Art Under a Bridge

Standard

 

The idea of permanence imbues feelings of safety and security.

Stability, durability, endurance, constancy – these words allow us to indulge in long-term planning and undertake big dreams that will happen sometime in the future.    The assumption of indefinite unchangeability suggests that we have time enough for everything because what is today, will surely be here tomorrow.

Tomorrows are fresh starts and they chose their own destinies.  All we are given is a reasonable expectation or likelihood of what may, or may not, occur.

For all our supposed need for permanence, however, what lies within us is something far more profound – the need to explore, to experience the extraordinary, to live big lives.  Now, in the present. Not in the opaque and unknown future.

One thing that remains steadfast is our desire for community, for belonging, for a place to call home.

#ChalkTalks – a student project by CityStudio “made by us, for you” appeared in the afternoon and left the same evening.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island, wrote, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”   That thought came to mind when I walked under a bridge and experienced this remarkable temporary art installation.

 

Within a few hours, the crowds dispersed, and the music stopped. By morning, all that remained were a few chalk messages left on cement walls.  And yet, what these students said through art, remains with those who experienced the moment.

Perhaps that is the only permanence we need.

We Will Remember Them

Standard

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Composed at the battlefront on May 3, 1915
during the second battle of Ypres,
Belgium

Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

The Gift of Creativity

Standard

Creativity is central to the human spirit.  It is in everything we do, feel, enjoy.  A line of poetry, a few notes of a musical score, the aroma home-made bread, the vibrant colours of a sunset – all speak to our emotional need for beauty. We experience this first hand through the lens of our memories, our current reality, and cultural awareness.

My journey to understanding art and artists, has led me to a profound conclusion.  That is, we all have a gift to visualize creativity through the eyes of another.  Another time, another culture, another perspective.

 

 

Creative Spirits & Innovative Cities

Standard

FAÇADE Festival 2017

It was a late night in early September.  The summer warmth lingered, still unwilling to give way to a cooler season. The muted lights of Vancouver’s downtown cafes spilled onto the streets, mingling with laughter, voices and the aroma of fragrant spices.

In the midst of a vibrant night scene, one street commanded a hushed audience fully engaged within a mythological world of light and music.  It was opening night of the FAÇADE Festival 2017 that began at 7:30 p.m. and would end at Midnight.

The FAÇADE  Festival is a week-long public art production presented by the Burrard Arts Foundation in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Jane Jacobs once wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when they are created by everybody.” Artistic expression is the foundation of bringing communities together.  When we recognize and share our creative spirit we are building innovative cities that will continue to thrive within a vast global world.

 

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Standard

The small tidal island off the northeast coast of England, speaks of a history where truth and myth coalesce into the misty past.  Much like Atlantis, the Garden of Hesperides and Camelot, Lindisfarne is recognized as sacred, set apart from the mundanity of life.

The monastery of Lindisfarne, known as the Lindisfarne Priory, was founded by Irish monk Saint Aidan (590-651). Saint Aidan came from the Island of Iona, the centre of Gaelic monasticism, located off the west Coast of Scotland.

The pious Christian King Oswald, who became king is 634, had a problem. Anglo-Saxon paganism was replacing Christianity.  He reached out to his friends in Iona, at a time when he considered all was lost.

The first Ionian to respond was Bishop Cormán, an austere man, with a severe message. The people of Northumbria did not accept him.  The feeling was mutual. Bishop Cormán’s opinion on the matter was that people of Northumbria were too stubborn to accept his message.  It was very doubtful that their hardened hearts would embrace Christianity.

King Oswald was tenacious.  And his persistence was rewarded in the personage of Saint Aidan.

Saint Aidan’s influence was felt throughout Northumbria.  He ministered to all, whether slave or noble.  The people accepted him and his message.  To this day, he is known as a Monk holding a flaming torch so it comes as no surprise that he is the patron saint of firefighters.

The Holy Island of Lindisfarne's modest population of less than 200 people welcomes over 650,000 visitors a year.  For many, it is a pilgrimage to one of the most significant centres of Celtic Christianity.

We designate special times and places in our lives as being separate from the ordinary. It is a way to seek order in a seemingly chaotic world that challenges our survival instincts.  We need a place that embodies a peaceful existence, a gentle retreat from the busyness of life.

Even so, there is a caveat.

If you find your way to The Holy Island, take heed, for a land causeway that links Lindisfarne to the mainland is covered by ocean tides twice in every 24-hour period. In the most sacred of places, we are still very much a part of a complex world that runs on time.

Stopping Time

Standard

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”  Anaïs Nin

I have often thought of this quote by Anaïs Nin – not in the context of a writer, but in the framework of a photo. Ever since Joseph Nicephore Niepce clicked the first photo in 1814, humanity has been beguiled by the ability to capture something important.  It is our only way to stop time, to remember our journeys, and proclaim that we have lived, felt love, endured challenges and sustained losses.

I confess that I am a “photo hoarder.”  Yes, even the photos that I consider “second best” remain safely stored on external drives in hopes that some day there may be an editing program that will be invented that will enhance and bring out their beauty. By beauty, I mean the emotional impression of that event.

Just last week, I went back to “taste life twice.”  The year was 2004.  I had purchased my first digital camera, a Canon Powershot A70, for a long-awaited trip to Italy to enroll in a 3-week Italian language course.  The reviews were as generous as I was enthusiastic: “The PowerShot A70 is much more than just a 3.2-megapixel version of its predecessor, the A40.”   I was convinced that this was an excellent purchase.

With a camera in hand, there is added emotional drama at play, more clarity, more interest in the “now.”  This awareness was most keenly felt when I walked the lush paths of Frederick Stibbert’s Garden.  It was a late October afternoon. A gentle light settled on the trees and aging walls, a faint wind tossed the leaves.  A quiet solitude lifted my spirits.  I had recently finished an arduous academic journey and was at a crossroads.

Looking back on these photos, I remember a pivotal decision, made with a recognition that we move in tune with the music of time, surrounded by those who came before and those who will come after. Our myths, our struggles, our joys are intermingled.  Perhaps it is in the retrospective, in knowing what happened afterwards, that reveals a greater understanding.  And with that knowledge, we move forward with profound resolve to embrace the next moment.