Vancouver Spring

I love Vancouver in the Spring – all the beautiful blossoming trees, the big ships in the harbour,

the festivals … this post is for my sister Tracey in Dundurn, Saskatchewan, south of Saskatoon, where the snows have just begun to recede.

My bike commute to the bookstore, over the Burrard Bridge, still in the throes of earthquake remediation, and around Kits Point and down the new Cornwall bike lane in the process of being built, is wonderful. Although the pavement is constantly being torn up, and the route keeps changing, I still love it that I am able to get from our place downtown out to Banyen in twenty minutes, even with a stop at Kits Beach to take pictures.

The Vancouver Cherry Blossom Festival a couple of weeks ago saw a crowd gathered at the Burrard Sky Train Station to watch the Taicho Drummers, a group of young Japanese “big drummers” pounding the skins beneath the beautiful white cherry blossoms of Bentall Centre.

After that workout we were treated to haiku by the aspiring young actors of the Bard on the Beach theatre school led by Christopher Gaze.

I was a bit disappointed when they used the occasion to promote Bard rather than simply write some elegant Japanese-style poetry.

After leaving that spectacle, I stopped in at the Christ Church Cathedral, where I walked their portable labyrinth, a classical Chartres path painted onto a huge piece of canvas easily unrolled and laid out in the nave. Along with me, several other visitors took turns plying the curves in their stocking feet, shoes being a sacrilegious no-no here.

While rolling down Cornwall to work the other night, I stopped at the corner of Collingwood where homeowners have installed sheets of construction paper bearing haiku for the cherry blossom festival – wonderful under their carpet of flowering trees.

Christine, Barb, and I took in the Verses Festival of words semi-final of slam poetry, starring poets from across Canada, all competing for a chance to go to France for the World Championship Slam Poetry Finals.

The three of us were called upon to be judges, a triple-headed hydra of poetry afficionadodom, for Bout 6 at the Havana Theatre, a fascinating experience. I really enjoyed savouring the diversity of the poetic offerings.

Other than that, I am digging my work with seniors here, inspired by the fantastic exploits of the Kits skaters, some of whom are in their 90s and still skating, and the Barclay Manor painters, where I have had the opportunity of interacting with senior artists still going strong into their 8th decade – rock on!

Below I am working on gessoeing a huge canvas for a new painting; although I had imagined a 9 x 12 foot piece, technical issues (I don’t have a big enough wall) mean that I will have to cut it in half – bummer!

Spring Equinox Nevruz Celebration Labyrinth Walk

For our celebration of the Spring Equinox and Nevruz New Year, we laid out a labyrinth in Barb’s garage and illuminated it with LED, tea lights, and candles. We invited folks to join us in celebration by bringing a light source to add to the layout and walking the labyrinth.

While Ty and I worked on the drawing of the classical Cretan labyrinth on the garage floor, Doug and Barb laid out a candle and light path in the backyard.

Although we had diagrams, the labyrinth was trickier than I expected to design; since we did not have enough room for the entire seven circuit walk, we pared it down to five circuits instead.

But figuring out which way each circuit should turn took some careful thought and planning.

After drawing the circuit paths, I decorated the lines with flowers and LED lights while Ty set up the projector and computer equipment at the centre of the labyrinth to project a series of videos onto the garage doors.

At the appointed moment we all walked slowly along the lit grass path, entered the labyrinth, and walked its magical circuit, candles in hand, to the accompaniment of sound and moving video images that covered us in a therapeutic bath of changing colours.

About Nevruz:

Nowruz or Nevruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Persian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed. The moment the sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and families gather together to observe the rituals.

Nevruz has been celebrated by people from diverse ethnic communities and religious backgrounds for thousands of years. It is an ancient holiday based on astronomical calculations. Ancient night-sky observers were experts because it was essential to calculate when plants would appear, when a crop should be sown, and when the ceremonies customarily held on special dates such as the spring equinox should be carried out. Western historians believe that the festival originated with the Zoroastrians; the dates for the appearance of this monotheistic religion vary widely from after 330 BC to 6000 BC. However, the ancient Persians believed that this day was the first day of the New Year, hence NawRuz (naw, new; ruz, year) and this belief continues today.

One of the main concepts of Nevruz is the importance of light. It celebrates the victory of a god of light over the powers of darkness, a basic tenet in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster is supposed to have preached in the royal court of Bactria that there were two forces in the world, good, associated with light, and evil, associated with darkness, and that they were in constant combat with each other. Since the Equinox represents the moment at which day and night are equal, the coming of spring heralds the triumph of light over darkness in the lengthening days. The early Zoroastrians believed that out of this cosmological battle came the origins of life and when the cycle of life began it was called the new day or Nevruz. The nature of the early Nevruz celebrations is unknown with the exception of lighting bonfires. Leaping across them would be part of a purification ritual in which everyone would be rid of their illnesses or bad luck. Rather than leaping over bonfires, or Barb’s fire pit, we lit candles and stepped over them for our ceremonial ritual.

See more pictures here.

Hasta Luego, Puerto Vallarta!

Well, we are back in Vancouver after a wonderful trip, luckily to some beautiful sunny, albeit cold, weather. Here are some photos and thoughts from our last couple of days in and around Puerto Vallarta.

The beach vendors have a tough job, trying to sell stuff to vacationers who, in many cases, have been here many times and already have all the trinkets and Mexican clothing they want. These pictures are from Playa de los Camarones just past the north end of the Malecon.

These black and yellow birds are beautiful.

This little guy hopped up onto my umbrella just as I was trying to take another picture of him.

The banana boat didn’t see much action in these parts but this day a group of young men decided to give it a go. With the high waves, it was a bit difficult for the operators to get the banana to the beach so that they could jump on.

Coming back in after the ride was tricky, too; the waves were still high, some of them couldn’t swim, and one of the beach folks had to go out on the paddle board and bring them in.

This sculpture of sea gods near Rosita’s Hotel is a favourite roosting place for the pelicans that hang around here.

Pelicans are large! And have attitude in keeping with their size. This beast, who obviously considered this patch of sidewalk his turf, gave Ty a run for his money, coming after us with his beak open.

These two, dressed all in black under a black umbrella, were an interesting sight on the beach.

We took one last stroll down the Malecon to admire the sculptures and the roof top line-up of chubby aging rock gods.

Feeling the need for something cold after a hard day on the beach, we stopped in at Da Vino Dante, the wine and tapas bar upstairs from Gallery Dante – great spot!

Our very last day was spent at Swell Beach Bar on Playa Los Muertos; everyone was commenting on the condition of the beach; just as we saw elsewhere in the world, rising sea levels are eroding the playa here, leaving a smaller expanse of sand and an abrupt tide’s edge cliff of sand.

On our way back to the ranch the Pope blessed us from his balcony.

Last supper at the Blue Shrimp on the beach was just OK in terms of food but the guitarist, a Gypsy King’s tribute artist, was fantastic.

Micro dogs!

Coronas with ice!

Cemetery sculpture!

Ravens!

Tattoos!

Colourful paintings!

Skeletons!

Tiny parrots!

Big pelicans!

Sayonara, PV – Hasta Luego!

See more photos here.

Centro Art Walkin’

Every Wednesday night in Centro an Art Walk happens from 6 until 10 in the evening. Good ol’ Ty humours me by indulging my mania for both art and walking; rather than going home from the beach after an afternoon’s strenuous lounging we headed straight downtown for the walk, with only the briefest of pauses to flag down the donut man  and scarf down two huge donuts for sustenance.

The dozen or so art walk galleries are found just north of the main church and east of the  Malecon. Helping to encourage folks to come out are the small glasses of vino served by each, the better to attract eager, and thirsty, art patrons. We began our art journey at the Peyote People gallery of folk art, mostly from Oaxaca and Chiapas, where the attendant showed us some Catrina skeletons, full torso female figures in fancy clothing designed to mock the pretensions of the rich, who, like everyone else, irrespective of their wealth, end up as bones. We also saw some incredibly intricate beaded skulls with tiny insects atop them – really fabulous.

From there we pounded the pavement to the galleries further north, stopping at a cluster of three selling beautifully decorated ceramics and the Loft Gallery, a three storey emporium of mostly realist painting. It had a wonderful view out over the rooftops of PV and the setting sun. Around the corner was Galeria Uno, packed with art lovers consuming tiny margaritas. Ty lurked in the shadows, practising his best travelling incognito mode.

A few blocks farther north are five of what I consider to be the most interesting spaces, Gallery Corsica, Gallery Omar Alonzo, Gallery Pacifica, Galeria des Artistes, and La Pulga, all of which have wonderful architecture and good art, especially the sculpture.

I particularly enjoyed the mixed media portraits at Omar Alonzo by Rogelio Mango, which incorporate silk and oil paint.

After a few hours of dedicated art viewing, hunger overcame us, necessitating a hasty hike to Old Town and grilled shrimp at a packed Joe Jack’s Fish Shack.

See more Art Walk photos here.

I really love walking around the old town area and Isla Cuale is one of my favorite spots. Oscar’s restaurant near the beach has a second floor gallery that right now is showing portraits of Indigenous people by local artist Marta Gilbert. At the studios on the other end of the island, I ran into (not literally) one of the artist patrons of Barclay Manor in the West End, Tavia, who looked very startled to see me. I think it was the hat that did it. She, and lots of others, both locals and visitors, was painting up a storm under guidance of maestro Hector.

Yesterday we decided to spend our beach day at Conchas Chinas Beach, the next bay south of Los Muertos where we usually go. It is accessed by a path that runs along the high tide line at the beach’s edge, over a rocky point and along the waterfront homes south of here.

We did not make it all the way but chose to set up our stuff in the shade of a rocky outcrop between two small rocky bays.

The current is very strong here and the waves high; we had to relocate from our first spot because the waves inundated it.

Just after we had been  talking about what we would do if someone got into trouble in the water, it happened. An older man had decided to go out swimming in this very dangerous place and couldn’t get back in; the current was dragging him out to sea. It became quickly apparent that he needed help and his wife was rushing back and forth on the beach, trying to call for help on her cell phone. Two young tourist guys just happened to be there, saw what was happening, and saved him by running up to a nearby hotel, grabbing a life preserver, swimming out to him, putting it on him, and towing him back in to the thunderous applause of everyone watching from the shore. Lucky man.

See more photos here.

Isla Cuale Stroll and Random Observations

Today we decided to spend our time photographing Isla Cuale and the area around it,  an oasis of green that divides Old Town from Centro. After walking over on a pretty warm day we stopped to refuel at Las Brazzas,  a small bistro on the eastern end of the island near the art studios. It’s the only restaurant left at that end of the  island; all  the others that were open last year are now cat colonies.

Joining us on the patio were Heather, an expat from Ontario, and Irma, a native PVer. Heather has been here for seven years, living in and around the Old Town and working as a care aid. She likes it, but is sick of all the tourists in the winter and says the place is like a tomb in the summer, empty and screaming hot. Just as in every tourist town we’ve been to, the locals have a love – hate relationship with tourism and who can blame them? It was interesting talking with Heather about her experiences here and hearing her insights into the various communities that make up this town.

This day the printmaking studio was open and we had a chat with Dan from North Carolina who was working on a black and white woodcut, his first. He wanted to know why Canadians were less apt to be taken in by news stories about how dangerous Mexico is than Americans. We postulated that more people watch CBC than Fox News…

From the print studio we wandered over to our usual taco stand and then to Le Cuiza, a restaurant, bar, and gallery near the beach end of the island.

Very colorful paintings adorn the walls here and all the wooden furniture is vibrantly painted. The artists here offer workshops and classes and the bar does a good business with Canadians on karaoke nights.

Outside in the gigantic banyan tree iguanas race overhead on the tree’s huge limbs. It is interesting that we have seen hardly any insects here – no mosquitoes, no bees, just a few wasps and a few tiny butterflies. I wonder if they spray the bejeezus out of the place. I don’t miss the mosquitoes but it is curious that most insects seem to have disappeared from the landscape here.

Our final stop on the photo tour was Fireworks ceramic studio on the second floor of Los Mercados, a tiny shopping arcade in a beautiful building  in Old Town.

Arranged around a central courtyard and painted a warm yellow-orange,  the place reminded me of Italy.

Fireworks occupies an airy area with lots of different kinds of vessels and tiles waiting to be painted, as well as books of illustration, patterns, and designs for inspiration. It is a U paint it studio, where one pays for the greenware, paints it, and has it fired by studio personnel. I may give it a whirl.

On the main floor of the arcade was –  glory be – a good looking wine store and a deli with several different cuts of meat, including our favourite hot Italian sausage – joy! Naturally we had to patronize both; I have been missing a nice glass of wine in the evenings. Both places are a bit pricey,  charging close to Canadian prices for their food and catering to the expat community. And they are air-conditioned; I think that was the first air-conditioned environment that I’ve been in  here. Be that as it may, we rolled home with a small bag of goodies that we are surely going to enjoy.  It is good to know that if we crave food and drink that we are used to from home,  we can get it here.

In other “news”:

Some local young artists have started a gallery right down at the beach, selling and showing very colourful paintings and painted furniture.

Here is another of the plethora of VW bugs in this town.

We sampled some mole sauce with chocolate from our favorite taco stand.

Here is another great anabolic steroid ad –  get your roid rage here cheap, cheap, almost free.

Another thing that is “almost free” here is parasailing (oh autocorrect how I hate you. Not parasites, parasailing). One woman high over the beach, ignoring the frantic whistles of the sail master trying to get her to turn the sail towards the beach, just about came down far out in the deep water.

I spoke to two lifeguards on the beach up north near Ley Supermarket who told me that they make at least five rescues a week every week of the year, mostly of people who don’t know how to swim and go in the water after drinking. At this beach there are strong currents not far offshore and the water gets deep very quickly, none of which is evident from the shore unless you know what to look for. Most locals can’t swim, and people drown here every year.

Every day on the waters of PV is a pelican party.

See more photos here

Puerto Vallarta Markets and Beaches

Old Town Puerto Vallarta is lucky enough to have two Saturday markets, one at the Paradise Community Centre and the other at Lazaro Cardenas Park, just off the Malecon. We decided to hit them both, since the day was cloudy and a bit too cold for the beach (says she whose home town is only 5 degrees …).

The Paradise Community Centre market was packed with throngs of people and lots of vendors sending vintage clothes, jewellery, kids’ items, art, books, and especially, wonderful food and baked goods.

I sampled an apple square and Ty gobbled down a huge cinnamon bun as we pondered the wares for sale. A local artisan was selling some beautifully-made bracelets and necklaces; we bought one of each.

A few blocks north of Paradise is the Lazaro Cardenas Market, also busy, and I bought three little foot decorations – like earrings for feet – which, hopefully, one of these days when my left foot has healed from whatever is ailing it and I can walk in sandles again, I can wear.

After browsing, feeling some drops of rain hitting the top of our heads, we ducked into the nearby book cafe and had the good fortune of meeting Jay, a fellow from Iowa sitting at the next table with a group of ex-pat friends.

After a delightful chat, and telling him that we were looking around for long-stay accommodation, he told us the story of meeting Lily, their house’s owner, and how he and his wife Ardis came to be staying in an apartment in Conchas Chinas, the next colonia south of Amapas. Jay was kind enough to invite us over to see the place, thinking it might be a possibility for us in the future. (Apropos of nothing … below is another majestic Queen Death figure, this one on the steps of the Hotel Catedral downtown. I love these figures, even thought their implications are sobering …)

Back wandering around the old town again, this time looking for a barbecued chicken, we walked past the vegetable stand which had had few fresh veggies before. This day it was full of great looking fruits and vegetables, obviously just having been replenished by its suppliers. The key is to figure out which day the new shipment of goodies comes in and shop for vegetables on that day. We also saw the closed hulk of a former supermarket, which Jay told us had closed down after people stopped buying there when their fresh produce deteriorated.

Sunday saw a return of the sun and a trip to the beach was in order. We plopped ourselves down on the sun loungers at the Swell Beach Bar and whiled away the afternoon sipping and munching.

Puerto Vallarta is full of pelicans roosting on the fishing boats; they are wonderful animals and I love to see them fishing and diving in the waters here. Coming screaming down out of the skies, they easily scoop up fish in their gigantic beaks.

The picture above shows Los Muertos Beach, “our beach” at the foot of the hills where we’re staying.

Although we are, as usual, on a fairly tight budget here, we want to spread a little of our cash around the place so I indulged in a reflexology foot massage by Rosalie, whose hands were incredibly strong and left my old feet feeling very relaxed.

 

Monday we visited Jay and Ardis, and met Lily, a lovely Mexican woman who rents out the three story hillside house they stay in. She has the ground floor suite, a couple from Edmonton stay on the middle floor, and Jay and Ardis have the top. Their space is incredible, huge, with two bedrooms, a full kitchen, and an enormous sunny roof-top deck with a view that lasts forever out over the Bay and the Marietas Islands.

While sitting and visiting on the deck, we could see, and hear, the many small green and yellow parrots flitting around in the treetops. Occasionally, when a gigantic frigate bird cruised by, they screeched and squawked up a storm – funny creatures. Many butterflies also fluttered about; one landed on my hand and stayed for quite a while, a very tiny, gentle presence.

Later, we hopped the orange bus to Mismaloya, the next settlement south of PV along the coast, made famous by the film Night of the Iguana, starring Liz and Dick, filmed there in the 60s. The beach there is accessed down a path that runs along the outside of a hotel compound and over a small wooden bridge across the creek.

Many small boats are docked here and pelicans roost on them hopefully. The bay is small, with a few beach bars, and was pretty quiet this day. The place felt a bit desperate and we wondered if the tourist trade here is much diminished because of the weakness of the North American economy. Likely, the tourists who visit Puerto Vallarta are not spending as much as in previous years. We hope that the ill effects of the economic downturn will not damage the economy of this city too much; it really is a beautiful place to be.

Today, back on the road again in Old Town, I headed back to Isla Cuale and the printmaking studio. Lo and behold, it was open and I had a chance to speak to the maestra, Ireri Topete.

She explained how the studio works and told me it would be possible to use the space, either by enrolling in classes or as a visiting artist. It’s a nice space with a good sized etching press and a small litho press not currently in use. Good to know for the future. This day there were about five students working on etchings in this space, and quite a few others in the painting and sculpture studios across the way. This will be a great place to work if we are successful in being able to come here for the winter in the future.

See more pictures here, here, and here.

Puerto Vallarta Art & Shuffle

My laptop seems to have packed it in so I am attempting to compose this on a tablet with only a virtual keyboard. Not easy. I have to admit that I am an addict when it comes to the internet.

Anyway, yesterday I discovered the website of the House of Wind and Water, an artist’s studio and residency owned and operated by American artist Kathleen Carrillo, who has been here since 2008. Since I am always interested in how artists live in other parts of the world, I made contact and we headed up into the wilds outside the city to check out her facility. Above is a picture of the outside of our condo in the Amapas Colonia, high above the beach.

The cab driver had no idea where Kathleen’s House was; he seemed a bit concerned as we drove deeper and deeper into the hills behind the city. However, after a journey along the river and what seemed like back in time, we finally arrived at the big red gates of the casa. The drive reminded me of our trip to the restaurant in the back of beyond in Siem Reap, except in this case it was in the middle of the day and we could see where we were going (even though we had no idea where we were).

Kathleen was just concluding a portrait workshop with her students, each of whom was engrossed in the study of a female head in closeup. The assignment was to translate a black and white photograph into an acrylic painting, using a palette selected by the instructor. All of the students were doing a pretty decent job of it, as far as I could tell. We also had a chat with the housekeeper Ginger, a Canadian who has lived in P.V. for 15 years. Above is the dusty country road that leads to the casa, as you can see, it does not get much action.

We had a good look around the studio and living area but could not see the artist casitas because both of them were full. Rather than bother with a cab on the way back, we strolled down the hill to the dusty road to wait for the one bus that rolls through these parts. This is really the back of beyond, one store, one cafe with nice cold beer, four half dressed old men, and many hungry street dogs, a world away from tourism central on the beach. The bus ride back was interesting, full of school kids and one lost Gringo who had caught the wrong bus on his way to the Marina. All the school kids were fascinated by Ty, staring at him and giggling behind their hands.

Later that evening, we made our way back down the 1001 cement steps from our apartment to the dark hillside road to Basilio Badillo and the South Side Shuffle, PV’s biweekly art, music, and shopping extravaganza. Since neither of us see all that well in the dark anymore, we both brought our headlamps to shine a thin bead of light on the pavement. Between 6 and 10 pm, most of the galleries and shops are open late in this area, serving wine and cookies to the culterati throngs, who mix, mingle, and sometimes dance up a storm to the retro beats of the 60s and 70s. (In the afternoon I had a moment with her majesty below, whose skeletal well-dressed beauty reminded me of the more serious memento mori art works one can see all over Italy. Here death smiles rather than frowns.)

There are several interesting galleries on Basilio Badillo, some small one person operations like Color Pod, a studio specialising in coconut pods collected locally and vibrantly painted by Kathryn Graves, and others enormous emporia, such as Galeria Dante, Vallarta’s largest and most eclectic art space. Kathryn’s color pods are great and I really enjoyed chatting with her for a bit about her work and how she came to be in PV after having retired from the banking business in San Francisco. That’s her in the picture below in orange and green.

Although Gallery Dante is stuffed to the rafters with paintings, most some variety of surrealism, I most appreciate the sculpture in their wonderful outdoor courtyard. At the Ambos Galeria next door I also enjoyed the abstract canvases by Hector Jiminez. After a few hours of hard core art viewing, we had to rest the weary eyes and slake the dry palate with two enormous, and strong, margaritas at the Margaritaville Cafe.

Puerto Vallarta Walkin’

Coming to you more or less live from the hills of old town Puerto Vallarta, high above Los Muertos beach … We are ensconced at the Vista del Mar condominiums in Colonia Amapas, not too far from, but far above, where we stayed the last time we were in PV – Easter 2012. The weather is great, about 26 degrees, cloudless and sunny. From our two balconies we have a grand view out over the Bay of Banderas and the shining crown of Our Lady of Guadalupe church, PV Centro’s architectural landmark.

The view is beautiful both day and night.

“Our” condo is located in a pretty quiet complex; yesterday there was not a soul on the pool deck just below our apartment.

Our plan for this year is to try and pretend that we are living here and to do as the locals do … shop local, eat local, and use local transport, buses and our own two feet. Since we are basically on top of the mountain here, that means a pretty loooooonnnng trek back up the hill after a hard day out and about beating the pavement.

We arrived yesterday, after a 3:15 am wake-up call, a taxi ride to the airport, and a 4.5 hour direct flight, and spent a few hours casing the neighbourhood. Ty was delighted to discover that just down the hill from us is a little beer store, so we don’t have to schlep the cases of beer we will no doubt consume up from the beach. Check out the fashion statement below: I particularly like the striped socks and black oxfords combination, a must for PV explorers … sigh.

We are always interested in accommodations, having in the back of our minds the possibility of spending the winter months here. This lovely place is just down the hill from our place, likely an inexpensive option requiring no air-conditioning, given that it lacks windows.

After walking around for a bit getting tired and hungry, we rolled into a deserted comida casera just off Olas Altas and dug into some tacos and enchiladas before wandering down Basillo Badillo and exploring the area.

Today our mission was to get some electronica that we’d left behind, some minutes for the ol’ cell phones, and groceries. It’s interesting that there are no grocery stores in this area – none. Oxos galore, all selling FUD processed cheese and meat products – not too appealing – but no real food to be found. Yesterday we had  come across one small and decrepit tienda selling some sad looking fruits and vegetables, mostly way past their consumption date, and managed to pick out a few veggies that were still edible among the carcasses of the rotted, and found a gigantic pharmacy that sold the same inedible processed FUD-stuff as Oxo, where we nonetheless picked up some bread and milk.

Today, having stopped in at the Hacienda de Vallarta, drawn in by their Room Special sign, we were lucky enough to meet Pierce, one of the expat residents, and he filled us in on where the supermercado Ley, the local Safewayesque food emporium, was.

After a really good lunch at another inexpensive comida casera right next to the Church, El Campanario, where we got an amazing spread of tortilla soup, chicken fajitas, stew of the day, and pudding,

we walked north along the Malecon and eventually arrived at the Ley store, after a pause for liquid refreshment at Mango’s Beach Bar.

I love the super markets in Mexico; as you can see from the giant black speaker strategically placed near the avocados, they all blast out lively dance music, possibly to generate a general feeling of energy and well-being that manifests in more food purchases. Bags in hand, we grabbed a bus southward that dropped us in the general direction of our place and made our way, hot and sweaty, uphillward home.

We managed to negotiate the day with only a few minor meltdowns after having purchased credits for our cell phones only to find that they’d been uploaded to some random Mexican guy’s phone rather than ours. Below are a few more pictures of the Malecon sculpture art.

You can just see Ty peeking out from beneath these pairs of legs.

This sculpture, El Gordo – the Fat Man, not our late and unlamented mug-shotted premier – reminds me a little bit of the open-mouthed gigantic pelicans that roost on the boats around here waiting to consume vast quantities of caught fish.

After being inspired by the panorama of portly past their prime rockers displayed atop one of the restaurants lining the Malecon, Ty picked a too-tiny tree to hide behind …

See a few more photos here.

Art in August

If it’s August, it must be the Harmony Arts Festival, the annual arts extravaganza on the waterfront in West Vancouver. Although we had had glorious sunny weather for the whole month of July here on the west coast, the sunniest and driest ever, by the time the opening evening of the Harmony Arts Festival rolled around the beginning of August it was grey and cloudy … sigh. Here are my two pieces selected for the Responsive Landscape exhibition, both from the infrared photograph series Urban Pastoral, not a great picture but you get the idea.

Ty and I enjoyed the opening anyway, with a nice glass of wine on the Ambleside waterfront. This festival includes a couple of juried art exhibitions, lots of vendors in tents, and musical performances alfresco on the beach.

I was happy to see the sun return after its brief disappearance; this garden at George Wainborn Park is really amazing, especially on a sunny day.

Out walking the dog one day, I happened upon this art work being installed in the Park; local artist Daphne Harwood was doing a trial run of her pop up quilt installation entitled #4 Oh Solo Double Trio, a meditation on numbers which she intends to set up for public viewing soon.

On now in the Van Dusen Botanical Garden is Touch Wood, an exhibition of wood sculpture curated by Celia Duthie and and Nicholas Hunt of the Duthie Gallery on Salt Spring Island. Touch Wood has more than two dozen wood sculptures and installations by B.C. artists such as Brent Comber, Michael Dennis, Alastair Heseltine and Martha Varcoe Sturdy, among others.

Inside the visitors centre, smaller scale wood-based works are installed in the Discovery Room, including some fine woodblock prints by Richard Tetrault.

On the day I visited the Garden, it was hot and sunny, perfect conditions for outdoor art-viewing.

I particularly enjoyed this white-painted wood piece by Brent Comber.

The Satellite Gallery on Seymour is showcasing two artists, Greg Semu and Shigeyuki Kihara from the South Pacific, in Paradise Lost?, part of a larger exhibit at the Museum of Anthropology. I found this show to be quite striking and particularly interesting because the artists were Samoans living abroad. We visited Samoa in our trip around the world in 2011-12 and saw no evidence of contemporary art while there.

From the Gallery’s website, here is an account of the show:

“The pacific islands occupy a place in the western imagination as a paradise filled with idyllic beaches and lush, tropical landscapes inhabited by dusky maidens.
With historical precedents in the accounts of European explorers, these perceptions were later re-invented and popularized by Hollywood films in the 1920s through the ’50s. Contemporary artists from the Pacific Islands frequently play with and invert such perceptions, and their work provides an alternate, more complex vision of the region.

Paradise Lost? Contemporary Works from the Pacific features works by artists from Fiji, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. Working in video, installation, sculpture, painting, and photography, the artists show the Pacific Islands from an insider’s perspective. Their artworks explore environmental concerns, cultural heritage issues, questions relating to the experience of migration and diaspora, and the intersection of Indigenous belief systems and Western religions.”

Greg Semu’s pieces reference iconic western art, such as Da Vinci’s Last Supper and the Pieta, traditionally a meditation on the Dead Christ, reimagined with Pacific Islanders replacing the usual protagonists.

Kihara’s video works show the artist in a 19th century Victorian dress enacting various ritual South Pacific Dances; I particularly liked the Shiva dancing figure.

Since I am still working on an installation that will include mannequins and heads, I was delighted to find Duchesse, a thrift emporium on Columbia between Hastings and Pender in Chinatown from which I acquired several pieces. Anna, the owner, showed me photos of what the place looked like before she and her partner began renovations; they have done an amazing job of fixing the place up.

A project whose mandate I really support is Papergirl, now a worldwide phenomenon of art, cycling, and philanthropy; an exhibition of this year’s donated artwork is now on at the Roundhouse Community Centre in Vancouver.

Begun by an artist in Berlin nine years ago, Papergirl involves donated art from local contributors, both amateur and professional, which is then rolled up and given by volunteer cyclists to unsuspecting, random people on a designated day, a la traditional newspaper delivery.

Almost 1,000 works were donated this year, quite a few of which are on display.

For more information on this project, click here. I was happy to donate an artwork and my time to this venture.  The Roundhouse was also the site of Trangression Now, a group show of work by GBLT artists curated by Paul Wong and Glen Alteen.

The intricacy and detail of this collage work was quite amazing.

I also liked the thoughtful, meditative self-portraits by Joe Average

and the Butch project showing various alternative female subjectivities.

Skating around Stanley Park one morning, I was delighted to see the crochet-bombing that had popped up on the Amazing Laughter sculpture at English Bay just in time for Pride Week.

A final thought to leave with you, heads in trees …

See more photos here.