Road Trip II and August in FSJ

After a great visit in Saskatchewan, it was time to hit the road again in the ol’ Subaru, heading west and back to the ranch, with quick pits stops in Edmonton and Grande Prairie on the way back to recharge the batteries with a hit of art. The plan was to visit as many art galleries as possible between Saksatoon and Fort St John  and we managed to see quite a few! Above is a photo of a rest stop at a Gas Station/Coffee Shop in Vermilion, Alberta somewhere along the route. While there I saw a tiny prairie dog pop its head up in the scruffy bit of grass – no photos of him but you can see the burrow in the foreground.

But, I forgot to mention in my last post and so will do it now, as we were heading east to Saskatchewan, we did manage to visit the Muttart Conservatory before blasting out of town. Ty is standing in front of one of the four separate garden pavillions that comprise this plant mecca.

The Muttart is like a greatly expanded Bloedel Conservatory in Vancouver, without the latter’s birds but with sculpture, such as these clay heads.

The temporary Canada 150 pavillion had a lizard crafted from a great variety of plants and flowers and was festooned with Canadiana in the form of flags and umbrellas.

In the desert pavillion we saw something very uncanny … one of those things that make one scratch one’s head, complete with beige travelling hat.

We were using google maps’ GPS function for the entire trip so I never really felt I knew where we were; I was just following the voice, turning left, turning right … not the way I’m used to navigating. But for the most part, it did get us where we needed to go. After a relatively painless 5 hour drive we arrived in downtown Edmonton at the Crash Hotel, a converted SRO crashpad in the ICE district, just across the street from a gigantic construction site which, luckily, was mostly shut down for the two nights we were there.

The first order of business upon arriving was a beer in the very pleasant lobby bar!

Our room was pretty nice, with two queen size beds and a cool mural on the wall. One small downside of the Crash was that the pub downstairs rocked pretty loudly until midnight, hence the two pairs of earplugs placed on each pillow.

It was a beautiful evening so we decided to walk to Syphay Thai restaurant not too far away in the Chinatown area. The trouble came in trying to discern which way was east or south. Neither of us could make much sense of the map because we weren’t able to orient ourselves to any known landmarks, such as mountains, and neither of us knows Edmonton. Ty had been before many years ago but this was my first visit.

We passed by Churchill Square, with its fountain is full glory, and the Art Gallery of Alberta, and just happened to be there as the annual Cariwest Caribbean Festival was kicking off. A DJ spinning tunes, parade costumes and floats, and vendors were all there doing their thing.

I was pretty tempted to take a dip in the fountain – it looked very appealing – but since we were going for dinner, I decided that it would be a bit uncomfortable eating in wet clothes.

After asking a security guard for directions, we headed towards the Chinatown gate and the Thai restaurant.

It looked like lots of old buildings had recently been razed in this area and their land converted (temporarily?) to parking lots. A lot of street construction was also going on in this area.

When we got to the restaurant it was absolutely packed out and of course we had no reservation so it was a bit of a wait but really worth it – the food was excellent. We both really miss Thai food and spicy Asian food in general!

 

After dinner we strolled back to Churchill Square and waited on the stone amphitheatre steps for what was billed as a parade costume competition which was taking forever to get started.

Finally the proceedings got rolling with dancing children, some in costume, and individual competitors in the costume event.

Each participant had a different soundtrack and a unique, colourful costume, some, like the woman below, in one which was part parade float that she pulled behind her as she danced.

I was able to get just a few photos, and none of the really elaborate ones, because both my cameras ran out of juice … sigh.

Another fortuitous happening in this part of town that we did not know about was the Saturday downtown Farmers Market occupying quite a few blocks just around the corner from our hotel.

Once again, trying to find our way from the Farmers Market to the Alberta Craft Council Gallery, we got lost … but, after turning on the ol’ GPS, finally found ourselves at the right place. This gallery and gift shop houses an enormous amount of items, and has exhibition spaces both upstairs and downstairs, the latter huge.

Upstairs, the ceramic work of Ken Lumbis was what I had wanted to see, since he will be showing with a few others in our gallery in November. His work is pit-fired abstracted landscape wall panels, behind Ty in the photo above and on the wall below. He fires these in the BBQ pit in his Grande Prairie back yard.

The gallery window space was full of beautiful coloured glass, something I’d like to see at the Peace Gallery North, since we do have a few glass artists here.

The downstairs space had a expansive show of women’s needlecraft and fabric works. Both of us loved the yarn-bombed chair below.

The space reminded me a bit of one of my grandmother’s basements in the 1960s, with its somewhat shadowy ambience and pillars.

Just down the street is Latitude 53, an artist run centre, where we saw some quite interesting drawings on mylar by a Latin-American artist, who also created a floor piece out of coloured sawdust that was designed to be eradicated by visitors’ footsteps over the course of the exhibition. It reminded me a bit of the sand mandalas done by Buddhist monks designed to be erased and blown away as soon as they’re completed, encouraging viewers to practice non-attachment to the things of the material world, all of which are destined to disappear.

I contributed to the floor piece with a little dance dust-up.

Back down at Churchill Square on our way to the AGA, I was once again tempted by that fabulous fountain …

At the AGA we saw some interesting stuff, including the Alberta Biennale works of Alberta artists.

I’m getting more interested in works like the piece below, that consist of repeated items in a minimalist palette (but not for myself, of course – just can’t leave behind my predilection for bright colours).

The gallery’s fourth floor has a nice outdoor seating area that overlooks downtown.

While there, we saw a collaborative project between an installation artist and two musicians, who were creating a soundtrack for the piece below, hanging strips of mylar, coloured lights, and a stool.

We decided to hop in the car to get to the 24th street commercial galleries that had been recommended to us, and managed to take in almost all of them before it was time to head back to the hotel for a rest.

Another lunch time, another great Asian feed, this time Japanese-Albertan ramen soup bowls with prairie incredients – really tasty.

The Peter Robertson Gallery had some very interesting works; I especially enjoyed seeing the Colin Smith pinhole camera photos again – I really love these, especially the ones taken from the inside of one of those tiny round Boler trailers. (Years ago my Dad used to muse about getting a Boler trailer when he retired, using it to both live in and cruise around the country …).

Our last evening in Edmonton was spent in the university district south of the river with artist Sara  and her husband Ken who treated us to a lovely dinner and a look around her downstairs printmaking studio.

Back on the homeward trail the smoke from the BC wildfires was very apparent as soon as we got some 40 or so kilometers northward. At moments on the trip back we couldn’t see more than about 100 meters in front of us – not good.

We made a quick pit stop in Grande Prairie to visit the studios of Ken and Carol,  Ken a ceramic artist and Carol a mixed media painter, and wood sculptor Candace, and really enjoyed seeing these artists in their own habitat.

Below Ken is showing us the BBQ pit in which his pieces are fired.

Unfortunately, my photos of the second visit didn’t turn out but here are a few photos of Candace taken by Chris Beauchamp. She’s a wood sculptor, using driftwood gathered at her Galiano Island property and worked on in her home studio in GP.

Back on the ground in FSJ the current gallery show is Summer Salon: Big Road Roller Prints, small prints, and paintings by gallery artists. As well as big wood- and linocuts printed at the Big Print steamroller event in June, paintings and more, there is a nice display of colour woodcuts and related plates by gallery artists created at the recent workshop we attended. Below is a photo of me at the epicentre of downtown FSJ, 100th Avenue and 100th Street, across the street from the Cultural Centre and the Gallery.

Summer Salon poster

The Gallery Artist in Residence program continues with a pretty full slate of people joining me in the gallery to share their creativity. This past week Sherry and Barb rocked the clay, hand building pinch pots, mugs, and bowls to the delight of gallery-goers, including one very tiny budding artist.

And Barb D’s “Magnolia Outfall” project got off to a great start in the gallery this past week, as folks with ideas gave their input. She put out the call for creative input into this project which will ultimately result in a fabric wall hanging.

Barb’s 92 year old mum, an old school miliner and tailor, joined her in the gallery for the afternoon.

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It already feels like Fall around here, with the temperature hovering around 19 or 20 and a coolish breeze blowing throught town. We took advantage of the sun to make another trip out to Charlie Lake to see the summer flowers that bloom everywhere here for a very short time.

The Flying Colours artists convened in Baldonel, a rural suburb of FSJ, at Bev’s place for an afternoon of garden appreciating and plein air artmaking.

I am amazed at the size of the gardens folks here cultivate in their “spare” time; Bev’s is huge, with a greenhouse full of flowers and greenery and a fenced area of food crops, including a bumper crop of berries.

Below is the masterpeice in acrylic and collage I created on Bev’s back deck.

And, finally, for this post, last year at the Annual Art auction I was lucky enough to win the grand prize, a helicopter ride for 4 over Fort St John with Canadian Helicopters. Sunday morning was the moment and saw Ty, Sandra, her grandson Caellum, and I out at helicopter lane on a gorgeous sunny morning for our trip. The office has a resident cat, Cherry, who took an instant liking to Ty. After many pats, we were off on our flight.

Below is a video I made of the journey: I thought I might be terrified but it was not the case, perhaps because the view was so expansive. As we left the airport we flew right over Sandra’s house; you can see it in the video, the silver house with a red roof on its own in the field. The furthest extent of our trip was the Rose Prairie Beatton River-side property of Sandra’s brother Bruce, whose place we had been to a while back. It was amazing to see the snake-like extent of the Beatton River canyon from above. As we flew back towards town and Site C, we cruised right over the Hudson townhome and condo complex – see if you can spot our place!

See more photos here, here and here.