Tuesday, 31 January 2012

A Vernissage at the Orange Gallery

Last Thursday (January 26th), I went to a vernissage at the Orange Gallery in the Wellington Village part of Ottawa. I was invited by an old friend and colleague, who got in touch with me to tell me that his girlfriend was having a show and saying it would be great to see me at the opening. I had never been to the Orange Gallery - as a matter of fact, I had never been to this part of Ottawa. So it was a bit of an adventure for me and, as it turned out, I was very glad I went. 

The artist is Lorena Ziraldo, and I really liked her work. I was impressed by the way she used colour and I enjoyed the subject-matter of her paintings - especially that they were about people.  

The Orange Gallery was also a pleasant surprise. It is fairly new and I thought it was a great space. Very light and spacious inside.  

As I was taking photos, I realized that there was one of those "boxes-within-boxes" kinds of experiences going on. Many of Lorena Ziraldo's paintings were about people in galleries looking at paintings. So here I was, taking pictures of people in a gallery looking at paintings of people in galleries looking at paintings. Cool!
If you get a chance to go to the Orange Gallery, I recommend it. Nice space!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Wow! Wild Turkeys!

Two of my fellow bloggers, Ronna and Natalie, have posted blogs about seeing wild turkeys recently. Now it is my turn. I was driving down the road from my home this past Sunday (going to town to get some more medicine for my wretched cold - all sympathy welcome!) when I saw something in my neighbour's field. I came to a screeching halt (one of the advantages of driving in the country is that you can stop in the middle of the road and not worry because there is no-one behind you) and realized it was a flock of wild turkeys. There must have been about 20 of them. 

I got out of the car to see if I could get closer and take better pictures. But they were skittish and started to run away............. 

..............leaving only one straggler. This is the first time I have seen such a large group of them close to my home. Ah, the excitement of country life!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Some Headless Goddesses - and Me

This is another photograph that I recently found in a box of old pictures. It was taken when Peter and I were wandering around in the British Museum nearly 20 years ago. Such a contrast - me looking rather thick and dumpy, standing in between two classical symbols of ideal beauty. But I'd much rather have my head on than be a symbol of beauty, thank you very much!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Coping With Winter in the Byward Market

Lately, winter has thrown a few curves at us and the weather has made life difficult. I have been finding ways to cope with this dark and nasty part of the winter and enjoy life in the Byward Market area of Ottawa. For example, I recently enjoyed this exhibition of photographs at the National Gallery of Canada, "Made in America 1900-1950."   I took a picture of the banner outside, which shows Barbara Morgan's photograph of Martha Graham. What a beautiful picture! There were many fabulous photographs in this show and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in the art of photography.

I also have been seeing signs of events that are coming up in the Byward Market. For example, this sign appeared on the Alexandria pedestrian bridge this week (the bridge I walk across every day to work). It says that the bridge will be closed to pedestrians on Friday February 3rd from 9 am to 10 pm. It doesn't say why, but I know that this is the kick-off for Ottawa's winter festival, Winterlude. There will be fireworks set off from the bridge that evening and they need to close it to make preparations. The sign also says there will be a shuttle bus for pedestrians while the bridge is closed and I think I will take a couple of trips back and forth just for fun. Winterlude is like a massive party in the Byward Market in early February and I am looking forward to it. 

We need some relief! The weather, as I said, has been really wretched. We had our third ice storm this past week. I had a difficult time walking on the sidewalks after the storm because they were either ice-covered or slushy and I had to pick my way along them, trying not to fall.  

This woman had the right idea for coping with the ice. She was walking along with two ski poles to keep from slipping. Unfortunately the picture is a bit blurry because she was walking so fast while I had to take baby steps because of the treacherous conditions on the sidewalks. I will have to get some ski poles too.

This evening, the conditions were a bit better and it was much warmer than it has been. These people seemed to be enjoying a lively conversation in the middle of the sidewalk on Clarence Street, where there are a lot of restaurants and bars. Bright lights and colour make it easier to cope with winter.

Speaking of bright, I couldn't resist taking a picture of these two women in bright red coats. Most people wear black in the winter and it is unusual to see such vividly coloured clothing. Another way to say, what the heck - winter's hard - let's put on some bright clothes and defy it and have fun!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

A Creepy Snowman

Peter, (the love of my life and now deceased for ten years), had a terrific sense of the absurd and could be wonderfully silly at times. He and I used to like to make snowmen, like a couple of kids, at least once a year. I recently found this photograph of a particularly grotesque example of our snowmen-making endeavours. We put an old red shirt on him and gave him a beard of dead weeds, along with a conventional carrot nose and hat. I remember that we had bits of real coal for his eyes from a pile of coal Peter had for some project. We both thought this snowman was one of the more warped and twisted specimens of our oeuvre! Winter is definitely more tolerable when you can have fun in it doing things like this.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

There is Always Art to be Found

Sometimes I think that, because I have walked around the Byward Market so often, I have found all the visual interesting stuff there and there is nothing left to be found. Not true, as I discovered recently. I took a different route one day and saw this painting half buried in the snow. The red of the violin is so striking against all the grey and white. It's too bad that somebody has put a name on the hat. Oh well - there's always some vandalism in the city!

I have often tried to take an interesting photograph of this totem pole, which is in front of the Ottawa School of Art on George Street. This time I got close and looked up, which perhaps is the way totem poles should be looked at!

Speaking of looking up, I would never have seen these paintings in the windows if I hadn't been looking up at a building from across the street. They are on the second floor of this building that has a couple of restaurants on the main floor. Lots of action and colour in these paintings - people are talking, eating, having a good time. It looked so warm and cheerful on a cold winter day.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

The Big Foot

I found this picture recently while working on my photo scanning project and, since I am tired of talking about the weather (it is awful - there is nothing else to be said), I thought I would post this instead. It was taken about 18 years ago when Peter and I were on a trip to England. We were visiting the British Museum and somehow ended up in the basement, where wonderful artifacts were just lying around as if they had nowhere to put them all. Peter fell in love with this big foot and got me to pose beside it. Isn't it amazing? I wonder what the rest of the sculpture looked like!

Monday, 16 January 2012

A Strange Morning Walk

Every morning, I walk on the Alexandria pedestrian bridge from Ottawa to Gatineau on my way to work. This morning, when I got to the pedestrian bridge, I found that it was closed because the police were investigating a "suspicious death" that happened on the bridge yesterday. The part of the bridge for car and truck traffic was open, so a bunch of pedestrians (including me) risked life and limb by walking on the road with the rush hour traffic just a few feet away from us. It seemed strange to me that we were allowed to do something so dangerous, but nobody stopped us.

It was a bitterly cold day. With the windchill, it was about -33 degrees celsius (I think that's about -25 fahrenheit). Everything was white and frosty with cold. I crossed the bridge without incident and hurried to work. 

When I left work in the evening, I found that they had opened the pedestrian bridge again and I could walk across it back to Ottawa. Whew! It felt much safer than it did on the road this morning with cars hurtling toward me. It was warmer too - a balmy -10 degrees!

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Too Cold to Go Outside

We had some nasty weather last Thursday and Friday in the Ottawa Valley - a mix of freezing rain, ice pellets and snow. Finally, on Saturday, the sky cleared, the precipitation stopped and it was sunny and bright. It was really quite beautiful, with deep blue shadows on the fresh white snow. But unfortunately it was really, really cold. When I woke up on Sunday morning at my home in the country, it -29 degrees celsius. So I was disinclined to go outside and instead took a photo out my living room window of this classic winter day.

Outside my kitchen window, this tree looks like it is coated with blobs of white foam. All very lovely, but I will be really glad when it gets warm again, the snow melts away, and there are leaves on the trees instead of snow. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Snow Coming!

The weatherman has been predicting precipitation over the next couple of days for Southern Ontario. In the Ottawa area, we might have freezing rain and we will likely have about 10 centimetres (or more) of snow. Oh well - it is January after all. And snow is just one of those facts of winter. For instance, this is a picture of me (on the right) and a friend, sitting on a great pile of snow, many many years ago (circa 1958?) on a winter afternoon. It was probably one of those winters when people were saying things like, "the snow was so high, it reached the roof-tops". (Apparently, that is happening in Alaska this year).

I did this painting, which is now in the collection of my friend Ronna, based on another winter photograph from about the same time period as the one above. I am on the right, my sister Marilyn is in the middle and a friend is on the left. I might even be wearing the same snowsuit as above. I remember those awful snowsuits - they had felt or something inside and would get soaking wet. Does anyone else remember them? 
Enjoy the coming snow (if you are in the area) and stay safe if you are driving.

Monday, 9 January 2012

A Wonderful Sculpture on a Riverfront Walk

It was a beautiful day, so I took a walk at lunch time on a path that follows along the Ottawa River on the Gatineau side. Lo and behold, I came across a sculpture close to the path. More amazingly, I knew the work and the sculptor who had made it. The artist is John McEwen, a Canadian sculptor whose work can be found in many places across Canada, but primarily in Toronto. My partner, Peter MacElwain, and John were friends and colleagues and Peter did some casting work for John years ago. John visited me after Peter died and gave me a photograph of Peter he had taken. So it was a delight to see one of John's pieces while I was out walking today. This is a view of the front of the sculpture, called Boat Sight (1984).  

This is a view of the "boat" from the right side. There are two wolf shapes that are part of the piece and one of them can be seen here. I like the way the Ottawa skyline on the other side of the river can be seen in the background.

This is a close-up of the wolf seen above. 

When you view the boat from the left, you can see the other wolf shape through the piece on the other side. 

This is the second wolf close-up. You can see how it is cut out of flat steel. Nice work, John! It was a wonderful treat finding it today on my walk.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Patterns Against the Snow

When I am at my home in the country, I spend a lot of time looking at nature - the sky, trees, plants of all kinds, water, and in the winter, snow. Recently, I have been thinking about doing a series of drawings and paintings with snowy landscapes. I like painting snow and I love the way dark vegetation looks against the snow. Today, when I was outside taking photos, the light was beautiful with the sun filtered through some patchy thin clouds.

Everything becomes very abstract when it is looked at closely against the snow. The blue-white background makes the patterns of leaves and branches stand out, like so many intercrossed lines and curves. I wonder how hard it would be to draw this - I think one would have to be in a rather Zen state. 

This dead thistle looked like it was blowing in a strong wind, but it was perfectly still, frozen in this pose. Beautiful intricate shapes. 

In the fall, I always leave a lot of plants with seed-heads on them so the birds can eat them. These daisies have big yellow flowers in the summer. Now they make a wonderful pattern of dark lines and big round dots against the snow. Great - now I just have to start drawing!

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Fresh Snow in the City at Night

After 2 bitterly cold days in Ottawa (it was -20 degrees celsius yesterday morning but felt like -28 with the wind chill), it warmed up a bit today to -8 degrees celsius, and was much more pleasant for walking around. But with the warmer weather we got some fresh snow. When I walked home from work late this afternoon, I noticed that the new snow made everything look brighter.    

The bridge I cross every evening from Gatineau to Ottawa was transformed into an arctic passage and even the sky had taken on an icy blue-white sheen.   

The snow had really piled up around the fountain in this courtyard (shut down for the winter of course). I liked the way the person walking through the courtyard has become just a black figure against the white.

Later I walked over to George Street in the Byward Market area and was impressed by how bright everything looked here with the blanket of new snow. 

There were many people out walking, probably enjoying the fact that it was less cold. 

On my way back to my apartment, I stopped to take a picture of one of my favourite sculptures, the Dancing Bear by the Inuit artist Pauta Saila in the Jeanne d'Arc Courtyard. I like the way the snow covered his head and paws - it almost looked like someone had drawn a white outline around him.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Freezing-Over of the Ottawa River

Every year, I note when the Ottawa River, which I can see from my window of my home in the country, freezes over. This year, because we had unseasonably warm weather, the river froze over later than usual, not until the very end of December. I went for a walk on New Year's Day and took a few photos of the river. It looks like a wide white field, and it was particularly moody-looking because there was a hazy mist over the opposite shore, rendering the Laurentian Hills almost invisible.

By comparison, I took this picture nearly 2 weeks earlier, on December 21 (Winter Solstice) from the same place. As you can see, there was no sign of ice 2 weeks ago and the water was wide open. Also, the Laurentians could be seen on the opposite shore. 

The ice would definitely not be safe to walk on right now. I could see a channel of open water way out in the middle. But it was very beautiful to look at from my vantage point on top of the hill looking down. I love the stark contrast of black trees against the blue-y white of the river. Very quiet and mysterious.