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.

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

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.

May Art in Vancouver

If it’s May, it must be Grad Show at Emily Carr time. We always enjoy seeing what the new crop of artists are up to; the photos below were taken in the school’s library. This structure, not unlike an outhouse in design, invites people to interact with it.

Ty obliged by adding some geometric patterns to the interior walls.

We really enjoyed seeing the variety of sketchbooks on display, especially those with lots of colour and pop-up shapes. They reminded me of my teen paper bag creations; I used to carry around my books in a paper grocery bag that I’d decorated with organic and geometrical patterns and figures in a variety of coloured pens. These, though, are more sophisticated than my student efforts.

I was also pleased to note the resurgence of interest in material print media (as opposed to digital images); this example is a screen print/woodblock combination illustrating what I assume is the artist’s own story.

Usually, I respond less to the design sections of the show, but this year the installation was better, more coherent somehow, and there were several pieces that I examined closely. It’s interesting that most of the student designers are working on very socially conscious projects – here’s one example.

In the Fine Arts section, there were quite a few examples of what we used to call “tight” drawing – highly detailed and illustrative. This may be a function of the renewed interest in illustration at Emily Carr.

As usual, there were lots of examples of photography, some of it in the Vancouver School vein and others more like Nan Goldin-like.

Most of the print works were abstract, several with cutout elements. I’m assuming that the latter are influenced by artists such as Swoon, with her large scale print installations of woodcuts.

We were a bit surprised to note that not much “traditional” sculpture was on display, although there were lots of three dimensional pieces and small installations.

I liked this piece quite a bit, bronze objects placed atop charred plinths.

The piece above was one of the more striking works, cut out plywood panels, I think, with dramatic lighting that cycled on and off.

I also took a look at the Roundhouse Exhibition in honour of the Twentieth Anniversary of the Langley Fine Arts School.

This show included quite a bit of illustration and also some nice mixed media wall pieces.

Another very interesting exhibition is Bioanimology at the ArtStarts Gallery on Richards, a space featuring the art produced by public school children working with artists in residence.

The projects are thematic and participants produce works that are both beautiful and socially-conscious. Grade three and five students from Enderby worked with two professional artists, Cathy Stubington and Julie Ross, to learn about local birds through puppetry, movement, song, and dramatic play.

The bird puppets are really quite delightful.

Kitsilano high school students worked with Phyllis Schwartz to produce photograms, lumen prints featuring organic materials – really beautiful.

Zev Tiefenbach worked with Salmon Art school children to produce photographic images of the weather in their world. Each child was given a digital camera for a week to record the natural environment and the feeling of being alive in that particular place.

For five weeks first nations artist Anastasia Hendry guided Langley students through a coastal first-nations-inspired series of drawings of animals on deer hide. These are beautifully mounted on circular halos of wood, together casting evocative shadows on the wall behind.

The rat man and I checked out the latest wall art in the alley behind the Dominion Building, an ever-changing cornucopia of colour.

As you can tell, Brubin is also an art lover.

On our tour through the downtown eastside I enjoyed seeing Elizabeth Zvonar’s work at the Audain Gallery in the Woodward’s Building.

While I was inside perusing the art, Ty and Brubin got caught in a rogue downpour outside …

A great discovery at 33 W Hastings was the new Lost + Found cafe, a cavernous food-art-travel emporium of global handcrafts and local art and food.

221A Centre at 221A East Pender has an exhibition of photo works by some of this year’s Emily Carr graduates.

By this time the boys were getting a little weary, so we turned our faces homeward.

Closer to home artist Yuri Padal is working on and displaying his oil paintings in the small plaza next to the Yaletown skytrain station.

See more photos here.

 

Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion

Marsha, Ty, and Dana at the opening of Invoking Venus, Feathers and Fashion.

INVOKING VENUS, Feathers and Fashion features photo-based images by Catherine Stewart and accessories from the clothing collections of Claus Jahnke and Ivan Sayers.

Using bird specimens from the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, Vancouver-based Stewart explores the role colour, patterning and adornment play in courtship and attraction. Through the juxtaposition of images of bird plumage with images of vintage fabrics and actual feathered fashion accessories, the parallels in human and bird behaviour become apparent. The lush and sensuous images magnify details in avian plumage and vintage fabrics, revealing a multitude of rich and varied hues that combine to create the colours, textures and patterns observed when viewing birds and humans at their finest.

“On the surface, birds and humans are very different. Yet, if you really observe these two groups you can start to draw many parallels in their behaviour,” explains Yukiko Stranger-Jones, Exhibits Manager, Beaty Biodiversity Museum. “Through pairs of images, Stewart engages us in a visual dialogue that examines the role adornment plays in the courtship of both birds and humans.” (text from the Beaty website)

The opening reception included a fashion show featuring historical clothing and accessories from the collections of Ivan Sayers and Claus Jahnke. The show was hosted by Ivan Sayers and explored the history of feathers in fashion. Clothing from about the 1880s to the 1970s was worn by a series of models who strutted their stuff on the red carpet running beneath the gigantic whale’s skeleton in the Museum’s atrium.

Seated right below the whale’s huge jaw bones, we contemplated the possibility of being crushed if the “big one”, the huge megathrust earthquake overdue in these parts, were unhappily to occur this evening.

In his comments Sayers pointed out the action and reaction of clothing designers whose dresses became longer or shorter, tighter or looser, bigger or smaller depending upon the changing political and social status of women through time. (It was difficult to get a photograph that was in focus – the models did not stand still for very long).

Similarly the hats alternated between gigantic feathered confections and small, close-to-the-head caps and bows.

One of the most bizarre hats included the head and feathers of a small animal on its front face. A break in the proceedings allowed the audience a chance to view Catherine’s photos works hung along a corridor framing the Beaty collection.

I rather like the Francis-Bacon-like effect in the picture below. See more pictures here. More information about the show is here.

Puerto Walkin': Camino al Mirador and Playa Manzanillo

I had a vision of colourful flowers in the small pool here at the Swiss Oasis so, a couple of nights ago, when all the other guests were out, Ty and I set up the camera and I had some fun playing Ophelia floating amongst the flowers.

See more pics of this project here.

Puerto is still very much a fishing town, and lately the fishing seems pretty good, at least judging from the catch brought up on the Playa Principal, the main beach.

You just never know when you’ll run into a juggling clown …

or a piggie at the market.

On the weekend the beaches here at Puerto Escondido are packed out with local families, all laughing, having fun, and playing in the surf.

The kids here get introduced to the water very young; many of the families with tiny babies were in the waves with these little cuties, enjoying jumping in the big surf.

One couple had their very small child quite far out in the water on a tiny inflatable device.

At Playa Manzanillo the waves have been high for the last few days – olas altas took a number of people off guard, including one granny sitting on a walk who was completely engulfed, and the oyster lady, who suffered a gigantic wave up her shorts and jumped up laughing.

The Babylon Cafe near us has a fabulous collection of painted wooden masks – I am coveting all of them … (click on the link below to see more of them).

And we discovered a sushi restaurant on the beach … not as good as the one we go to in Vancouver, but not bad (don’t order a tequila drink, though – just juice, no juice).

Just a couple of days ago we discovered the Camino al Mirador, a walkway along the sea travelling from the Playa Principal to near the Playa Manzanillo.

It reminds me quite a bit of the Lovers Walk section of Italy’s Cinque Terre hike, with the same concrete and stone walkways along a steep rocky shore.The cacti here are absolutely enormous – like trees, and some have very soft brown fluffy attachments, flowers, I suppose.

In spots, this walkway has broken down and bits of it can be seen in the ocean; in other areas, the concrete is starting to crack and deteriorate – Ty figures that it will only last another few years before it drops into the ocean.

Along its length anonymous artists have tagged the shoreline and street philosophers have inscribed their thoughts into and onto the rock.

On today’s walk I floated some flowers on a small seaside pond,

while the female dog who joined us sat panting in the shade,

and installed 20 strands of coloured ribbon on a promontory viewpoint to watch them dance in the stiff breeze. These we left behind for passersby to enjoy.

Just another hard day at the office … Puerto Escondido is great – highly recommended!

See more pics here.

Dia de las Flores: Death and the Devil visit the Colonial House, Guanajuato

For the Dia de las Flores, Ty and I decorated the front archways of our colonial house; using locally-made masks of Death (a tiny tin skull wearing a black sombrero) and the Devil (a papier mache horned demon mask) we recreated the encounter of Death, the Devil, and the Maiden imagined so starkly in images such as those below by Hans Baldung Grien.

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1510

Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung, 1518

“In this painting a voluptuous young maiden turns to receive the kiss of her lover, only to discover, to her horror, Death. The skeletal figure gently holds her head, a gesture that belies the finality of his impending bite. His patches of wispy hair and rotting skin mock her flowing tresses and supple flesh. The dark setting, unnoticed at first, is a cemetery as she stands on a gravestone, perhaps her own. This Vanitas picture (an image that alludes to the transience of life) typifies Baldung’s predilection for erotically charged twists to more conventional themes, such as the Dance of Death. ” (Web Gallery of Art)

For more information on the Memento Mori, and other installations on this theme that I had done, click here and here.

See all the photos of the Guanajuato piece here.

Amed Beach Tree Piece: Colour Therapy

Blue Star Bangalows is unique in Amed in having the most beautiful  large leafy tree on  the beach right in front of the restaurant.  It was this tree, and Barb and Tony lying beneath it, that initially attracted us  to this place on our first visit. The day had been very hot and dry and the tree beckoned us from afar like an oasis. No one knows what the name of this tree is but its leaves and branches provide a cool green-ness and shade from the hot Bali sun.

I had purchased skeins of coloured wool from a shop in Levuka, Fiji, intending to wrap a palm tree at the Beachouse, a project which I never got around to while we were in Fiji. But here the low hanging branches of this tree called out for colourful wrapping. After winding ten differently coloured skeins of wool around two branches, inspired by the bamboo pole decorations along the streets in east Bali, I also hung ten bamboo pinwheels obtained from the beachside cemetery on the same branches. These twirled and spun in the wind, looking very much like hands against the blue ocean and sky.

In the evening Ty and I hung up the coloured LED lights to illuminate the pinwheels; the lights also shone on the ground beneath with many varied hues.  The tree and its decorations then provided a theatre set upon which Barb and Komang enacted a stately dance, the colours tinting their faces and hands with a changing kaleidoscope of colour as they moved, effecting a kind of colour therapy. Many thanks to Barb and Komang for their performance!

Read more about colour therapy here.

See the complete set of photos here. If you use the slideshow function, you’ll get an impression of movement.