A Remembrance of the Kaleidoscopes of My Childhood
Saturday, October 08, 2016
|Cyclamen hederifolium - October 8 2016|
hederifolium (ivy-leaved cyclamen or sowbread) is a species of flowering
plant in the genus Cyclamen, of the family Primulaceae. It is the most
widespread cyclamen species, the most widely cultivated after the florist's
cyclamen (Cyclamen persicum), and the
most hardy and vigorous in oceanic climates. It is native to woodland, shrub land,
and rocky areas in the Mediterranean region from southern France to western
Turkey and on Mediterranean islands, and naturalized farther north in Europe
and in the Pacific Northwest.
The toys of my youth are never going to return. I
remember the tops that I would wind with string and then throw on to the sidewalk.
We had a more aggressive game where several of us with trompos would bury one of
them (we took turns) and we had to try to split the one on the ground.
In Buenos Aires we bought figuritas which were little round
cardboard portraits of football players. The game was to flick them to a wall
on the sidewalk. The one who had it closest to the wall would keep all of them.
Every year some uninspired parent of one of my friends would
give me a croquet set for my birthday. Invariably I would convert three balls
and string into boleadoras (bolas in English) and I would make believe I was
running after South American ostriches. In later years we played bicycle polo with
the croquet set.
But a toy of my youth I suddenly remembered today was the
kaleidoscope. I received many of them. I would turn them for hours.
Walking from my living room to my oficina/studio I noticed
my Rosemary’s Cyclamen hederofolium
with its one single little flower. I instantly remembered those kaleidoscopes of my youth.
I know that one of the few places in Vancouver where one can
by such an item is Lee Valley Tools. Should I buy one for my 14-year old
Lauren? Or is she too old for one?
My Mother's Elegance
Friday, October 07, 2016
"Elegance is the only beauty that never fades."
|Rosa 'English Elegance' October 7, 2016|
My mother's birthday is on October 11th. I always get melancholy on the days preceding the anniversary. Today I looked at my fading Rosa '
English Elegance' which still had a couple of lovely open blooms. I wondered how I could show here a bit of my mother's supreme elegance. That she had legs that were only matched by my Rosemary's did help a tad. My mother knew how to dress. Having been born in Manila she liked to wear those Filipino "butterfly" dresses made of highly starched jusi
pineapple fiber. She knew how to wear jewels and could flip open and close a Spanish fan with skill and applomb. And she wore beautiful high heeled shoes that made her 5'9'' height look even taller.
I know that she would have fallen for the spell of Rosa
'English Elegance' as I have for so many years. Enclosed here is her favourite China cup and saucer. I am sure that I would have never been able to explain to her that I drink my tea from large ceramic mugs.
Alas! I only inherited her legs.
Rosa 'Abraham Darby' & a Gentle Prod to Rick Etkin
Thursday, October 06, 2016
|Rosa 'Abraham Darby' October 6 2016|
Death is much in my mind these days. When I walk into my
small Kitsilano garden (a shadow of our once very large one in Kerrisdale) I have
the opportunity to examine my plants in close quarters and I notice far more
than ever before.
For quite a few years I have been scanning the plants in
my garden with my Epson Perfection V700 Photo. I have not limited my scans to
showing the pristine. I have learned to observe how plants in decline in the
fall exhibit a loveliness that is all their own. Unlike the image of a human or animal corpse and dead
plants, my perennials in decline and "death" always foreshadow the promise
of spring – a resurrection.
My friend, local photographer Rick Etkin
has been posting
lovely b+w photographs (many are close-ups) of flowers and plants. Recently he
seemed to indicate that it was all over until the next year.
I dedicate this blog to you Mr. Etkin and it is my wish that
you do not stop with your plant pictures now. I think that my waning Rosa ‘Abraham
Darby’ might just persuade you to continue.
Juan Manuel Sánchez - Buenos Aires 1930 - October 5, 2016
Wednesday, October 05, 2016
I have had many wonderful surrogate fathers in my life. I
wrote about it here
. Today the last of them died at age 86.
In many ways I feel as if I were on a long rail car
accompanied by people behind me and to my side. The train is plowing through
deep snow and I can see it falling on either side of the windows. The snow thins
out and finally I arrive at the end of the line and find that my long rail car
is empty and I am the only one on board. I step down at the station and in
front of me is a mirror. I look into it and I see an old man.
I grieve for the loss of Juan Manuel Sánchez and I can
only find solace that I spent a lot of time together with him in Buenos Aires
in April. He was beginning to slip with his memory but he was alert enough that
I cajoled him to draw a bit for me. This he did. As I said goodbye there was
that smile with that slight downturn of a tango. I did not know then but I
should have known.
Limits - Jorge Luís Borges
There is a line of Verlaine that I will not be able to
There is a street nearby that is widowed of my footsteps,
there is a mirror that has seen me for the last time,
there is a door that I have closed until the end of the
Among the books of my library (I am looking at them)
there is one that I will never open now.
This summer I will be fifty years old;
Death is wearing me away, relentless.
línea de Verlaine que no volveré a recordar.
calle próxima que está vedada a mis pasos,
espejo que me ha visto por última vez,
puerta que he cerrado hasta el fin del mundo.
los libros de mi biblioteca (estoy viéndolos)
alguno que ya nunca abriré.
verano cumpliré cincuenta años;
muerte me desgasta, incesante.
A few days before he died in a moment of poetic lucidity he told his former wife, Nora Patrich who was visiting him at this hospital bed:
Antes que vuele y vuele veni a verme.
Before I fly and fly come and see me.
|Juan Manuel Sánchez & Nora Patrich|
Cori Caulfield - The Ballerina that Smiles
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
A very tall Cori Caulfield came into my studio at the end of August
2001. She brought a big and red shiny apple and two outfits. She posed for
three different situations - one of them in her birthday suit. The folks at the
Georgia Straight who had assigned me to photograph her did not notice what some
of you might in the tear sheet. They ran that photograph.
The session had all to do with showcasing Caulfield’s
choreography based on Adam and Eve. I have often wondered what Genesis would
have turned out to be if the first munch on that apple had been Eve’s and not
The very tight silver outfit was designed by a friend of
mine who used to be an ecdysiast called Mary Arnold
. She designed many for
Anybody who may have seen Crystal Pite dance (when she
danced and she really danced!) through the years might have not known that Cori
Caulfield was not only the only one who could keep up with her but was always
on par. In fact many of Pite's older pieces (when she danced in them) almost
always included Caulfield.
One of my favourite dance performances ever was one in
which Caulfield paired the young dancers from her school (all wearing powdered
wigs) in a Mozart piece in which the Vancouver Philharmonic Orchestra played at
the Old Auditorium at UBC.
Perhaps what most attracted me to Caulfield was her
delightful smile which she used to mask difficult moves.
It is my wish that before I hang up my cameras that
Caulfield come to my little Kitsilano studio to pose for me. She can wear
whatever she wants.
Max Wyman - The Passionate Critic
Monday, October 03, 2016
My friend retired Vancouver Sun
critic and editor Max Wyman
has a blog Notes Toward a Life - Seeing things differently through the arts
. Of the man I first mentioned his name here
It was about my long ago, late 70s, first contact with
him at the old headquarters of Vancouver Magazine on Hornby Street and later at Davie and Richards. With his
even then long and white hair he was much too imposing and scary for me to
address a word to him. Since that time we slowly became friends and as a
Saturday Vancouver Sun Arts section editor (when the paper had a truly marvelous
art section) he sent me a book to review called “The History of the Breast.” He
obviously had me pegged.
While an editor I worked for, Paul Sullivan was the first
in Vancouver to coin the term “citizen journalism” I had no respect for the
idea that I would want to read the opinion and criticism of the man (or woman)
on the street. I am of the old guard who believes in trusting the words of a
Rick Ouston - Where are you?
While at the Vancouver Sun I can think of no other man
(or woman) who
had the undisputed reputation
for excellence of Max Wyman particularly as a dance critic
. Some of us might
remember that Wyman came to Vancouver as a writer on medical matters. By some
sort of accident he was sent out to review something and that is with his career
as critic began.
I can point out here the thrill of having worked with Wyman on a joint project that saw the light of day at the Vancouver Sun. It was called The Pointe of it All
In a recent conversation with the former mayor of Lion’s
Bay, BC, Wyman told me with a luxury of detail how a surgeon had to drill into
his heart to treat his not-too-good heart condition.
Perhaps in his recovery he has had the time to write in
his blog at length and in particular these two on what a critic is and does. And
are critics endangered?
Coincidentally (or not) his two essays come as a reaction
to the recent firing of Georgia Straight theatre critic Colin Thomas:
The recent unexpected and disturbing dismissal of Colin
Thomas from his post as theatre critic at Vancouver’s Georgia Straight, after
thirty years of service, brings the world-wide “crisis in criticism” into sharp
local focus. You are invited to sample a pair of essays I have posted on my
website www.maxwyman.com confronting the positives and negatives of this
multi-national “crisis” and redefining and reaffirming the enduring values of
the profession and the qualities of its practitioners:
George Sawchuk an Artist With Humour in the Forest
Sunday, October 02, 2016
Reading Facebook I found a citation by my friend Grant
Simmons who lives in Gibsons. BC that Fanny Bay artist George Sawchuk had died
some time ago.
George Sawchuk January 22, 1927 - February 2, 2012
It is patently obvious that my extensive files that begin in
Vancouver in 1975 are really on their way of being dead files. It reminds me of
a very un-English student by the name of Strand who in my photography class at
Vanarts (the only place where I have been fired in my whole life) said in the
presence of all the other students, “Alex can you show us pictures from
magazines that still exist?” My answer (I had to think of it first) was, “Most
of the people that I have photographed for those magazines are dead.”
I know that the article in Western Living Magazine (it
still exists) on George Sawchuck happened in the early 90s and that I traveled
to Fanny Bay, BC to photograph the man and his works. Of the man I only
remember a quiet voice and an almost poker face. His humour (and he was full of
it) was an extension of his art.
The Vancouver Sun Obituary:
January 22, 1927 - February 2, 2012
- Illegitimis non carborundum -
Treasure of the Comox Valley, friend of the working
person and gifted artist, George Sawchuk, passed away at his Fanny Bay home on
February 2, 2012. George was born in Kenora, Ontario in 1927 to immigrant
parents. George attended both Catholic School and the Bolshevik Hall and these
experiences would become the central pre-occupations of his artwork.
George left school and Kenora early in life, heading west
on boxcars and working in logging, fishing and construction. His leg was
crushed in a bridge-building accident and after 10 years of excruciating
medical procedures was finally "bucked off". This finally gave George
the time to explore his interest in making things and he began to carve nooks
in trees where he placed what would become his trademark: wooden books filled
with colourful quotations.
In 1970, George had his first art show at the UBC
Gallery. In 1976, George and his second wife, Pat Helps, bought land in Fanny
Bay. Together they cleared the land, built a home and set up a huge vegetable
garden. He also began work on his forest gallery, which served as a magnet for
thousands of visitors. George was always available to any who cared to wander
up to the house, or visit him and Ms. Helps in their backyard. George's
greatest gift was his friendship.
George is survived by his beloved wife, Pat, sister
Amila, daughters Susan (Steve) and Debbie, sons Nicolas (Carol) and Calvin,
grandchildren Niki, George, Ryan, Michael, Chad, Courtney, Erik and Makayla,
great grandchild Colten, many nieces and nephews and in-laws, as well as