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!

Happy Holidays 2015!

Oh the glory of the lights at the Van Dusen Botanical Gardens! Unbelievably, the evening we had chosen to go and see the lights, it wasn’t raining – glory be! The heavenly hosts must have been gazing down benevolently upon us. And, even better, there was no horrendous line-up to get in.

This year the light display is even more spectacular, with an additional five acres of glowing LED madness. Ty had to fortify himself with a bucket of popcorn for the trek around the grounds and found himself in the line-up with a group of grey-shrouded barefoot Buddhist nuns.

Around every corner is a new photographer’s delight; I especially love the reflections of the trees and bushes in the various lakes and ponds and the tree branches lit up against the night sky and almost-full moon.

New this year, or maybe I had just not noticed them before, are small heating hut areas, with shelters and heaters for the gathered throng to warm up; the only down side of the clear night was the fact that my extremities are always cold and my hands, even with two layers of gloves, were cold.

There are also quite a few interactive displays; this one, for example, in which waving one’s hands over a light panel causes the trees to light up in an array of different glorious colours.

Another interactive display allowed visitors to yell into a tube that generated a snake of coloured light to run through a passage and change the colour of the plastic icebergs, seen below.

Oh Christmas lights, how I love thee!

Merry Christmas All!

See more photos here.

 

 

Tasting Roll

Saturday Night Tasting Roll – who knew that this was a thing in Vancouver? Not moi. But when the five of us decided to ride our bikes around town to check out the micro-breweries popping up all over the place, we were part of a growing trend. Each place we stopped at had cyclists galore chugging down tasters, flights, pints, glasses of brew. However, we were the only group with awesome tunes blasting out as we were riding, courtesy of Ty and his jambone jambox speaker (the red box in Ty’s bike basket below).

First stop on the route along the Adanac Bikeway was Off the Rail, a tiny second floor place with a few tables and a separate lounge (not yet licenced).

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The barkeep lined up a flight of ten shot glasses, samples of each of their products on tap that day, arranged in order of strength, from the lightest pilsner to darker, hoppier blends.

Ty approved!

As you can see, our group had no difficulty polishing off the small glasses.

At Parallel 49 the Caribbean food track was parked out from, great news for some of our group who sampled the goodies on hand.

Unfortunately, there was no room at this particular inn; the place was at capacity so we decided to roll onwards, down towards the docks.

Next up, not on our original list because I did not know about it, was the Odd Society, Makers of Fine Spirits, on Powell Street, which we spotted as we were about to ride by. We rolled in to their tasting room and sampled a jug of one of their specialty gin drinks, as well as a vodka martini.

After consuming lavender flavoured gin, we headed along Powell, past the BC Sugar Refinery, and down along the lower road to the Vancouver Urban Winery in the Settlement Building just off Main Street.

This place was also full, but had stand-up room at the bar, where we proceeded to install ourselves, sampling some very tasty appetisers, and a few pints of their brewed-on-site beer.

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Nearby a group of women were checking out the wine flights.

Just outside the front door, collapsed on the Winery’s sign, was an inebriated young man, one of the people riding bikes that we’d seen at an earlier stop, suffering from a combination of heat, exhaustion, and too many flights, no doubt.

Next up was going to be Salt in Blood Alley, but they had no bike parking so we hit Bitter on Hastings instead.

This place is right next door to a fenced-in parking lot and had plenty of parking for the steeds, which we were allowed to bring in through the room. We sampled a few goodies under the watchful idea of Rodney Graham on the wall behind.

Good times! See a few more photos here.

Passenger Pigeons at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, UBC

Passenger pigeon small

Currently, I am working on a new project involving species loss. For part of it, I wanted to photograph a Passenger Pigeon, the one hundredth anniversary of whose extinction was mourned in 2014. I discovered that the Beaty Biodiversity Museum had two of the beasts in their collection and the curator of birds, Ildiko Szabo, kindly allowed me to come and photograph them, as well as some of the other related species and creatures in the “bone room” and lab. Interestingly, I learned that scientists in the US are right now working on bringing the passenger pigeon back to life by “de-extinctioning” it. I’m not sure if I have that terminology right, but apparently they will be taking the DNA of the pigeon and by some magical process creating pigeon sperm and eggs and implanting these into chickens. The eggs thereby produced will not be chicken eggs, but Passenger Pigeon eggs. Fascinating but not without ethical issues … I am not sure how far along in this reclamation process those individuals are.

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The Passenger Pigeon is the brown-breasted bird in the bottom left corner of the image above.

cabinet

BEATY

The second Passenger Pigeon is contained in a glass case within the Victorian Curiosity Cabinet display in the Museum itself, along with many other tetrapod specimens. “Wunderkammern, or cabinets of curiosities, arose in mid-sixteenth-century Europe as repositories for all manner of wondrous and exotic objects. In essence these collections—combining specimens, diagrams, and illustrations from many disciplines; marking the intersection of science and superstition; and drawing on natural, manmade, and artificial worlds—can be seen as the precursors to museums” (MOMA).

plucked pigeon

Ildiko removed a tray of pigeons from their enclosure in one of the Museum’s cabinets, which she carried out to the hall underneath the gigantic whale so I could photograph them in better light. These were the Passenger Pigeon’s closest living relatives, brownish banded pigeons from the Transval in Africa and the larger wild pigeons we see everywhere around us today; I also photographed their bones and eggs. In addition, I photographed two specimens which looked plucked and semi-skeletal, preserved such that they demonstrate the way the birds’ feathers grow.

Pigeons small

While in the bone room I took many photographs of the Passenger Pigeon from many angles, as well as closeups of its head. I was also able to access the drawers of similar bird species, including a very large white Rock Pigeon. I find it fascinating to compare the sizes and colours of these related birds, some of which are very small and others quite large, the latter used by poultry aficionados for pigeon pie.

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pheasant2

pheasant

Finch small

In the bone room was also several other specimens of tetrapods (four legged species), including a Canadian Bison with a tiny squirrel beneath its stomach,

squirrel and bison

bison eye

some large-horned goat-like creatures (they were not labelled), and a fantastic group of colourful birds, including several beautiful pheasants from the collection of Plato Mamo.

I was invited to take a look at the lab, a “wet room” where specimens are prepared in various ways. I saw a number of aquaria containing recently-obtained bones and skulls, upon which beetles are crawling and feasting. These bugs do the work of cleaning the bones very efficiently (although Ildiko did mention that they initially turned their collective noses up at a crocodile head).

bugs

skull and bugs

Many thanks to Ildiko Szabo and the Museum for allowing me access!

See more information about the Beaty Biodiversity Museum.

Read about my earlier visit to the Museum 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.

April in Vancouver

If it’s April in Vancouver, there must be blossoms, lots and lots of them. Our trees are blooming and the cherries are especially lovely.

Barb and I joined hundreds of other cyclists for the Vancouver Cherry Blossom/Velopalooza Bike the Blossoms ride through the flower-decked streets of East Vancouver.

Brubin the dog is enjoying spring, too; after getting over being plagued with a horrible skin rash, he has new life and energy.

The birthday boys Colin and Ty enjoying their moment in the sun at the Sandbar restaurant.

New Years Eve

No it’s not a flying saucer – it is a LED-lit hula hoop at Revelry New Years Eve.

While the evening itself was not exactly the party we’d anticipated, I really enjoyed the light show projections, all taking place under the watchful eyes of HRM Queen Elizabeth at about 35 years of age and Prince Philip.

We had arrived fairly early to the Legion on Commercial and headed in the open door to find a crowd that I had not expected … seemed to be the usual Legion crowd, perhaps even people who had been there still from the night before. But there was a great CCR cover band and people were dancing – however, it was not the event to which we’d bought tickets so up the stairs we went …

That early in the evening there were few folks in attendance but the fire-dancer in silver lame and top hat with LED lights instead of coconuts was kind of mesmerizing.

One young women was dashing around the crowd completely naked except for a thong and some nice body painting.

Our intrepid little group occupied a cluster of chairs close to the wall.

I enjoyed the changing colour shadows playing across Ty’s beard.

Among the acts entertaining the now quite crowded crowd were belly dancers

A baton-twirling youth

And two female contortionists.

Happy New Year, All!

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.

Random Summer

Ty and Brubin on the patio at Chill Winston’s in Gastown, a favourite watering hole on our way to Crab Park.

Cranes portside.

Attempting lift-off on the Main Street viaduct.

Hotel Vancouver gargoyles.

Douglas Coupland’s giant Gumhead.

Close encounter of the snouted kind.

Memento Mori; Et in Arcadia Ego.

Strathcona Temple.

Christine ready to roll down the Main Street viaduct.

First night of the Fireworks competition – USA lights up the sky over English Bay.

Beautiful sunset over the water.

Sunset selfie on a neighbouring deck.

Aran the cat.

Flowers at George Wainborn Park.

Fly Boarding at English Bay, the pre-fireworks show at the last night of the Celebration of Fire. We decided to watch the fireworks from the epicentre of all activities, the sand on the beach at English Bay, with half a million of our closest friends.

The crowd starts to get thick on the ground at English Bay.

Hiding from the sun.

Local band the Matinee.

Fireboat and some dude’s head.

As the sun went down, the crowd flowed in a steady stream down onto the sand, covering every square inch of it.

Just another summer evening here in paradise.

The Really Big Print Project on Granville Island

Art fun in the sun – the Big Print Project is happening this long weekend down on Granville Island. The brainchild of Peter Braune and Richard Tetrault, this project sees several artists creating gigantic four foot by eight foot woodcuts on particle board, which are then printed by a steamroller. All the action is taking place in the alleyway between Railspur and Cartwright Street.

First the ink to be used is rolled out on a glass slab.

(Photo above by Esther Rausenberg)

Then the huge plates are inked up and placed on the ground.

Below Richard makes sure that the plate is correctly positioned to be printed.

Peter has a look to make sure all is okay.

Then the paper and blankets are gently lowered onto the inked plate, making sure that the paper is in the correct position.

Peter then fires up the steamroller and drives back and forth over the plate; the ink is then transferred from the plate onto the paper with the pressure of the drum.

The unveiling is always the fun part – will it have worked?

First the blanket, then the paper is pulled gently off the plate.

Voila! The artist is pleased.

Another couple of plates ready to go (photos below by Esther Rausenberg).

This time Andrea drives the steamroller.

Doing a few little touch-ups by hand.

Fantastic job! Check it out if you are in the area.