Art: “Black Gold” by Sandra Sawatzky.

I spent the morning downtown at the Glenbow Museum, which is currently hosting an absolutely incredible art exhibit: a 67 meter long (220 feet!) embroidered tapestry called “Black Gold,” by Calgary artist Sandra Sawatzky.  Inspired by the Bayeux Tapestry and split into 8 panels for ease of showing/viewing, this is the complete history of oil and its connection to humankind, from before we were even kicking as a species, during the days of the dinosaurs, through all the technological movements we’ve made right up to our modern car-culture.  Every detail of the story was meticulously researched and planned, each image/scene representative of people and culture and significant events on the timeline. I would have been impressed with the storytelling alone, but I can’t even begin to find words sufficient to describe the perfectly formed and beautifully executed stitching, the vibrant colours of thread she selected, and the stylized imagery and borders reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I had to repeatedly remember to clap shut my gaping jaw; “Black Gold” is truly a masterpiece!

I was impressed by something I read in the artist’s statement about the medium of embroidery on fabric – Sawatzky is also a filmmaker, and she commented on the fact that the USB flash drives, external hard drives, and the computers we are currently using to edit and save film images will not survive far into the future (hopefully we will be able to save the data in a new way!), but she was resolved to create something far more durable and lasting with the cloth and thread that comprise “Black Gold.”  (In another gallery of the museum was an exhibit called Eye of the Needle; in it, there were gorgeous examples of different types of embroidery and beadwork, as well as projects detailing the quilling and tufting artistry of Canadian Indigenous people.  Some of the items were modern, while others were over a century old – an indication of the longevity of the medium).

It took Sawatzky nine years to complete “Black Gold” from start to finish, and you can read details of how she went about the work on her project blog, here.  (This separate link will take you to the Glenbow Museum’s site, where you can read about the exhibit. As the webpages change to reflect new exhibits, this link won’t last beyond May 2018, I believe, but you can at least read it now).

Next time I feel daunted by a large task (creative or otherwise), I will have to immediately remind myself of “Black Gold” and the beyond-impressive amount of work that went into it.  I am so pleased to have had the chance to see it. (And it was also delightful taking in some of the fantastic abstract paintings of Lawren Harris – one of the members of the Group of Seven – which were on display at the Museum in a separate gallery).

Canada 150.

2017 is a big year of celebration for Canadians, as it marks our country’s sesquicentennial (150th anniversary of Confederation). While working on some research for a writing project, I came across a few fantastic links that I thought I’d share…even if you’re not Canadian, you might enjoy the insight that these resources give into our people, our history, and our culture.

Library and Archives Canada is putting up a post #OnThisDay, for every day of the year, noting significant events and people in Canadian history.  It’s a fascinating follow – if you hurry, you can catch up on all of January’s entries before February first rolls around.

Heritage Canada is diligently providing digitized archives of millions of documents from the 1600’s to the mid-1900’s here. This is a massive treasure trove of Canadian history, free for everyone to access. Genealogists might find the site particularly useful.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation is doing a 150 Stories project to celebrate multiculturalism in Canada.  Read the stories of new Canadians, notable leaders, and historical events here.   🍁

Alberta snapshot: Lebel Mansion Rose Garden.

On a recent trip to Pincher Creek, Alberta, it was absolutely imperative that we stop at the historical Lebel Mansion and view the rose garden created and maintained by the Oldman Rose Society. It was a good thing there weren’t any other visitors, as I couldn’t stop making appreciative “ooh” and “ahh” noises. Also, I may have drooled a little.

A few highlights:

NAFPNormandeau

‘Never Alone’ 

PSFPNormandeau

‘Prairie Snowdrift’

CFPNormandeau

‘Campfire’

MSBFPNormandeau

‘Morden Snow Beauty’ 

And here is the beautiful mansion, built in 1910 by a local merchant named Timothee Lebel. He lived there until 1924, when he donated the building to a religious order and it became a hospital. It now houses an art gallery and several studios for artists.

LMFPNormandeau

Alberta (historical) snapshot: East Coulee trestle bridge.

ECTBSNormandeauFP

Another image from our trip to the Badlands a few weeks ago….  The East Coulee bridge was an essential link required by the CNR and CPR railways to cross the Red Deer River and service both the Monarch and Atlas coal mines, as well as enable coal delivery by train throughout the region. The bridge was built in 1936 but was destroyed by flooding 12 years later and had to be reconstructed.  It was in use until the 1970’s, when the Atlas Mine closed.  The Howe Truss design is truly unique – this is the only wooden railway bridge still standing in Canada that has this boxy design.  Well, barely standing, that is…the deck is completely rotting out and although there is a big push to save this amazing piece of architecture and history, it will be an expensive fix if it is undertaken.  My family has a personal connection to East Coulee:  my Dad spent part of his childhood there, as he and his family lived in the village while my Grandpa worked at the Atlas mine.  In his memoir, my Grandpa wrote about East Coulee:

In November 1952, East Coulee had a population of about two thousand; there was a school for grade one to nine, two grocery stores, one hardware store, a lumber yard, a bakery, two vehicle repair shops, a hotel with beer parlor and also a small church.  A wooden railroad bridge, which also served for vehicle traffic, connected East Coulee with the mines on the right side of the river and the Monarch camp, which was a separate little hamlet with its own school, store, and hotel with beer parlor.

Floral notes: June 2016.

June-Calendar-Clipart-1-1

Whew!  Nine days in, and I can tell this is going to be one busy month…I think I’ve already spent 184.5673 hours of it watering my gardens.  We broke a heat record on Monday and the plants have been practically scratching at my window, begging for a drink.  This, when many parts of the world are suffering from flooding. I hope everyone affected is safe.

I have a bunch of fascinating links to pass along this month – hope you enjoy these!

National Geographic posted their winning images from their 2016 Travel Photographer of the Year contest – these are spectacular!

This slideshow profiling wild tulips from all over the world is truly incredible – move through the link and click the arrow on the right hand side of the first page to get started on the flower photos.  Even if you don’t have time to click on any of the other links I’ve given you today, take a couple of minutes to check this one out – you’ll understand why when you see it.

Considering espaliering your fruit trees?  Think BIGGER.  Trees meet architecture in this photo compilation.  

Canada has been gifted with a gorgeous new tulip in advance of the 150 anniversary of Confederation, to be celebrated next year.  ‘Canada 150’ is red and white, just like our flag.

English artist Rebecca Louise Law exhibited another of her deconstructed flower arrangements in Berlin – what a way to celebrate spring!

Here is a fascinating article about the origin of Canada’s most famous apple, the McIntosh. 

This is a candy terrarium.  Yep, it’s edible.  You won’t believe it, either.

And, finally, some stuff I posted elsewhere over the past few weeks:

I’ve put up a recipe for a flourless Rhubarb Oatmeal Cake on Grit.com – you can use either fresh or frozen rhubarb for this one.  And then top it off with a big mound of vanilla ice cream.

Vanilla ice cream…the only way to deal with a heat record.  Plus, if you get it served in a cone, you can water the garden while you eat.  Win-win.

(Clipart credit.)

Alberta (historical) snapshot: Mount McGillivray bunker.

Now, this was a fascinating find!  A short (about 2 km, one way) hike west from the Heart Creek parking lot near Canmore, Alberta leads you to this gigantic cave carved out of the base of Mount McGillivray.  My hubby and I headed out there a few weeks ago to check it out.

There is plenty of speculation about the purpose of this huge excavation, but it seems that a private enterprise called The Rocky Mountain Vault and Archive Company started digging it out in the late 1960’s, presumably so that they could rent space to individuals and corporations to store documents (in the event that the Cold War took a nasty turn, perhaps?). You can read more about their ambitious plans for the site here (it was slated to become operational in 1970) – but there doesn’t seem to be any information about why they never finished the project. At any rate, it’s an amazing place to visit (and fortunately, there weren’t any creepy Hallowe’en masks hanging from the ceiling when we went – my heart wouldn’t have been able to handle the fright).

Mt.McGFPNormandeau

Looking towards the entranceway from inside the vault.  

Alberta (historical) snapshot: Lindsay’s Folly.

FPLFNormandeau

Very little remains of this early twentieth-century mansion in Calgary. These rough sections of foundation and walls half-buried in the grass and trees are all that’s left of Lindsay’s Folly, a man’s dream that never quite came true.

Dr. Neville Lindsay came to Calgary in 1883 and set up a thriving medical practice; he then skipped off to find Klondike gold and returned home a very wealthy man.  He bought several properties in the city – one of them being the first Knox Presbyterian Church, which was no longer being used.  He decided to dismantle the church and use the sandstone from it to build a house.  It was a great plan, and the house was shaping up nicely, with 12 to 14 rooms in the works and huge archways erected in the entrance, but construction suddenly ground to a halt and the unfinished house was left abandoned.

FPLF2Normandeau

 

Why was the house never finished?  A lost love, perhaps?  Or the fear that the building was on precarious footing and would slide into the Elbow River below?  (Erosion can be such a bother!).

Nope.  The truth is, when World War I broke out, Lindsay simply lost his fortune. The banks reneged on his mortgages, which, with a combined total of one million dollars, was an astronomical sum in those days (well, still is!).  Money comes, money goes….

The archways and the rest of the house slowly vanished by the late 1950’s. It may be that the City demolished them for safety reasons. It would have been interesting to see them when they were still standing on the edge of the hill.

 

There is a fantastic article from Avenue Magazine, May 2015, that gives more information about Lindsay’s Folly and the possibility of preserving/commemorating the ruins.

Alberta (historical) snapshot: Rundle Ruins.

Like most western Canadian cities, Calgary isn’t truly old.  The North West Mounted Police established a fort here in 1875 (it was called Fort Brisebois for a year, upon which the name was changed to Fort Calgary).  Calgary was incorporated as a town in 1884 (population 506) and as a city ten years later (population 3,900).  Alberta wasn’t even a province yet – that didn’t happen until 1905.

Calgary’s population now hovers around 1.25 million, and up until the recent recession hit, the city was bustling with new development. There aren’t many significant ruins here – particularly of a late 19th century building.

The Rundle Ruins are the sandstone remains of the second general hospital, completed in 1894, and in operation until 1954.  You can read more about the hospital’s history here, and find a list of the city’s designated heritage sites here.

What types of historical sites are notable where you live?  Which ones are your favourites to visit?

RRFPNormandeau

(Photo taken August 2015)

Flowery Friday: petunias.

Petunia truck

A Flowery Friday and an Alberta Snapshot rolled into one…if you head east of Calgary to the hamlet of Carseland, you’ll easily spot this eye-catching, petunia-festooned unrestored 1949 Chevy pickup in Downey Centennial Park, just off highway 24. The truck was donated by longtime residents and in its past life, regularly transported two adults and five kids on trips off the farm.

A couple of years ago, I posted a photo of a beautifully-planted piece of farm equipment I came across at the Saskatoon Farm in DeWinton, Alberta (check it out here).  Antique trucks, claw-foot bathtubs, rusted-out wheelbarrows, old leather boots…what unconventional planters have you seen or used?