  This was a surprise for her and it was fun to be able to share thoughts with her about the Blackfoot Nation and its complexities over history.  The study of first nations history is obviously important to her.  Thank you, Jordan, for making two ladies happy.

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Hugh A. Dempsey, amazing historian and researcher, confirms this in his biographical summary located here.

AATSISTAMAHKAN (Running Rabbit), Blackfoot warrior, the leader of the Biters band, and a head chief of the tribe; b. c. 1833 in what is now central Alberta, son of Akamukai (Many Swans); had four wives and eleven children, the most prominent being Duck Chief, who later became a head chief; d. January 1911, probably on the 24th, on the Blackfoot Indian Reserve, Alta.

When Running Rabbit was a teenager, his elder brother Akamukai (Many Swans) was chief of the band. To encourage the young man to go to war, Many Swans lent him his spiritual protector, an amulet he had received through a vision. It consisted of a round mirror decorated with weasel skins and eagle and magpie feathers. On his first raid Running Rabbit captured two enemy horses, which he gave to his brother. Many Swans lent the amulet to him three more times and, because he was successful on each raid, finally gave it to him. During his career as a warrior, Running Rabbit killed 11 enemy in battle and captured numerous horses. People began calling him the “young chief” while he was still a teenager.

On the death of Many Swans, in the autumn of 1871, Running Rabbit became chief of the Biters band. A descendant described his leadership: “When Running Rabbit was among his band, his men were invited to eat, smoke, tell stories every day. He was generous. He gave his running horses out during hunts. Running Rabbit had four wives; two put up Sun Dances. He was kind to children and women.” Band members went to him to settle disputes. In the early 1870s, when the Blackfoot were camped on the Oldman River, the daughter of Crowfoot [Isapo-muxika*] was accidentally killed by a young man holding a loaded gun. The man immediately took refuge in Running Rabbit’s tepee because Crowfoot, one of the head chiefs, sought to kill him. Running Rabbit persuaded the chief that the shooting had been an accident and offered two of his own horses as compensation. He was a stern protector of his family, however. When an Indian began beating Running Rabbit’s blind brother with a whip, he shot and killed the man.

In 1877, along with Crowfoot, Old Sun [Natos-api*], and other leaders, Running Rabbit signed Treaty No.7 with the Canadian government on behalf of the Blackfoot tribe. He was appointed a minor chief and was listed as having 90 followers. By 1883 his band would number 156. In 1881, after the last buffalo herds had been destroyed, the Blackfoot were obliged to settle on their reserve, 60 miles east of what is now Calgary. Running Rabbit proved to be one of the chiefs who adapted to the new life most ambitiously. He camped near Blackfoot Crossing where he started a small garden and encouraged members of his band to become self-supporting. In 1887, after he had begun farming, he was particularly mentioned by Indian agent Magnus Begg as one of the Blackfoot who “deserve special mention as having worked well with their own ponies and with the work oxen.”

Running Rabbit was named one of the two head chiefs of the tribe in 1892, replacing the deceased No-okska-stumik (Three Bulls). He shared the leadership with Old Sun, but being much younger and more progressive, he often tended to speak for the entire reserve. He became known for his wisdom and his ability to remain free of intra-family problems. Besides controlling the tribal council with a firm hand, he continued to be a hard-working farmer. In 1898 he had his own wagon, mowing machine, and horse rake and had made enough money cutting and selling hay to buy a high-top buggy. He supported the introduction of cattle and the opening of coalmines.

Although the Blackfoot suffered bitter and difficult years after they settled on their reserve, Running Rabbit was a chief who was respected both by his people and by the government. At his death in 1911, he was compared to such great leaders as Crowfoot and Old Sun.

Hugh A. Dempsey

A portrait of Running Rabbit, painted in 1907 by Edmund Montague Morris, is in the Ethnology Dept. of the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto (Edmund Morris coll., HK 2408), and the PAM holds a photograph of the chief. Both portraits are reproduced in The diaries of Edmund Montague Morris; western journeys, 1907–1910, transcribed by Mary FitzGibbon (Toronto, 1985), 19.

Canadian Museum of Civilization Library (Hull, Que.), Doc. coll. sect., Julian and Jane Hanks papers, box 301, file 10, esp. p.31 (Julian Hanks, interview with Spumiapi [a descendant of Running Rabbit] via Mary White Elk, 3 Sept. [1939]). Arni Brownstone, War paint: Blackfoot and Sarcee painted buffalo robes in the Royal Ontario Museum (Toronto, 1993). Can., Dept. of Indian Affairs, Annual report (Ottawa), 1887: 100; 1898: 126. J. [S.] McGill, “The Indian portraits of Edmund Morris,” Beaver, outfit 310 (1979–80), no.1: 34–41.

The following information was located here. Aatsista-Mahkan or Running Rabbit (c. 1833 – probably 24 January 1911) was a chief of the Blackfoot First Nation.

The Blackfoot Confederacy is the collective name of three First Nations in Alberta and one Native American tribe in Montana. They were called “blackfoot” because they chose not to wear shoes.

The Blackfoot Confederacy consists of the North Peigan (Aapatohsipiikanii), the South Peigan (Aamsskaapipiikanii), the Kainai Nation (Blood), and the Siksika Nation (“Blackfoot”) or more correctly Siksikawa (“Blackfoot people”). The South Peigan are located in Montana, and the other three are located in Alberta. Together they call themselves the Niitsitapii (the “Real People”). These groups shared a common language and culture, had treaties of mutual defense, and freely intermarried.

It is also speculated that “Blackfoot Cherokee” refers to a band of Cherokees that had black ancestry, most likely from the adoption of escaped slaves into their society. This band of Cherokees of course have no connection to the Blackfoot nations.

Click on image for more information.

Gorilla House LIVE ART: September 4, 2013

There’s just something about making the anonymous – known.  There’s a lot to be said, also, for seeing the ‘special’ in the minute, seemingly-insignificant flotsam of  life.  Minutia is interesting to me…and I like the process of returning minutia to families who have long forgotten the connection they have with those particular objects.  All of a sudden, the object has tremendous meaning and represents something more.

I’ve sought out the family of Ruby J. Campbell.  I hold onto her bible for them.

I’ve looked for photographer, P. Mason and have not yet found him/her.

I have located the family of artist, John D. “Sam” Crawford and will return drawings to them.

I hold on to three grade seven letters written years ago; students of mine…Kearston Constable, Chad Gilmet and Adam Hunt.

Well…you get the picture.

Recently, I’ve located Jordan Bearshirt.  I began looking for Jordan in January of 2012, when I decided to put a new professional frame on his graphite drawing.  I commissioned Jordan when he was my grade nine student at Holy Cross School.  This was some thirty years ago.  I had read a stack of books about the great chiefs of the plains…and couldn’t stop thinking about the life of Chief Crowfoot.  My gaggle of Junior High art students were typical…but Jordan sat to the side at his art table…silent and absorbed…but, forever-drawing.  He told me that to draw Crowfoot, he would have to work at home, so one day after school, he left my classroom with a large piece of white bond paper.

A few days later, he came into the art room with the meticulous drawing completed, but it was rolled and its edges, tattered.  When he unrolled the piece, Crowfoot was impaled with a hole.  I looked at Jordan and back down at the detailed drawing.  “What happened, Jordan?”

“My young sister/brother (I forget this detail) poked it with a pencil.”

“Where were you working, Jordan?”

“On the carpet.”

So, there followed a chat with Jordan about quality and care.  I talked to him about mark making/surface/edges/ and paper.  When I think about the Gorilla House-experience, this actually brings a smile to my face…but, I’ll continue…and yes, I WILL eventually get back to the titled post, the subject being LIVE ART at the Gorilla House.

A few days later, I bought a piece of arches heavy weight paper…something I purchased at an art supply store and I drove over to Jordan’s house.  As I passed the paper to Jordan, I asked him to work at a desk or table as this piece would be really really important to me.  The piece that was completed was exceptional.

Chief Crowfoot by Jordan Bearshirt

Chief Crowfoot by Jordan Bearshirt

Upon my return to Calgary end of July, I learned that Jordan passed away just two days before my beautiful mother, on May 29.  It was three days after his 45th birthday.  From the moment I learned of this news, I knew that I must return the treasured drawing to his family.  This would be an object of great affection for them, as it has been for me all of these years.  On September 4, I was contacted after what seemed an epic search, by Jordan’s father, J. Bernard Bearshirt. I need to express gratitude to Morley Redwood for assisting in my search. On September 5, I would have opportunity to meet Bernard and give Jordan’s gift to his father.  I will write about that meeting another time…for now, the motivation for the painting I produced in two hours on Wednesday evening.

Somehow my work would be a testament to Jordan’s life. I decided to paint an unknown/little-known Blackfoot man.  I found an archive of museum-grade studio photographs and chose a man with strong features and dark beautiful eyes, Kat-O-Capee of 1900.   I printed off a quick reference at home, packed up my gear and off I headed for the Gorilla House.

Kat-O-Capee Vancouver Archives, Blackfoot Circa 1900I began by creating a fairly dramatic and monochrome background for the piece, using black and silver acrylic and allowing the paint to drip freely into the white gessoed surface of the bottom third.  I spent the last hour watching the portrait emerge.  I thank Rebecca and Dylan for bidding on the piece and thank Rebecca for purchasing the piece at auction.

P1120536 P1120539 P1120543Art/writing/music/dance/theater provide the human spirit a way of exploring the notion of and illusion of permanence.  We learn, however, that the creation, itself, is ephemeral.  The dance ends.

“It’s no great secret we’re built to attach to things. But at least part of the strength with which we form attachments is mediated by the mistaken belief that we’ll always have the things to which we’re attached just as they are, supported by the additional mistaken belief that our ability to keep them as they are is also within our control.”

The painting of Kat-O-Capee represents everything I am trying to say…about Jordan…about my mother…about the family bible and the letters left behind by students.  Here was a man posing in a studio for a photographer in the day…a man pulled out from his familial environment, cultural practice, family, life’s work…to sit for a formal photograph.  And here…over one hundred years later,  an artist has explored that face again and caused a whole number of people to feel ‘something’ about that face.  The painting can not last.  But what is ‘forever’ about everything is the ‘fire’ of creation…that moment of awakening…the spirit of interaction and of crossed paths…the circle that connects us.  God…Divine Creator…

Where are you, Austin?

It was the last piece leaning against a wall at the front of the Gorilla House the night of the art battle.  I had been away for two months and it was my second week back.  There was a call out, “Is the artist here?”  I wanted the piece…badly!  Rich said, “Awe, come on…we’ll auction it and I’ll get his money to him.”  That was how I managed to snapple up this piece and with one serious attendee bidding against me.

P1120405 P1120407The week following, I saw a similar piece at auction and was thrilled to see a young man step up for the bidding war.  I asked Jess, next to me, “Who is that guy?”  Her reply…”Austin.”  I was thrilled to learn who had created my piece and stepped up to introduce myself briefly as I took his piece to the back table.  At the time of introduction, he was patiently explaining to the new patron how to handle the material that he has been using for his work.  He wanted to be certain that the client knew that the edges were rough and had some potential for being dangerous, so handle with care…buff edges…that sort of thing.  I was impressed.

Funny thing happened earlier today…not even certain how it happened, but I learned that Austin is the son of a former student and friend.  I taught Deb at Holy Cross back in 1979, my first year in Calgary.  She describes herself as being the proudest momma grizzly of two of the greatest bear cubs on the planet, her beautiful and talented son and her equally talented daughter, Kassandra.  I laugh because earlier in her dialogue with me about her kids, she referred to them as her two goats…so, take it for what it is.

Austin was born in Burnaby, British Columbia and moved to Calgary in 1995.  He began making art at a very early age, experimenting with different mediums and approaches.  Many of us observe artists at work and wonder what goes on in their minds as they produce art works.  Deb is no different, but is amazed at how Austin appears to make art without fear of the outcome, but an intense pleasure in the process.  He received his first award in grade twelve when he created this graphite still life.  Of Austin, Deb says that she is so proud to call him her son.  I say, I’m so absolutely thrilled to have reconnected with Deb and now, surprisingly, to have a piece of her son’s amazing work!

Graphite Still Life created by Austin.

Graphite Still Life created by Austin.

Here are two photographs of Austin and his creation, the night that I met him.  I think that we will be seeing more of this young man’s work!