Monday, June 30, 2014

Jesse Birch

An exhibition I am looking forward to this fall will take place a couple hours up the road from the AGGV: Black Diamond Dust at the Nanaimo Art Gallery.

The curator of this exhibition is former Western Front Exhibitions director/curator Jesse Birch who, a few months back, took over as interim Executive/Artistic Director of the NAG while Julie Bevan is on paternal leave.

During his time at the Western Front, Birch mounted a number of thoughtful exhibitions, one of which, Edible Glasses, I reviewed last year for Canadian Art. Another project Birch helped to initiate is Scrivener's Monthly, "a series of public presentations that explore the space between material practices and spoken words: a periodical that talks."

In his description of Black Diamond Dust, Birch writes:

The artists in Black Diamond Dust look toward forgotten or under-acknowledged histories, while considering both local contexts and the forms of cultural expression that surround global industrial practices. From sculpture, to video, to folk song, Stephanie Aitken, Raymond Boisjoly, Peter Culley, Devon Knowles, Jerry Pethick. Kerri Reid, Scott Rogers and others employ a wide range of creative approaches to articulating the contemporary resonance of material pasts.

Tomorrow I will visit with Birch and hopefully find out what else he has in store for us during his time at the NAG.

Sunday, June 29, 2014


Yesterday's early start included the 8AM ferry to Schwartz Bay, with a 10:30AM arrival time at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, where there are at least three exhibitions on display: Indian Candy, featuring the work of Vancouver-based Dana Claxton, in the Lab; Girls: Historical Portraits from the Collection in the Drury Gallery; and Through the Looking-Glass: A Modern Story from the Collection of the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria in the Ker and Centennial Galleries.

The first two exhibitions are curated by AGGV curators Toby Lawrence and Michelle Jacques, respectively, while Through the Looking-Glass, an exercise in creative curation if ever there was one, is curated by The Apartment co-director Lee Plestad.

Not sure I have much to say about the rather spare Claxton exhibition, apart from a recognition of what the artist herself says (in a recent Winsor Gallery publication) regarding the exhibition space as one of the few spaces in which issues concerning aboriginal people can be expressed, discussed and debated.

As for Girls and Looking-Glass, Plestad's picture book narrative approach is enriched by Jacques deceptively simple casting call.

Below is is an image from Plestad's exhibition, a quadruple portrait by Michael Snow (with a Claude Tousignant peeking out from behind):

Below is an image from Jacques's exhibition, a single portrait by Victoria-based artist Richard Ciccimarra:

On the other side of town at Open Space is the recently-opened The Travelling Republic, featuring three artists: Gerri Lynn Mackey, Ingrid Mary Percy and Colette Urban. Although billed as a three-person exhibition, the show is bracketed by Urban, an influential artist and educator who passed away in June, 2012.

At the north end of the gallery is a lyric documentary on Urban by Katherine Knight; at the south end, a series of reproduced india ink and collage drawings the artist did near the end of her short life.

Among the art works and artifacts in-between include Grenfell Parkas from the collection of Percy.

Below is a picture I took of three of them (and below that, a text sent to me by Percy):

The origin of Grenfell Handicrafts dates back to the early 1900s when Sir Wilfred Grenfell, an English-born medical doctor and missionary, served among the fisherfolk of northern Newfoundland and Labrador.

Dr. Grenfell was impressed by the quality of clothing handcrafted by housewives in tiny communities along the rugged coast. He was equally impressed with their expertise in mat-hooking and embroidery.

He recommended that families use these skills as a means to supplement the meager incomes they earned from fishing.

To assist in making and marketing their handcrafted parkas, mitts and slippers, he established Grenfell Labrador Industries as a division of the Grenfell Mission. It quickly gained a reputation for excellent quality and workmanship. Grenfell Handicrafts - Gift Shop. The products are still made today!

Grenfell products have been sold around the world and have served as gifts to members of the Royal Family, leading heads of state and even Pope John Paul II.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Albert "Ginger" Goodwin

"Ginger" Goodwin was a coal miner and union activist who was murdered by police near Comox Lake  in 1918.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

George Sawchuk

On July 27 the Comox Valley Art Gallery will open The Book of George: the Life and Art of George Sawchuk, an exhibition and events series curated by Grant Shilling. Among these events is a Canada Day potluck and reading at George and Pat's home (372 Bates Drive, Fanny Bay, B.C.), not far from George's forest sculpture garden.

The picture at the top of this post is a picture of George's studio in North Vancouver. The picture in the picture was taken by Iain Baxter& (then Ian Baxter) sometime in the mid-1970s. The picture of the picture is an installation shot taken by Shilling.

For more information on George and his remarkable life and art, click here.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Holy Hum

As mentioned in a previous post, tonight was to be my reading night at the Kingsgate Mall, part of artist Casey Wei's Western Front residency, Kingsgate Mall Happenings.

Unfortunately Casey's program was cancelled last week by mall management. Not because of Holy Hum's considered performance, but because of a staged situation that had actors abusing mall staff, where "everything ends inside the VIP space."

Monday, June 23, 2014


A crooked path to the Vatican.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Lawrence Ranch

Above is a picture of the Taos, New Mexico ranch D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda purchased and lived at between 1924-1925. Not sure if the crooked path that leads to it was there in Lawrence's time, nor the long straight one between it and the house.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

This morning I awoke with a book on my chest: three stories by D. H. Lawrence.

One of them is the short novel St. Mawr, which I read until I learned that St. Mawr is a horse. Prior to that, the story concerns itself with portraits of Lou and Rico, and Lou's mother, Mrs. Witt.

Although published in 1925, Lawrence's description of the relationship between Lou and Rico feels resonant today, particularly after my most recent visit to Berlin.

Below are paragraphs 7-9:

It was in Rome she had met Rico. He was an Australian, son of a government official in Melbourne, who had been made a baronet. So one day Rico would be Sir Henry, as he was the only son. Meanwhile he floated round Europe on a very small allowance--his father wasn't rich in capital--and was being an artist.

They met in Rome when they were twenty-two, and had a love affair in Capri. Rico was handsome, elegant, but mostly he had spots of paint on his trousers and he ruined a neck-tie pulling it off. He behaved in a most floridly elegant fashion, fascinating to the Italians. But at the same time he was canny and shrewd and sensible as any young poser could be and, on principle, good-hearted, anxious. He was anxious for his future, and anxious for his place in the world, he was poor, and suddenly wasteful in spite of all his tension of economy, and suddenly spiteful in spite of all his ingratiating efforts, and suddenly ungrateful in spite of all his burden of gratitude, and suddenly rude in spite of all his good manners, and suddenly detestable in spite of all his suave, courtier-like amiability.

He was fascinated by Lou's quaint aplomb, her experiences, her 'knowledge', her gamine knowingness, her aloneness, her pretty clothes that were sometimes an utter failure, and her southern 'drawl' that was sometimes so irritating. That singsong which was so American. Yet she used no Americanisms at all, except when she lapsed into her odd spasms of acid irony, when she was very American indeed!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thomas Hobbs Florist

Yesterday's post features a picture of the Woolworth Building in Kerrisdale. Just east of it, the neoclassical facade that is the Toronto Dominion Bank.

Today, that facade fronts Thomas Hobbs Florist. Just as Hill's of Kerrisdale has clothed me these past forty years, Hobbs and his Southlands Nursery has kept me in plants.

Hobbs is a controversial figure, and the highlight of my visits to his nursery come when he is roaming the grounds, pissed off about something. It is hard to avoid.

Here is a link to Hobb's blog.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


A view looking northwest from the southwest corner of 41st Avenue and West Boulevard (Arbutus Street).

Although Vancouver City Archives lists the date of this picture between 1960-1980, I would guess from the automobiles that it was taken in the early-1970s.

As mentioned in yesterday's post, Woolworth's became the new site of Hill's of Kerrisdale (mid-1970s), while the former Hill's site became a furniture and notions store called The Village Green.

Note the canvas awnings, which at the time were lower and stretched to the curb. Awnings today are high and humped and made of brightly coloured polymers. In many instances they double as signage.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Mr. Hill

This morning I read with sadness of the passing of James (Jim) Hill, the man whose store, Hill's of Kerrisdale, has kept me clothed in the manner I have grown accustomed to since the age of ten, when my mother first took me there one rainy Saturday afternoon to purchase my first pair of jeans (Levi's orange tabs, in advance of those super tight French jeans above). This was back when the store was located across the street from where it is now, before it took over the former Woolworth's, where I purchased glue for my models, but only with a note from my mom.

I have fond memories of the earlier Hill's store, particularly of its sales staff, who were much older than the kids on the floor today. One of these staffers was a portly, sandy-haired man who wore around his neck a tape measure and would make my mom weepy with tales of his ailing wife, whom he visited daily, and how good it was to work for the Hills. To this day my mother often makes mention of this man and how he would cook bacon for his wife and bring it to her in a thermos, hospital food being what it is.

Mr. Hill's obituary mentions that a service will be held this Friday at St. Mary's Anglican, where my mother married my father and where I was a cub scout and a boy scout. As much as I would like to wear to this service something purchased from Hill's, the store does not specialize in suits (suits were purchased five stores west, at Finn's of Kerrisdale). So I will wear instead a suit I had made for me about ten years ago at Modernize Tailors, a company that has been in business since 1913 -- a year before the Hills first opened their doors.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ham Radio

The early success of Radio Shack was based in part on a burgeoning interest in amateur (or "ham") radio operations. The clip above was allegedly picked up in 1961 by amateur radio operators in Italy. Part of the transmission (translated into English) can be found here.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Radio Shack

For as long as I could remember, Kingsgate Mall had a Radio Shack. Then, in 2005, I noticed the Radio Shack was gone, and its place, The Source by Circuit City.

I asked one of the Source by Circuit City staff where the Radio Shack went, and she replied, "It's complicated."

I shrugged, as if to say, Tell me more, but we were interrupted by a customer.

Radio Shack has a fascinating history, and a fairly accurate Wiki entry. For the story of how Radio Shack suddenly became The Source by Circuit City, scroll down to "International Operations/ Canada/ pre-2005."

Friday, June 13, 2014

Kingsgate Mall Happenings

Throughout the month of June, artist Casey Wei is a resident of the Western Front. For her residency, Casey has devised Kingsgate Mall Happenings, a daily program of events staged in and around what for some is the most locally-determined mall in Vancouver, where unaffordable futures are secondary to the realities of the just-passed.

A couple months ago, when Casey was organizing her program, she asked if I would host a readings night, and I said yes. But rather than round up the usual suspects, I thought I might take a different approach and ask, via this news service, that those interested join me on Wednesday June 25, between 7PM-9PM, to read something of your work and/or the work of another, perhaps share as well what recollections you might have of this mall and what it means to you.

Still not sure if this is a paying gig, but either way, I will have something for those willing to join in.

The Kingsgate Mall is located at the southeast corner of East Broadway and Kingsway.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Leakage From Yesterday's Post

"For the first time in public as husband and wife."

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

646 Kingsway

Six blocks west of Vancity Medicinals is Mega Ill, a dispensary that specializes in marijuana pizza.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

At the northwest corner of Kingsway and Clark Drive is Vancity Medicinals, the latest in what are now ten medical marijuana dispensaries in the eight blocks between Perry and Fraser Streets.

Why so many dispensaries in such a small area? I asked a nearby business owner, who promptly told me what a friend who works for the City told him: that our neighbourhood is known for its apathy, and that attempts to open businesses like these in other parts of the city have been met with petitions and trips to city hall.

So how do these businesses work? To which he said, They work because the City has made anything to do with marijuana (short of a grow-op) a low priority. From there he added that many of these sites do not have a business licence, and that they operate through non-profit status, where once people are prescribed marijuana for their pain, they go to these dispensaries, become members, and purchase their medication.

Last week, while passing Vancity Medicinals, I noticed a sandwich board that read:

Doctor's Clinic Mondays
4:30pm - 6:30pm
Walk-ins Welcome
Appointments Preferred.

But there was another sign. Six just like it, to be exact:

24 Hours
In Use.

Are these joints targets for break-ins? I asked the nearby business owner. To which he smiled and said: Think about it. Ten dispensaries within eight blocks of each other? You have to think that at least one of them might feel the need to assert a little elbow room.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

A Poem By P.K. Page (1916-2010)


aged eleven
looked at the baby and said
"When he thinks it must be pure thought
because he hasn't any words yet"
and we
proud parents
admiring friends
who had looked at the baby

looked at the baby again.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thursday, June 5, 2014

A small room inside a bay window. A single bed, a table and chair, and a sink. I could manage something larger, with more conveniences, but I could never match the view.

All day long people have come and gone from the house next door -- some of whom I recognize as family and friends of the couple who live there; others, such as the midwife, more than once.

For over three days now, since the woman's water broke, a small inflatable swimming pool has sat in the middle of their living room floor. When the time comes, the pool will be filled with warm water and the woman will settle into it.

In the meantime, all is quiet, save for the roar of distant traffic, bird chirps, and every two hours, a slow, rising moan.

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Miss Kim Lilac

Descriptions of the Miss Kim lilac (syringa Vulgaris) from the Honey Tree Nursery in Norboro, Prince Edward Island:

Miss Kim lilac is covered in stunning panicles of fragrant lavender flowers rising above the foliage in late spring. The flowers are excellent for cutting. It has dark green foliage throughout the season. The pointy leaves turn an outstanding deep purple in the fall. 

A compact garden accent shrub featuring showy panicles of light lilac-pink flowers in spring and crinkled foliage, impressive fall color for a lilac; upright and dense, an ideal garden shrub alone or in groupings, fragrance is overwhelmingly spicy.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Northwest Coast

Three days since my return to Vancouver. Naturally the garden is more robust now than it was when I left it. Missed the explosion of my "Miss Kim"  lilac, but was here for the first of what should be many edible nasturtium flowers.

I will spend the next few days working on my review of the Berlin Biennale for Canadian Art, peeking at what others have published, some of which I agree with.

After that I begin work on essays for Babak Golkhar's upcoming exhibition at Sazman Aab in Tehran and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun's exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. And after that, what I hope will be the completion of a manuscript, entitled 9x11.

Below is a photograph I took of Yuxweluptun's Downtown Vancouver (1987) at Dahlem, part of the Ethnological Museum's permanent collection -- and among the last things you see as you leave its "Northwest Coast" section.