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).

Book Review: Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.

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Amy Stewart – Girl Waits With Gun (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – Boston, 2015)

Go look this one up at your local library or the nearest bookstore.  Amy Stewart’s Girl Waits With Gun.  I’ll be here until you get back.

Okay, do you have a copy in your hands? This is why you have to read it NOW:  Stewart takes the true story of historical figure of Constance Kopp, one of America’s first female crime fighters, and runs with it, producing a brilliantly creative, fun, and beautifully written (fictionalized) tale of a woman who doesn’t quite fit into the time she lives in, yet makes the best of her situation to get herself and her sisters out of a serious muddle, as well as help others less fortunate. In this first book of the series (yay!  It’s a series!), Constance and her sisters inadvertently attract the sinister attention of Henry Kaufman, a powerful factory owner – and things are complicated when it is discovered that Kaufman is involved in many more criminal acts.  Terrified for her family’s safety, Constance reluctantly seeks the help of the police, and together with kindly, overworked Sheriff Heath, this fierce, driven woman goes to war.  Some books you savour, some you devour – this definitely fit into the latter category for me.  I could barely get anything else done while I was reading it, I was so invested in Constance’s story.  Perfect pacing, careful research, and just the right amount of heartwarming humour further solidified it for me – I can’t recommend Girl Waits With Gun enough.

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.   🍁

Flowery Friday.

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I took this photo while standing inside the one-room Cyr School, now part of the Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village in Pincher Creek, Alberta. The school dates back to 1909.

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:

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‘Never Alone’ 

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‘Prairie Snowdrift’

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‘Campfire’

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‘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.

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Alberta (historical) snapshot: East Coulee trestle bridge.

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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.

June blog fun.

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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:

What I’ve been reading on The Door is Ajar:

Hugh Howey – Beacon 23

Lemony Snicket – “When Did You See Her Last?”

Ernest Cline – Armada

Kerry Greenwood – Cocaine Blues

Annabel Pitcher – My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece.

And 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.

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