January snow and sun

As some of you know, I was down in Vancouver in January and it seemed that I brought the northern winter with me! It was sunny, cold, and icy for much of the time but was it ever beautiful! After being up north for six months in a landscape that is somewhat barren, although beautiful in its own way, everything about Vancouver seemed gorgeous: the trees, the mountains, the plants, the people, the architecture … I think I must have been starved for aesthetic experiences!

Especially the snow-covered mountains – I couldn’t stop taking pictures of them.

Here’s a mural message that hits home on a building at Main and 10th: the Present is a Gift. After a very stressful January, that really resonates for me!

I was happy to be able to connect with some of my dear friends while I was there – these two cuties:

And these three:

Others I don’t have any pictures of, but it was so wonderful to be able to spend time with friends that I hadn’t seen for a while.

I signed up for an introductory month of yoga at the YYoga studio in Kits and captured this fabulous end of day burst of golden glory after class one day.

Even just walking around Granville Island, which I’ve spent so much time on over the years, was like something new and wonderful after having been away.

While out walking I stopped in the middle of intersections to take yet more pictures of those fabulous mountains.

Ty & I caught the Collectors show at the Vancouver Museum, a display of the wild and wacky stuff that some people are compelled to accumulate – made me feel like not so much of a hoarder!

If I think about the psychology of collecting curiosities, it seems partly linked with acquisition and consumption; finding something “other”, alien, or exotic fascinating and wanting to absorb it into one’s own psychological or physical environment. Placing such an object in a collection or curiosity cabinet immobilises it, but also leaves it accessible to scrutiny or wondering about or appreciating (in that old sense of art or music “appreciation”). It may be that collecting objects is a way of filling a gap or fulfilling a lack … It is true that the historical curiosity cabinets or Wunderkammer did focus on the exotic and unfamiliar, at a time when everything seemed to be available for gathering and containing.

Back in 2009 when Ty & I were on Libong island in the Andaman Sea south of Trang, Thailand, I gathered up quite a lot of shells from the beach one night, making sure that they were empty. I put them on our deck, lined up in order of size – I was going to do a painting of them. The next morning, I was quite disappointed that several of them were gone and I thought that someone had come by in the night and taken them away. Later that morning I saw the line of missing shells, not empty as it happened but occupied by hermit crabs, making their stately way back to the beach – the flow of the marvellous is all around us.

I was happy to have been able to participate in the Vancouver Women’s March while I was there, a large and lively gathering of folks from all walks of life. After having been passed by while standing at the bus stop to go downtown to the march by several packed-to-the-rafters buses, one finally stopped for us – it was absolutely full of pink-hatted protestors heading to the march. I felt a bit underdressed without a pink pussyhat.

We all gathered at the Olympic Plaza waterfront and, after waiting for quite a while, headed off for the Trump Tower on Georgia.

I loved the sign below, a riff on the now-famous Baroque painting of Judith slaying Holofernes by Artemisia Gentileschi.

I knew my friend Beatrice had also gone to the march, but hadn’t seen her there. When I downloaded my photos, there she was in the middle of the picture below.

Before heading back up to the frozen north, Ty and I took the opportunity of relaxing and decompressing in Puerto Vallarta for a quick, much too short, hit of sun and warmth. Since we went at the absolute last moment without having planned anything, we weren’t able to find any suitable accommodation to book on line. So we hit the road and just walked in to several hotels in old town, where, on our third try, we found a great room on the top floor of the Posada Lily with a wrap around balcony. A great location at the epicentre of old town at the corner of Basilio Badillo and Olas Altas, the Lily is half a block from the beach and across the street from a coffee shop with great java – perfect!

Here Ty is enjoying his morning coffee on our balcony facing out over the city and watching the sun rise over the hills behind – beautiful!

We had a very low-key and relaxing time, mosieing (sp?) along the malecon

sipping cervesas and margaritas (pro tip: for a killer margarita, try the Redneck Bar at the north end of the malecon – deadly).

Some evenings saw us strolling along the beach, taking in the light show from the pier and all the sights and sounds of merry-making in the Zona Romantica.

One of our favourite places is the Isla Cuale, a green oasis of quiet, at least at the eastern end where the city cultural centre is located, and the Las Brazzas bar. This place is never busy; I really don’t know how they stay in business, but is a very pleasant place to rest on a hot day.

Behind one of the small galleries here a paper mache sculpture of the Donald as a giant pig was strung up to a lamp post.

We enjoy seeing the wares of local artists on display on the Isla; this woman is a watercolour painter specialising in images of black cats in compromising situations. We commisioned her to do a special orange cat for a dear friend.

Of course, we had to take in the South Side Shuffle, the every second Friday extravaganza of art and music in Old Town just down the road from the Posada Lily.

We had a nice chat with Nathalie, the fabulous proprietor of Art Vallarta, and her helper Michael, a performance artist, at their pop-up gallery in what used to be the ceramic studio of Patricia Gawle.

Nathalie is a great supporter of local artists and does a tremendous amount for the arts in Vallarta. In addition to the pop-up gallery and the Art Vallarta studio and gallery, another of her initiatives this year was a house installation of Tony Collantez’ work, an incredible collection of works on canvas and murals in a dizzying array of styles.

We took in the Tuesday hike from Boca to Las Animas organised by Calgarian Doug, along with about 35 other people who packed the bus heading south to the trailhead.

Some folks like to do this hike at super-speed; others, like us, at a more leisurely pace. After the first half hour, the crowd thinned out and spread out along the route.

While we were hiking the day was slightly overcast, which made the walk a bit more pleasant than doing it in the blazing sun.

Since I was now familiar with the route, it did not seem as onerous as the first few times I walked it.

Here Ty is happy that after two hours the end is in sight!

We enjoyed a great lunch at the usual spot, the Caracol restaurant, with the rest of the crew.

A surprise addition to the day was a late afternoon baseball game with the locals at Quimixto, the next village south along the bay where the folks from the restaurant live. Some of the hikers had brought down and donated baseball equipment to the village, including uniforms, bats, balls, and gloves, and had challenged the locals to a game. After lunch and a rest on the beach we all piled back into a panga and headed south for the 15 minute ride to the village.

The game took place at the elementary school field, an expanse of dirt with a view of the ocean.

Before the game proper got going, Ty played a bit of ball with the kids.

Since at this point there were about 30 people for “our” side, not all of us played; I sat it out and Ty played for the local team instead.

While it was a casual, pickup game, all of a sudden when things got going, the Canadians got quite competitive, practicing their most blazing throws in the late afternoon sun. Unfortunately, while everyone could throw pretty well, no one seemed to be able to catch …

All the local guys were heavy hitters, belting the ball into the far distance where our team scrambled without much success to catch and throw it back in.

After a few foul balls, Ty blasted one out to left field and got on base.

Even though we lost 12 to 1, the team were good sports, buying the happy winners a beer before we hopped back on the boat for the return journey to town.

By this time, it was early evening and the sun was setting, not the most optimum time to be on the water without lights or life vests …

We were luck enough to see two humpback whales frolicing on the way back.

I also had the opportunity to plein air paint with Angie, an artist from Penticton who spends much of the winter in PV.

Angie and her husband Rob have a place in old town, and Angie now has her own studio on the main floor of the building where she can paint and display her work.

We also enjoyed spending some time with friends Beatrice and Bev, in town for a few weeks from Vancouver.

One of the most fun things to do in the evening in high season PV is the Wednesday Night Centro Art Walk. Here are a few tidbits of artistic goodies that we saw:

This little guy reminded me of our beautiful departed dog Brubin:

Beatrice taking notes:

See more PV photos here.

One thing I have had reinforced this winter is that we must savour every moment and be thankful and grateful for good friends and family. Carpe diem everyone!

Snow, Trees, and Art

This just in:

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It does not get light here until 9 am and this little part of the world does not do Daylight Savings Time; the time never changes here in FSJ.

At its highest point this time of year, the sun does not come very far above the horizon, meaning that the shadows are always long, even at noon or 1 in the afternoon. That makes for good picture taking! Downside: we only get 7.5 hours of sunlight at this time of year; it gets dark at around 4:30 pm; upside: it’s often sunny.

When the sun is out, and it’s -17 (as recorded by my car’s dashboard), and the trees are covered in hoar frost and snow, the landscape is absolutely stunning.

I stop my car every second block and take pictures of the trees – I have never seen anything like it before. In the morning just as the sun was rising, the trees were gilded pink and purple.

I thought -17 was cold … and it is … but it’s going down to -31 in the next couple of days. This wonderful news gave me the incentive to empty, put away, and clear out our garage of all the still-packed boxes that we haven’t bothered to open since we got here. One of the reasons we decided to rent this place was because of its tandem garage, a garage that takes two vehicles in a row (those of you who saw Ty’s video of this place before we moved in will remember his joy about the garage …). Since it will be so cold, Ty’s truck can’t be parked on the road anymore; it needs to be plugged in if it sits outside overnight. So, now we have room enough in the garage for both vehicles.

The parking spots here are enormous, seemingly twice as big as the ones down south, making it much easier to park the ol’ car. This is because the big truck is king in this part of the world. (My friend Sandy told me that the truck is the sports car of the north). Amazingly, though, some people still manage to take up two spots when they park … (There actually is a Facebook page called “I live in Fort St John and I park like an a**hole” devoted to images of such parking jobs). Also, when the temperature goes down to -17 or below, people leave their vehicles running while they go about their business, some with dogs inside – coming from a “no idle” city, I have not gotten used to this practice – still find it disconcerting.

Eliza and I hiked through Beatton Park the other day on the snowshoe trails. These trails are maintained by the FSJ cycling club and the Whiskey Jack ski club, both very active in this area. We spent about two hours walking through the forested area and noticing how the vegetation changed from aspens to birch to spruce trees depending on the elevation and amount of light.

Eliza also pointed out strange bruises or craterous indentations in some of the trees; these were the marks left by moose eating chunks of the trees.

We also saw evidence of woodpecker holes in many of the trees. Apparently there are also snowshoe hares in these woods, although we did not see any this day. (Miep has seen moose up close on her acreage near the park – apparently they are enormous beasts).

Charlie Lake is frozen and covered with snow and its flat white surface is absolutely gorgeous. It’s not yet frozen deep enough to skate on but will be soon.

A friend from yoga invited me over to her place for lunch and a walk in the country near the FSJ airport. Sandra’s property is huge and fronts the Beatton River – on a sunny afternoon it was absolutely gorgeous.

Christmas time is busy in this part of the world with many craft and artisan markets. I took in three of them the other day, at the North Peace Cultural Centre, The Peace Gallery North, and 10,000 Villages above the MAC Thrift store. Lots of soap makers, wood workers, jewelers, bakers, clothing makers, and artists had their work out for display and sale for a bustling holiday crowd. I felt a bit sorry for the people whose booths were upstairs at the Cultural Centre, especially the soap vendor near the back, because most folks did not venture up the stairs.

Patrick, Ty & I took in the Canadian Country Christmas show at the Lido Theatre. Originally the town’s movie theatre, the Lido has been converted into a dinner theatre and show space with booths and tables on a tiered base.

We had seats right down close to the action, but on the side so we did not get blasted by the music speakers. Country legends (none of whom I knew, not being a country music afficionado) and a couple of local talents serenaded the sold out crowd with western music on a mightily cold – 23 night.

Sandy & I headed out to Dawson Creek for the second day of Sandy’s 2 day workshop of tree portraits a la David Langevin. We stayed overnight in Dawson with Mary and Charlie in their delightful wooden cabin-like house on 10 acres overlooking the city, a house filled with art and warmth.

Almost everyone we’ve met here has a house whose wall are covered with art – it is really great to see. Mary and Charlie are printmakers and have, in addition to paintings, an excellent collection of prints.

On the main floor Mary has her studio, with three presses – makes me want to make prints again! (Maybe I will …).

Oh, and three fat pheasants were roosting in a tree outside the house for the night. And there is a ski hill just down the road. And they have X country skiing and snowshoeing trails on their property.

The workshop was held in a decomissioned elementary school classroom that has been given over to the Dawson art group. Sandy showed us how to complete the trees we had begun last time.

I am sort of happy with mine – at a certain point in the process I just did my own thing instead of what I was supposed to do so I did not get the results that I anticipated. Below you can see it just after I added snow to the branches.

And here it is so far (slightly out of focus …):

However, I can continue to add layers if I want to, to achieve something more like what I was supposed to get. Or not – I haven’t decided yet. Part of the problem is that I did not put enough texture on my piece and I did not do some of the glazing layers correctly. My tree ended up being sort of a cartoon tree. But it is fun to be learning some new painting techniques after all these years.

And here it is more in focus:

Please take note of the weather forecast – going down to -32 but sunny for Ty’s week off …

See more photos here.

Winter in November

Already halfway through November and the time seems to have gotten away on me – I had hoped to do an update before this! Well, we both took at least a week to recover from the Buddy Holly play – so much fun but needed to rest and relax after that. Everyone I spoke to said the play was fantastic, the most successful production that Stage North has ever done, and the best thing in Fort St John ever, and that was nice to hear. Since then, I have gotten a part-time job working 2 mornings a week at a local social service agency a three minute drive from our place, as their social media and training assistant. I update their various web pages and keep track of training modules and other duties as assigned.

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One of those other duties was to help prepare the building for their annual Haunted House, in which the whole place is decorated to be scary and spooky. Along with a few others, I taped black garbage bags to the walls to create dark tunnels along the hallways. Various local companies sponsor some of the rooms and this year about 950 brave souls made their way through the display. Ty & I thought that we’d probably have quite a few kids come through our complex for Halloween so we stocked up on quite a few boxes of tiny chocolate bars. It was snowing that night and we did not get a single kid … so, of course we had to consume those little goodies ourselves!

The artist group that I’ve joined spends a few days a month in a studio out at Charlie Lake, about a half hour drive along the Alaska Highway into the country from our place. The last time I was out there, the beginning of November, quite a few folks were there painting and making prints.

Mary, from Dawson Creek, was introducing a couple of people into the joys of linocut, very successfully.

Others were working on their tree portraits, the results of a painting workshop on the use of veils and glazes and other “old master” painting techniques by Sandy.

Since the results of this way of working are very cool, another group in Dawson Creek decided to have Sandy repeat the workshop there and I was lucky enough to be able to take it, too. We have completed the first day of the two day workshop and will finish it in December. I am pretty excited about the possibilities! Although I was trained as a painter many moons ago, painting has always been a bit problematic for me. The most difficult thing about it is deciding when a painting is finished – I don’t have that problem with printmaking, photography, or film, for some reason.

Here’s what I’ve done so far – it is ready for the next layers of colour.

I’ve had some success with my short films lately: The Fire Ceremony is an official selection for the Leicester City Film Festival this November and a Semi-Finalist for the Los Angeles Cine Fest, while Requiem for the Birds is an Official Selection for the 14th International Short & Independent Film Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh from Dec 3 – Dec 10, 2016. I’ve also been selected for a photography show at the Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie in January so I am working on stuff for that.

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Eliza and I had a great snowy walk a week or so ago with her old lab Tensing in Beatton Park, also at Charlie Lake, where a group of local people have made 15 kilometers of biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoe trails through the forest. Eliza knows these trails like the back of her hand but I got completely turned around and lost; I haven’t figured out the lay of the land here yet. In between the trees, in the shade, there was still quite a bit of snow and ice.

Ty has begun shift work and has completed his first 14 days of night shift pretty successfully – we set up one of the bedrooms as a “dark room” with blackout curtains so that he’d be able to sleep during the day and that seems to be working pretty well. The transition to days off was a bit rough but he seems to be figuring it out. Below is a picture of the “super moon” rising out beyond our complex.

I’m still going to yoga but not as much – working is cramping my style a bit! I also signed on to do a volunteer project with the BC Seniors Advocate. They are interviewing every resident in long term care in British Columbia with an eye to improving care services for seniors. Along with about 10 others, I attended an all-day training session and have done 2 three hour shifts at the local residential care facility so far. Some of it is pretty heartbreaking. Our senior cat Aran is adjusting well; he was skin and bones for a while with the trauma of the move but he has resumed eating and seems pretty comfortable now.

I forgot to mention last time that at the art auction we attended there were several door prizes that we bought tickets for and, unbelievably, I won the last and best door prize – a helicopter ride for 4 over the area which can taken anytime in the next year! We will wait until warmer sunnier weather to give that a whirl.

Take note of the temperature … minus 9 – 10 now. My new snow suit is getting a good workout! On our walk a couple of days ago, in the beautiful new, and cold, snow that had descended on the city overnight, we saw a large hawk at the top of a tree – magnificent!

At first I thought it was a bald eagle; it had a golden head and a dark feathered body. I was able to take a few pictures of it before it hopped away from tree-top to tree-top looking for its next meal. On that walk both Ty & I realised that certain parts of our bodies were not warm enough: at -9 Ty’s feet were freezing and so were my hands! So we headed to the Mall and he got some snow and rain boots good to -40, I got a pair of very nice mittens, and we both got snowshoes so hopefully we should be good to go for the winter! We shall see …

Please take note of the snow on the bench here … about 6 – 8 inches, I figure. On our walk through the Fish Creek Urban Forest yesterday, Ty regaled me with tales of glorious woodsmanship, how to avoid getting caught in the bite and crushed by a falling tree, how to sidestep down the hill so as not to tumble on the ice, how to go around the base of a tree without grabbing hold of it and causing it to topple on top of me, etc. All good to know!

We sidestepped down a long narrow trail through a slide area of fallen trees to the river,

then up again to the flats, only to see at the top a sign declaring that trail closed …however,  there was no sign to be seen at the other end where we had entered, which I thought a bit odd. The forest was beautiful with its variety of trees – spruce, aspen, willow – and meandering stream not quite yet fully frozen.  The landscape is beautiful – it reminds me of my childhood in North Vancouver when we got snow every winter. Although it’s -9, it does not feel as cold as Vancouver at 5 above – it’s a dry cold rather than a heavy, wet, piercing cold.

Last night, with new friends Sylvia, Danielle, Tina, and Patrick, we piled into Good Old Daze, an ice cream parlour-restaurant-live-music-venue, to catch the return of Deere John, a local country music band, featuring Jim, our fearless media and microphone leader on the Buddy Holly show, rockin’ out on the keyboard. Good Times! (And a wee bit chilly for this new-to-the-north-newbie!).

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Here’s a couple of short videos of their tunes:

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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

Walking the Waterfront in PV

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See more photos here.

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

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

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

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Here’s some info about the work:

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

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

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

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

More info about the show here and here.

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

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

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

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

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.

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.