Climate Strike

My feet are still cold.  But, now I’m dry and in a minute, I’m going to pour a glass of wine.

I started my day by posting a whole number of paintings I’ve done over the last years, some of them exhibited in a beautiful little gallery in Lethbridge by my cousin, Jo, and her then-partner.  I threw images out to Bookface Land (coined by my friend, Doug M) in order to cause people to think…not about the art, but about our planet and I sort of hoped they would think about the planet in terms of the subjects being vulnerable pieces of that planet.

I called this work, A Covenant Series, and for those of you who are not ‘into’ religion, I think it is obvious by that title, that I am.  At the very least, I’d have to say that my life is rooted in scripture.  The painting, above, is titled Genesis and at the base of all of the pieces in this body of work, I have submerged actual passages from scripture.  You see, I’m not afraid to admit that I am religious.  In today’s world, religious people can even be a little refreshing. It’s way more acceptable, however, today, to say that you are spiritual.  In that way, a lot of hard stuff can be avoided, like the horrific actions of people on other people, often in the name of religion.  Let’s start with residential schools!

Back to the subject of this post…

Human beings, as a species, have a responsibility to be stewards of the earth, water and air, as well as every living creature on/in them, and that includes caring for one another.  If you’re NOT religious, I think that this makes sense as well.  Don’t you think?

Long story/short, I have, along the way, painted some of my own fears down onto panels…fears of losing beautiful parts of our world.  Sometimes these paintings expressed themselves as landscapes. Sometimes, particular species were investigated.  Most recently, I’ve been focused on a single bush through a year.

And as several readers know, I have been very caught up in the life of a family of Bald Eagles at the edge of the Bow River.  We are so very blessed.

In the novel, The Diviners by Margaret Laurence, Morag, the protagonist is sitting and conversing with her young daughter, Piquette.  Piquette, a Metis, turns to her writer-mother and asks what a buffalo is.  The conversation between the two of them has always impacted me, as has the connection that Morag has with her river.  The fact that this child had lost connection with such an iconic animal and that she looked to her mother to describe it, caused me to think that I must begin documenting…the landscape…the river…animals.  I became a crazy lady, visiting places like Maycroft Crossing in order to see the Old Man River before the dam.  It seemed I needed to be able to collect and document life as it was for the sake of my children.

Curtis Running Rabbit-Lefthand delivered a powerful Land Acknowledgement and then offered a very few words.  His words created the one point in the afternoon of speeches that made me cry.  No, there was one other young female University student who also caused me to cry, speaking of the things that make her afraid.  Curtis talked about us being Treaty people.  In the context of this entire day, for me, it was exceptional.

Treaty and Covenant.  The one thing I know for sure anymore is that I am hell bent on protecting my grandson.   And, as I explore what this means, I feel like I can’t make very many promises.  I can’t promise him that he will have a beautiful world full of the magic of so many species of animals and birds and insects once he is a man, the age of his father.  I can’t make promises because the world isn’t sustainable.  Destructive fires are burning. Children, the world over, are starving. Traumatic climate events are more frequent. Consumption is unreasonable. And human beings are in a denial stew (something that I believe rises up out of fear).

What I am empowered to do, however, is to have my grandson see me as a Treaty person.  I want him to know that I will do everything in my power to care for the planet and the people in it.  I will be an exemplar for him.  I will stand up to injustice.  I will speak the truth.

I’m proud of those Calgarians who showed up today.  I’m proud of those participants in our great nation, Canada, who are listening to young people as they demand action. I am grateful to people the world over who have a concern for the health of our world.

The weather today in Calgary was crappy.  And tonight we get snow.  But, my heart is warm and I am determined in my walk, more so tonight than any other time on my journey.

 

Days and Art at Vancouver General Hospital

I dread flying. (The fears stem from multiple days on a cross-country flight in a single engine Cessna…but, that’s another story.)

When I heard that one of my best friends, spiritual guides and artist-buddies was moving at warp speed toward death (as we all are), I had to fly.  It is with gratitude for a few people and circumstances and timing that I write these words down.  Everything lined up so that I could be with Bobbie.  Bob and I shared over twenty years of friendship and he inspired such rich and wonderful magic in my life.  It was an unwritten pact of sorts that led me to his bedside and into the wonderful circle of his family.

When we landed, I took words of a highly-traveled friend, Hollee, to heart and pretended, to some degree, that I was Dora the Explorer.  I had some reservations about flying into Vancouver, not being familiar with the ‘big’ city at all.  I had flown into Vancouver with a friend many years ago in order to enjoy a Dave Matthew’s Band concert and the Art Gallery, but hadn’t ever found my way around on my own.  So, on the advice of Hollee, I took my time finding my way to the Canada Line, enjoying the beautiful art displayed throughout the airport.  Bob would have loved that I did this.

I successfully found my way to the Broadway/City Hall stop and then began my short walk to the hospital.

Peter met me at the elevator on the 16th floor of the Palliative Care Unit, after a convoluted wandering of the hospital, having thought I would find Bob on the eleventh floor. When I stepped around the corner and into Bob’s room, his arms extended and opened up to me.  The embrace of two old friends was delicious.  He uttered his delight and I parked my bag.  I knew that I would make this room my home for the coming days, although Bronwyn had graciously offered me a bed.

I write this post to celebrate the type of care and the environment where Bob spent his last days.  The Palliative Care unit was exceptional.  It was a comfortable space for both residents and families.  And there was art…everywhere!  Referred to as the VGH/ UBC Hospital Foundation Art Collection, the collection gave me the opportunity to disappear into various visual experiences throughout my stay.

“We are grateful to our donors for their contributions to this innovative program,” says Dr. Bev Spring, a physician with the Palliative Care Unit at VGH. “Art helps to create an atmosphere aesthetically and attitudinally where emotional and physical healing can happen. This is important for the heart and soul of the hospital – and the hearts and souls of those who find themselves on the giving or receiving end of care here: patients, their families and staff alike.”

I collected a series of photographs…none of them great, because I was so impressed.  I wasn’t in Vancouver for site seeing or for a vacation.  And yet, the space where my dear friend spent his last days was absolutely beautiful.  I’m so grateful for that.  This post is written in order to celebrate Bob’s life.  He held, in his imagination, such knowledge, practice and understanding of place, aesthetics and image-making.  This collection would have awed  him.

I sat through the wee hours of morning on August 20th and felt an overwhelming peace.  Of course, I was weary, but I was and am so grateful for the people who are in my circle.  I am so blessed.  Bob was a gentle and kind man.  His spirit lives.

 

Art to Adore

I was fortunate to attend the National Gallery of Canada while the recipients of the Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts 2016, were on exhibit.  When I attend such a large collection as is available at our national gallery, it is typical that I feel particularly drawn to some work.  Sometimes, it is because I have followed particular artists over my years…sometimes, it is because the work is new to me, but visually, very exciting.

One woman’s work that has been of great interest to me all of these years is that of Jane Kidd.  She is original and a technical-sensory genius when it comes to tapestry.  I’ve picked up brochures about the artist, read what I could and viewed a few excellent short films about her process.  Her work, for me, is always organic and, typically, elements of nature are embedded.  I relate with this work.  I was so excited to see that she was acknowledged so beautifully in the gallery this past summer.

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Edward Burtynsky’s photographs have been represented very well in Calgary.  I’ve had the opportunity to connect with them in the Glenbow Art Gallery and in several exhibits that feature the best of Canada.  My own interest in environment and the exposure of the human mark on the landscape has always drawn me to Burtynsky’s work.  While I am involved in the rather sad practice of picking other people’s litter from the ground of a single pond ecosystem, Edward Burtynsky uses his images to speak to the collective about the impact of their choices.  His works have a lot to do with consumption and my favourite documentary has to be Manufactured Landscapes.

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Wanda Koop’s work, in its minimalist sense, always feels fresh and eloquent.  I’ve been blessed to have great space on her canvases in several instances.  I’ve always left feeling very blessed by  time spent standing in front of her work. This opportunity was no different. Her painting speaks about the collective conscience.  Many paintings, for me, talk about the consumption of land.  They are atmospheric in their nature.

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Bill Vazan was new to me.  This piece was a very potent image and I simply had to engage it and feel awed by it.  By connecting with it, I became fully aware that there was, inherent to the piece, depth of thought and energy and travel. The culminating piece is complex and intriguing.

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Some years ago, I read Verna Reid’s book, Women Between: Contruction of Self in The Work of Sharon Butala, Aganetha Dyck, Mary Meigs and Mary Pratt.

In Women Between, Verna Reid explores the evolving perceptions of “self” in the work of four Canadian women – visual artists Aganetha Dyck and Mary Pratt, and writers Sharon Butala and Mary Meigs. All four came into prominence in middle age, doing their most significant work in their mature years. They, along with the author, are members of a transitional generation of women, occupying the space between the traditional world of their mothers and the postmodern world of their daughters. The multiple roles they have played are reflected in the strong autobiographical content present in their work. Applying feminist and autobiographical theory, Reid considers the work of Butala, Dyck, Meigs, and Pratt in light of the influences that have shaped their senses of identity. As a contemporary of her subjects, Reid infuses her interviews with the four women with sensitivity and immediacy, lending a unique perspective to the exploration of their lives and work.

Sharon Butala’s writing is some of my favourite writing.  And, I’ve enjoyed reading about Mary Pratt and her practice as I tried to find my own way, making art and raising a family at the same time.  But, what really intrigued me was, discovering through this book and a single lecture at ACAD, the interesting practice of Aganetha Dyck.  To encounter her work at the National Gallery of Canada, gave me chills.  A wonderful moment for me!  What a joy to share this viewing with two of my nieces.

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Beyond Canada…other pieces were in the gallery, to adore.  A progression of work in the exhibit, A Solitary Mexican Modernist: artist, Rufino Tamayo‘s (1899-1981) exotic use of colour mirrors, I think, the climate and texture of Mexico.  I really enjoyed this work and liked the experience of seeing how, over years, the work progressed.  This exhibit marks 25 years since the artist’s death.  It was an honour to see this and in some ways, a visual relief at that point.

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I enjoyed interacting with the dynamics of the Ai Weiwei’s tree.

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There are so many fabulous documentaries and things written about Ai Weiwei’s practice and the intolerance he has endured as an artist, a person, and a mind.  I was blown away that I had the opportunity to celebrate a piece of his work in our national gallery.  I recommend my reader’s further investigation.

Perhaps one of the most potent sculptures that I encountered was this one, by Brian Jungen.  Strong social commentary, Brian Jungen’s found object sculpture do not fail to impact.  Lots to read about Brian on line.  Enjoy.

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If you have the chance to get out to the ‘big’ galleries…you will never be disappointed.  Canada…a prosperous and blessed Nation!  We need to celebrate our opportunities as artists and as citizens.  Never take the arts for granted!

 

 

Christine Klassen Gallery

I’m learning something new about the Calgary art scene every week and I’m so excited about the seeming expansion of visual arts events the city-over.  Given that I’m living in the south, I like it that this includes the Manchester Industrial Park.  One such gem is the Christine Klassen Gallery.  This afternoon I was the beneficiary of fantastic light, scrumptious munchies, a glass of nicely chilled champagne and over-the-moon art works…today, featuring the works of artists Teresa Posyniak, Lisa Matthias and Carl White.

I found the work uplifting, predominantly textural in nature, with a dominance of pattern.  On a warm Calgary day, seeing such works could only lend itself to a sense of optimism.  I had a lovely chat with Lisa and was, given a body of work that I’m exploring, intrigued with her  interest in ecology, natural history and environmentalism.

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Since studying the Private Eye for an integrated educational program based on observations of natural and found objects with jeweler’s loupes, I’ve been collecting samples on my pond study and analysis of atmosphere around a single bush located at the site.  I was immediately drawn to Lisa’s works.  Described in part, on her website…

Her work frequently draws from her experiences as a biologist, and she often captures microscopic images and videos in her creative practice. The idea that everything is part of a larger assemblage, emphasized by the recognition of patterns and relatedness across species and scales of life, is a central theme in her work.

I’ve consistently enjoyed Carl White’s paintings as expressions of a very absorbing and melodic sensibility.  I was happy to reconnect with that feeling today.  It was a beautiful thing that as the huge doors were left open because of the warmth, Carl’s paintings seemed to mirror back to me the spring air, light and sound.  It was truly beautiful.

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Teresa’s work was fascinating for its layers of media and texture.  Surfaces were dripping with colour and intensity.  While reflecting upon ‘Eating the Sun’, I am salivating.  Some art just creates that response in me.    Again, I enjoy Teresa’s link with science.  The following, a summary from the CKG website.

My childhood fascination with “things microscopic” resurfaced about ten years ago when my friend and science journalist Alanna Mitchell shared her research and images of plankton with me while working on her international bestseller SEASICK: the Global Ocean in Crisis. I was struck by the fact that plankton produce more than half the earth’s oxygen through photosynthesis (the conversion of sunlight to carbon-based food) putting oxygen into the air as waste from the chemical reaction. Although these “sun-eaters” keep us breathing, their well-being is being threatened by human activity.

It wasn’t just the science that intrigued me. As an artist, I am fascinated by these beautiful creatures ranging from microscopic marine viruses and bacteria to single-celled plants with stunningly ornate shells, and plant-eating animals.

As I embarked on this ten year journey to create this series of paintings and sculpture, I thought about the myriad ways that pattern is enmeshed in our existence and how the tapestry-like qualities in these almost invisible creatures and plants are echoed in the macroscopic world – architecture, decoration, lace, flowers, trees, skin, clouds, stars – the comparisons are limitless.

Both artists and scientists are keen observers of life.  Science has inspired me to expand my artistic vision to another realm, a world that I yearned to see as a child.  

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This stop was a delightful way to begin my afternoon art walk here in Calgary.  I’ll continue by writing about my ‘second stop’ tomorrow morning, a tour led by Naomi Potter (Curator for Esker Foundation), Jim Hill (owner of Pason Systems and along with his wife, Sue Hill, an enthusiastic collector and visual arts advocate) and Dr. Shepherd Steiner ( Assistant Professor, University of Manitoba School of Art, who has recently completed a manuscript looking at Modernist painting, sculpture, and criticism from 1945–1968) of a portion of the extensive collection of works on view at Pason Systems.  What magic!

I’ll be seeing you again, Christine.

Women Painting Women Painting Women

Just last Thursday, I attended an exhibit at the University of Calgary, Women Painting Women.  Participating was a diverse group of four artists, Isabelle Hunt-Johnson, Donna MacDonald, Bonnie Scott & Wanda Rottenfusser.  I was so happy to be viewing the exhibit with friends, Cheryl and Tami.

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The following is the event descriptor…

Women Painting Women is an international movement that explores how contemporary women painters are handling women as subjects. The goal is to “promote the visibility of contemporary female artists portraying female subjects in the figurative traditions and showcase the quality, variety and breadth of women making figurative art in the 21st century”.

The movement began as a Women Painting Women Blog in 2009 showcasing treatments of the female form as painted by female artists. It has since expanded to include exhibitions in the UK and the US and now throughout the world. We are delighted to bring this international movement to Calgary to encourage and inspire all figurative artists especially women.

This was a truly enjoyable and interesting evening.  The conversations were enlightening and I am so pleased that I had opportunity.  Thanks, Cheryl.

Now…

What I’d really like to see happen is an exhibit of Women Painting Women Painting Women.  This means that you would need to have someone create a photo reference of you, painting women.  The photo reference, after collection, would be dispersed to another female artist participating in the project.  These works would then be archived or even exhibited at some future date.  Message me if you have any interest in this.

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Art Museums

I can hardly keep up with the art exhibits!  Dad and I have been busy this summer.  I have some catching up to do.  The Beaverbrook exhibit at the Glenbow escaped me…slipped right through my finger tips.  I was fortunate that, back in the day, as a recipient of a Teacher Plus award from the Calgary Catholic School District, I traveled Canada, visiting each and every provincial art gallery and the National Art Gallery in Ottawa as well…a single summer immersed in art museums!  During that summer, I spent a great deal of time in The Beaverbrook Art Gallery, enjoying the collection and other works.  It was fun to hear my daughter’s reaction to the experience of standing before the Santiago El Grande (1957) by Salvador Dali, given that I had stood in awe of the piece as a young woman in Fredericton, New Brunswick in the 1990s.  Cayley and I discussed the piece and I pulled out my brochures from the visit…we both wondered about how many people had stood before the piece during its life.  She spoke of a woman who sat beside her and chatted quietly with her about this piece.  Art is so wonderful for its mysteries.  It’s important that we visit art museums.

I drove through Vancouver and missed the Douglas Coupland exhibit.  This is one that I longed to see.  A person could spend their lifetime viewing art, but one has to try to make a balance, especially when life offers so many wonderful things.

Regardless, I’ve got an exhibit on my hit list for today.  It leaves C2 On August 31, so my readers may wish to also stop by to see John Clark’s work.  There’s been some confusion as Calgary has had two galleries merge, with the hope that they will evolve into Contemporary Calgary.  What’s required of the citizens of Calgary is support for a vision that is evolving and likely suffering the pains of transition in many ways.  It can’t be easy.

"The Wheel" (detail), 1986, oil on line, courtesy of the Clark Estate Photo retrieved from FFWD Calgary.

“The Wheel” (detail), 1986, oil on line, courtesy of the Clark Estate Photo retrieved from FFWD Calgary.

John Clark: A Tribute opened about the same time as Dad arrived.  Recently, The Herald published an excellent article about John Clark and his work, an uncommon thing, I find, in Calgary news.  I really wish that the visual arts took up more space in our local papers.  So much is happening.  I guess I have to say that I’m really grateful for FFWD for such as this.  An excellent bit of writing appeared there as well.

Of John Clark, Jeffrey Spalding eloquently states, and this taken directly from the FFWD article linked above…

“John Clark was a seeker: he was somebody who sought enlightenment, sought meaning and sought deeper purpose in things,” says Spalding. “I’m not entirely sure that he found it, and I’m not entirely sure that we’ll find it through his work, but… you’ll find… his desire to try to locate himself in the world and to understand the interaction of himself, nature and culture.”

I think, interesting stuff…enough for me to grab the C train down for a light lunch and a browse.  I hope that my Calgary based readers will take me up on my invitation to stand before these energetic works.  Personally, given my connection with the Lethbridge landscape, I look forward to enjoying Clark’s response to the same.  Tonight I will dish out my thoughts on this special tribute exhibit.

Spending Time With Jeffrey Gibson at Esker Foundation

I didn’t even bring my camera…so, no images except  the scratches I made into my journal.  I attended an artist talk by Jeffrey Gibson at the Esker Foundation yesterday afternoon and learned so much about the context of his work/beliefs.  I am so grateful for having the time in such a magical environment, to hear Jeffrey speak.  Thank you.

The exhibit Fiction/ Non-fiction is shouting out for your attendance.  My readers will be floored!  I am consistently amazed by the arts events happening in Calgary, but this particular collection breaths a different sort of air into our city.

P1130207 P1130209 P1130211Of identifying with a cultural identity, Jeffrey summarizes, as he did yesterday, in this New York Time’s article written by Carol Kino…

“If you’d told me five years ago that this was where my work was going to lead,” said Mr. Gibson, gesturing to other pieces, including two beaded punching bags and a cluster of painted drums, “I never would have believed it.” Now 41, he is a member of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and half-Cherokee. But for years, he said, he resisted the impulse to quote traditional Indian art, just as he had rejected the pressure he’d felt in art school to make work that reflected his so-called identity.

“The way we describe identity here is so reductive,” Mr. Gibson said. “It never bleeds into seeing you as a more multifaceted person.” But now “I’m finally at the point where I can feel comfortable being your introduction” to American Indian culture, he added. “It’s just a huge acceptance of self.”

On exhibit at the Esker Foundation, a fascinating and challenging exhibit of installation work and paintings, a show co-produced with the Illingworth Kerr Gallery of ACAD.  The curators are Wayne Baerwaldt, Steven Loft and Naomi Potter.

In brief, the Esker website describes this collection...

“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.”

Several different programs, both hands-on and curatorial talks/tours, will be given up until the end of December.  These programs, based on my experience, are consistently engaging and a source for new questions and knowledge.

Not to confuse my readers, but this painting by Brenda Draney caught my gaze and held it…so I wanted to post it here.

Brenda Draney. Tent, 2013, oil on canvas, 3′ x 4′. Photo credit Sarah Fuller.

Brenda Draney. Tent, 2013, oil on canvas, 3′ x 4′. Photo credit Sarah Fuller.

“Her paintings are drawn from stories, memories, and family photos, and consider how narratives are constructed and how they, in turn, construct our identities.”

 

My Tangled Garden

Similar to The Tangled Garden by J.E.H MacDonald, my garden has become crowded with late blooms and the weight of weather and intense sunshine.  It has been a marvelous thing, this July, to be able to watch the changes in my gardens as time passes.  I can’t help but see some similarities between the artist’s garden and my own at this time.  I anticipate the blooming of the sunflowers later on in the summer and consider adding some sort of support as they are already providing an easel for the sparrows to roost.

Gorilla House LIVE ART

This morning I wrote a quick post about an event I attended at the John Snow House.  Some other remarkable stuff is happening in ‘our town’!  Art is coming to life!  That’s right!  LIVE ART!

Rich Theroux, along with some like-minded artist-friends have seen a vision come into being this summer,  the Gorilla House!  I think that ‘what it is’ seems to be evolving and based on this recent video of last week’s event, people are lovin’ it!  The concept is that ‘the process’ of making art is honoured as much as the ‘art’…a notion that any artist will speak about, if you happen to back one into a corner and chat for a short while.

Art battles are waged based on themes selected from wee boxes at the beginning of the evening.  People mingle…observers become participants in the process and at the conclusion, a relaxed and informal auction is held.  Great things are happening in our arts community!  Congratulations, Rich!  Thank you for bringing something ‘magical’ to Calgary!

The first step in blogging is not writing them but reading them. Jeff Jarvis

Douglas Williamson: Urban Theology

Between two Thieves. Photo by Collin Orthner

After the Pitch-In event on Saturday morning, I was able to head down to Wallace Galleries and hear an artist talk by Douglas Williamson.  It was so inspiring that I’m certain this week I will continue to think about both the art and the ideas shared by Doug.  The works are luminous and yet gritty, as they deal with the subject of our humanity, both internal/spiritual landscapes and the external/physical landscapes of our surroundings.  An awesome exhibit that continues until May 9. 

Reading the Word. Photo by Collin Orthner