Ice Ice Baby

I’ve been doing some travelling recently, in and out of other parts of the country – and in and out of winter (and spring) along with the shift in landscape and time zones.

But wherever I’ve gone, there’s been ice, in all it’s beautiful, slippery, dangerous glory. Slick sidewalks, crusted roads, feather-frosted puddles and windows, shards and chunks in bodies of water. Yes, there’s water moving, to be sure, but its colour alone speaks volumes about how close in temperature it is to the ice floating in it, surrounding it, still covering most of it as it rushes underneath.

All this frozen stuff has made me want to retreat – to hibernate (again) – keep under the covers, wait for the sun to (finally) warm things into liquid, into spring, into green and growing. But I’ve also been drawn to it. To what it leaves unsaid, to its potential.

Under that veneer, it’s so very alive.

Of course I know that rationally  – but it’s easy to forget this time of year, when the grip of cold air and random storms serve as continual reminders that not yet is the refrain when we ask for the next, warmer season to begin in earnest.

And then I came across this, and understood why ice fascinates me as much as want it al to melt – I want to see this in person one day – to experience seeing that still surface reveal whats really going on … always only change.

… make your voice heard …

Although I’m on the other side of the country currently, I am still keeping some tabs on what’s going on back home. Something that’s been on my mind a great deal the last while is the upcoming October 21 civic election. And yes, I voted! I registered for an absentee ballot and cast my vote from here in Halifax. Gotta love that – just hope Canada Post was on-side and gets the ballot there in time!

There’s the potential for a great deal of change in this vote; our mayor is not seeking re-election, there are councillors retiring as well, others stepping up for a shot at the ‘big chair’ … . So, the city I return to in a few short months may have a considerably different political climate than when I left.

That’s important.

So much can change, and those changes could have direct impact on opportunities for artists like me, and for the fate of the arts community in general.  It is my hope that local artists and arts supporters in Edmonton engage with the political process (however silly it can be or jaded it can make us) … voting is an opportunity to help steer the direction city policy takes for the next few years.  I’m hoping we can make 21 October count for the arts, and for community and democratic process in general.


It’s worth checking out the PACE website for information on candidates, and also heading over to their tumblr for info. There are links for Calgary and Lethbridge too at the Visual Arts Alberta-CARFAC website.



What the Land Teaches

I have been waiting, impatiently, for Spring to really happen in my part of the world … and until recently, I’ve only been given glimmers, little teases of what might come, someday: a day of golden, sun-drenched warmth in which I didn’t need both jacket and sweater, or the first tiny urgings of new green on the tips of tree branches and coming out of garden soil. But none of these seemed more than moments or hints, tagged with the codicil ‘not yet, not quite yet’ – as the cold returns as quickly as it left, the plants seem to stop and wait, and I am left with it the feeling that the warm will never come, never stay. This has been particularly evident for me this year through the force of contrast: travel has taken me places filled with the real green of spring lately (Victoria, Toronto), places full of the promise of another season’s growth become amply evident.

… one of the first, and one of my favourite, signs of coming warmth …

It is the harsh abruptness of this place – the certain, sudden change from warm to cold, sun to gunmetal skies and bitter wind – that, for all my years of living here, I have never quite  been able to get used to. We tend to make jokes out of it here on the Prairies – the weather in particular being a source of humor around its fickleness (and our frustration at its inconsistencies).

…taken April 5. We’ll likely get more of this before it warms up ‘to stay’ …

Somehow though, I think all our laughter is an attempt to mask a much deeper recognition: our utter insignificance in relation to these larger cogs of the Universe, always and insistently turning around us. This is a land of huge skies, violent thunderstorms, blizzards, blistering sun, howling wind … Rivers choked with ice overnight at spring breakup, the magical dance of the Aurora. We are less than dust motes in the face of this. And yet … through sheer perversity or tenacity, or just dumb luck, we manage to get through it, and find our reward in that very abruptness: when the change comes, it is dramatic, and feels (to me at least) as a small but crucial reward for waiting, for being stubborn enough to hang on and wait for the change to come in its own time.

And I am reminded that persistence is sometimes a very quiet thing; it happens under the surface, under cover, but is no less powerful for all of that. And from that essential will to  be – that force that brings change and transformation, sometimes of magical and dramatic proportions – comes all beauty and life.

This, today – from the vantage point of literally hundreds of kilometres away from this fickle and abrupt landscape that is in my bones – is what this land teaches me.

A Matter of Scale

It’s been a very busy few days both in and out of the studio!

Managed to take advantage of the fine weather Tuesday, and spent the morning roaming the city with my camera … many more nest photos are now on the hard drive, awaiting their integration into work.

One of the 'famous' nests in Edmonton ... so many people I have spoken to about this project have mentioned this nest to me. A nice little bit of ingenuity, this.
What I didn't know was that there was a second nest built into the bridge! This one's rather less obvious than its larger cousin farther along, and much better hidden. I almost missed it.

Wandering around and marvelling at these structures – as I always do – got me to thinking about all the challenges around constructing these objects, and how they really don’t change all that much, regardless of scale. It’s all variations on a theme in many ways, with the materials used and context dictating the eventual solution … and of course, some situations are easier than others! It struck me that the Walterdale Bridge pictured above was a great place to build … the pre-existing structure provides so much in the way of stability and security, that it’s more a matter of finding the best space amongst many than anything else. There are much tougher places to work with to be sure …

I am also in building mode – working on a series of sculptures that will also be incorporated into the body of work for NEST this autumn. It’s great to be working this physically – not that the gel-transfer printing is not (my fingertips are still a mess; they’ve gone from blistered and sore to peeling and calloused!) – but the sculptures engage my whole body, directly and simultaneously. Manipulating the materials with a consciousness of their relationships to space and volume – and how best to work with them – is a fascinating process in active learning. Not unlike the process a bird would experience in building a nest for itself – but I lack the avian advantage of some genetic hard-wiring! Again, scale becomes a defining factor, both in the methods of construction and the way the resulting structure is ‘read’: a nest that one can hold in the palm of one’s hand means differently than one that could potentially house a full-sized human being.

Ultimately, it comes down to the relationship between the physicality of the being making the structure and the structure itself  … and it’s that back-and-forth, that dialogue, which is my greatest teacher on a great many levels just now:  about what I am physically capable of doing/making, about the strengths and limitations of various materials. About this matter of scale … and what it means to make work that explores (and exploits) the dimensions of the human form, the way scale (in all things) can create connections or break them apart.

And on that note, I thought I’d also share this artist’s work (my thanks to David for directing me to this work!):

Tony Orrico

This fellow is billed as the ‘human spirograph’ … which struck me a a bit gimmicky. But his work is truly beautiful, thoughtful, and executed with a deep understanding of living in and working with and from the human body for creative ends.

A photo by Michael Hart of one of Tony Orrico's Penwald Drawings, in process

It’s very much worth having a look at the videos and images collected in a lovely article Orrico’s work on BrainPickings to gain some insight into the tremendous physicality of this artist’s work. It’s quite humbling, and mesmerizing to watch.