Marshall McLuhan Centennial


Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) was already a famous Canadian name for my husband and me in our student days at the University of Manitoba where he too received his first degrees. You may have heard the phrases “the medium is the message”, “global village” and many others that he was noted for as a scholar and critic of modern mass communications.

Now you can hear him speak at this new website. We really enjoyed the excellent introduction by Tom Wolfe. (via)

Lots of resources on the net including the official McLuhan site listing all the world-wide events planned for this commemoration year as well as that of the official publisher. Makes me think I need to add some of his books to my reading list. How about you – are you familiar with McLuhan?

the art instinct

I heard a fascinating podcast quite some time ago on CBC Radio’s IDEAS Podcasts and had saved the link, meaning to share it on my blog. Forgotten though it was, I found it again today as I was going through some files this afternoon. The Art Instinct was aired last February 8th, 2010 so it’s not currently available online. If you have about an hour to listen to it, I hope the link works for you and you enjoy it as much as I did.

Here’s the introduction:

Human tastes in the arts are evolutionary traits shaped by natural selection. So says Denis Dutton who argues that our love of beauty is inborn and shaped by evolution. Beauty, pleasure and skills are essential human values.

Right click to Download The Art Instinct
 [mp3 file: runs 54:01]
After hearing this excellent interview, of course I want to read the book! I know it’s been out for a couple of years. Have you read it?

‘original’ copies

Art factories in China aren’t news to me, but this really blew my mind:

There are no sticky ethical problems involved in the booming trade. As long as the Dafen copy artist does not forge a signature or try to pass her work off as an original, there are no legal implications.

Please read Masters of imitation – Painters in Dafen artist colony churn out reproductions of classics, by Aileen McCabe for the Vancouver Sun.

Are you as disturbed by this as I am? Of course, one can go to any art museum and poster shop and get mass printed copies of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers and many other famous works. Is it the same, worse or better? I’m also concerned about the factories that do pass off copies of originals, even of works by living artists. Just thinking about all this opens a large mental can of worms for me – perhaps that’s the intent of the article?

‘ecological footprint’ author


I’ve been poking about the net looking for information on Bowen Island, just off the coast of Vancouver. In all these years that we’ve lived in the Vancouver area, we’ve never visited it. Now I’m eager to find out where a certain art gallery is located for I’ll be participating in a group show there next month. (More information on that later.)

I’ve long read and occasionally mentioned Bowen Island resident Chris Corrigan’s two blogs Parking Lot and Bowen Island Journal. From the latter, I checked out Chris’ blogroll and found James Glave.

Exploring his interesting articles, I found an astonishing one called Rees’s Thesis. It’s an entertaining and eye-opening interview of Bill Rees, the University of British Columbia professor who coined the term “ecological footprint”. Now, I didn’t know of or had forgotten Bill Rees so what a thrill to learn about this inspiring and creative man who lives in our own community. It’s a great story on what makes him tick and how he came up with this term, now the global standard for measuring an individual’s impact on the environment. Do go read it, please!

an artist’s brain


I have a messy habit of bookmarking anything and everything that interests and excites me. Soon I have so much on my computer that it all gets rather lost, like piles of papers. Once in a while I sift through some of it. This is what jumped out at me today, as it did the first time I saw it and loved it.

Stuff goes in. Stuff comes out….

In much of our education system – particularly in the over examined school context – it is often implied that art/design/creativity is a kind of sausage machine process: the meat of ‘inspiration’ goes in at one end, is chopped up with a bit of other stuff, is seasoned by the maker, to then emerge conveniently packaged at the other.

This is a way of learning, but it is not real.
The things that truly capture our imaginations – our passions and preoccupations – are embedded deep in the fibre of our being. A constant latent presence, they may surface unbidden or are actively revisited and tussled with, building up layer upon layer of understanding.

All experiences add to the texture of our thinking. Audrey Walker describes things seen/discoveries as being ‘absorbed’ into memory and she has used the analogy of a store cupboard to illustrate the idea of consciously accumulating information which may be retrieved at a later date. I like to follow this train of thought and think about the neatly labelled jars you know to be there. Of course the (my) reality is often a haphazard array of open vessels spilling over or gathering dust. And I have the additional ingredient of mind numbing amnesia that comes with an ageing brain, so the rediscovering is even more potent …as here. [images here]

In Dorset recently, idly collecting the odd flat, smooth black stone during the day, I felt moved – just before we left the beach – to piece together a black spot.

Some days later, back in the studio, combing through images on my laptop (in the hope of editing to free up space) I came across black spot two. I’d photographed it in the stores at the V&A a couple of years ago. It’s painted tapa cloth from the Pacific Islands (1800’s). I had loved the simplicity and burnished solidity of the circle. I had also forgotten all about it. Rediscovering it was quite a shock. It was obviously subliminally there all the time, quietly and patiently sitting in a dark corner somewhere.

So, stuff goes in – isn’t always remembered – and re-emerges. My brain knows this information, but I don’t. Clever things, brains.

Check out the images in this post called Black Spot, by Sue Lawty, artist and author of Concealed, Discovered, Revealed, a Victoria and Albert Museum blog. I think it was Olga of Threading Thoughts who first pointed me in this direction.

P.S. I just noticed that this is my 1000th post, about a month short of this blog’s fourth birthday! It may not be remarkable compared to many others, but it surprised me.

creative license vs. copyright law

An interesting story at Alliance for Arts and Culture:

Vancouver artist collides with Olympic and Paralympics copyright act
Vancouver artist, Kimberly Baker, learned first hand the extent of Bill C-47 — the Olympic and Paralympic Marks Act — after producing artwork for a graduation exhibition at the Emily Carr Institute. Ms. Baker’s work, the Transit Shelter Project, includes photos of a person in a sleeping bag with “Vancouver 2010” written beneath. She learned the work indeed collides with the recently enacted bill in what appears to be a trademark infringement issue. She has detailed her experience in an article for Common Ground.

Click here to read the article.

To read the bill, visit this Government of Canada website and click on C-47.

The Colour Museum

With some pleasurable lazy time after the Christmas festivities, I’ve had a chance to browse through some of my long list of bookmarks. Artist Anna Conti posted a while ago about the The Virtual Colour Museum, which is taking some time to delve through! Even though I’m an artist, I must admit there is a lot of colour theory that I don’t know. (I’m not very theoretically inclined.) I grew up with Johannes Itten’s primary red-yellow-blue colour wheel (above image), as did most of us, I think. Then came exposure to other systems including Pantone and CMYK colours with printer technology. I hope you also enjoy this amazing in-depth site, including the interactive virtual colour-space by Runge.

to think about


“Mediocrity is criminal. Boring is just ridiculous. Goosebumps are what we strive for.”
-Leila Getz, Artistic Director of the Vancouver Recital Society, on a mailer that came a couple of days ago.

It has been bouncing around in my head since.


Thanks again to everyone for the wonderful comments and emails these past days, I love hearing from you all! You have told me that you are eagerly awaiting photos of the opening, and I promise they are coming very soon. Life is hectic these days as an artist and as a mother and grandmother, in a happy way. I’m slow because I need to try to correct most of the opening night photos that came out a ghastly green because of the digital camera’s interpretation of the strange mix of incandescent and mercury vapour lights in the gallery. On Friday, I also took some installation photos and have to download and likely colour correct some of these too. I might even have to reshoot some of these.

In the meantime, do read this excellent argument of conceptualist versus sensualist written by Mark Wladika of Newmark Confidential, from the view of “the patrons and supporters of art”. “Our task, our joy is the pure sensual relation to art. We get to simply look and feel and experience, with our brain put somewhere in the background.”

I can strongly identify with this argument as an artist, too. If I get too involved in “thinking” about what my work is about before I do it, I can get stuck with being too analytical or self-critical and not make the work. The key for me is to maintain the emotions and excitement of finding connections in ideas and images, that is, keeping the brain in the background. Later comes the critical analysis of the work and placing it in the context of a greater theme, and finding the right words to describe it. I guess that means that I’m not a conceptual artist, one who begins with the idea and the words.

P.S. Hey Chris/Zeke, if you are reading this – my email reply to you is being rejected as spam!! I want to let you know that I’m not ignoring your email. I tried to write that I love the word “vernissage” much more than “opening”, and yes, it went well, thanks!

words that inspire

“It’s akin to style, what I’m talking about, but it isn’t style alone. It is the writer’s particular and unmistakable signature on everything he writes. It is his world and no other. This is one of the things that distinguishes one writer from another. Not talent. There’s plenty of that around. But a writer who has some special way of looking at things and who gives artistic expression to that way of looking: that writer may be around for a time.”

“I have a three-by-five [card] up there with this fragment of a sentence from a story by Chekhov: ‘…and suddenly everything became clear to him.’ I find these words filled with wonder and possibility. I love their simple clarity, and the hint of revelation that’s implied. There is mystery, too. What has been unclear before? Why is it just now becoming clear? What’s happened? Most of all–what now? There are consequences as a result of such sudden awakenings. I feel a sharp sense of relief–and anticipation.”

Substitute “artist” for “writer” and these words really resonate with me. They are written by Raymond Carver. Thanks to blogisisko for the link.