ART & THE CITY: DAY 1
Edmonton came calling and I headed out by plane over the snow covered Rockies last week. Whiskey in a teacup, pretty much sums up a day that began at five this morning and ended with a ride in a strangers car. Today I visited two galleries beginning with Harcourt House, the scene of my #iconiccanuck solo exhibition in 2013. It was a pleasure to return to the scene of my show and see 'Alberta Spirit' filling the walls. I then put on my toque and hiked my way down to the Art Gallery of Alberta at Churchill Square, where an outdoor skating rink and light lined branches paint the perfect Holiday scene. I was blown away by all four shows at The AGA; from Rough Country to Expressionist, Pop Surrealism to Hyperrealism, I was in painting Heaven today dancing around like a giddy teenager. The work that left the strongest impression, and made me feel as if I had found a long lost friend, was that of artist Chris Cran. Humour,optical illusion, abstraction; his Sincerely Yours is such a treat. One of my favourite pieces shown below is a self portrait commissioned by a collector. The painting is of the artist receiving his $6000 cheque from the collector for the painting. Smart ass, smart artist. My day ended with indoor hockey at West Edmonton Mall, where the Zamboni drive is an event and the air smells like Christmas. I hired a chariot, my first Uber driver, and we talked about snow clearing and ice fishing. A pretty Canadian day all around, now for sleep in the city.
Writing In the snow at the foot of the Alberta Legislature, was the perfect start to my day. I took my Nikon on a tour of the River Valley today. Being on the warm Westcoast, I never have the opportunity to see glacier ice flow the size of small cars, floating down a river as powerful and grand as the North Saskatchewan. I joined the healthy set and interrupted a few Saturday morning joggers. This prepared me for an afternoon of wine, art, and great conversations. It is pretty rare that you get to meet great artists, that inspire you, that are still living. What is even more rare? They don't disappoint you when you meet and share a conversation. Even better yet, when your conversation flows so freely and you find so many commonalities. Today, after spending the past few months corresponding online, I met painter Andrew Valko in person at his solo opening at Douglas Udell gallery in Edmonton. Valko paints hyperrealistic, private moments of women from a voyeuristic vantage point. His work is pop culture without being pop art. This was the highlight in my trip and began an afternoon of gallery hopping on 124th Street. I had so many great conversations about art and the business of art. After putting another 10km on these chilled feet I found myself thinking about my next painting over a Scotch, and a nice warm bowl of curried tomato soup. Heaven, I'm in Heaven...
Today was 'unseasonably mild' but the wind was enough to wipe me out and send me inside for an architectural tour of the inner heart of the city. Like any great city there is no shortage of unique architecture, installation art, and street murals. This is one of the only outside shots I got today, it is a mural across the street from my hotel. I have walked by it multiple times over the past three days. I love it because it captures the spirit of the city beautifully. To me it says let me bring comfort, warmth, and share my common experience. We are both made up of many experiences and backgrounds and I embrace that in you and it becomes part of me, we are family. I feel your embrace Edmonton and I'm hugging back. When I looked closer I realized that this piece is about Mother Earth and the environment, in a town that was built on oil. It is a nudge and a hug for Mother Earth.
On my last day in Edmonton I visited the iconic, Hotel MacDonald, where I found ten 'Lords a Leaping'. Opened in 1915, this Summer 'The MAC' as it is affectionately known, celebrated it's centennial. The site was once a squatters camp nicknamed the Galician Hotel for the number of Ukrainian-speaking immigrants from the Austro-Hungarian province of Galicia. The hotel was constructed and furnished by the Grand Trunk Raliway company for nearly $2.25 million, the equivalent of $35 million today. Part of the Fairmont chain of historic hotels, seen from the perspective of a Victoria born Canadian, it is Edmonton's Empress Hotel. With French Chateau-style architecture, The MAC sits perched high above the North Saskatchewan River, currently covered in floating islands of ice. The hotel is named after Canada's first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald and I'm sure is home to many a spirit from years past. I encountered this joyful painting on the first floor stairwell to the left of the front entrance. Titled 'Lords A Leaping', the painting was adapted from a holiday pictoral series from the Calgary Herald of ten officers from the Strathcona Horse's Regiment Edmonton. As last time, Edmonton provided a warm embrace, even though the temperatures were frigid. I met many artists, a few collectors, some dedicated gallery owners, and one art consultant. I requested an UBER pick-up instead of calling a cab, and walked many miles in my Gortex hiking shoes. I ate many bowls of soup and sipped a few Scotch, talked ice-fishing with a pro, and enjoyed a game of hockey inside North America's largest mall. To sum it up, the name of a cocktail at Hudson's pub says it all; Edmonton is Whiskey in a Teacup and I will have another, please. 99 photos from my trip here.