Kelowna Galleries

Kelowna Art Gallery

Kelowna is the busy bustling commercial centre of the Okanagan. Any memories I had of the downtown were not strong enough for me to recognize anything as Barbara and I drove into town heading for Water Street billed as the heart of the cultural district where we would find the Kelowna Art Gallery. Built in 1996 the approximately sixteen thousand square foot facility boasts two main indoor exhibition spaces, an outdoor gallery and community hall and classroom spaces.

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Walking into the high ceilinged entrance hall gave me space to breathe and experience what was around me. Hanging above us a stunning woven willow piece Red Vessel created in 1998 by Canadian artist Peter von Tiesenhausen. He is the Alberta based multi-media artist who has gained note for claiming copyright on his land as an artwork in resistance to development pressures from the oil and gas industry.

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High above us over the entrance door another large sculptural piece, a handwoven wicker bell balanced on a large wooden tripod from Canadian artist Mark Gomes.

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Johann Wessels’ Immaculate Deception delighted the multi-media installation artist in me. Using natural wood, carved plywood, metal, wire, gold leaf and acrylic paint, Wessels has created a range of iconic pieces evoking classic religious artifacts. The deception aspect of the work is intriguing often hiding in the smallest details. Immaculately crafted each piece a testament to the artist’s careful skilled hands, the show drew me into the complexity of making and marking sometimes stimulating laughter, sometimes awe.

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Barbara and I mimicked our MA Invocation pose in the Wessels gallery allowing the hurray experience of our uplifted arms to celebrate this intriguing work.

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I was impressed with the education spaces which felt inviting, opening to the possibility of great artmaking play.

DSCF3547DSCF3551we left the gallery offering our final MA hurray to the convex mirror at the door.

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ALTERNATOR centre for contemporary art

Just around the corner is the Alternator centre for contemporary art Kelowna’s artist run gallery. A new show opened the previous evening featuring Mississauga-Anishinaabe artist Olivia Whetung’s exquisite seed bead imagery.

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Titled gaa-waategamaag after the original anishnaabemowin term adopted for the region in south-central Ontario known as Kawarthas for its many lakes, translates in English to ‘Land of Reflections’.

Whetung’s tiny beadwords are full of reflection, light and motion, evoking the water surfaces viewed from the shores of the Kawartha Lakes and the Trent-Severn Waterway. The works begin with digital photographic images pixilated by the artist reducing the colours to a pattern where one seed bead per pixel is used in the crafting of the work.

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Walking around the gallery the pieces caught me in their different reflections as the light angled on them from new perspectives. Their delicacy and intricacy brought wonder touching that part of me that resonates in the presence of nature’s beautiful land and waterscapes.

In a side gallery space we found the mixed media drawings of Vernon artist Crystal Przybille.

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A collection of mythical beings of her own imagination and creation, delighted us with their originality, their character and their fine mark making.

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Three caught my attention

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Well nourished with art Barbara and I headed over to the café creating our own art remembering of the afternoon.

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Art in the Okanagan

Visiting Artist – UBC Okanagan located on the unceded traditional territory of the Syilx peoples

‘We are breaking through to new horizons of sound and feeling.
We are beginning, just beginning, to suspect what still lies beyond.’ (Greene, 2001, p.17)

‘Reality is a matter of revelation. Subjectivity, not the laboratory, is its site. The artist’s studio houses both. “Drawing from and writing through our arts practices, ………we offer insights into creative ways of being present, in the moment and also open to what is not yet known.”’

above quotes taken from Foreword – William F. Pinar
Arts-based and Contemplative Practices in Research and Teaching – Honoring Presence
Edited by: Susan Walsh, Barbara Bickel, and Carl Leggo
Routledge 2015

In May 2017 I participated in a day long pre-conference workshop of the CSSE annual Conference held in conjunction with the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences at Ryerson University in Toronto on ‘Dish with One Spoon Territory’. The Dish with One Spoon is a treaty between the Anishinaabe, Mississaugas and Haudenosaunee. The workshop was an iterative offering co-created by the editors of this book and drawn from the research practices of ten artists/researchers/teachers. It was a transformative experience for me to find myself in an academic environment where the ‘teaching’ resonated so harmoniously with my own art and spiritual practices, in its contemplative nature.

This July 2018, Barbara Bickel delivered a summer intensive on Arts-Based and Contemplative Practices at UBCOkanagan and invited me as visiting artist to co-facilitate two of the classes on collaborative practices developed through our work as members of Gestare Art Collective.

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The MA pose practice was presented on my first day with the group, three days into their course. We (the Gestare Art Collective) developed and teach this contemplative practice in which we use art in relationship with the body as embodied curriculum. We adopt and hold one of a series of thirteen poses for a set time, listening to the body wisdom drawn forth by our physical positioning, and our intentional focus on breath and ground. The poses invoke the stages of life both human and more than human in relationship to the divine feminine. The practice is drawn from the work of three women, Dutch historian and theologian Annine van der Meer, ‘The Language of MA the primal mother’; Lithuanian archeologist/anthropologist Marija Gimbutas, ‘The Language of the Goddess’; and American linguist and anthropologist Felicitas Goodman, ‘Ecstatic Body Postures’.

 Invocation Pose, Uplifted Arms

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Pose 6 Uplifted arms invocation

The group of students some from the teacher education program some teachers from the field, brought their varied disciplines to our engagement with the MA poses. Teachers of art, sports, theatre arts, film, some seasoned, some early career, all deeply curious about the potential to apply contemplative practices to their work. Gathered in the bright welcoming space of UBCO campus’ largest building, we moved from power point presentation into practice. Barbara guided the group through the Mary Magdalene pose a deep grounding release developed by our colleague Nané Jordan, into holding the Invocation Pose, Uplifted Arms, chanting MA-n-MA three times, holding the pose for seven minutes, repeating the MA chant, then releasing again with the Mary Magdelene.

Sounds weird doesn’t it – it is certainly not mainstream art practice or teaching and perhaps that is what I like about it, its edge-pushing quality. What it is for me is a way to step into the liminal, the beyond, the ‘not yet’ known, and find the space within opening to the ‘more than’ as it holds me in powerful presence. After an experience of this nature it is a challenge to find words that fit our attempts to articulate that which we now know and feel. If we are just able to hold off the cognitive mind long enough, a free-write can reveal the mystery we glimpsed as we stood with the ancient indigenous, earth and body-based wisdom of MA.

A Nap-in took place the next day.

In 2011 Barbara, Nané and I met together at a residency held in a private East side Vancouver home on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish peoples including the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh Nations. We held a loose intention for the residency simply to be together, share each other’s most recent artmaking and find ways to collaborate and co-create. As we sat together for the first time, a common theme emerged, we were all feeling exhausted with the demands of our lives and needed rest. We made an agreement, at any time during the residency any one of us could call for a nap and we would all nap together. This moment was the birth of the Nap-in which has since grown into a socially-engaged art event which embraces performance, activism, social research and art making with the Dream Scroll initially a twelve foot long textile sculptural hanging now grown to thirty-six feet. Nap-ins have now taken place in upwards of thirty locations in North and South America, Europe, and the Middle East.

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The components of the Nap-in are dream pillow making, labyrinth walking, a nap, textile art-making and the releasing of the dreams. The Nap-in represents subtle resistance to the pressures of production and speed so present in our current realities. The labyrinth laid on the floor beneath the dream scroll offers a centring walk connecting to the earth, honouring the process of gestation and birth invoked by the womblike qualities of the labyrinth, and inviting compassion for ourselves and others caught in the busy-ness of life. The communal napping and art making process invites dreaming, contemplation, and the space to wonder.

With the students’ help the dream scroll was hung over the labyrinth they had laid on their first day of class on which they had been walking and working during the week. During the telling of the Nap-in story and exploration of perspectives on this arts-based contemplative practice, the students worked with scrap fabrics, needle and thread to create dream pillows stuffed with Mugwort to promote dreaming and Lavender for relaxation.

Large cushions, yoga mats, blankets strewn on the floor created nests for napping. Barbara and I played singing bowls invoking a dream state as the students settled around the scroll.

After their nap, a deep meditative silence cloaked the group as they focused on making their dream scroll offerings. Writing, painting, stripping, tearing, sewing and resewing the art began to take form.

Gradually words were spoken, the conversation began, the students were actively imagining ways to bring this contemplative practice to their school rooms, and their teaching practice. Every Nap-in has its own character.  I was surprised by the level of focus and attention this group paid to the making process after the nap, the quiet intent in the room was palpable. It was a wonderful gift to hear the ideas and enthusiasm shared around the table for ways that this practice could be included in their curriculum.

The dreams were completed later in the week after I had left. Barbara tells me the group’s releasing of the dreams on the final day of their course was unique, a surprise – stay tuned on this one!! 

Labyrinth as healing

Following the pathway to the centre of the labyrinth I release the heaviness I feel in my heart. With each step I inhale more deeply allowing my body to relax, feeling my weight drop into the earth. Gradually a sense of calm moves in as the threads of care drop away returning me to my intention for this walk, walking as a healing offering.

The healing is always for me, even if I think it is for someone else as in this case when my original intention was for a beloved family member. We have all been touched by cancer, and in my family I am a blessed survivor while others were not so fortunate, and here it is again, up close and uncomfortable in the life of one I hold close in my heart. I’ve returned to a labyrinth that has met my footsteps many times. Located beside the Unitarian church on West Saanich road, a simple turf construction marked by bricks on a hillside overlooking a peaceful rural scene of wetlands and farms.

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There is beauty in this place, the rugged dry grasses contrasting with the lush green, bright white daisies, yellow dandelions with pollen for the bees, young self seeded yarrow plants.  Butterfly crosses my path, dragonfly parallels my walking. A prayer comes:

may my dear one find serenity
may he find peace
may grace travel with him
may he be loved
may he find acceptance on his path
may he know care
may disease be gentle with him
may ease be with him
may he be touched by the divine
may he know his time to enter into the worlds beyond

My thoughts turn to his beloved partner, caring loving one and I understand that I am to stay close alongside as they make this journey together.

I receive offerings from the path, feathers to lift my dear one lightly beyond earthly cares, maple seed for his partner to carry their memories into the future.

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At the centre I breathe in light and life through the power of the elements air, fire, water and earth, offering on my outbreath radiant healing energy for all beings seen and unseen in the multiverse.

My transition from the labyrinth down to the gravel parking area offers just one more gift, a small lizard surprised at my presence as much as I am to see it. We both stand as statues for some time, observing each other until as I lean down to try for a close-up it vanishes down a hole in the concrete.

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So it was that I, gifted in so many ways by this place on the traditional territory of the W_sáneć people, made my way home, blessed by the healing pathway of the labyrinth.

Returning to blogging

Two years have passed and life has brought many changes for me. My travelling is closer to home these days, most recently celebrating a return to a place of beauty and peace where memories of joy and delight welcomed me on arrival. The place, Loon Lake in the Malcolm Knapp UBC Research Forest, Maple Ridge, on the unceded traditional territory of the Katzie nation.DSCF3431

The event a Sufi retreat. Fourteen years ago my last visit to this sacred place was for a gathering of Reclaiming witches celebrating the magic and the mystery of beings seen and unseen in a community of love and connection. That rustic experience in the original old log cabins of camp is no more, this retreat in the Koerner Lodge provided comfort, privacy and fine food, all offered in the spirit of warm hospitality by the open-hearted men and women who work there.

Joining with the mystics on the Sufi path, I resonated with the themes of love, harmony and beauty. Each day we chanted and moved, listened deeply in our hearts, shared our most tender thoughts and held each other warmly in the spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. We were blessed with music, sun, warmth, clear skies as the songs of Baltimore Orioles, Robins, Swainson’s Thrush greeted us from the trees and bushes standing guard along the lake edge beside our lodge.

The ever changing reflections drew my camera lens again and again into the beauty.

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The forest trail called offering it’s own particular magic of humus and fungus, cedar, pine, salal, huckleberry and old fire burns.

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Friendships strengthened in the embrace of ancient forest lands.

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With others I plunged into the lake on waking each morning just as I had in 2004, again in mid afternoon and again before bedtime, my body sparkling with the chill of cold clear mountain water. I returned home renewed, revitalized, and profoundly grateful for time spent in the peaceful embrace of the forest, the waters and the beings human and beyond with whom my days had been shared.

 

bursting into spring

Van Dusen gardens Vancouver
spring sun warming my body
I weave pathways lawns and trees

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breathing the fresh sky air
filling lungs
opening ribs
lifting chest
aaaahhhhhhhhh
life renewing

blossom tapestry
mist aroma
floral mosaic

songbird blessing
swan call echo
goose honk invocation

breathe
expand
receive

earthen flesh softens
winterweary heart awakens
fertile mind inspired
soul’s yearning filled

quickening pulse
eyes engaging deep into
floral centres
piercing the
mystery patterning
heartcentre lifegiver

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branch and bud aglow
swollen anticipation

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sun kissed patterns
exquisite light carved

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newly burst
shimmering welcome

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moss entwining winterbranches
capture sun’s warming light

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skycatcher fir needles
sparkle overhead
peace and life abound

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Herring spawn in the Salish Sea

driving out of Courtenay
heading South
I caught a quick glimpse
of the Salish Sea

the boats were out
herring spawn
sea milky
tropical turquoise

every year
I hope
every year
I’m late

herring eggs in the seaweed
seagulls swarm with eagles
feasting on the bounty
promise of spring

 

spring signals time
low tide beach space
liminal labyrinths

12:45 March 10
Kye Bay big sand
sun warms bare feet

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black clouds looming
seagulls wheeling
eagles gathering

ocean bird sounds
walkers and dogs
pushing into warm days

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beach a tapestry
textures colours
threads strings
beads baubles
beauty decay

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spawn bubbles
shell cluster
sculpted surface
tidal pools
sand bars

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birth
life
death
cycles
seasons

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the wild west coast

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wild west coast
the pacific ocean

Tofino     Vancouver Island     British Columbia

a cabin by the sea big picture window view
ocean gazing through wind and rain and sun and fog

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watching paddle boarders
waiting for the surf
dogs rejoicing in the
freedom of unleashed running
coated hooded walkers
striding along the sandy shore

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MacKenzie beach a safe place to explore surfing on a paddleboard

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a rare treat to catch a good wave

waves breaking
into soft beach ripplings
low tide sands walking
discovering scattering of
giant mussel shells
feeding ground of eagles
sounds of wind and eagle calls
moving through the trees

 

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crow gathering evening
walking pecking poking
looking at each other
ignoring me
sipping up the puddles
sifting through the burnt logs
pairing up and parting
dancing hopping
quaint shapes in
shining black plumage
such characters they are
now I’m talking crow

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the storm arises
waves stir up
sheets torrents of rain
veils of water
floating across the beach
winds battering rain on windows
drumming rain on the roof

clad in rainproof clothing
setting out to walk
water washing down the beach
rivers from the shore
leaning into the wind I stride along
breathing into the force of it
listening sensing sounding
the wildness of this wild place

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the big surf at long beach
great pacific rollers
roaring foaming
throwing clouds of spray
gulls swerve and cry
catching the updrafts
swooping in wild abandon
down to ocean’s surface

walking through foggy vistas
hearing the roaring of the ocean
the waves are huge they rise
spray is blown from their peaks
they reach the moment of tension
they break they crash down

over and over again
rolling and crashing
endless cycles of ocean’s might

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sun plays on the distant water
gloomy black shadows the fore
then blue washes the sky
banishing the grey
bringing on the light
the vista changes instantly
shadowed figures
become bright silhouettes
mysterious beach forms
resonate with rich colours of
fallen ocean washed trees

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the bright sun warms
reaching into me through the wind
melting the mists
wafting over the beach
motion in motion
my eyes turn downward
my camera lens reaches into
magical art by nature
beyond human that is

images abound feeding my artist’s eye
nourishing my artist’s soul
as I look through
wrap around
breathe them in
sense and feel
their magic seeping into me
inspired I am joyous I am

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