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.

Peter von Tiesenhausen Inspires

While fulfilling a contract, teaching grade one students, I still managed to get out to some arts events in town and now, as a matter of playing catch-up, I’ll archive a couple of them.  Last Thursday, I attended the Peter von Tiesenhausen opening, Concentrations, hosted by Jarvis Hall Fine Art and to follow that, attended one of two artist-talks given by Peter on his current Esker Foundation exhibit, Experience of the Precisely Sublime.

At Jarvis Hall Fine Arts, I enjoyed the intimacy of the pieces on exhibit.  There are some very monumental sculptures presently on exhibit at the Esker Foundation and these, along with Peter’s shelf of gestures, are very beautiful.  For those of you looking for biographical information, please refer to the links above and a fabulous write up for the present exhibit at Esker is located here.  The purpose of this post is to share some of the magic that I took with me after my experiences of the art.

First, art openings are awesome for the purpose of bumping into and connecting with treasured friends.  I was happy to chat briefly with Shannon, Michelena and Bruce.  I was really happy to have a short visit with Peter as well and to remind him that his work has impacted me in a special way for several decades now.

P1160467During the artist-talk at the Esker, I picked up on several short vignettes in reference to the pieces on the shelf.  I’m including a photograph here that will be fully credited later as I DID find it on the Esker Foundation website, on their ABOUT page, but the photographer is not credited there (I’m going to assume that it is a photo archive taken by Doug Haslam).  I want to use it as a map for Peter’s talk, as he explored these intimate pieces from right to left and shared brief narratives about each.

Photo Credit: Esker Foundation, About Banner Photo

Photo Credit: Esker Foundation, About Banner Photo

Photo Credit: Close-up Shelf of Tiesenhausen Gestures, Esker Foundation

Photo Credit: Close-up Shelf of Tiesenhausen Gestures, Esker Foundation

The following are a series of points pulled out of my notebook…

The Concentration = whatever you go through, you can manage. In the end, create what you want.

Peter decided that some of his difficulties through a specific period of time were created by his own head and RESISTANCE.

PERSIST….BELIEVE….Follow your bliss (Joseph Campbell) because good stuff happens.

-8′ section of picket fence painted white
-add an 8′ section every year to the west
-24 x 8′ straight line…new on one end and pickets splitting on oldest end, aging and weather-worn-incredible challenge
-conscious of what is lost
-conscious of passage of time
-remember the neighbours from your youth
-why did we not have the faith that transition happens?
EXAMPLE: The clear-cuts that created such a concern for environmentalists decades ago are now very vibrant eco-systems.
-if we are going to do damage, let us make it so that at least it’s over the parameters of our own life limitations
-How can we have the smallest impact?


SMALL OBJECTS ON SHELF = GESTURES  these taught Peter how to explore materials and ideas.

Wooden Face Profile

While attending the sculpture department of York University, Peter decided he was going to use ever machine that was in the department; drills, CNC scanning machines, laser programs.  He enjoyed the sound of the drills, the melodic and hypnotic sounds.


Wooden Duck and Lion

Left on a railing for twenty five years in his studio.


One of 3000 eye symbols that led to the copyrighting of his land.  The eyes of the aspen trees are guarding-watching.



Bronze Pieces

Lunenburg Industrial Foundry and Engineering – sunlight used to melt bronze
Use focused sunlight to heat bronze to 5,000 degrees.

Wood with cavity in it – contains a pebble

Karl Blossfeldt – Up Close and Beautiful/Art Forms and Nature

Garlic Plant: Karl Blossfeldt

Garlic Plant: Karl Blossfeldt

Rusted Camshaft – solar bronzed


Home made Axe

-a mention, here, of Tim and Linda, people who lived off the land/$10,000 a year and farmed with horses

Wooden Axe

BEING FREE – I don’t owe anybody anything.



Cardboard Axe

Random Axe of Kindness – Banff

The very next day, having listened with my heart…not just my head, I noticed this beautiful dried strand of perfectly ordered seed pods.  Such a brutal, cold winter, Alberta experienced these last many months and to discover such perfection was surprising and beautiful.

P1160466 P1160464 P1160463I feel inspired to truly notice my surroundings because of the impact of Peter’s exceptional work in two Calgary galleries.  At the Jarvis Hall Fine Art exhibit,  I was most captivated by a glass cabinet filled with drawings tied together in bunches  with cord and then sealed in red wax.  I would like to encourage my readers to attend both exhibits while they are here in Calgary.

Sealed drawings

Winter Provides a Blank Canvas

I was writing about slowing down…observing…wee things.

I posted this photograph.

P1140599Lots has happened since those two mice made tracks in the fresh snow.

A rabbit enters into the picture.

A rabbit enters into the picture.


Either a crow or a magpie seeks out mouse activity at the location.


More mice.

I often think about the patterns, light and colour in nature.  No need to go tripping into the mountains to see the remarkable possibilities or to experience the narratives.  They surround us.

Alex Mulvenna gave me, as a gift, Andy Goldsworthy and David Craig’s book, Arch.  The year she left my class, I had been telling the students how much I would dream to own an Andy Goldsworthy coffee table book.  The gift is a treasure to this day.  Alex is now a woman.

Looking back, I remember the poetry assignment that I shared with my students every year in language arts.  Our school edges on a ridge and below, stretches the Bow River and an exquisite valley…Fish Creek Park links with a wildlife corridor that stretches all the way to the mountains.  We are very blessed.

Some time around May, every year, I assigned the students haiku poetry, but the hitch was to base their poetry on natural sculpture that they had constructed in the river valley.  I spoke to them about the sculpture’s fragility and that it must incorporate the potential for falling victim to the wind, rain, collapse…that purely natural elements to the location needed to be employed.  The project, designed to overlap Easter vacations, seemed, from my end at least, to be consistently successful.  I also asked that the students archive their project.

I continue to have two of these projects out in my studio.  I cherish them.  I cherished all of them.

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