Midnight Sun Art and Film Festival, Sun Peaks, BC

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ … into Kamloops, BC, then up into the mountains, destination Sun Peaks for the Midnight Sun Art and Film Festival August 7 – 9, for the outdoor screening of my video The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, an experimental short which opened the festival.

After arrival, the first order of business, as usual, was a beer on a patio, this one at the Cahilty Lodge, overlooking the Sun Peaks Grand Hotel, where we could keep an eye on our loaded Modo car while we waited for our room at the Grand to become ready.

Sun Peaks Alpine Resort, formerly Tod Mountain, is designed to mimic a Swiss ski village, with the gingerbread-like architecture of the buildings. Our Hotel was refurbished in the 1990s and was indeed a grand old dame; our room, on the second floor, had a commanding view of the parking lot … not exactly what I had imagined, visions of sweeping mountain vistas dancing in my head.

Joining us for the weekend were the two amigas, Barb and Christine, seen here ready to go for a whirl through the village.

Saturday morning, after a bit of a lie-in – very unusual for me since I am usually up with the birds before dawn – we were off up the mountain for a hike through alpine meadows.

In the summer season Tod Mountain’s ski runs become a hiking and biking paradise and the chair lift is well set up to carry everyone and their gear up the hill, with special chairs just for the mountain bikes heading up to the trails.

As we cruised up the hill, we could see some of the downhill bike trails below which an employee was grooming for the afternoon. It wasn’t possible to tell from below how high this mountain is; the chair ride was about 15 minutes long – so quite high!

I was going to walk right past a garbage can of hiking poles, but then Ty mentioned their utility for hitting any bears on the nose and each of us selected one.

We had asked for advice at Guest Services and had been told to follow trails 5 and 7 to the top and back for nice views out over the valley.

The first part of trail 5 zig-zagged across the mountain side that fronts the resort; we could see the village sparkling far below us. As far as the eye could see across the valleys and mountain tops of the BC interior, there was no snow anywhere. I saw a patch of korek, those plants with which I made art installations in Turkey when I was an artist-in-residence there. Not sure what these are called here.

The first part of our hike took us up to and just short of the summit of Tod Mountain which we then skirted around in a quest for Tod Lake.

Surprisingly, as we walked deeper into the alpine area, a herd of cows was there, grazing on the mountainside. Ty greeted them with several moos, causing them to pop their heads up inquiringly. One large beast started to head in our direction so we kept on moving away from them.

Although many of the flowers in the alpine meadows were already finished, we did see some beautiful small blooms of lupins, fireweed, aster, and bright red Indian Paint Brush on the hills.

After walking for a few hours, we zigged when we should had zagged and had to backtrack to find trail 7 to the lake.

After a few teasers that turned out to be puddles not lakes, we did make it in to Tod Lake, where we, along with a few other intrepid souls, ate the packed lunch that Cafe de Soleil had prepared for us that morning. One small chipmunk joined us at the table, seemingly quite interested in our food.

The weather was perfect for hiking, sunny with beautiful cumulus clouds floating by, and not too hot. Trail 7 from the lake back down the mountain gave us a different view of the valley from the other side of the mountain and the trail itself was rougher, leading through brush and bush.

After five hours of fantastic hiking on the hill, I was tired and happy to head back down, glad that the only wildlife we had seen was the tiny chipmunk. There are bears in them thar hills and I admit that I did think about them as I was walking …

Our reward for finishing the hike was gigantic orange bellinis at Bottoms patio at the base of the chair.

Another fun summer activity on the hills is go-karting; a Tbar-like lift takes the cars up the hill and gravity brings them back down again. We will maybe check that out another time.

The Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival, organised by Dasha Novak, began with a wine tasting and live music event at Mantles Restaurant in the Sun Peaks Grand, where we listened to young local musicians play and sing. I had a very nice chat with one, the pianist Polina, from Russia, who is in Kamloops to study at Thompson Rivers University.

I was happy to see Darlene, a printmaking colleague from Thompson Rivers University, with whom I stayed the last time I was in Kamloops twenty years ago – we had a nice chinwag and catch-up. Unfortunately, the weather had changed and right up until the time the films were due to start we weren’t sure whether the show would go ahead. But the rain did stop and die-hard film enthusiasts did congregate at the gigantic outdoor screen, with their chairs and blankets in tow.

Not being too clued in to the realities of mountainside living, we had neglected to bring warm clothes, blankets, or chairs … so the viewing conditions were less than optimum. But I was happy to suffer for art to see my film The Fire Ceremony II; Metamorphosis projected on the enormous screen, and the sound system was fantastic.

In addition to my short film. two other feature length productions were screened, Reaching Blue, a documentary about the Salish Sea and Yakona, a poetic look at the life of a Texan river.

Sunday morning saw us enjoying coffee at the Mountain Cafe and taking in the Sun Peaks Farmer’s Market.

The village was busy on Saturday and Sunday morning, with three wedding parties and the Art Festival.

We decided to spend the afternoon on a guided voyageur canoe trip on MacGillivray Lake led by Campbell, a lively young man dressed for the part who drove us to the lake in a huge old rattling school bus.

Of course, Ty, in typical fashion, sat right at the back of the bus and coached me on disaster scenarios and how to survive if the bus should lose its brakes on the hill.

The first order of business was for Campbell to bail out the canoe and then the six of us were off paddling around the lake in a replica of the kind of canoes used by the early Canadian explorers.

Large fires had gone through this area several times over the years and many stands of trees had been killed; we could see their dry burnt skeletons lining the lake.

We were also lucky enough to see a Canadian loon lunching on a trout.

Sunday night the weather was better for the screening of All the Time in the World, a documentary featuring a family of five who spent nine months in the Yukon bush without electricity, and Queen of the Sun, about the catastrophic disappearance of bees and the mysterious world of the beehive. Barb managed to get us some blankets and foldable chairs, making this viewing experience more comfortable than the other.

It was a fantastic weekend, thoroughly enjoyable. See the Festival program Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival and my photos here. More info about Sun Peaks is available here.

Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival, Sun Peaks, BC

We had an excellent time at the Midnight Sun Art and Film Festival in Sun Peaks, BC, about 45 km north of Kamloops, from August 7 – 9, for the outdoor screening of my video The Fire Ceremony II: Metamorphosis, an experimental short which opened the festival.

See the Festival program Midnight Sun Art & Film Festival and my photos here

Walking, rolling and owling in Stanley Park

“APRIL is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain …”

Invoking the memory of TS Eliot, our April was a mix of torrential rain and glorious sunny blue-skyed cotton-cloudy days, all the better to stroll with Brubin along the seawall,

or skate with Barb and Christine.

Ty and I spent a sunny Saturday riding our bikes through the Flats Arts District, so-called, on the former Finning Tractors industrial lands between Great Northern Way and Terminal. The Capture Photography Festival is still on for the next weeks and we caught the last day of Colin Smith’s show at the Winsor,

I loved these camera obscura works in which the artist made the interior of his Boler trailer into a gigantic pinhole camera, recording  the external landscape projected upside down onto the walls of the trailer and rightside up through the windows. I also enjoyed the infrared images in the west gallery of Los Angeles’ canals (example below) by Jason Gowans.

and the photo shows at Monte Clark and the Equinox.

Our first Friday night roll of the season was a windy evening around the seawall, enjoying the bright yellow sulfur piles against the deep blue of the North Shore mountains.

This week is Bird Week in Vancouver and we took in the Night Owl Prowl sponsored by the Stanley Park Ecological Society.

After waiting for a bit at the Lost Lagoon Nature house, and intuiting that the event would not be taking place there, given the dearth of people, we hoofed it up past the Rose Garden to Pipeline Road, lost in space with a number of others who were looking for the owl venue.

We finally found it twenty minutes late upstairs at the Stanley Park Pavilion, where we joined about 70 others for an illustrated talk on the owls of the Park and a night walk down to Beaver Lake to try and locate some of the birds.

The bird specialist described the technique for the scientific study of owls currently being conducted: first one transcribes the weather, using a scale of 1 to 5, then the noise level, using the same scale. Then, one fires up the owl recordings and blasts the sound of virtual owls out into the forest, hoping to get an answering call and/or a visit from said bird.

On alternate evenings one calls in only the big birds, then only the small ones, since the small owls are prey for the big ones and one would not want to see a pygmy owl devoured by a barred owl.

This evening all 70 of us stood quietly in the dark and listened as the recorded call of a barred owl was wafted over the forest three times – no reply and no sign of any barred owls. Then we walked to a different part of the forest for one last kick at the owl-calling can. We waited while a birder held the recorder aloft and projected the call of a screech owl into the trees – amazingly, we received a call back.

A screech owl is alive and presumably well in Stanley Park! The bird experts were ecstatic because this was the first time since 2011 that a screech owl had been heard in these parts and only the third time in 20 years. Yippee!

See more photos here.

Turkey Art Adventure Sept 27 to Oct 10, 2015

I am really excited to have been asked to lead a small group tour to Turkey this Fall with Finisterra Travel. See the itinerary here.

See my blog posts here for my 2014 painting trip to Turkey here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Babayan Art House, Ibrahimpasa, Turkey in March 2009 on the blog here.

Read about my month as artist in residence at the Gumusluk Academy on the Bodrum peninsula in Turkey for May 2009 here.

Moroccan Cooking in Mexico

Ty and I joined Nathalie and eight other food lovers to create a wonderful Moroccan dinner, led by clay-cooking Maestra Nathalie, in the kitchen high in the sky above the Art Vallarta studio. Photo below by Debbie Berlin.

Here’s the description from Nathalie’s website:

Food is Art when prepared with heart and soul. We will explore every aspect of la comida international. Down to the vessel it is prepared in, selection of ingredients, how the sauce is stirred and the moments of presentation & enjoyment.

Cooking Classes and Events will be held in an handcrafted Mexican tile ART Kitchen in the Romantic Zone. Puerto Vallarta on the 8th Floor of the San Franciscan complex over looking the fabulous Bay of Vallarta. 213 Calle Pilitas, Emiliano Zapata, half a block off Olas Altas in the heart of the Romantic Zone.

Holy Mole Moroccan Cooking Class – The Menu:

Pomegranate Mint Cocktail

Moroccan Meatballs with dipping sauce

Chicken Almond Bastilla


Dried salted tomatoes, olives, preserved lemons and vegetable fish Tagine

Traditional Vegetable Tagine with Lamb Merguez Sausage and Ras El Hanout spice

Preserved Lemons and Pomegranate Molasses

Rose water and spices steamed couscous grain

Traditional Yogurt Cake, orange blossom ice cream with fruits (Photo below by Debbie Berlin)

Wine, Mint Tea and Coffee

Each of us contributed to making the dinner, from slicing the tomatoes, to grilling the meatballs and chicken, to preparing the fillo pastry, to slicing the fish and preparing the shrimp, to grinding the spices with mortar and pestle.

While we worked the multi-talented Froylan Hernandez serenaded us on his guitar.

All the dishes were cooked on the gas stove-top in clay vessels, including a beautiful tagine made by Froylan, topped with a delightful little ceramic blowfish.

After everything was prepared and cooked, we sat down to dinner on Nathalie’s delightful terrace overlooking Banderas Bay to enjoy the fruits of our labours – fantastic!

See more here.

For more info about Art Vallarta click here.

More Art Walkin’

Artists Austin Young and David Burns from Los Angeles are in PV to work on a collaborative art project entitled Fallen Fruit. The project is designed for people to reimagine their communities as “fruitful places”: “to collectively re-imagine the function of public participation and urban space, and to explore the meaning of community through creating and sharing new and abundant resources. Fruit Trees! Share your fruit! Change the world!”, as their write-up describes it.

We participated, along with dozens of others, in helping to create a Fruit Magazine in one night in the garden of the Oficina de Proyectos Culturales; it is entitled “¡Estás Como Mango!” and features collage images of fruit-inspired art and original texts and images about fruit and the history of Puerto Vallarta. Contributors were asked to bring photographs, stories, poems, drawings, recipes, and other visual material that connects with the subject of fruit in Vallarta.

When we arrived, several white tables and chairs were set up and people were already in the throes of creation to the inspirational sound of jazz music. Each table was decorated with a centrepiece of fruit and art supplies, including piles of magazines and advertisements to be used as collage material.

Ty enthusiastically jumped in to create a “fruit taxi” from the material provided, while my piece featured female figures, many with fruit heads. Fun! For more information on this project, click here. For information about the OPC Cultural Centre, click here.

After completing our offering, we visited some of the Art Walk galleries that we had not made it to last time, including the Mata Ortiz Ceramic Gallery (incredibly delicate and detailed small vessels)

and the Loft Galeria,

as well as a majolica shop selling many multi-coloured and costly ceramic vessels.

Our walk home to us back along the Malecon, where we saw a pirate ship floating on the bay, several sellers of spray can paintings, many crepe vendors, and the colourful lights of the boardwalk bars and restaurants.

Back in the ‘hood, and feeling a hankering for grilled shrimp, we wound our way through the streets to El Brujo, a restaurant well-reviewed on Trip Advisor, to sample some seafood.

The grilled shrimp was tasty, the octopus, not so much.

See more pics here and here.

El Diablo Rises

Another day, another beautiful walk to Art VallARTa to continue my work on El Diablo.

The devil was covered in a plastic bag overnight to be kept flexible for further operations this morning. The first order of business was to add a protruding chin to the face, using a separate piece of clay which was then massaged into the correct shape.

I cut lines into the forehead to prepare the surface for eyebrows. After rolling out two small amounts of clay to the correct size, the eyebrows were attached and Froyland helped me to shape and mold them.

We added lines to indicate the brow and wrinkles between the eyes.

El Maestro seems to have been pleased so far!

The next step was to affix the horns; first small holes had to be pierced in the temples of the mask, then the horns attached with slip.

Froyland demonstrated how to attach the horns, holding the mask so that it would not crack as the heavy material was added. I also added cheekbones.

So far, so good. Froyland is working on a couple of vessels featuring imaginary undersea creatures.

As we were working, others continued with their projects, scarves and silk paintings and glazing ceramics.

Since the devil is a master of the art of temptation, Froyland thought that he needed a cigarette …

Small towers of clay were placed under the horns to support them as I worked on the finishing details of El Diablo’s face.

 

The Devil is in the Details: The Evolution of El Diablo at Art VallARTa

I am so happy that Art VallARTa  studio in the Old Town is fully functional now and doing so well. Monday Ty and I went for a visit and Nathalie showed me around what is now a well-equipped large studio and gallery space.

The theatre is also well set up with cushions and blankets for the weekly life drawing sessions held there. The 2nd annual Romance in the Romantic Zone exhibition of art on the theme of love drew four hundred people to its opening night, offering, in addition to framed two dimensional pieces, ceramic and glass wear, and a gigantic wall mural of a heart, a tunnel of love installation through which visitors walked to gain entry to the show – fantastic! wish I could have been there. Nathalie’s piece is the Love Roulette wheel below.

On Monday a large group of folks were painting water colours in one part of the space while a few others worked on clay projects in the high-ceiling multi-media area.

I have decided to take a ceramics course offered by Froyland Hermandez, a Mexican clay maestro, and attended the first class today. Froyland is a very experienced artist who is very patient with newcomers to the medium.

He is able to explain all aspects of the technique clearly and is very patient, particularly with people like me who are not the best students. I have tried wheel-throwing before, and while I really enjoyed Charmian Nimmo’s class, realised soon that it was not for me, given that I don’t really have the arm and shoulder strength necessary to centre and raise the clay higher than about two inches off the wheel. Makes for a rather limited repertoire of objects that can be made, essentially small candy bowls. Although I did make one bowl that I was quite happy with, the only one that did not have walls that were way too thick and heavy.

I decided instead to try hand-building since I am interested in sculpture and particularly like masks. Froyland showed me how to wedge and prepare the clay correctly and how to roll it out like dough ready to be used. After deciding that I wanted to make a mask, Froyland prepared an armature of bubble wrap and tape around which we placed my rolled out piece of clay.

From this humble beginning the mask grew and took shape. After scoring the surface to indicate where the facial features would go, El Diablo, the devil, was begun by pressing indentations for the eyes and mouth, being careful not to press too hard so as to break or crack the clay’s surface.

For the eyes, I rolled two balls of clay which were placed into the indentations, then scored the surface around each eyeball to accommodate the bits of clay that would form the eyelids. These pieces were rolled out and placed above and below the eyeballs then massaged and stroked with wooden tools to create what eventually looked like a pretty decent set of eyeballs.

Next I created a free-standing nose from a separate lump of clay which was kept flexible by being covered with plastic. Two tusks and several teeth followed, each made by rolling out a cone of clay, first using my hands and then the surface of the table.

This process was trickier that I thought it would be; some of the teeth rolled out too long and thin, while others were too big and thick. Getting a few teeth the right size took quite a bit of time, as did getting the two tusks the right dimensions and curvature. These were carefully placed in the mouth indentation so I could get an idea of what the finished mouth would look like. Having decided that they were good, I then scored the bottom of each tooth, and the area of surface on which each would sit, and attached them with slip, very liquid clay.

I was very excited about the horns. These were made with cones of clay rolled out, like the tusks, first with my hands and then on the table top. Froyland and I had a bit of discussion about what kinds of horns would be appropriate. I didn’t really care but he thought bull’s horns would be best so I took his advice.

He believes that, when working on an object from nature, such as a face, one should look at the details of the face, or, in this case, the horns, to see what they are actually like, rather than simply making something up that doesn’t necessary correspond with the actual “thing”. So the horns took a bit of work to get the right dimensions and curvature. Froyland cautioned me not to put the horns on too quickly because they’re heavy and might crack the piece. I am looking forward to completing the mask tomorrow.

While I was crafting El Diablo, Kelly, a former air traffic controller from the States, was working on a wheel-thrown lidded vessel, on top of which she planned to affix a snail and two sea turtles.

To my right Rosemary, from Lethbridge, painted glaze on her projects, a head with small legs on top, and a mask, for her synchronised swimmer grand-daughter.

At another table several others worked with Carol Ann on silk-painting, a process that also looked very interesting. Some of those folks wore beautiful fused glass bracelets made at another workshop with Carol Ann.

Below, El Diablo so far!

After a hard several hours slaving over my clay piece, I met Ty down by the pier and we spent a very pleasant few hours under a palapa at the beach, including a refreshing dip in the ocean, the first one this year. Had the best guacamole and chips with hot salsa ever at the Mahi Mahi Beach bar with excellent service – highly recommended.

See more photos here.

South Side Strolling

Every second Friday night is the South Side Shuffle along Basilio Badillo. Some of the venues have changed from last year; Kathleen Carillo’s gallery has moved around the corner to Constitucion St and the Color Pod lady has packed up her palm fronds, left PV, and gone back to Florida.

However, the main galleries along here, Galeria Dante, Ambos Galeria and Contempo Gallery, are still rolling and bringing in the crowds, at least as long as the vino doesn’t run out …

Live music still gets the crowd going and adds to the festive ambiance. I particularly love the outdoor sculpture courtyard at Dante – I could sit there for a very long time – it is extremely pleasant.

I also really enjoyed meeting a small Mexican hairless dog in front of Cassandra Shaw’s jewellery shop. Poor old Ty has been fighting a cold for the last few days so unfortunately he was not well enough to join in this time.

Some of the things I love about this place are interesting roof lines, including this imitation Greek temple across the street from us, and cupolas;

skeletons and skulls, found all over the town;

angels, including this beauty at the Hacienda San Angel in Gringo Gultch;

dogs and cats, including these guys on Los Muertos beach;

and cold cervesas under an umbrella.

In my desire to be living “local” in PV, I had forgotten some of the idiosyncrasies of living in a typical Mexican neighbourhood. Let me give you an idea of what these are:

1) The small cluster of buildings in which we are staying which seemed so quiet when we arrived is now the site of a small-scale construction operation. Two guys showed up two days ago with jackhammers and buzz saws and proceeded to generate an enormous racket while presumably installing plumbing in two of the empty apartments. And, since PV does not seem to have any noise regulations, or at least none that are enforced, who knows how many days and hours this will go on.

2) Doggies and roosters I have already mentioned; there are several in the immediate vicinity. One rooster gets going at 2:30 am.

3) Our first Friday night in the Old Town was last night and it brought all new noise joys, above and beyond what we have already experienced. About 11:30 pm a blast of music startled us when a mariachi band, from the volume seemingly right in our living room, but actually on the street just around the corner, began playing at full volume to the delight of the local youth whose cries of joy added to the general mayhem. Then, around 3 am, when the mariachi band had finally finished their set, the tourist folks down the block, who’d obviously been having a few brews, began blasting their music at a thousand decibels, while screaming, yelling, and fighting, until 4:45 am. Even the animal noises disappeared into the background with all the commotion. Viva Mexico! Viva la difference!

** I realise that the whole noise issue is a cultural thing – we come from a culture of large houses (mostly) and concrete condos which mute neighbouring noises. Mexicans, at least those who are not wealthy, mostly grow up with lots of noise in the neighbourhood, houses that lie very close together with not much in the way of sound-proofing, and are accustomed to being surrounded with lively, noisy activity day and night.

One of the benefits of staying in this area is the plethora of local bars and restaurants; below is Que?Pasa just down the road from us. Here live music entertains the crowd seven nights a week and they do have delicious tortilla soup.

The Emilano Zapata farmers market is the place to buy food in this area, with several fruit and vegetable tiendas and a central area of butcher stands, as well as this little taco stand just outside.

Mid-day today, though, the scent from the meat stalls was too ripe for my sensitive nose.

While we were strolling around the area a tiny beautiful butterfly took advantage of my hat to hitch a ride. After riding around with us for quite some time, and showing no inclination to fly off, I gently swept it off my hat and onto a welcoming flower branch nearby.

See more here.

Laura Reznek CD Release Show at Renegade Studios, Vancouver

I was delighted to be asked to provide projections for the Laura Reznek ‘Who Came Before Us’ CD Release Show at Renegade Studios in Vancouver. Laura is a local up-and-coming singer/songwriter whose piano stylings and smoky vocals captivate. She and her band entertained the crowd in front of a screen on which my photographic projections provided a visual counterpoint to the musical proceedings. Along with Laura on piano are Hayato Kubo on drums, Mark Brown on bass, Samuel Romero on guitar, with Jocelyn Hallett & Bronwyn Malloy on backup vocals.

Awesome fun! For more information on Laura, click here.

Click here for a video clip of the event.