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.

Katie said, “You’re the Painter.”

Video

There are certain people in the world who have the knack for inspiring me to be a better person (and I use the term BETTER as it expresses itself in humility, kindness, empathy and plain hard work and creativity) and one of those people, for me, has been Katie Ohe.  I don’t know that she knows that she has that influence with me, but this is how some one who is truly remarkable can be laying down seeds in other people’s hearts.

I’ve written about her a few times.

In 2013, I wrote about the objects that live in Katie and Harry’s home.

In 2017, I wrote about KOAC and the experience of a studio tour, led by my creative friend, Wendy Lees.

And also, in 2013, I looked for a way to process my connection with Katie through a poem.  You see, she had taken some time, in the light of her kitchen window, to leaf through the pages of her sketchbook with me, and to talk about the experience of having ‘painter’s block’.  She spoke with me about painting.  She asked me, with all sincerity, about me.  I felt affirmed.  I felt filled.

A few weeks ago, I knew that the exhibit of Katie’s work at the Esker Foundation, was drawing closer.  As would be the case, I thought that Katie might be surrounded by many people…important people…at the opening. I couldn’t imagine myself getting anywhere near her. When I saw that the Herringer Kiss Gallery was hosting an exhibit of early works by both Katie Ohe and Harry Kiyooka, I thought that I would take the chance to visit her at that opening, so that I might make contact and wish her blessings for the big event.

It turns out that I had a lovely chat with both Katie and Harry in the peace of the gallery.  She looked into my face and her eyes looked that remarkable blue and as she held one of my hands in both of hers, she said, “You are the painter.”

These words were/are transformative words.  I am changed in the way that I think of myself, in the way that I feel and in the way that I am processing the events of my life, even the simple every day events.  I can’t explain it.

Included here, a few of the images from the opening at the Esker Foundation.  I got no where near Katie.  It was such a mighty celebration of her art and her life, I felt it was just marvelous to witness her with friends, former students, well-wishers.  As I was negotiating my way from the bar and past the steps to the nest, at one point, she looked up and literally our gazes met in the big hubbub and we smiled at one another.  That was enough.

(I know…i sound like a blithering goofball here, but, Katie is a hero for me, as she is for so many others.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

KOAC: Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre

This morning, I’m celebrating Wendy Lees and the Love Art in Calgary tours that she provides, here in the city.  Yesterday, we had the opportunity to enjoy the intimate and generous experience of visiting KOAC.  Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe directed a magical tour of their property, studios and home and today I am still ruminating about the conversations, the practice and the encouragement received.  Grateful!

Katie and Harry have done so much for our community and, both visionaries, they have a commitment to leave an amazing legacy for all of us.  But right now, they need our support, both monetary and philosophically.  Calgarians need to see themselves as both beneficiaries, but also contributors to this dream.  I hope that my readers will take the time to visit the website and explore how they can be a part of this.

We began our tour with the wondrous drive out to the property under an amazing chinook arch.  The light and arch contributed to the aesthetic experience of being on the edge of the city, looking west toward the mountains.  Good conversation, laughter and shared philosophies are always a part of a Love Art in Calgary tour and this time, I reconnected with a like-minded woman, Sharon, who I had met on a previous workshop at the Esker Foundation and Melissa, who has a long history of Gorilla painting with me.  So much fun.

Melissa and I went for a wander to look at a couple of the sculptures on the property before the tour of Katie’s studio began.

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This one made a journey across the ocean in a crate…missed the sculptor’s name.

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‘Dandelion’ a kinetic sculpture created by one of Katie’s former students.

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Treasures.

Walking to Katie’s studio, we stopped and had fun, listening to Katie’s stories and being present to her larger-than-life energy!

I think this woman is such a role model for us.  She is so full of warmth and has such a generous nature.  And…she says that she writes a lot of reference letters! :0)

Katie Ohe, when speaking of her sculptures, touches them in such a special way and speaks about them in that manner, also.  It is evident that she has a very close relationship with the materials and knows and loves the process of creation in a very intimate way.  I cherish listening to her speak of her art.

 

 

Next, we went to Harry’s studio, a treasure trove full of discoveries and large canvases.

Harry is such a gentle and kind man, with such enthusiasm for the vision that has been forming over such a long period of time…a vision and partnership shared between Katie and him.  He is a huge promoter of KOAC and has announced that tickets are available for the next big fundraiser.

Next, the two artists invited us into their home and we sat and snacked and shared a coffee break, while being surrounded by amazing works of art, as well as an extensive collection and library!  Phenomenal!

 

I will never forget the strength of Katie’s hand wrapped around mine, as I thanked her for the afternoon.  What an amazing woman!

Previous posts…

Art Tour 2013

Poem For Katie Ohe

Katie’s Idea Books

Objects of Affection

Katie Ohe and Harry Kiyooka and Their Objects of Affection

Generously, Katie and Harry shared their spaces with us.  Conversations were rich and warm.  Hospitality was offered us…a group of diverse travelers from the city.  Stories were told…so many stories that connected objects to the souls of the artists.  A fabulous journey into the lives and motivation for creativity, in the sense of art practice, but also largely in the sense of a vision coming to life in the form of the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre.  I highly recommend that your contribution be known as funding is always challenging for the arts opportunities and they are imperative to the health of our communities.  In the spring, a group of us will be heading out to clean out scrub brush and physically labour on the property.  Let me know if you wish to join us.

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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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Finding a Poem For Katie Ohe

I’ve tried to write about Katie three times.  Each time, I got to a point and had to stop.  Today, I begin to write again.

As I reflect back on things that Katie said and then the unspoken power of her sculpture, I am left somehow overwhelmed.  It seems to me that she is some version of a fireball.  She is compacted energy that has been burning deeply for a lifetime and in connection with that light, I was left in awe.  So, once in awe, I had to go looking for a poem.

No luck. I found no poem for Katie Ohe.  That, in itself, is unbelievable. However, the act of looking for a poem caused me to sit for most of that particular afternoon, reading poetry, and that can’t be all bad.

After some days…more than a week…I found this.  It describes something of Katie Ohe.

A short version, my version, of one of Katie’s stories (and really, you need Katie to tell YOU her story…nothing compares).

Katie’s Dad gave Katie and her brother each a potato to peel.  Katie created a long spiral of peel…I think she said that she tried to peel the entire potato in a single peel.  (Her brother doesn’t even remember this, but Katie does.)  Her father then attached the end of her peel to a pin or a needle, suspended it by a string and then set the peel to spinning.  This image has stuck with her all of these years. (The metaphor…the image of the twirling potato peel offered up in this narrative, illuminated some very basic principles of Katie’s work…at least I think so!)

Katie spoke of Weeping Bees and Typhoon…and so much more and shared her studio space with us.  I was in awe the entire time.  I was left speechless.

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Katie Ohe IS a poem.

Love Art in Calgary Tour: We Visit Harry Kiyooka and Katie Ohe

To try to adequately write about my experience yesterday, attending the Kiyooka Ohe Arts Centre, will be a challenge.  I think that I was engaged at a very personal level to this experience and so these few posts will be informative, but with a smattering of heart felt connection.  What the heck!  My readers know me and my obsession with issues of identity, memory and sustainability.  You will understand.

The ‘getting there’.  Wendy Lees has opened up so many opportunities for Calgarians through her offer of Love Art in Calgary tours.  I highly recommend them.  She is inspiring, connected and driven in this venture and I’ve become more aware and more linked in to my arts community because of these experiences.

P1140192We gathered at Wolf Willow Studio, where the air is filled with the rich smells of evergreen. Presently, the studio is home to Michelena Bamford‘s Rocky Mountain Wreaths where, on December 8, my readers are invited to take in a marvelous day of creative wonder.  Michelena, a profoundly inspiring mosaic artist provided that sort of comfortable space where we could gather and connect, in preparation for the car pool to our art experience.

P1140185 P1140187 P1140194Thanks, Bill, for driving.  I shared the road with Conrad, Doreen and Suzanne.  It’s always fun to connect with new people and it was especially interesting to learn from Doreen that they had hosted Lawrence Hill, near the onset of his writing career.  Lawrence had shared a narrative at his One Book/One Calgary launch about a Calgary couple that he treasured deeply for their long friendship and somehow I ended up sandwiched between them on our ride out to KO Arts Centre.  God has a way of pulling the pieces of our lives together.

I am ending this first post with some photographs.  Upon arrival, we stepped out into a warm bright day, facing a vast expanse of mountains on the horizon…tall stands of trees…stunning architecture and a sense of anticipation.  The twenty acres that is dedicated to be the KO Arts Centre was charged with magic.  A feature article, as an introduction, can be found in the Calgary Journal here, Giving it All Away.  Please scroll down to the video.

Air. Breath. Expanse. Beauty. Anticipation. Mentorship. Generosity of Heart. Opening.

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