Easing into a Northern Fall

I am back on the hiking trail, getting some last walks in before the snow flies. The first two weekends in September we have gone to the Beatton Hills between Fort St John and Cecil Lake to climb up and along the ridge that fronts the river valley.

Sharla, Sandra, and Irene are mountain goats and so are the three dogs we travelled with, Gus, Kaiser, and Bear. Getting up to the top of the ridge is STEEP and, since the soil is so dry, slippery!

Although not nearly as long a trip as up to Battleship Mountain the trail is almost as steep.

There are several small dips before the trail finally reaches the top. Along the way we pass many different types of berry bushes and, of course, the Trembling Aspen trees.

Thankfully, the berries this year have been very lush so any bears in the area will be well-fed and not interested in us! (Especially now that I have seen the movie Backcountry, I am happy that a bear has not yet intruded into my space!) Good old Gus, the 14 year old miniature Schnauzer, continues to amaze me with his stamina.

In the far distance of the photo below looking west you can see the highway that leads back to the highway that leads back to FSJ.

Looking east you can see the Beatton River down below.

The photo below shows a mini-ridge partway up the hill.

And way down below you can see one of the vehicles parked along the roadway.

We keep climbing higher and higher …

Finally we reach the top and the ridge that runs along the hilltop.

The dogs are as happy as we are to be finished with the onerous uphill journey.

We saw a couple of crows harassing a hawk in flight.

At the very top is a pumpjack, a small oil well. These are everywhere in the landscape here.

The landscape is really beautiful; we rested here and had our lunch over looking this valley.

Far down below was the ubiquitous wrecked car abandoned in the fields.

Across the highway from the hill on which we are hiking is another matching hill and on its ridge, is Sandra’s house, below silver with red roofs.

I was a bit nervous about the idea of coming down the same way we went up, because it was so steep and slippery, but we found another trail leading off to the left which Sharla believed would lead us down to the river through the forest of aspen.

After one wrong turn, lo and behold, yes, the trail did take us down, albeit very steeply (but not as long as the one that brought us up) to the river below.

Another weekend, another killer trip up the Beatton hills, this time with Sharla, Shelley, and Sharon.

This day was hotter, a perfect late summer day.

We had a bit of difficulty with this selfie, trying to get all four of us, plus the background, into the frame, good for quite a few giggles.

Gus was apparently really bagged after last week’s walk, but here he was back again this time for more.

As you can see, the water in the river is very low – it has been a hot and dry summer here.

Finally, almost all the landscaping is done around our complex. Unfortunately, the landscaping company just left most of the plants sitting around in pots for weeks without water so many of the trees and shrubs they finally planted were already dead. Unbelievable. No-one seems to care about this except me – I find it atrocious.

It has been very dry here for weeks and the forest fire risk is very high. Ty & I were in Fish Creek Urban Forest for the first time in a couple of months and I was very surpised at the number of dead conifer trees.

Down closer to the creek there were fewer dry, dead trees and more greenery. Here, too, the soil is dry, dry, dry, but, amazingly, there is still some wet mud in spots down close to the water. The Creek is very shallow right now, too.

We had a good long walk, two loops around the lower portion of the park, before heading up and out on what proved to be a very hot Labour Day.

At the beginning of this week the temperature dropped to 10 degrees with an arctic wind blowing; I was convinced that winter was coming … but yesterday it was back up to somewhere in the 20s, hot and dry. Things change up here fast in the north country!

Artists continue to join me in the gallery to share their creative journey; so far this month, mixed media and textile artist Barb Daley and painter Laurie Yates, a retired school teacher, have been in, sharing their process with gallery visitors.

Barb is working on some fabric pieces for a group show in November called Varieties of Abstraction. These are part of her homage to Leonard Cohen and the exhibition dates nicely coordinate with the anniversary of his death.

Barb’s mom Jane continued to join her to share stories about the olden days and her life as a tailor back in the day.

Laurie decided to work on some paintings while in residence.

It’s great to see the young kids in the gallery getting interested in how to be creative. Here is Sarah, one of my yoga teachers, with her son Henry who is in his first year of an arts-based preschool held at the Cultural Centre.

The gallery’s furnace is being replaced, which has left the backroom in disarray and meant that everything in storage had to be brought out and put into the multipurpose room next door until the messy, noisy, and smelly (of metal being cut) job is finished.

Laurie braved the less-than-pleasant circumstances to share her ideas with interested folks on her second visit.

I mentioned a while back that I was doing the set projections for the Alcan Craze, a play dealing with the building of the Alaska Highway here 75 years ago. My work on it is done – I have created about 34 short video clips, from 6 seconds to 3 minutes long; now I just have to wait to see how the images look when projected at the tech rehearsal next weekend.

Alcan Craze of '42

I attended one of the rehearsals at the Cultural Centre to see how things were going so far. Director Michael Armstrong and playwright Deb Butler were being interview for the local shaw Cable channel.

The set is pretty minimalist because the projections, on the white cyc (curtain) at the back, will in essence set the scene and elaborate on the action.

Some of the folks from Buddy Holly are also in this production, as are many of the back stage personnel.

I’m looking forward to seeing everything come together at the tech rehearsal.

The weekend of Sept 8-9 saw us rolling down the road again to Grande Prairie to get another art fix. Ty had the week off so we decided to hit the openings in the city, featuring several of the Fort St John and Dawson artists.

Several of us met up at Earl’s, just next door to the Sandman where Ty & I had booked a room – that was very convenient!

Although Ty & I have been through this city a few times, we have never actually investigated the downtown scene so this was the perfect opportunity. GP is about the size of Nanaimo, although with fewer people (about 61,000), and is completely flat. It has three galleries, The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie (below – a contemporary art facility that is the second largest in Alberta),

the Centre for Creative Arts, housed in what looks like an old school building, and the Grant Berg Gallery, a commercial space.

The Centre for Creative Arts was hosting two shows opening this night, the Peace Region Federation of Canadian Artists Moody Hues show and a solo exhibition of paintings by a local GP artist.

In addition to the exhibition spaces, this place also has a gift shop and several studios in which to take classes and produce one’s own work for an extremely reasonable price.

Since both openings were happening the same evening, and the two exhibition spaces are very close to one another, people could go back and forth between the two, which was handy.

We slipped out the back door of the Centre and headed over to the AGGP, a recently renovated and expansive facility in the Montrose Cultural Centre. Interestingly, the main floor gallery was just getting set up for an exhibition of Lyndal Osborne, an installation artist from Edmonton whose work I really admire. She used to be a printmaker but has been working in very large-scale multi-media installations with organic media for the past twenty odd years. See her work here. I curated a show at the Nanaimo Art Gallery many moons ago that included Lyndal’s work.

A really good turnout of people from Fort St John and Dawson Creek came out for Mary Parslow and the collaborative exhibition of mary mottishaw and kit fast, as well as the pit-fired ceramic work of GP artist Ken Lumbis. It was great to see so many people I knew make the 5 hour return treck to support their fellow artists. Artists are always very grateful to the folks who come out to celebrate the sometimes years-long creative process that is finally unveiled at these openings.

mary and kit are conceptual artists whose work addresses human interventions in the landscape and the legacy of industrial oil and gas production in the Peace region.

Mary’s prints looked beautiful; unfortunately, for picture-taking at least, there were too many people in the room to get good pics of the works itself.

Ken Lumbis, whose works will also be featured in the Varieties of Abstraction show at our gallery in November, has a nice selection of his smaller ceramic wall pieces installed downstairs.

We had intended to hit the Grant Berg gallery on our way out of town back to FSJ but ended up leaving before the Gallery opened so that will have to wait for another visit.

We stopped for lunch in Dawson at a 50s style diner that had been especially made for the restaurant proprietor in Alberta, complete with chrome fixtures and Buddy Holly music.

And, finally for this report, yesterday on a wonderfully summery day, Sandra, her inlaws, and I visited the shores of the Peace river on the property of one of her friends, to get an overview of Site C and its progress. Sandra’s friend Esther is a horsewoman and owns 1 or 2 sections of land along the river ridge.

We walked across her well-mown fields down to the ridge overlooking the river, accompanied by what looked like an Anatolian sheepdog, a huge and friendly beast.

From here we could see quite far in each direction and observe the work that has been done on preparing the dam site. We wondered whether Ty was driving around in his pickup as we were watching from above.

 

The treaty 8 bands have a watch-shack here, with a telescope set up to observe the goings on below.

Two photos by Don Hoffman adorn the walls and remind visitors of what the river valley used to look like before construction began.

See more here and here.

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.

Summer Road Trip I: Saskatoon

For Ty’s August holiday we decided to cruise 14.5 hours east down the road in the wheels to the Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites, a 5 star establishment half an hour south of Saskatoon in beautiful Dundurn, Saskatchewan, pop 500. Its proprietors, Tracey, Darrin, Tango, and Molly, really rolled out the red carpet for us for the 4 days we were there.

One of the very beautiful features of this hacienda is the Tradar Trail (est. 2010), a tree-lined path around the perimeter of the estate, created by Tracey and Darrin and walked by them and their faithful beast Tango twice a day, summer and winter.

From the trail a walker can gaze out over the vast fields of wheat, canola, and peas.

Tango enjoys his daily jaunts, when he’s not hunkered down eating fallen apples from the laden apple trees close to the house.

This view from the homestead shows, on the left, the original farmhouse, now a tractor garage and nesting area for local swallows, the 100 year old barn, used for storage and the odd barn dance, the solar panel array, and the water pump.

Our first day was cloudy, with the odd bit of torrential rain, a perfect day for gallery-going in the city.

Art Placement Gallery, one of the art spaces downtown, had an expansive show of prairie landscapes by a doyen of the prairie painting scene, Dorothy Knowles, who celebrated her 90th birthday in April.

There are still a few old early twentieth century buildings downtown with nice facades and elaborately decorated lobbies, such as the one below. Saskatoon does not have many highrises and the ones that do exist are not very tall. Most of the buildings are no higher than the one below. It has a pleasant, compact downtown area.

Tracey and Darrin were very good tour guides, showing us around the cool parts of town where galleries, studios, pubs, and coffee shops abound.

Ty fired up his holiday fedora, a newish travelling hat that replaced his previous short stovepipe straw hat; with it on, he can always be found in a crowd.

We didn’t see a lot of street art, but a few murals caught my eye.

Seeking out galleries was thristy work so naturally we had to duck into one of the local coffeehouses, which just happened to house the remnants of the Void Gallery’s art collection on its walls.

Initially we sat outside but spitting rain chased us inside, where we watched a chalk artist cum barista execute some underwater images on the blackboard.

While waiting for the rain to subside, we had a fantastic lunch at the Seoul Koren Restaurant just down the block, big bowls of spicy seafood soup for Ty & I, beef, egg, and noodles for Darrin, and veg for Tracey – really great if you like red chilies, which we do! (The below picture shows Darrin and I discombobulated, not sure whether we would actually be getting a feed anytime soon).

 

Sufficiently sufonsified (sp?), in other words stuffed with shrimp, mussels, and noodles, we headed over to the Craft Council gallery to check out the exhibit of ceramic artist Jack Surs, a senior artist from Regina who, to celebrate his 82 birthday, had 82 pieces on display, some of which were enormous.

I was very impressed with his work, especially some of the larger vessels, and many of them had very intricate surfaces designs and glazing. If I had untold money and room space, I would certainly have purchased a few.

He made a number of quirky vessels with tiny animals on top.

I have done a small bit of ceramics and was only able to create tiny candy dishes on the wheel; it takes a lot of upper body and arm strength to throw pots. I am amazed that an 82 year old man was able to make these vessels – they really are incredible (although possibly the huge ones were created earlier …).

The second day dawned sunny and warm – huzzah! – so a bike ride along the river was in order. The Bike Doctor, from whom we had previously rented our steeds, didn’t have any rental bikes available – a brief moment of devastation ensued, and the 5 star rating of Qualityman Inn, Day Spa, and Suites was in jeopardy – but Darrin made a quick call to the Bike Universe and lo and behold, they came through for us with 4 bikes from their 7 bike rental stock.

Suitably set up, we rolled river-wards onto the north path which took us through rolling grassy knolls on the path along the water, past a beautiful, but closed, public pool, and the grounds of the former Saskatoon Sanatorium.

After cruising across one bridge with a pedestrian and bike path running beneath the cars, a great innovation that Vancouver should adopt, we eventually headed back over another bridge with a great view of the river and the Bessborough hotel and downtown.

We passed through Saskatoon’s equivalent of Shaughnessy, with its stately homes and tree-lined streets.

Back along the river we had a great view of the new Remai Modern Gallery, a vast new emporium of art slated to open in October: I was a bit disappointed not to be able to visit it on this trip.

The park areas along the river are beautiful but we were working up a powerful hunger from our cycling explorations, and getting a bit saddle-sore, so pulled into the Cut Restaurant just around the corner from the Bessborough for some sustenance.

Much of downtown is in the midst of roadworks, not surprising since summer is the only time that’s possible here, and orange tape was up many places around the city.

We had a tasty snack on the patio after Darrin had helped the wait staff erect the umbrellas necessary to keep us out of what turned out to be quite a hot sun.

After a quick zip through the Bessborough Hotel to check out the decor, we returned the bikes and returned to Dundurn to rest and recuperate.

The two old farm houses across from Tracey and Darrin’s place are even more rickety than the last time I was here, leaning ever more groundward – not sure how much longer they’ll be able to stay erect. If there weren’t such a tangle of underbrush in the field making it very difficult to get out to them, I would love a closer look.

Just off the Tradar Trail Tracey and Darrin have created a pet cemetery, where the remains of animal friends rest under carved wooden headstones. At certain times of day, the sunlight comes through the tree leaves at just the right angle and  strikes the glade with a golden glow.

Every angle of view across the fields from each corner of the property is interesting, especially with the different crops each being a distinct colour.

I remember thinking when I first came out to the farm from Vancouver that it was a little spartan in terms of vegetation and greenery. Well, after living in northern BC for a year, it seems incredibly lush and diverse here. All depends on perspective!

Below, surrounded by green, you can see the main house in which Darrin grew up, the Qualityman 5 star hacienda.

Tracey is currently researching the history of the big red barn; it’s more than one hundred years old and was the biggest barn built in these parts. On the main floor various treasures are stored; a tractor, Darrin’s first car, below, a Lincoln Continental, old windows, and other farm paraphernalia. Farmers never throw anything out because you never know when it might come in handy.

The upper floor is cathedral-like and is the venue for barn dances, the last of which will be coming sometime soon. The bathtub finds a new use as a cooling tub for drinks when the dance is on.

This would be an incredible space for an art installation – I will have to ponder the possibilities …

The booming metropolis of Dundurn is about 5 kilometers south of the Qualityman hacienda and houses about 500 souls; it also has a cemetery in which rest the pioneer families who tilled this land in the past. We stopped to pay our respects on a windy, sunny day.

Some of the headstones are quite eroded and covered in an orange organic material that is slowly obliterating the surface lettering.

When I was last here with the ladies in 2013 we had walked the Dundurn labyrinth and I was interested to see whether it was still intact – well, it sortta is …

In a park area next to the village’s church, the labyrinth was finished in 2003 and over the years has slowly started to disappear back into the grass from whence it came. I suppose not enough people are walking it to keep the path from becoming overgrown.

Speaking of walking, Tracey took Tango around the block to let him have a good sniff of the area.

Some of the houses here are from the beginning of the 20th century and remind me of the older houses in lower Lonsdale where my grandmother lived.

The garden of the house below looked fabulously full of blooming flowers; upon closer inspection we realised that almost all of them were fake. Odd.

The robin in the bird bath isn’t fake, though – definitely the real deal.

Below is a photo of the road back to the Qualman farm, past several very shallow bodies of water that host many duck families.

On the way back to the city one day we passed by the homestead and studio of a very well-know Saskatoon sculptor (so well-known that I can’t remember his name at the moment) who seems to be an avid airstream trailer collector.

Also in the area are several new mega-house subdivisions, products of the recent and now bust Saskatoom boom.

We saw a beautiful white horse in a brilliant red barn.

Darrin’s sister Lori and kids from Houston were also visiting and we spent some time at the fair with them one afternoon. Of course, Ty was bugging me to go on the ferris wheel but I declined firmly; a fear of heights makes these rides not at all enjoyable to me.

Ty, Darrin, and the kids enjoyed the ride below, being whipped around at about 200 miles an hour.

Tracey the hat lady wisely decided to pass and kept cool in the shade with her many chapeaux.

Very foolishly, I suggested that we all try the Octopus – it looked relatively tame from the ground but was definitely a different story once it got going.

I was utterly terrified, which Ty and everyone else found quite amusing.

And, once again, Darrin emerged victorious at Whack-a-Mole, keeping his crown and adding a Nemo to his collection.

I took several infrared photos of the farm and am starting to play around with them. Below is a picture of Frankie in the Field, the metal sculpture that Barb, Christine, and I created the last time we were here.

Good times! Thanks so much to Tracey and Darrin for their generous hospitality! See more photos here. Stay tuned for Part Two of the summer road trip.

Arrivederci New York – Hasta Luego!

Saturday dawned blue sky and sun so another walk through Central Park was in order to get to our destination of the American Museum of Natural History on the west side of the park.

Unlike the previous day, when there had been few takers for the horse rides, this sunny day attracted a lot of patrons for both the horses and the bike chariots.

We saw some beautiful blue birds being fed, and a fellow stroking a pigeon.

Strangely, to us, most of the green space is fenced off here. Some areas have signs advertising the space for “passive recreation” only. There are also a number of interestingly-designed children’s playgrounds fenced off from the rest of the park.

It was a pleasant walk up to 77th St and we saw a grand parade of walkers for a Children’s Cancer Cure procession wind their way along the road, along with the plumed horses, rocket racer cyclists, and bike chariots.

We also caught a few minutes of a couple of different Little League games, one with boys and the other with girls, all playing at more or less the same level.

There are quite a few dining and drinking pavilions in the park; in the sun, they look very pleasant.

Our route took us across the park and up the West Side to the Museum, whose lobby contains a couple of gigantic dinosaur skeletons. The lobby was packed with families and kids, all excited about the visit.

Our favourite rooms on this visit were the gem and mineral repositories, with their collections of fantastic crystals and meteorites.

We also saw a magnificent multi-coloured ammonite in one of the museum’s lobbies.

Museums are hot, hard work and we were dying for a beer on a sunny patio but that was not the easiest thing to find in this neck of the woods. We walked over to Broadway and finally found one patio that would sell us a beer at a Mediterranean food joint.

On the way back we paused briefly to people watch at Columbus Circle, crowded with both locals and tourists, all clusters around the many food trucks and trailers. Lots of halal meals here.

For our final evening in the big city we decided to have dinner Midtown and walk around the streets in the area.

Times Square was hopping as usual as we tried to find a place to eat.

We finally found a seat at Serafini’s on 49th and enjoyed some really great Italian food.

We capped off the evening by exploring Rockefeller Center, including the fantastic murals on the interior walls and ceilings, the art deco wall reliefs, the gardens, and the dry ice arena angel.

We found out that Sunday, our departure day, the Five Boro Bike Ride was taking over the streets of Manhattan so we were up and out of the Y early to make sure that we would not get caught in some kind of transit nightmare. Backtracking our trail on the subway and bus was pretty straightforward and we had no difficulty in arriving at La Guardia in plenty of time for our flight.

So long New York – It was a great trip! Who knows if we will see you again. Cheers!

Morgan Library, Whitney Museum and Broadway Theater

One of the great things I remembered from my last, long ago visit to New York City, was the JP Morgan Library, a repository of rare books, manuscripts, and art which we decided to check out on our second day in the city.

Since I had been here last, the Library has gained a fantastic new addition to its premises, greatly expanding the exhibition space.

I find smaller venues like this one much easier to take than the vast expanse of, say, the Met; the viewing experience is more manageable.

The entrance to the Library proper reminds me of a Renaissance villa or chapel with its beautiful harmonious architecture and marble cladding.

In one of the rooms is a collection of Mesopotamian cylinder seals and Egyptian cuneiform and hieroglyphs; the seals are the earliest form of printmaking, used to mark ownership or affirm identity.

In another section of the library is the Morgan’s collection of rare books, including three copies of the first printed book, the Gutenberg Bible, below.

And several rare Books of Hours are also on display. The Book of Hours is designed for prayer and contemplation, with images and text used for each specific hour of the canonical day.

Several of the rooms also have priceless paintings, such as this Madonna and Child tondo by Botticelli.

In addition to the permanent collection, the Library also hosts temporary exhibitions; on display now are books by Andy Warhol

and an exhibition of photographs entitled Sight Reading, with both historical and contemporary photos of the natural world.

We then made our way by subway down to Greenwich Village to check out the new Whitney Museum, riverside on Gansevoort. It was a bit tricky to find, since we’d inadvertently gone too far south on the train and had to backtrack through a somewhat confusing maze of streets. Ty decided he was not up for this particular viewing experience, so he staked out a resting spot outside on one of the metal chairs.

The museum is a large cement and metal structure, with outside viewing platforms and sculpture displays on the top three floors. Since the lineup for the elevators was huge, I elected to make my way to the top 8th floor via the staircases.

From the top floors, there is a commanding view out over the river and city below, including the High Line, a mile long park stretched along a disused rail line just below the museum.

Among the exhibitions was an interesting multi-media show about the post 9-11 state by Laura Poitras, including an installation in a darkened room in which visitors lay on a large bed-like couch to view the video screening on the room’s ceiling.

Several floors were taken up with a portrait exhibition drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection.

In one of the rooms, I spotted a fellow that we’d seen at the Met the other day with an unusual tie … he told me that it was part of a limited collection.

After rejoining Ty on the ground, we headed to a packed Bubby’s, right across the street, for some fried chicken.

After seeing the film the night before, we had to check out the High Line and walked part way along its length before strolling to a nearby subway station for the ride back.

Miles of walking required an hour of feets-up rest before we hit the road again for my first Broadway show at the Samuel J Friedman Theater for the just-opened critically acclaimed The Father, starring Frank Langella and Kathryn Erbe, her of Law and Order fame.

We elected to have a drink across the street at the Glass House Tavern, a standing-room only bar in which, when we appeared at the back of the room, a waiter quickly brought out and assembled a table for us to sit at – that’s service! In general, I found the service everywhere we went to be excellent here.

We arrived at the theater early, taking our seats near the front. The show was great, but grim, an account of the descent into dementia of the titular character played by Langella. The audience, not surprisingly considering both the subject matter of the play and the cost of the tickets, was old, very old, and some were very upset, crying as they left the theater.

Thus ended another wonderful day in the city.

See more pics here.

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

laurel_Official_selection

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.

Random PV Moments

The upstairs amigas getting ready for the day.

An old town bug.

At the Three Hens and a Rooster Saturday Artists’ Market.

This small market is held in what was formerly a restaurant whose proprietors apparently had to get out of town fast.

Katrina guarding a selection of books.

Barb teaching the coffee shop man some moves.

Another larger Farmers’ Market in Old Town at Lazaro Cardenas Park is also on Saturdays; these two young female mariachis serenaded us with song and violins.

Right across the street is Page in the Sun, one of my favourite coffee places in old town.

There’s a beautiful glass and ceramic mosaic on the wall of the elementary school here.

Another day, another early morning coffee on the Loma Linda deck. Maggie blows out her 21st birthday candle.

Maggie watercolourised Barb and I.

The artist at work – Maggie painted lots of acrylic on canvas works on the deck here.

Another day, another coffee at Page in the Sun, here with Penticton artist and plein air master Angie McIntosh, who has a condo and studio here.

We saw lots of local women getting ready for some kind of performance at Los Arcos amphitheatre.

Janet had her photo taken with some Aztec dancers on the malecon.

Janet and Kathy took some classes with Douglas Simonson at Art Vallarta called Harnessing the Power of Painting and were very impressed with his teaching methods. Below is one of the exercises they did, learning how to mix and blend colours by painting what look like spheres.

See you next time, Puerto Vallarta!

Exploring Bucerias and Los Muertos Beach

Bucerias! Never having visited this beach town before, Barb, Janet, and I made the treck out on a Saturday, first grabbing a cab to the Walmart bus stop and then the ATM green bus along the highway in the direction of Sayulita. The bus, whose driver had affixed an enormous metal crucifix to his windshield, deposited us at the Centro intersection and we rolled down towards the water, stopping first at the church, whose cement fence was topped by interesting cement animals.

Inside the church scores of local kids were running around, playing games, eating lunch, and just generally having a good time. It was nice to see the space being so well used, courtesy of the priest who allows them to use the nave because they have no other public place to congregate.

One of the interior statues features Christ with a large wooden flame in the middle of his head.

The plaza in which the church is located is lovely and green and only a block from the water.

At the bottom of the lamp stands are a variety of shells embedded in concrete, attesting to the fact that one used to be able to find such shells locally, even though I’ve never seen anything larger than a tiny clam shell in the years I’ve been coming here.

The beach is quite nice, long and sandy, although narrow and steeply dropping off, as all the beaches here seem to be now. We decided to set up shop at El Gordo seafood restaurant, drawn by the welcoming Canadian flag.

Even though it was a Saturday there were not very many people at the beach; this meant that the parade of vendors, mostly jewelry salespeople, paid us more attention that ideally I would have wanted.

A small crowd of kids flocked around us, trying to tempt us with rubber toy animals. They expressed interest in the pins attached to my hat so I gave one to each of the four of them. The boy below, a pretty shrewd operator, wanted the small pin that had been my Dad’s, the only one that I was unwilling to part with.

Two cowboys with three small horses cantered by and tried to get us to go for a ride; Janet, a horsewoman, had a look at one of them, a lovely white boy, but decided against it.

After purchasing some fake silver rings from one of the vendors (I’m sure mine are fake but Janet’s seemed real – if I get a rash on my fingers after wearing them, I will know for sure), our day at the beach concluded with small shots of kahlua on the house.

For our final full day in PV, we had breakfast on the beach at La Palapa in very pleasant beachside seats. Unfortunately, my pancakes were cold; the huevos rancheros looked pretty good, though.

After settling ourselves at the Swell Beach Club for the day, we watched a high flyer show off on his flyboard, dipping and diving like a sea serpent.

Barb and Janet each took home Frida sarongs, while Maggie and Kathy purchased tablecloths and a woven rug.

So long, Puerto Vallarta! Thanks for another great time – hasta luego!

 

Urban Hike in PV – to the Cross!

I had read about an urban hike up to the cross above the hills in Puerto Vallarta and four of us decided to attempt it. After all, it could not possibly be as onerous as our first trip out to Las Animas, on which we bushwacked up the side of a mountain. It was a bit difficult to find the route, but after a bit of searching, I was able to find a map that showed the way up.

The best place to begin the hike is at the foot bridge to Gringo Gultch from the Isla Cuale. Passing by the buildings on the island, you can see all the murals painted by local artists on the walls of now-disused former retail shops.

We met a fellow out walking his dog there who told us that the city was planning to turn this island into a casino – I really hope that’s not the case! Although the island seems to be pretty depressed, in that there’s not much commercial activity there anymore, it is such a lovely green space in a city that doesn’t really have much of that downtown. And casinos have zero interest for me.

On the trees are quite a few signs warning people not to dump their animals here; however, there are still lots of cats roaming around from illegal dumping – people here do feed them, though. They are all pretty fat and sassy.

Once up and over the footbridge, we made a left turn and walked up past Casa Kimberley, now the Iguana Restaurant,

and then a right onto Calle Miramar past Hacienda San Angel, pausing to admire the angel statuary on the facade.

Past the Hacienda our route took us right for one black on Iturbide, then left along Emiliano Carranza to a steep narrow unnamed lane one block past Corona.

There are quite a few barking dogs and friendly cats here. We walked probably the equivalent of four or so blocks up this small street before the pavement, such as it was, petered out into scrub forest. Luckily, an old man just happened to poke his head out his door so I asked him about the best way to get to the cross. He told us to take the set of stairs just in front of his building, good thing because otherwise we would likely have missed the correct route.

The stairs took us up past several local houses, and a lovely friendly pup, as they wound up the hill.

The last bit of the route is steep, but recently paved.

At the top of this path is the electrical tower and it’s not at all obvious how to get to the cross from there. Around the tower is a metal fence and inside is a pit bull …

… but I saw a young man digging in the sand and he directed us across his work area to the new observation platform and cross.

This area is still a construction site and one of the older workers took a moment to wipe the sweat off Janet’s feet as she walked past. Update from Janet: “The sandal cleaning was much more than sweat. I had stepped into a pile of the workers’ mixed, wet cement. Deep enough to feel it between my toes. Smile. The younger workers just laughed. The older man came over and tried to clean off the drying cement. Chivalry is not dead.”

From the platform we had a panoramic view out over Banderas Bay and a gentle cooling breeze.

After hanging out on top for a while, we made our descent down the newly constructed cement stairs, watching as the workers continued to build a second set of very steep stairs.

Possibly once this project is completed there will be sign posts to the cross. At the moment, without a map it’s a bit tricky to get here. Since the path is so narrow, we were wondering how all the construction materials found their way up here. That question was answered when we saw the burro train passing by.

Although the path back down is paved, it was a bit slippery with dry soil and dust.

Back down on Calle Carranza, we saw one of the burros being loaded for a return trip up the hill. Poor beasts, I wonder how well they are treated.

See more pics here.

Here is a map of the route.