Golden Autumn


Well, last year up here winter began with a snowfall that never left on Sept 30. But this year it’s a different story: it’s still sunny and quite warm some days, although at night the temperature goes down below zero. We still haven’t turned on all the heat yet – saving that for later in the year. (The winter electric bills up here are a killer!)

On Ty’s last set of days off we managed to get a nice hike in on Sandra’s brother’s property up in Rose Prairie. When we were there before it was the end of June and summer; now the colours and vegetation have changed and I almost did not recognise some of the places.

The walk goes past two small oil pumpjacks and along the ridge above the Beatton River. As you can see the grasses and trees are yellow and golden now. Really stunning!

Here Ty is pointing out the berry-filled bear poop on the trail. I am amazed that everyone up here can distinguish between bear, moose, deer, and dog poop. I was also a bit nervous to see that this particular pile was fresh. The others reassured me that, because there were so many berries this year, we did not need to worry about becoming this bear’s next snack …

After a warm walk downhill, we reached the riverside and its sandy banks.

It was a pretty warm day and we found a nice spot in the shade under the trees to have lunch. Luckily the mosquitoes have more or less left this vicinity; however, the wasps and ants were still actively sniffing around for food.

The way down was a pleasant stroll, while the way up again was a bit of a hot slog.

This beautiful golden season does not last long, this year about 4 weeks (last year it was 2 weeks). Now, two weeks after this walk, almost all the aspen trees are bare, stark skeletons against the bright blue sky.

For the last three months I worked on the set projections for the Alcan Craze of ’42 with Director Michael Armstrong of Nanaimo and local playwright and musician Deb Butler. The play is about the building of the Alaska Highway in 9 months in 1942, with thousands of American soldiers coming to the north, and the impact that event had on Fort St John and the surrounding area.

All that hard work paid off with wonderful reviews for the 25 videos I produced using historical images and movie clips. My clips were between 6 seconds and 6 minutes long and were used to flesh out the story, projected on the big wall behind the actors. Here are a few samples from the production.

Some of the images were stills, others are part of a moving montage.


And here is a video clip of the final scene of Act One, dealing with the drowning of 12 soldiers in the icy waters of Charlie Lake.

Drowning Scene.

Life at the gallery continues: September was a busy month with preparations for the Annual Art Auction which came to fruition on the last Saturday of September at the Pomeroy Hotel, with a buffet dinner, live music, live auction, silent auction, games (Heads or Tails below), bucket draws, and 50/50 draw. One hundred and twenty-five people came and we raised $25,000 for the gallery and visual arts programs in this community.

Featured artist this year was Karl Musgrove, a local rancher and artist who continues to paint every day even after having had a severe stroke that impedes his ability to talk and walk. Below Karl receives a standing ovation from the crowd.

I lasted until the last round of the Heads or Tails game and then was eliminated, leaving Miep (centre below) the happy winner of Cody Smith’s King of the Mountain painting.

Here’s a picture of auctioneer Brian Baldry in action; he’s very good at his job and was able to get some determined folks bidding against one another for the paintings on offer, resulting in very good prices for the work.

Gallery artists in residence continue throughout the Fall, with Judy Templeton wowing the crowds with collagraph printing on a tiny press.

And Laurie Yates painting.

On the day that Laurie was in residence, we had a visit from two Japanese cyclists who were heading through town on their way south, having begun their ride at the most northerly spot in Alaska. One, the gentleman on the left, is riding to the southern tip of South America, Tierra del Fuego, expecting to take two years to get there, and the other is going to Los Angeles.

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We’ve had two very successful events at the gallery in the last few weeks, the first a book launch, reading, and signing with local author Ronnie Roberts, who presented her post-apocalyptic novel set in the North Peace entitled Lost Sentinels. (There is a very active writers group here in FSJ, who meet every month at the library next door to the gallery).

As we pulled into the Cultural Centre parking lot for the event, the cloud formation overhead looked strange and almost apocalyptic.

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Along with Ronnie, local musical quartet Intermezzo serenaded the crowd with Baroque favourites.

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Ty serving wine and chatting up the crowd; he is the gallery’s defacto bartender for these evenings and does very well at it!

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Ronnie giving her signing hand a workout. We sold all but three of her books at the launch.

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And Fort St John’s two bassoonists meeting one another.

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The second event, just a few days ago, was the opening of Flora & Fauna: Block Prints by Catherine Ruddell and Driftwood Sculpture by Michelle Pringle, a beautiful show by two young local artists. It was a great success, attended by a big crowd, and received a very positive review by the local paper. (At the Cultural Centre there is an arts-based preschool, whose members came by the other day for a gallery visit as we were installing the Flora & Fauna show.)

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Here’s a short video I made of two of Michelle’s pieces arriving at the gallery.

Anderson & Libby arrive.

Intermezzo, in its trio version, played light jazz for the opening as the guests mingled and took in the art, including four life-size and over-life-size driftwood animals and an enormous quilt.

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The picture of the artists, below, was taken by Matt Prepost of the Alaska Highway News.

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Photo of Catherine’s block print quilt by Matt Prepost.

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There is also a very active photography club here in town, many of whose members head out nightly to capture the aurora borealis and daily to capture the changing seasons. The three photos below are by Vincent Bedier, whose handle is VinDronus.

I’m very happy to say that a couple of my films have had success recently. My experimental short An Accident of Being has been selected for this year’s Roma Cinema DOC in October 2017. Roma Cinema DOC is a monthly film festival based in Italy that features films, documentaries, and web series from around the world. Every month, Judges award the best films of each category. Every winner is given the distinction of an Official Finalist of the annual event in which Judges and Audience will award the best films of each category. The 2nd Roma Cinema DOC event will take place in October 2017.

And my short experimental film The Vanishing was selected as a semi-finalist for the 2017 Kaohsiung Film Festival International Short Film Competition in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan. Held in October and November 2017, the Kaohsiung International Short Film Competition is dedicated to discover new filmmakers and to enhance cultural exchanges through short films.

And, finally, for this dispatch, Happy Thanksgiving to you all, wherever you may be! We had a wonderful meal at Eliza and Edward’s place, with tortiere, homemade soup and bread, and a very tasty dessert, especially appreciated by Ty who has been on a no-dessert diet for the last two months.

See more pictures here and 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.

Sweet Pea Swing Band at the Prophouse

We were at the Prophouse in Vancouver the other night to hear Sweet Pea Swing Band. The Prophouse is a great venue, a coffee house that also serves beer and wine, has great local music and a vast and eclectic collection of collectabilia, including a copy of Rembrandt’s painting Man with a Golden Helmet, the very same one I grew up with over the mantle in the family home, many reproductions of leopards, plastic rotary dial phones, and the like.

The band was great – highly recommeded!

Ubud: Art, Music, and Dance

Yesterday was a culture-filled extravaganza here in Ubud – what an amazing place this is. For a quite small town the number of art galleries, museums, and places to see and hear music, drama, and dance is incredible. Our plan was to visit the Neka Art Museum in the morning and so we headed out down the main drag towards Kedewatan Village. Of course, I could not pass by all the small galleries without investigating them. The first one, a large barn of a place, is called the Art Zoo, run by Symon, full of colourful expressionist paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works, including silk screens of the usual cast of pop culture figures (Marilyn Monroe, Mona Lisa, Einstein) and a pop-art take-off on that hellenistic favourite, the Barberini Faun.

Close by in another small gallery I chatted with Ngurah KK, a Balinese painter in the Young Artist style, whose works are featured in many art museums world-wide and on Unicef greeting cards.

We nipped into the Sika Gallery of Contemporary Art just across the way, a huge modern space containing many interesting paintings and objects by younger Indonesian artists, a space which we really enjoyed. We actually purchased two small oil paintings – small enough to fit into the ol’ suitcase – by I Made Aswino Aji from Bali and the Javanese Awan Yozeffani.

Carrying our red bag of paintings, we continued up the road to the Neka Art Museum, one of Bali’s most important venues for Indonesian art and art by international artists focussing on Bali.

This place has several pavilions of paintings and some sculpture, most depicting village life and the everyday rituals and mythology of Bali. Traditional Balinese painting, like Buddhist and Hindu art I’m familiar with, is highly detailed, colourful, and representational, sometimes in a deliberately naïve style.

Some of the contemporary Indonesian painting on view looked much like western painting from the 50s, some was reminiscent of German expressionism, and some more like Gauguin.

After immersing ourselves in art, we felt a powerful hunger coming on and staggered out of the Neka and into Naughty Nuri’s barbeque house just across the street, where we munched on BBQ’d chicken and pork, along with several other art lovers. Back at the ranch we plunged in the plunge pool and had a little lie down before emerging once again for a night-time dance performance at the Ubud Palace downtown. Since it was raining a bit, and we were late, we grabbed a taxi and got to the venue early, luckily, because we were able to get a front row seat for the Legong and Barong Dance.

I had never seen Balinese dance before and knew almost nothing about it so the performance was a delight.

Everything was new and unexpected. The colours of the costumes and makeup of the dancers and musicians were fabulous, and each time the scene changed and new characters emerged, I was enchanted.

Rather than one continuous story, the evening involved several different dramas. The Legong dance, a historical 13th century romance, features pre-pubescent girls; the Barong dance a lion-dog creature representative of good, manipulated by two actors, duelling with a monkey;

and the finale a story from the Mahabharata of two giants, Sunda and Upasunda, a beautiful goddess, her attendant nymphs, and two clown-like figures whose purpose was unknown to me.

The movements of the dancers, both women and men, are highly stylised, and include fascinating eye, head, and hand movements. While the womens’ movements are graceful and sensuous, the mens’ are more angular and sharp, meant to indicate strength and power.

The Barong was very humourous and reminded me of a sasquatch or abominable snowman-like figure, as well as our dog Brubin when he plays grass alligator. Accompanying the action was a gamelan orchestra and a male narrator who voiced all the parts, which must have been exhausting for him! This spectacular performance is highly recommended.

See more pictures here.