October 21: Symposium of Art!

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Ahoy, ahoy readers, if I have any, that is.

Last class we spoke more about the Group of 7, Tom Thomson’s death and the evolution from the Group of 7 to the Canadian Group of Painters.  But I am more interested in an event that is going on in Sackville RIGHT NOW!  I’m talking about the Symposium of Art, that is put on by the Owens each year.  On Monday night, I had the pleasure of attending an Evening of Performance at the Sackville Music Hall.  I’d never been to the Sackville Music Hall before, but I have to say, what a venue.  It may be old and it’s glory days have been long ago forgotten, but this little space above Pickles and Blooms (German delicatessen and a flower shop) is enchanting in it’s new, rediscovered way.  It’s secret and tucked away, and though we were seated on plastic lawn chairs, looking at a sheet tacked to the wall for our viewing screen whilst shivering, it was truly wonderful.

The Sackville Music Hall- a Sackville hidden treasure!

The two film pieces that were shown were A Fool’s Errand and Bridge ProjectA Fool’s Errand was a documentary style movie made by Annik Gaudet of two people hitchiking their way to Gaspé (she was one of the two people).  The film was filled with scenic shots, shots of the road and some spoken parts that were updates of how the experiment was unfolding.  The two adventurers eventually made it to their destination, but the real point of the film was not the destination, it was the journey, as cliché as that may sound.  The interaction of the video with the surroundings of the Gaspé Penisula, interspersed with still photographs of the landscape was interesting to dwell on.  When one is hitchhiking, you’re going to be much more aware of your surroundings, in your stops than if you were in a car, and staying in hotels.  The environment and landscape around you becomes your home, in a sense, because you are truly living within it. Bridge Project was a collaborative work by Olivia McNair, a Fine Arts student at Mount Allison and Blair Ellis, a Music student.  I really liked this piece, as it was about the Bridge Street Bridge, which is one of many people’s favourite spots in Sackville, mine included.  The work had music created from people banging on the bridge, and it was overlaid with stories of people’s memories with the bridge.  Illustrations had been sketched to accompany the music, and were animated to move on the screen.  It was beautiful.

Landmarks can be so powerful for people, places that instantly jolt us to that sense of remembering, of being pulled back in time to a certain event, or person or instance.  What does the Bridge mean to you?  What do you think of when you think of the Bridge?  Olivia and Blair asked this of many people to help with their project, and though they only featured a small sample of the Bridge stories, I’m sure everyone they asked had something important to say.  I have my own Bridge memories too.  Sitting at the end of the old bridge, on a red blanket, eating a mixture of berries from a tall Tupperware container.  Making fun of you because you had forgotten to wear an actual jacket, and wrapped your torso in the blanket, then put your sweater on over top.  We stopped at Bridge Street Cafe for a small hot chocolate and peanut butter cookie each.  I bought them for you because you never carry cash.  You were worried people would know there was a blanket under your sweater.  I just laughed and ate all the whipped creme off your hot chocolate when you weren’t looking.

A landmark can be anything.  It just has to hold meaning to you.



September 21: First Nations Art

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Hello!  Today our lecture began with First Nations art.  Our beginning topic was a continuation of examining the photos taken by American photographer, Edward S. Curtis.  These photographs examine the idea of romancing the concept of the First Nations person and emulate the idea of capturing a “dying race”.  One thing I feel is important when looking at works like Curtis’s and also of the Canadian painter Paul Kane, is to remember when these photographs and paintings were excuted and what purpose they would have served.  People have a natural curiousity, and the “New World” would have likely have been of special interest to Europeans back home.  The Curtis photos present a dilemma.  On one side, they are helpful in examining how this culture existed at one point, as it does not exist like this today.  On the other hand, we know that Curtis did not always portray things exactly as they were.  Curtis was constantly searching to portray the “ethnically pure Indian” which is a stereotype that I feel even exists today.  People of non-First nations descent still see the culture of First Nations people as being interesting, fascinating.  Traditions within these cultures have been revived over the past few decades, and now we, as viewers, can see dances performed, with all the traditional elements of masks and costumes revived.  It is certainly quite different to see cultural items in use, rather than being displayed, which I think can be somewhat readily applied across all cultural studies done in different places throughout the world.  I think this is why newer anthropology and ethnography studies seek to authenticate themselves more through direct communication with members of groups, rather than relying solely on observation and interpretation from an outside perspective.  This new way of studying cultures attempts to challenge the view that one culture cannot effectively describe another.  When we were speaking in class about the romanticized view of the Indian, I was reminded of a clip from the Disney movie, Pocahontas.

This clip, I have to say, was a favourite of mine as a child, and as a Disney fan, I still enjoy the movie Pocahontas today!  However, this clip in particular reminds me of what Curtis was after in his portrayals.  People who were one with nature, who had a different, exotic way of life that was completely foreign to a European way of living and thinking.  I think Curtis would have likely have been quite satisified that this clip from Pocahontas would supply an image of a noble savage to the viewer.

We also talked today about how there has been a revival among First Nations communities in terms of the practice of First Nations artistry.  I’d like to just add a link in here to the Freda Diesing School of Northwest Coast Art.  This school is the first of it’s kind, where it focuses on First Nations traditional art, and then developing these art skills into fine art.  It exists in my own hometown of Terrace BC!  It is a recently developed program in partnership with Northwest Community College and it is on it’s way to developing a degree program in First Nations Fine Art.  They’ve got some fantastic instructors and a gallery of student work up online.


Well that’s all for now!  I’d love to hear feedback, comments, anything!  Look out for another post coming this week!