Eagles, Unicorns, Iguanas & A Double ExpressoSunday, June 27, 2010
Thor and Dorty Froslev had offered me the hospitality of their home and after a delicious dinner I was shown to my comfortable room. It was winter and Branckendale was cold. The room was warm and I slipped into bed. As my mother had often said to me when she had tucked me in bed as a child, “You are snug as a bug in a rug.” I quickly fell asleep. I was awakened by a terrible noise. It seemed to be a dream because a train was headed in my direction and I could not move. The sound of the engine got closer and closer until it was all I could hear and I could no longer think of my plight. I could not hear myself think. The train did arrive and it passed by the room. I slowly began to understand that my room was mere yards from the tracks of the Vancouver/ Whistler BC Rail line! Thor and Dorty Froslev had either forgotten to warn me or had simply showed me a bit of their strange (very serious) humor.
On Friday on our way back to Vancouver as we were approaching Brackendale (a few miles before Squamish) I told Paul, “Sometime in the late 80s I was assigned by the Georgia Straight to photograph Thor Froslev in his Brackendale Art Gallery. I have no idea if he is still alive. Let’s see if he is.”
Paul tried to show off his GPS device and stopped at the entrance into Brackendale to find out where the gallery was. I told him to drive on and we suddenly crossed some tracks. “We are not far,” I told him and that was the case. The gallery, with ancillary buildings that had been there when I had visited the gallery the first time now seemed to have many more. The gallery was closed and there was a beautiful garden (with many plants that looked quite edible) on the side. We entered and I knocked on a glass door. Dorty answered. I told her that my name was Alex and that I was here to see Thor. I told her I had photographed him years before.
Thor appeared and it seemed to me that the 78-year-old man (very much alive) not only remembered who I was but acted as if I had never left. We chatted and Paul kept snapping pictures of us and even brought Dorty into the mix. This led to a very strong and delicious double espresso in the gallery and a protracted tour of the premises that included a new tower, Thor’s metal and woodworking shop, some guest houses that included a young woman sunning herself with an iguana on her stomach, Dorty’s studio where she gives art classes, etc.
We finished the tour in a chapel of many denominations. One corner was Jewish, another Protestant and Catholic, another Buddhist. Behind the altar there was a huge Tiffany stained glass window that had originally been brought from Scotland in 1912 and somehow installed in the building of the then newspaper, Vancouver Star. The building was on Victory Square. The building was subsequently purchased by the Pappas Fur family. I looked up to the ceiling and noticed 6 oars. I asked. Thor explained that both he and his wife Dorty were Danish and that their country was a seafaring one, a tradition that included the Vikings.
That first time I had photographed Thor by the door to the gallery in front of life masks of the notable people who have exhibited, passed by and contributed money to his gallery. There is Suzuki, and Paul Watson and many more people, a great majority that I have photographed. When I mentioned this to Thor he said, “We have all these people in common because we are old.”
As we left I noticed the unicorn and asked him about it. I would have never guessed that it had been built by Jim Cummins, a.k.a. I, Braineater!
We left happy. The only sad element of our visit is that when I got home and went to my files, I did not find, alas! a file under the name of Froslev. Perhaps I misfiled them or even lost them. But then the new picture taken with my iPhone isn’t all that bad.
The Brackendale Art Gallery is a sort of local version of the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. It is a gallery, a lecture hall, a concert venue. They (Thor and Dorty) have special licences to take care of eagles that are hurt or fall from their nests. Thor showed us a room where they take care of the eagles during the season in December and January. Dorty gives art classes and they also feature visiting artists.
Brackendale Art Gallery