7th NYC Independent Film Festival 2016 here we come!

The raison d’etre for our being in New York, the 7th NYC Independent Film Festival, was held from April 27 – May 1, 2016, with my film, The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, being screened twice in the Art/Experimental category during the run. We were very excited about being there for the show and headed out on foot on Thursday evening for the premiere.

The venue, the Producer’s Club on 44th Street, looked as though it was only a few short blocks away on our map, so we decided that we’d eat dinner somewhere near it before the show. Carmine’s, an Italian place we’d chosen, was absolutely packed, so, after waiting for a bit, we decided to bail and find another, less-crowded place to eat, as the clock was ticking away. The Midtown theater district has a million places to eat and all of them are packed but we were able to secure a table at Mama Mia on the corner of 9th Avenue, just down from the Producer’s Club – huzzah!

We weren’t able to linger over a leisurely dinner, though, if we wanted to make the premiere, so it was dine and dash to the venue, right across the street from the eternally playing Phantom of the Opera, for which people were lined up down the block day and night.

Once inside, Ty and I received our official participant tags and tickets for free drinks.

It was fun meeting some of the other filmmakers before the show, including Peter Meng from New Jersey, director of Take the High Line,

and Dominik Pagacz from Montreal, director of Baleful Sloth.

Here are a few shots of my film from the Thursday night screening.

See more pics here. I was really pleased and proud to have had my film selected for the Festival and it was so great to be able to sit in the audience and watch the screening – good times!

NYC Independent Film Festival 2016 Program excerpt

Taking a Small Bite Out of the Big Apple

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New York City in the Spring! Ty and I were very excited to be going to the Big Apple for the screening of my film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis at the NYC Independent Film festival. Since the rates for hotel rooms in Midtown Manhattan are outrageous, we decided to stay at the same place I’d stayed when I was last in New York exactly 30 years ago, the Vanderbilt YMCA on 47th St.

Ty and I got a room on the “deluxe” floor, a prison-cell-sized closet with bunk beds for $160. a night. In addition to the bunk beds, the room had a small desk, one chair, and a tiny fridge (possibly that’s what made it deluxe …). On our floor there were about 10 shared bedrooms with shower; these were newly-renovated and very clean.

I had the top bunk, naturally, since if Ty had fallen through, he would have crushed me in my sleep. Climbing the ladder to get up every night was not for the faint-hearted and helped me with my weight-bearing exercise program.

After arriving at about 8 pm we threw down our bags and headed out on the mid-town, passing the blue-lit Helmsley Building,

stopping first at Blackwell’s Pub for a hot and tasty dinner of chicken curry and calamari. There are innumerable Irish pubs in Midtown and this is just one of them.

Our destination  was Times Square, just down a few very long colourfully-lit blocks …

Here I am blinded by the light of a gazillion LED advertising screens on every building surface, pumping out images and text all night every night.

Along with boat-loads of tourists, the square is also home to a vast cast of cartoon characters wandering around with whom one can have one’s picture taken, presumably for a tip.

I look a bit bemused because I was exhausted, having just gotten home from Mexico only to be whisked off again to NYC within 20 hours without much in the way of sleep.

Time Square was also the destination for scores of bicycle chariot peddlers; I was interested in taking a ride until I saw the price, an exorbitant $5.99 to $7.99 a MINUTE.

We took a minute to admire these beauties.

On the way back to the ranch, we passed the Radio City Music Hall.

Such was our first evening in NYC. Next morning we were up and out the door towards Grand Central Station to check out the scene there. It was full of people taking pictures of themselves in its vast golden space.

Next stop on the Midtown tour was St Patrick’s Cathedral, currently being worked on by construction crews. There is construction everywhere in Midtown and traffic jams day and night.

The church is beautiful and spotless inside, a testament to the wealth of its parishioners.

Right across Fifth Avenue is the Rockefeller Center Atlas sculpture, eternally holding up the world.

I was pretty impressed with how clean in general the streets are; I don’t remember the city being this clean in the 80s. Beautiful gilt statues and reliefs adorn many of the building facades.

Our destination was the Metropolitan Museum and we walked there through Central Park, stopping for a moment to watch the horses, puppet master, and animal life.

I was interested in seeing the Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun and Pergamum shows currently on display here. We strolled through the fantastic Greek and Roman sculpture rooms on our way.

I love seeing the highly decorated rooms of the wealthy, such as this one. Unfortunately, with the dim lighting, it’s difficult to take a picture that’s in focus.

It was also interesting to see the art students at working copying from the masters. Apparently these folks get special permission to do this and are given all the supplies, including the paint and easels, from the Museum.

The Pergamum show, featuring works from the site on the west coast of what is now Turkey, formerly Asia Minor, includes some important sculpture which I had only seen in reproduction before.

The Met has a small selection of contemporary art on display here, including this wall piece by Kiki Smith which I loved.

And this Anselm Kiefer painting and Thomas Hart Benton mural.

Ty had had the foresight to download a NYC subway map to my smartphone, and we made great use of it navigating around the city, a good thing because all the walking was making our feet very, very tired. It was nice to be able to just hop on a train and be whisked back to the room (well, at least back to within four blocks of it, rather than 20 or so!).

See more pics here.

Clay Cooking in the Art Kitchen, Puerto Vallarta

The gang of six on the way to Art Vallarta.

Diego, Frida, and her monkey welcomed us to the Mexican-Morrocan cooking class at Art Vallarta last Wednesday evening. Hosted by the wonderful Nathalie, the class is held in the Art Kitchen penthouse of the San Franciscan condo complex in Old Town Puerto Vallarta, in the air above Art Vallarta.

The artist-painted chair backs are a new addition to the terrace dining table this year and they are gorgeous, as are the beautiful handmade textile place-mats.

Nathalie, dressed in colourful Frida-inspired clothing and apron, greeted us with refreshing blended drinks of tequila, cilantro, and pineapple juice (so much for my swearing off tequila …).

The first order of business was removing the pistils from a bowl of zucchini flowers to be used in a crepe dish.

Next, Janet was deputised to wash the banana leaves for a clay-cooked fish dish, while Maggie stoked the fire in the chimenea, in which the fish was to be cooked.

In addition to the raw clay platters Nathalie had pre-prepared, looking like enormous peanut butter cookies, the dish required a sauce of passion plant seeds from her enormous flowers, lots of cilantro, red onion, and cream.

This is the passion plant flower; it is at least four times as big as the ones I grow on my deck.

After patting out the clay and covering it with a banana leaf, we added a chunk of red snapper, drenched it with sauce, sealed it up in a banana leaf, and wrapped the entire package in clay, being sure that the clay had no holes.

Nathalie was pleased with our creations.

While we made the clay fish pockets, Brook whipped up the batter for the crepes in a large clay dish.

Once the chimenea was hot enough, Nathalie inserted the clay fish pockets deep into its belly, finding room for all nine pieces.

For the main dish, Nathalie had marinated chicken thighs and placed them in the bottom of one of Froylan’s whimsical clay tagines.

Building up the dish into a pyramid of food, we added prunes, red onion, herika sauce,

carrots, zucchini, garbanzo beans, potatoes, lots and lots of cilantro,

pomegranate seeds,

and covered the whole enormous pile with cabbage leaves at the end. The tagine is simply placed on a stove top element and left to cook for an hour or so; since the food that requires the most time to cook is placed on the bottom and that which requires the least at the top, all of it is ready to go at the same time.

The zucchini flowers were rolled into the crepes with a mild white cheese and covered in a roasted tomato sauce.

It was a bit tricky getting all of the clay pockets out of the chimenea’s belly.

Unfortunately, two of the pockets exploded while cooking but mine survived intact.

Once seated at the dining table, we each took turns whacking the clay with wooden mallets to reveal the fish inside.

My favourite dishes were the spicy cold avocado soup and the crepe.

This is what the crepe, when cooked, looked like. I really love the unusual ingredients and unique ways in which Nathalie’s recipes are prepared and cooked – her class is highly recommended!

And here’s the tagine dish. Thanks to Nathalie for a wonderful cooking class and great evening on her terrace!

See more pics here. For more info on the Art Kitchen, go here.

 

Plein Air at Los Muertos

Four of the six amigas decided to do plein air painting on the beach at Los Muertos today. Instead of Adrian Rojas, the usual teacher who is out of town, we had Quetzal Cocoatl instead, who arrived at Art Vallarta with a big smile.

After paying our dues and buying canvases, we rolled down the hill will all our supplies to set up shop under the palapas at the Tropicana hotel.

We were each given a portable easel, selection of acrylic paints and brushes, and the guidance of Quetzal for the morning. It took a few moments to decide where to set up our easels for the most optimum subject matter. I decided to face north towards the pier.

Quetzal sketched out a beach scene of umbrellas and chairs for Barb to paint, while Janet, Maggie and I opted for landscapes, and Kathy decided to do a portrait of Maggie.

A group of French Canadian men from Montreal came by to see what we were up to and spent quite a bit of time admiring our work. As you can see here, I began by sketching out the motif in yellow ochre and started to block in non-naturalistic colours.

Maggie’s first landscape started off well with a beautiful cloudy sky the colour of her shirt.

My piece progressed more or less slowly, since I got a little bored with the subject long before it was actually done.

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Barb’s piece came along nicely, and Quetzal embarked on a portrait of Maggie painting.

Kathy blocked in the background colours around Maggie’s figure.

Janet decided to go for a more naturalistic approach, using blues and greys for her beachscape.

After completing the landscape of Conchas Chinas, Maggie began a new figurative piece we called “The Pink Man”, a portrait of the seated man in front of her.

Everyone continued to work away assiduously on their respective paintings, adding colour and detail.

Below is the actual pink man, a very suntanned French Canadian from Montreal.

I was beginning to like my painting more as I added more pinks, purple, and lilacs to the foreground.

Somehow, the pink man became aware that he was the subject of a portrait image and he, along with his posse, strolled over to check it out.

Happily, the pink man decided that he had to have the canvas as a souvenir of his vacation and a deal was made; he walked off with a MM original, to the delight of all.

Whereapon, Maggie decided to buy the portrait that Quetzal had painted of her, once again to the delight of all.

In these photos, my piece looks a bit washed out – it’s more vibrant in the flesh, so to speak.

All in all, a most successful day of art-making – huzzah! See more photos here. See some of Quetzal’s work here.

More art and fun in the sun

One of the reasons I love Puerto Vallarta is because of the art and old town has some lovely galleries and artists’ studios. On a walk around Basilio Badillo area our first stop was the ceramic studio and gallery of Patricia Gawle. Originally from Florida, I think, Patricia also gives classes in hand building and tile painting in her space.

This day two people were in making clay figures; it was obvious that one of the folks had done this before – her piece was quite sophisticated.

Patricia specialises in half-length figures with various attributes atop the heads; this piece looks as though it has space for something to be added later on.

I would love to take a class here one day. Patricia also has a lovely small dachsund dog who watches over the studio and gallery. For more info on Patricia and her work, click here.

A new addition to the street is a majolica pottery shop with some lovely tiles and painted wooden figurines. Kathy was interested in purchasing some tiles but, unfortunately, the sales girl didn’t know how much they were … surely, as a sales person that would be the one thing that you’d be sure to find out.

Our next stop was around the corner on Constitution to see the studio gallery of Kathleen Carillo, whose specialty is “celebrating the colorful magic of life”. Apparently a number of these figurative works are painted with her non-dominant hand, a technique that allows the artist to work more freely and expressively.

She has a beautiful large airy space, with an outdoor courtyard and a room in back where she paints and hold classes.

Kathleen also runs painting classes abroad and this June is taking people to the French Riviera. For more info on Kathleen, click here.

Along Basilio Badillo the bougainvillea flowers are really beautiful; I never get tired of looking at them.

Contempo Gallery has a nice open air terrace space that overlooks the street, on which they show metal sculpture.

My favourite gallery, for the ambiance and the fabulous sculpture courtyard, continues to be Galleria Dante, run by Claire, originally from Saskatchewan.

I could sit in their courtyard all day admiring the sculpture and the huge flowering bushes.

This year an artist is installed and painting in the courtyard.

We had quite a long chat with her; her name is Consuelo, from California, living the dream in Puerto Vallarta. She told us that she had always wanted to have her work in a prestigious gallery and now she does; it hangs in one of the hallways just off the entrance gallery.

She is a delightful addition to the gallery environment.

The gallery used to be a large family hacienda and you can still see remnants of that past in some of the corners, such as a large marble bathtub. More info on Galleria Dante here. See more of my pictures here.

Yesterday we decided to spend the day at the beach and so the six of us grabbed a taxi truck to the Mango Beach Club at Playa Camerones, north of the Malecon, arriving just as they were opening the place. We were lucky enough to get six loungers and umbrellas in the first row overlooking the ocean.

Two local guys were there with their dog Tango, a young black beast with a perpetual grin who was just dying to get off his leash and chase seagulls.

Around the bay from Playa Camarones we could see the towers of Nuevo Vallarta and the all inclusives in the distance.

It was interesting to watch the pelicans fishing; they must have incredible eyesight to spot fish from so high in the air and be able to catch them in one swift dive to the ocean. One cagey small bird followed the pelicans around, capitalising on their spotting ability to snag some fish of its own.

Small rocks dot the sand here, making the scene look quite a bit like the watercolour painting exercise we did the other day.

This place has pretty good margaritas, as you can see from Maggie’s expression.

A local brother and sister were playing at the sea front, she making sure that he didn’t get into any trouble.

The sparkly foot bling of one vendor caught our eyes, and, before you knew it, an entire flock of vendors were circling around us, tempting us with jewelry, hats, and sarongs of multi colours.

We tried on several of the foot designs, before selecting quite a few, Barb having bargained for a good price on multiple pieces.

What a beautiful place this is!

Walking the Waterfront in PV

Here is our pool at the Condominios Loma Linda, a fantastic development just above Highway 200, with a panoramic view of the bay. Since it’s after Semana Santa, this place is very quiet and we have had the pool to ourselves every day. It is really beautiful.

Kathy continues to work poolside on her watercolour staining technique, using sea salt to get interesting and unpredictable textures.

We decided to walk the Malecon the other day and took the very loonnnnng set of stairs down to the beach from our place. I was surprised to see that the stairs came out exactly at the entrance to the condo where Ty and I had stayed four years ago, just half a block from Los Muertos Beach.

The beach was just waking up from its night slumber, with vendors and salespeople getting their wares ready to go and limbering up their voices for the calls to buy.

We walked out on the pier to watch the boats and birds; lots of people were already lining up for the water taxis to Yelapa.

 

Some of the bronze sculptures along the Malecon are really starting to show their age and there’s a bit of wear and tear that the city really should repair on some of the statuary.

My attempt to climb the ladder was not nearly as elegant as Janet’s.

My favourite sculpture is the one below, of many strange creatures with multi-animaled heads and dissimilar feet.

The male figure in the group below has lost an arm; Janet kindly replaced it for him

Very intricate sand sculptures rest along the water here, with boxes for tips. If one takes a photo, one is supposed to drop a few coins into the receptacle – I obliged.

“El Gordo”, the pear-shaped fat one, is eternally eating his pear.

Our reward for the walk was beers, guacamole, and ceviche at the Mango Beach Club on Playa Camarones. This one’s for you, Ty – cheers!

See more photos here.

Art in Puerto Vallarta – Ole!

Greetings from beautiful Puerto Vallarta! We are here to enjoy some sun and sea and to do some artwork at the fantastic Art Vallarta studio in Old Town. Here we are at the door of Art Vallarta, with Frida mural by local artists Tony Collantez and Quetzal Cuatl.

In the facility is a great show of Valentine’s Day-themed and Frida Kahlo-based artwork curated by Nathalie Herling, featuring art by 40 international and local artists, and other pieces, including paintings, pottery, and murals.

All the work is so colourful and fills the space with energy and joy. Nathalie showed us around as we waited for the watercolour course to begin.

On display are several clay tagines by my clay maestro Froylan Hernandez, very whimsical animalistic pots.

Nathalie is converting the building’s gym into a painting studio; already oil and acrylic classes are taking place here.

This piece is a take-off on the famous Pre-Raphaelite painting of the Lady of Shalott by JM Waterhouse, featuring Frida in the lead role.

Here’s a picture of me wearing one of Nathalie’s Easter bonnets.

Local artist Veronica Rangel is the watercolour teacher and the four of us had her all to ourselves.

She started us off on a exercise in which we painted a seaside scene, using washes and masking.

The classes include paints, brushes, and paper and each of us were given a palette with the same selection of colours to create our landscape image.

I was moderately happy with my work, until, in a frenzy of impatience, I ripped the masking tape off my edges and tore a strip off the paper.

As you can see, Barb and Kathy were pretty happy with their creations.

As well as the landscape exercise, Veronica also showed us a staining technique, which Janet demonstrates below.

Below is my second attempt at the landscape. It looks like a rogue waterspout. Barb decided for her second attempt that she would try a volcano.

Here we are at the end of the class, three hours of fun, and very happy with our productions. Veronica is very lovely and a patient teacher.

See more photos here.

For more info on Art Vallarta, click here.

If it’s Wednesday night in PV, the Centro Art Walk is the place to be; the five of us grabbed a cab from Amapas that whisked us first to the bank to withdraw some needed cash, then to the first stop on the art trail, the Colektika Galeria of contemporary Mexican folk art.

I hadn’t been to this gallery before – it is huge with many rooms and a courtyard out back, run by a guy originally from Toronto who came here to study Spanish.

They have some really fabulous stuff, like this painted wood unicorn, and the skulls below with objects atop. I love these.

The Gallery also has a small section of old artifacts in a glass case, presided over by a grinning skeleton.

Galeria Corsica was next on the tour; here Barb and Maggie are admiring the large impasto portraits.

This gallery, too, has a lovely outdoor sculpture court.

Janet tried out her swimming stroke …

I really love these photographs of figures with faces caked in mud and other organic materials.

My favourite gallery for really contemporary art is the Galeria Omar Alonso, kitty corner from the Cafe des Artistes. Right now it has some fabulous white clay sculptures, as well as knitted wire and chain pieces.

This figure, made from clay, looked like it was constructed from hundreds of white golf tees. The piece below comprises wooden chains dropping from the ceiling to touch a mirror on the floor, making it look as though they drop away to infinity.

Fabulous!

La Pulga Gallery didn’t have much going on, but it has a beautiful outdoor space where we stopped to enjoy some pretty good white wine.

Galeria des Artistes, right next door, has some interesting paintings of male figures in lucha libre masks.

One of the most interesting spaces we visited was the Starving Artist Studio Gallery, started by Rodolfo Blanco, seen below, a really nice guy who chatted to us about the place and his projects.

See more pictures here.

We finished the evening with some tasty nibbles at Florio’s on via Galeana, just off the end of the Malecon, an Italian-Argentinean pizza place with an artsy vibe. Good Times!

The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis selected for the 7th Annual NYC Independent Film Festival

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My film The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, soundtrack When I Die feat. michael dent (Youth “Don’t Feed the Trolls Rainbow mix”) by Jeremy Gluck and Michael Dent, remixed L. MacLean. Licensed under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License, has been selected for the 7th Annual NYC Independent Film Festival running from April 27 to May 1, 2016 in New York City. For more information, click here.

It will be screened twice: Art/Experimental Session April 28, 2016 9:00 pm Producers Club – Studio 3 · 358 West 44th Street · New York, NY 10036 & Art/Experimental Films Sessions 4 April 30, 2016 12:00 pm Producers Club – Theater P · 358 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036. See the trailer below.

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This film also won the Best Technical Achievement award at the Burnaby Film Forum in Sept. 2015.

Luminescence at the Deer Lake Gallery, Burnaby Mar 19 – Apr 9, 2016

Update: Amazing opening of the Luminescence exhibition at the Deer Lake Gallery in Burnaby, thousands of people, line-ups down the block. This group show celebrates the Spring Equinox with works that feature light in all its various manifestations. My video Sunset Song is featured on the wall screen. See my photos here. Read an article about the event here.

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My video Sunset Song will be screened at the Deer Lake Gallery in Burnaby in the Luminescence exhibition of works celebrating the Spring Equinox. The show opens Sat April 19 from 7 – 9 pm and continues until Apr 9. Hope to see you there!

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Here’s some info about the work:

The video Sunset Song explores many different facets of light, both literal and metaphorical. We begin in a ruined cave house in central Anatolia, with a Spring Equinox ritual that I created entitled Nevruz Burning, a performance to celebrate the Middle Eastern New Year and the birth of Spring. Still celebrated today by Turks and Iranians, Nevruz is an ancient holiday based on astronomical calculations and involves the victory of light over the powers of darkness. During Nevruz fire rituals, such as jumping over bonfires, are engaged in as purification rites for the coming year.

Nevruz Burning, created while I was an artist is residence in Ibrahimpasa, Turkey, was made entirely out of found objects: wooden box from Shah Dede’s abandoned cave house, a skull from the Cappadocian valley, bones from the house’s sod roof, stones from a corner of the cave room itself, apricot tree branches, cotton headscarf material, golden twigs, and two banners made from garbage plastic sheets painted with a cruciform design in red and pink inspired by rock-cut church frescos in Cappadocia. In the spirit of Nevruz fire rituals, the performance, held on the evening of the Spring Equinox, saw myself and a local boy light the room and its contents on fire to purify the space for Spring.

From there, the video’s visual narrative takes us on a journey of bodies and sunsets, across fields and through canyons lit by northern lights and faces by molten lava, from sleeping figures and staircases illuminated by lightning and fire, to ruined buildings floating in a sunset sky. The journey ends in a Vancouver landscape where planetary portals to other worlds have opened up as the sun sets, through which we might slip into another realm.

Combining still photographs, both conventional and infrared, and video, Sunset Song is a meditation on the endless cycle of darkness and light, death and rebirth.

More info about the show here and here.

Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria

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In conjunction with the exhibition The Artist Herself: Self-Portraits by Canadian Historical Women Artists running from Oct 2, 2015 to Jan 3, 2016 at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, the gallery organised a parallel show entitled Selfies vs Self-Portraits: Expanding the Genre. The premise of the selfie exhibition was articulated as follows: “We want you to think about more than just your face representing the self. Taking inspiration from the artists featured in the exhibition, we are looking for images that explore the definition of the self-portrait and representations of identity. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to redefine the genre by looking at the spaces you occupy, the things you create, the objects that surround and/or adorn you; all the things that create the likeness of you as an individual”. 

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I was happy to have two of my Double Self-Portrait in a Burning Room works included. For more info on the Historical Portraiture show, click here. For more on the Selfie exhibit, click here.

See a video about portraiture, with some shots of the works included in the show, below.

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