Final Stop: The Studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay

Margy and I got caught up chatting with Phillip and bid Anna and him good-bye with hugs before heading over to Weeds Cafe for a Montreal spiced meat sandwich and Italian soda.  It was a pretty nice feeling.  When you go out on a Love Art in Calgary tour, your brain goes “ZING” and you find yourself processing so much great insight…sometimes it’s a good decision to punctuate!  On we raced to the studio of Mark Vazquez-Mackay.

P1150856Mark’s studio was magical, but how can it not be when he has such a beautiful way of seeing life and his world.  I think that he is extremely generous and very community centered.  His hands and mind are engaged a lot in terms of visual arts in Calgary and we need to be grateful for people like him.  He generates a lot of chatter.  I really do treasure the fact that we got a window into just a small part of what he does and accomplishes.

P1150816I liked learning about his use of ivory black to mix colour.  I liked that he had a Lucien Freud book perched against a wall. (I am nuts over Lucien Freud’s figurative works.)  I was excited to have him demonstrate his exploration of camera obscura, his connection with Vermeer, his insights after reading David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: Rediscovering the Lost Techniques of the Old Masters.  I felt so excited about his vision around public art and his open concept of public art everywhere.  I had a warm heart as he spoke of his son, the innovative and driven musician who worked alongside his Dad to paint his mother’s eyes on his front yard fence. Generally speaking, his time spent with us was jam-packed and invaluable!

P1150832Mark, impacted personally by the spring flood of last year in Calgary, appears to have not missed a heartbeat, but, with determination and resilience, rebuilt and then some.  He is a hero to our arts community.  A good person.

I’ve written sometimes about the objects of our affection…about how our objects hold memory and such.  In Mark’s studio, I felt that I was surrounded in a blanket of so much love, perception and imagination.  Truly remarkable!  Thank you.

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First Stop: Framed on Fifth

My sister-cousin-friend, Margy, and I headed down for our Love Art in Calgary Tour with Wendy Lees yesterday morning, after a nice casual start to the day. Wendy’s signature hot coffee and freshly baked coffee cake were waiting.

P1150730Our first experience was had at Framed on Fifth and a meeting with Hannah White.  From the website,  “Hannah is a University of Guelph graduate with a Fine Arts degree. Framed on Fifth’s owner Hannah White offers a high level of craftsmanship and an excellent eye for colour and proportion. She is an artist and stone carver with over 15 years experience in framing and design.  She opened Framed on Fifth in March of 2011 at the location formerly known as Sheppard Fine Art Services.”

P1150752P1150734Representing local and emerging artists from as far away as Edmonton, there are regular exhibits and openings hosted in this location.  There is an intimate feeling as you step into the space.  Hannah shared this comfortable and warm feeling;  likely the big draw to Framed on Fifth!

Presently on exhibit, Jane Newman’s work.  She is a Banff artist who incorporates mixed media into most of her works, both sculptural and two dimensional collages.  I was fascinated when I got home last evening, exploring Jane’s Blogspot and learning about her processes, artistically, in writing and in horticultural design.  I encourage my readers to take a browse.

I really enjoy that this artist incorporates magical ‘finds’, both natural and person-made, into her works.  The multi-dimensional aspects are very engaging.  I particularly love the piece, all mothers.  Thank you to Hannah for being so engaging and for giving us opportunity to explore a new space.  I hope to make it down for some of the openings.

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I love these people!  Thank you, Loretta, for dancing Latino with me as we waited for start time.  Not certain why I was so surprised by your moves…you felt the beat at your core.  Good to speak with you about my daughter…about MoMo.  I treasure you.

On Friday afternoon, I had opportunity to facilitate again for create! in the East Village.  Today, it was all about frontal noses…about the expression of lips.  The group is so willing to explore.  They achieved great things although I had not even demonstrated tinting and shading…or even painting the face…I just drew on my brand new newsprint pad. (something I am very excited to have!)

Marion contributed a pad of card stock paper to our program.  We love donations such as this!  Wonderful!

Irving, D Rae and Marion all completed their landscapes this week.  Gertrude committed to completing her eyes from last week!  I feel so overcome by the commitment and the warm hearts of the painters at the Golden Age Club.  I am blessed by the experience!

Good to meet you, Alex…to learn that you analyze and that you are working on conceptual works almost all of the time.  It was fun to watch you leave your current work, to play and to add the texture of acrylic paint to your playful coloured ink marks.  A release and a letting go…and no, your mark making did not remind me of A. A. Milne, but of David Milne.  And yes, I also feel awed by Albrecht Durer’s work, especially the Young Hare.  In fact, I once completed a drawing when I couldn’t sleep…worked from his rabbit as a reference.

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Albrecht Durer

Albrecht Durer

Middle-of-the-night sketching.

Middle-of-the-night sketching.

Facing the blank page, Margaret, is terrifying.  Good for you…for making the first mark.

P1150663 P1150664P1150677P1150696 A little blending of your flesh tones, Linda, and there will be some unity created and don’t forget the iris!

P1150669P1150689 P1150674One year, my grade nine students used to hang about the art room over the lunch hour.  They would take turns sitting in the window’s light and I would paint  portraits.  It was fun to share these with my class of portrait artists.

Irving carries through with a number of horizon lines, to develop his landscape piece.P1150679 D Rae adds the foreground tree to the right, to give his landscape piece, compositional balance.P1150680 Gertrude completes a second eye after announcing last week that she wouldn’t be able to do this.  It was just too complicated. P1150682Marion adds a touch of ultramarine in the central sky in order to create unity and a colour story.  She adds some warmth into the area behind the trees and thinks about the light at sunset, bathing the ground in warmth.

P1150683 Gary paints blue. P1150685 P1150686 P1150690 P1150691 P1150692 P1150693 Loretta…utter joy.  While suffering multiple strokes might bring some people down, this lady is a tower of strength and is all about positivity, gratitude and fortitude. Her landscape was also completed this week…such a dancing dappled sense of light.

P1150697Thank you for joining us this week, Jennifer. Your questions about ‘likeness’ and rules to portraiture were challenging to me.  What fun!

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It Takes ‘A Village’

The East Village here in Calgary, is serving me up opportunities that I never imagined possible.  This past week, I’ve had another two sessions with creatives at the Golden Age Club, people who come from all directions, to this location in order to paint.  My inspiration this week was taken from a request on one of the pre-painting forms that I handed out last month…painting a simple landscape.

P1150402When we encounter art, beginning with representational art, there is a mystery.  The mystery is usually related to the illusion of depth that the artist creates, the casting of light and shadow, the techniques involved with creating textures and detail.  It causes within us, a sense of wonder.  There is a very long tradition of landscape painting worldwide, but of course, with the work of our Group of Seven and the vastness of our Canadian landscape, what’s not to wonder about?

Thanks to Wendy Lees of create! who set out fresh baking, hot coffee and tea and brought in an assortment of books that supported our ongoing exploration of colour mixing.  The space is gradually evolving into a wonderful studio space.

Several new painters arrived yesterday at one o’clock…Mr. Green and Professor Plum (lol) and four lovely and effervescent artists, bearing colourful scarves.  Not only was this an encounter of magical people and more-magical conversation, but I saw huge leaps of understanding as we moved from last month’s spheres in space, to foreground, middle ground and background trees.

After our introductory landscape lesson, Tuesday, yesterday’s focus was on contrast…light against dark.  It is easy to see the progression in the works based on this new concept.

Leslie’s work transformed with pops of white and detail.  I brought, to her attention, works by German Abstract Expressionist, Oskar Kokoschka.



Oskar KokoschkaAn earlier piece by Leslie…

January's Painting

January’s Painting

create 20d-rae added contrast and has begun with his deepest value to create a layering for shrubbery….light comes foreward…dark sets back.


A light blue background creates contrast and allows the evergreens on the ridge to visually pop.

A light blue background creates contrast and allows the evergreens on the ridge to visually pop.

Fran is very tactile…incorporates collage, texture and colour experimentation.  She is the first one in the group to move beyond the boundaries or expectations of the classes and explore the concepts in her own way!  Bravo!  She has been thinking about sunflowers…drawn to them.  In the end, she flips her canvas board over and creates all of the sensibility of sunflowers in a non-objective piece.  Beautiful!

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Fran wears jewelery fashioned out of Milkweed pods...when I look at her, I am thinking of monarch butterflies.

Fran wears jewelery fashioned out of Milkweed pods…when I look at her, I am thinking of monarch butterflies.

P1150334 P1150356 - CopyIrving puts down his wee brush…picks up something larger…begins to add water to his palette…lets the colour move…and voila!  He moves away, gradually, from tubal colour to mixing.  Awesome!

P1150315 P1150342 - CopyTexture abounds, and Margaret considers selling me her beautiful mosaic, created while taking Michelena Bamford’s class.

P1150316 P1150338 - Copy Loretta’s work is full of wondrous mixing and has an impressionistic feel…all about the textures of landscape…the sky.

P1150318We missed Shirley yesterday…but she has strong design qualities in her style and approach.

P1150319Your first painting, Professor Plum?  Are you kidding?


Absolutely open to engagement...hunger to learn...wonderful conversation!

Absolutely open to engagement…hunger to learn…wonderful conversation!

Mr. Green adds the figure…not an easy thing for any of us.  I decided not to comment, but to let things happen.  We have a discussion about the central tree and I try to hit on issues around composition and center of interest.


A wondrous blast of conversation and painting shared by all!  Karen and I talk with one another about marketing work…her fascination with large paintings…her willingness to let go in the process and her avoidance of precious attachment in the creative process.

Karen's freedom with washes.

Karen’s freedom with washes.

Needs something in the bottom right?  OK!

Needs something in the bottom right? OK!


A water colourist takes up the challenge of acrylic paint.


Gary, a confident artist who practices abstract painting on large format, produces a landscape.

P1150335 P1150336 - Copy P1150322Georgie needs contrast?  Add red!

P1150343 - CopyFour new friends…

P1150352 - CopyMark sculpting on the side lines…

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Bruce becomes engaged with the science of colour and Jenn, GH buddy joins us on her afternoon off.

Edward becomes engaged with the science of colour and Jenn, GH buddy joins us on her afternoon off.

Wonder.  Gratitude.  Fun!

Reinhold (Les) Pinter

The digital footprint for Les Pinter is not a significant one, but having spent just thirty minutes with him on my recent Love Art in Calgary tour, I have to say that he has left a huge impression.  One excellent bit of biographical writing is found in FFWD magazine dated as far back as 2009 and written by Laurel Smith.  Because of this artist’s complete humility, this article is key to insights on his commitment to a craft that astounds.

I will begin by posting two images for consideration…these small stencils, pulled from a tiny box of “magic”.

P1140912P1140913In the box, are found a great number of tiny cut-outs, each a unique motif to be used again and again for larger works.  I like this description, taken directly from FFWD magazine.

“Some of the messages underlying Pinter’s work are inspired by television because he sees media as being responsible for shaping our personal realities. “Consciousness is affected by what is on the news,” he says. Then he places a grid of cutouts on the glass surface of his television to demonstrate how he screens the programs he watches. The cutouts exist as a kind of fusion between icon and symbol, text and texture, sensation and spectacle, politics and humanity.”

I was in awe of the craftsmanship and the skill in producing these monumental pieces.  But probably most intriguing to me were the many insights and the intellectual processes that occur during the process of creation.  The conceptual qualities of the work boggle me.

P1140916 P1140913 P1140910 P1140908 P1140906 P1140904 P1140903 P1140902 P1140901From this work, Les led us into another intimate space in the SQ Commons and showed us current explosions of another kind!  Very atmospheric, and generally involving cyclonic rotation of great tornado forms, the restrained energy that provides for such systematic creation as the stencil cut outs, expresses itself in bursts of motion, light, darkness and colour.


Les Pinter Cycone Series: 2014 (sic)  Photo Credit: Bart Habermiller

Les Pinter Cycone Series: 2014 (sic) Photo Credit: Bart Habermiller

Thank you for your artist talk, Les.  It was an honour to hear about your process first-hand.

Journeyman: A Ten Year Survey by Bill Rodgers

Bart Habermiller generously led the Love Art in Calgary tour group through the exhibit, Journeyman: A Ten Year Survey by Bill Rodgers, a beautiful complement/continuation of the exhibit that opened last night at the Nickle Arts Museum out at the University of Calgary.

Bill was a huge influence while I studied at ACAD during my year of sabbatical from CCSD #1.  We shared many conversations about my practice and my ideas.  He was a very generous person when it came to authentic communications about my progress.  He saw me through the process of creating these works…

Three Men: Sabbatical at Alberta College of Art

Three Men: Sabbatical at Alberta College of Art

Three Men

Three Men

One of three Library Helpers

One of three Library Helpers

That year I established a new direction for my work and never really looked at the practice of painting for commercial art galleries the same afterwards.  Of course, there were other influences during my study…influences like visiting lecturer, Rene Derouin and the exploration of his work during his Glenbow and CAG exhibits, but Bill Rodgers and artist, William MacDonell were key.  That year of study was a blessing-year.

Because I came from this relationship with Bill Rodgers, the works on display at SQ Commons seemed to reach out and grab me.  It was a truly emotional experience.  I used a pinhole setting on my camera and so my readers will enjoy truer colour if they view the works at this particular link.  I DO, however, enjoy the nostalgic sensibility of this particular lens as it speaks to me personally about the residual experience of Bill’s grander influence on my life.  There is the art and then there is the art of living.

P1140917 P1140918 P1140919 P1140921 P1140923 P1140924 P1140925 P1140926 P1140928Thanks to Bart Habermiller for the generosity and for the interesting vision for gallery spaces as living breathing entities that move beyond ‘place’ and are accessible to everyone.

Love Art in Calgary: Eighth Avenue Place

From the Danish Canadian Club, our group managed its way around/through a bit of a crane obstacle course and headed in to the most opulent of towers,  Eighth Avenue Place (EAP).  I have to say that the maneuvering and laughter just made the entire experience more fun!  Look at the size of these cranes!

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Our fearless leader gives her apologies...

Our fearless leader gives her apologies…


Belay on!

P1140863 P1140867Gordon Menzies, General Property Manager, was inside to greet us and fully prepared with an excellent presentation about Calgary’s premier office tower where wonderful art collides with world-class design!  My writing about this experience will cover three separate posts because there were three distinct art happenings within this same venue.

To begin, my readers may wish to follow this link and read about the first-class collection of Canadian modern art that is exquisitely displayed on the first floor.

One of my favourite Canadian artists is Jack Shadbolt.  In fact, one of my most important art history papers was written about Shadbolt. It was a dream to turn a first corner in EAP and be visually confronted by these panels titled Wild Grass Suite – Quintet!

P1140868 P1140872Next, Jack Bush‘s work!  His piece, New York 55 (1955) is outstanding!  I am rarely featured in any tour photographs because generally, I am the monkey behind the camera, but in this case, I insisted that Wendy snap a couple.

P1140885 P1140886Kath and Jack Bush 2Another one of the Painter’s Eleven, Ray Mead’s Totem (1986) is a beautiful painting to see in such a well lit and welcoming location at the front desk.  Given my father’s service in the RCAF, I am particularly interested in the fact that Ray Mead served in the RAF and that he was born into a Watford family, where my own daughter met, fell in love with and married her husband.

P1140878 P1140874Next, I was aghast to see a Jean-Paul Riopelle piece titled Oliviers (1966).  Who would have thought?  This brought up recollections of gallery-viewing in both Quebec City and Montreal when I did a cross Canada gallery trip some years back.  How surprising that Riopelle should be found in Eighth Avenue Place in Calgary, Alberta!

P1140881 P1140883Next, Le Climat Rouge (1957) by Jean McEwen RCA.  Wendy was captured, seated before this one and looking like she is a part of the painting.  At each stop, the conversations continued about the art, the framing and about all other related topics.

P1140887Wendy and Jean McEwenFinally, Marcelle Ferron’s Chile (1973) exploded with colour.  I was glad to see that a female painter of the automatiste style was represented here.

P1140892To conclude this portion of our EAP tour, Gordon Mensies pointed out several settings of furniture designed by Arnee Jacobsen, Earo Saarinen and Florence Knoll.  A concern for a beautiful aesthetic was evident throughout the space.


Arne Jacobsen 3300 Chair (1956)

Arne Jacobsen 3300 Chair (1956)

Oval Coffee Table (1956) Eero Saarinen

Oval Coffee Table (1956) Eero Saarinen

Much gratitude to Gordon Menzies who came in on a Saturday to expand our knowledge and to enjoy the aesthetic of such an amazing tower.

A fabulous article, accompanied by beautiful photographs is written by Richard White on his blog titled Everyday Tourist.  Visit this write up, from the perspective of a clearly educated gentleman, here.

Love Art in Calgary: Trepanier Baer

From the Lux Laundromat, our tour group headed a few blocks east, to the Trepanier Baer art gallery.  I’ve had a few beautiful experiences there in the past viewing exhibits by Evan Penny and David Urban, so I was looking forward to revisiting the gallery and seeing the Ron Moppett exhibit, Vincent’s Last Studio.

The one really pleasant face to face conversation I shared with Ron Moppett was enjoyed at the Esker Foundation where we chatted about paint by number paintings at length and with interest.

I was really grateful for the generous tour given by Administrative Assistant, Judy Ciccaglione.  This was an informative and very entertaining review of some of the notions that were key to this exhibit.

P1140765 P1140767 P1140770 P1140772 P1140775 P1140777 P1140780 P1140781 P1140782 P1140783 P1140786 P1140788As an extension, Ron Moppett’s mosaic is a formidable piece of public art available for our perusal.

Love Art in Calgary: Clean Clothes Collide with Creativity

FFWD recently covered an interview with Gerrit Rysdyk, owner of Lux Laundromat, down on  14th Street.  Metro also covered a story, here.  I so enjoyed reading Gerrit’s story, one of transformation and creation! Gerrit is a man with a vision.

Above all, Gerrit Rysdyk has high regard for his business…the fact is, he has ‘cleaned up’ the laundromat so that as you enter, you feel a peacefulness, a huge respect and a sense of care.  He described the laundromat as providing the following services.

“Lux Laundromat is a full service coin laundry located in the downtown Calgary. There are 14 single load washers,6 double load washers 5 of which are super high effciency and one triple load for king size comforters and quilts. The hours are 8 AM to 10 PM 7 days a week. Last load is 9 PM. Attendant on hand at all times.”

P1140723 - Copy P1140737 - Copy P1140741 - Copy LuxYesterday’s Love Art in Calgary tour began with coffee cake and coffee at the laundromat, where a recent art opening was enjoyed, featuring Super dark & spooky: So bright and magical!, a mixed media collection by artists SPIVAK and Melinda Topilko of Girl Gang Dance Party.

While SPIVAK’s electronic footprint is sparse, I am including here, a bit of a biography found on the Phantom Wing website for Melinda Topilko.

My transdisciplinary practice includes drawings, mixed media work, photographs and curatorial collages – using techniques typically defined as “crafty.” Of particular interest to me is the examination of feminism, and the relationship between gender roles and interpretations of the “masculine” and “feminine” in visual culture. Much of my raw material is collected meticulously from thrift stores, specifically domestic objects and images from the 1940s to the 1970s, particularly those associated with women. The juxtaposition of images, objects and texts play with perception and expectation that is intended as humorous, but also has a deeper theoretical basis. A key element of my practice is a social one – interactions not only between the viewers and the work, but also the resulting dialogues.

Melinda graduated from the Alberta College of Art + Design in 2012, and is currently working on a second iteration of the exhibition F*** Yeah, I’m a Feminist, and developing Hop on the Magic Art Bus, a travelling (sic) art space.”

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Gerrit also pulled out some works produced by Lisa Cuffley as well as Lady Cox The Factory.

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P1140743 - Copy P1140745 - CopyAlso, from the back office area, Gerrit shared with us a photograph taken of the laundromat in its early days…something found tucked behind machinery and discovered through the clean-up and renovation process.  Beau Lark, who studied at ACAD is presently a Berlin photographer.  Quite a unique glimpse into the history of the laundromat!


P1140754 P1140757The space provides for a ‘zen-like’ experience…warm light baths the work space and art invigorates the walls.

P1140762 P1140759It gave me a warm feeling as I noticed a few Gorilla House hearts stuck onto a couple of counter tops.

P1140756 P1140755 P1140736 - CopyThank you for your hospitality, Gerrit, and we wish you much good fortune with this venture.  I hope that my readers, when possible, will enjoy the services of the Lux Laundromat and take a wander in at your leisure to enjoy the art. Celebrating this tour, along with me and our fearless leader, Wendy Lees; Yves, Lauraine, Sally, Cindy, Steve, Geoff and Larry.

create! on Friday

We gathered at the Golden Age Club in the East Village this afternoon for a second painting activity.  It was a glorious thing to see Harold and the T-girl and to be able to get big hugs from them.  Needless to say, we all miss Gorilla House and I ache for the friends who I met there.  After setting out the basics on the tables, I relished sitting back and relaxing as a number of folk came in…we conversed and shared in treats donated generously by Brulee Patisserie.

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

The participants in create! were enthusiastic and patiently explored the notions of foreground, middle ground and background as well as how to create the illusion of form out of a flat shape.  Building upon the skills explored earlier this week, we began to speak about issues of composition; static versus dynamic and added shades into the mix.  The break out moment was the exploration once each artist had created three spheres, dynamically placed, into their compositions.

I was blessed by the sense of calm that filled the room…bathed in afternoon sunshine, create! was the place to be.  Thanks to Dan’l for the Mona Lisa joke…to Larry for his stories of Vimy…to Fran, for reading the Bricklayer’s Lunch Hour by Allen Ginsberg and for memories of her sister, Louise Marie Rose…to Jennifer, for painting in violet…to Noelle who wore pink and painted pink…for Georgia for asking about contrast…to d-rae for focusing so intently on the details and to two new painters, a daughter and her mother because they painted after years of watching Bob Ross on television (“We don’t make mistakes; we just have happy accidents.”), without ever having painted…for Wendy Lees who shared her dream with all of us when she opened up programs in EV.

It was an afternoon of light and joy and peace.

Create 1

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

create 2

Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees

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Photo Credit: Wendy Lees