An Hour With Anna Gustafson

Sometimes it feels like I’m flying in to the evening programs at Esker Foundation.  The trek north on Deerfoot Trail is never optimal around the dinner hour.  It seems that the folk who have struggled their way south through rush hour traffic have made their way home for their wardrobe changes and are then all headed back to the core for their evening events.  Calgary is such a sprawl!  All that aside, when the program lists are published for the Esker Foundation, I always try to log on and register and fill in my calendar for the coming months.

Today, Anna Gustafson delivered a ‘making’ workshop at the Esker.  These programs are especially inspiring.  Because I wasn’t able to fit this one in, I was really motivated to listen to her talk last night and to see her work in Esker’s Project Space.  This exhibit, titled Object Lessons is accessible from the huge picture windows on street level 9th Ave SE.

Anna spoke about her transition from a piece titled Ghost Salmon (very serendipitous) into her shrouded works.  Initially, the image that she projected on to the screen of her Ghost Salmon work brought me back to some ideas I had once explored in my own studio.  My brother, Cliff, who runs a salmon charter in Comox named Cliff’s Chinook Charters, now has this piece at home with him.

Anna described her connection with other species and her sense of urgency around having a deep regard for sustainability.  I felt as though we were connected in our thoughts through some sort of umbilical…I was captivated.

Enjoy Anna’s beautiful website and click on this link in order to read through her process.

As she spoke about shrouding objects that represent our full-on consumption, I thought very much about the bags of litter I picked for such a long period of time at a single pond here in south Calgary.  Nothing ever seemed to change about the landscape that I picked….after months and years of clearing the flats, new litter would just move on in.  It came in waves.  It was no wonder that Anna’s fish nets filled to the brim with shrouded single use plastics hit me in the gut.

The exhibit is happening, in partnership with the New Gallery and Anna Gustafson is extending an invitation to the public to help her with the harvesting of particular household objects including remote controls, film and slide projectors, film cans, slide carousels, flashlights along with white cotton and linen fabric for shrouding. Donations can be brought to The New Gallery from 3 February to 19 April.

Anna has a very detailed record of where she is gathering these objects, as seen below.

I find it interesting that as I attended a second event last evening, I should still be thinking about Anna’s work as I encountered this display.  Well done, Anna, and thank you.  Thank you, Esker Foundation.


I haven’t written many blog posts lately!  I’m very busy teaching a four month grade three contract these days.  I began the last week of February.  I really enjoy my students, but we are super busy!  Each student, taking on an altar ego and the mantle of a super hero means that school is a very busy place.  When not a super hero, then there are always the roles of mathematician, engineer and wildlife biologist to fulfill!  It’s a busy life we live.

As a result of all of the ‘busy’, my body flops onto the red sofa shortly after dinner and sometimes I even nod off.  I just can’t even believe what heroes teachers are to take on such a huge part in children’s lives.  Since retirement, I think I’ve become one of the most outspoken advocates of teachers I know.  It’s one thing to support teachers in theory; it’s another to know and understand what they are living each and every day.

In the morning we have quiet focus time on the mat…I log onto Duke Farm’s Live Eagle Cam, much as I did during my grade one contract a couple of years ago.  I made up a booklet that was grade specific, using the content provided for a higher level study.  Duke Farms provides a wealth of information.  This year we have two eggs on the nest and the weather has been brutal in the east.  We have some sad moments as we observe female or male sitting until their own bodies are absolutely covered by snow.  I think I captured a screen shot one day…yes…here’s the nest on March 1 and that snow crept up a few times so that only the adult’s beak was exposed.  The children seem to be enjoying observing life on the nest and I am holding out hope that the eggs will successfully hatch over the coming week.  Here are the blog posts directly from Duke Farms.

March 1, 2015 Duke's FarmsI have a few photos of my little nest, but it hardly captures the intensity of the space when the children enter and begin swirling through their day.  There is never a pause.  There is so much to learn.

In the morning, each morning, for just about ten minutes, I read aloud from the BFG by Roald Dahl.  When I asked my adult daughter what she remembered about grade three, she told me that she remembered Roald Dahl and all of the wonderful books that he wrote.  And so, just for wind down time, the children and I are sharing those words.

The BFG makes us laugh…and he shares some very intelligent, however nonsensical, words.

quote-dreams-is-very-mystical-things-the-bfg-said-human-beans-is-not-understanding-them-at-all-not-roald-dahl-222445DSC_3020 DSC_3019Books for inventions and schematics of every kind…this week…a dream making machine.  INVENTORS! DSC_3014

DSC_3015 ??????????

Each pod of desks is a city in India (Mumbai and New Delhi) or the Ukraine (Kiev and Odessa) or Peru (Lima) or Tunisia (Tunis).  The students are just getting their pavilions researched and constructed.  This makes it very easy for calling up a rep from each city to pick up things or deliver things to their group.  They share responsibilities and connect it to their place in the world.  Sorry for the out-of-focus photo…will try to get a better archive.  Most of the art has been collaborative to this point.  This Klimt tree will be evolving over the seasons.  A place to publish descriptive words and elaborative detail.

DSC_3013 DSC_3012 DSC_3004Students collect bling for all sorts of everything and post them on their plain-jane brown paper wrap Super Three frames.  By end of year, these will be the most highly decorated frames in existence. The students are wildly motivated.

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DSC_3009 DSC_3007 DSC_3006 My brother and father both sent explanations of their military medals and ribbons so that I could share with the students what an honour it is to be decorated. I showed these to my students and explained what a sense of pride is felt with such achievements.  They were very excited about the possibility, as Super Threes, of receiving such as these. While having gold star days are an every day occurrence, receiving a ribbon is more special and rare.  I’ve got a huge stash of them and jot down the reason for each ribbon presentation on my note cards.  The children have to then share with me what they are going to do to earn the next.  Again, every child receives recognition and praise.

Dad's Medals DSC_2642Our class medals and ribbons.??????????Our gathering place.

DSC_3002We keep many different publications going…books of THREE (a place to look at why Three is such a powerful number), WHEN-THEN books When__________ (teacher provides an action) Then___________(what action results, giving students opportunities to explore how choices and results connect) and Save the Day booklets (students explore how they want to use their super powers for good).

DSC_3034?????????? ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_3027The students are engineers. After the students tested for stability in a large, medium and short cylinder, they had opportunity to explore how to increase stability.  Whoosh!  They are some sort of inventors.  At the end of the frenzy, they decided that the base of a structure should be wider and heavier and include some sort of connecting material in order to be more stable. :0)

DSC_2974 ?????????? ?????????? ?????????? DSC_2985 DSC_2984 DSC_2983Thanks to all of you peeps who have supported me and shared your wisdom.  You know who you are!  And, no, you won’t be seeing many updates!  Now, “Come, MAX!  Let’s go!”


Katie Ohe’s Idea Books

Perched on Katie’s kitchen counter…a simple black sketchbook…a place to capture her ideas while she is preparing food or perking coffee.  Some of the collages feel so familiar to me.  For one, I also enjoy using found objects such as onion/fruit sacks as underpinnings in my collage work.  Katie lovingly leafed through pages…chatting with us along the exploration.

It was in the kitchen that I shared with Katie how commercial galleries had once owned my spirit…and how, belonging, caused me to freeze.  She received that disclosure with so much warmth.  I will carry the conversation that followed, forever…a very healing experience.

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My Lenten Journey

This has been an ‘other-worldly’ sort of Lenten journey.  I wonder if this is just what happens sometimes…where a person feels somehow ‘vacant’.  My prayers are not deeply profound or full to the brim with imagery.  They are of the ‘simple’ variety.  I know that sometimes writers and great spiritual people of history have experienced what they call the desert….perhaps I am in a desert.  I just don’t know.

In Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the desert is a place where a huge narrative unfolds.  The story is child like in its flavour, but in its simplicity are found the profundities of life.  The taste of water, for example, is so much better with the hard work if one is collecting that water from a well.  Sometimes, at the turning of a tap, we have no appreciation for that water and can easily take it for granted.

Another insight, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.  What is essential is invisible to the eyes.”  In faith, there is so much that is not clearly evident to all.  This truth is echoing what the writer gleaned from  John 20: 29.  New International Version (©2011)
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

So, the meeting in the desert between the Little Prince and the pilot offer the reader many inspired thoughts, meant for us to see our lives differently and to place value on ‘matters of consequence’ as they are…not as we, in this earthy experience, believe them to be.

Jesus meets his father in the desert.  He experiences ridicule and temptation.  He transcends and comes to acceptance in the desert.  Some days I know that I’m not so great at imitating these and think that this must be because ‘my desert’ is different…but no, they are one in the same.  And…the ball is in my court.  I have a will…I make choices…and it is in me to, without being self-righteous,  to do the right thing.

For me, a guide through the desert, is simply expressed through the five steps of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality. I collected this summary from a talk given by Dorothea Marie Epple PhD. LCSW.  I am most interested in her publications because she has explored the topics of senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type and what this means for families, communities and our future together.  There is no desert that compares to the one where my mother and father find themselves, struggling together on a daily basis and seeing face-to-face the matters of consequence that I mention briefly above.

The Daily Examen in Five Steps

I assume that there are three kinds of thoughts in myself. That is, one kind is my own, which arises strictly from my own freedom and desire; and the other two come from outside myself, the one from the good spirit and the other from the evil.” (St. Ignatiusas cited in Ganss, 1991, p. 132) The daily examen is a simple prayer, with five steps, to examine your day for signs of God’s presence (Martin, 2010). The prayer is about finding God in your life and letting God find you. The first step is giving thanks for the good things in your day – gratitude. Savor the moment: the sunshine on a cold winter snowy day, the giggle of a child, the bloom of a flower, the kind word from a colleague, the unexplained and unexpected resolution to a difficult situation. To stop, notice, enjoy, savor and show gratitude slows us down. Martin (2010) quotes Anthony de Mellow, “You sanctify whatever you are grateful for” (p. 89). The second step in the examen is to ask for the grace to know where you acted contrary to better judgment. Martin (2010) states, “Today guilt may be undervalued. The voice of our conscience, which tells us we did something wrong and moves us to make amends, is a voice that can lead us to become more loving and ultimately, happier” (p. 89). He goes on to recognize that sins of omission or failing to bother to help another may be insights into a lack of responding to God’s invitation to grow. The third step of the examen is to review your day.  Recall everything, thoughts words, and deeds. The fourth step of the examen is to ask for forgiveness from God for sins or omissions of the day. Decide if you will reconcile with anyone you have hurt. The fifth step is asking for the grace of God’s help in the next day. There is no one right way to pray the examen. Dorothy Day revised her daily examen to the following steps: thank God for favors, beg for light and grace to see clearly, survey, repent, resolve (Ellsberg, 2008). The examen helps you to realize the presence of God…by asking you to notice where God already exists in your life, where your yesterdays were beautiful. With that awareness you will begin to notice God’s presence more and more in your day. (Martin, 2010, p. 102)

“God looks at me, and I look at God” (Martin, 2010)

Resurrection Tree

Gorilla House LIVE ART: August 8, 2012

I will post the video at a later date, but on this post.  For now, I’m including a few archives of last evening’s art battles.  The inspired concepts drawn for last evening’s piece were fairly abstract, I thought….and so, that’s where I went with my painting.  The concepts were 1. Lies 2. Two points and 3. Vanilla.

I went immediately to a 1970s National Geographic archive titled Where Oil and Wildlife Meet.  I thought that no matter what side you take with the issues of oil, sustainability, climate and wildlife, you might perceive the ‘other’ side to be telling lies.  I then focused on the concept of two points…linking it with the first issue I mentioned here.  From there, I thought of balance…and developed the three spheres, beginning with the white one (vanilla) linking the previous TWO POINTS.  The vanilla sphere is the quintessential 3D form; gradations of value, grounded, evidence of a light source, shadow…it is very physical, very tangible.  The red sphere represents passion, ideas, issues, anger, fear and it degrades and feels somehow less resolved than the white sphere.  The gold medallion…one dimensional, flat, about currency, cost, boundaries, revenue.

I like this piece and could have worked on it beyond the two hours allotted, but the Gorilla House contributes to an artist’s madness during the creative process/impulse and then , at auction, instantaneously, finds the work dashed into someone’s hands and home.  An interesting process!  Sarah, acquired the piece.


This Week in the Garden

I count the days of summer by what is blooming in the garden.  The lupines and peonies are dwindling now, but the lilies are just beginning.  Awesome…the changing of textures and colour!  I sat in the van one afternoon in the winter…I was making a stop for groceries, but couldn’t be interrupted while listening to one of the segments of The Power Of Colour on CBC Radio.

Power of Colour 1
Power of Colour 2
Power of Colour 3

The Oriental Poppies burst open with the heat of the weekend! Glorious!

Leslie’s Lilies…for yet another season!


Petal Detail

Ready to Burst