Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Reno's With Rosie - Creating the Curator Wall

If it isn't decorating magazines or pinterest, it's television or just talking to someone about what they're doing that inspires my wife Rose. She's always thinking. First comes the inspiration, then the planning, dropping little hints around the house, "running it by me" just a little bit at a time so I won't get alarmed and the "fight or flee" instinct won't become active. 
Apparently it's a delicate balance.

As for me, usually I have no idea what's going on, I'm just minding my own business and then....wham o! At sometime I have apparently agreed to some kind of expensive renovation, decorating project, major purchase, or vacation, somehow without even being aware of the fact that a decision was in the process of being made!

Oh well, mostly it works itself out and every once in a while I do exercise my veto vote, but not without careful deliberation, at least 5 seconds anyway. Rose gets her own veto vote as well so don't worry, we are an equal partnership (mostly, with a lot of zig-zagging back and forth).

But this particular project was really an excellent idea and it took no convincing at all. I took one look at the picture of the "curator wall" in Rose's magazine and I was on board with both feet in.

The finished art wall.

After our trip to Italy this past May, I have been itching to get some of my photographs printed, mounted and displayed around the house. I had already printed a bunch of calendars that turned out pretty good and I had enjoyed some success entering some images in the St. Albert Photo Club monthly competitions in November. One image of the snail or Momo staircase from the Vatican Museum won first place in digital images and another of a woman walking through the early morning mist in Piazza San Marco won second in printed images. Pretty heady stuff, let me tell you!

So when Rose mentioned her idea for showcasing my work, I jumped at the chance. Our first task was to find a suitable piece of galvanized pipe and the mounting flanges to get it up on the wall and properly supported. I looked around and finally found a nice, 6' piece of 1/2" galvanized pipe at Lowe's as well as the elbows and mounting flanges.

Galvanized pipe mounted on the wall from which the artwork hangs.
Meanwhile Rose had been working on selecting and cleaning up some frames we had recently taken down when we repainted the house. She marked out an area on the floor approximating the size of the wall area we had to work with and we laid out the frames into the most pleasing arrangement we could come up with. We didn't want to spend a lot of money on new frames or new mats so she re-painted some of the old mats and painted select parts of the old frames, getting rid of any gold accents and replacing it with silver or black.

Frames with old artwork laid out on the floor.
Next was the hard part for me, choosing what to print, finding good images that told a bit of a story about our trip to Italy. We had this great long narrow frame that had a space for a 12"x36" image and I decided to crop a vertical shot of a man walking up a steep lane in the rain with a bright blue umbrella. It was shot in one of our favorite places in Italy, the town of Belagio on Lake Como in Northern Italy. We both loved the pop of blue and the wet cobblestone steps leading up to the bright opening at the top of the image where there was perhaps a little sun filtering through and illuminating the yellow walls.

Hanging the Images.
Most of the other images weren't hard to decide on. We both love the image of the grand canal in Venice from the foot of the Pont del Accademia with the blue gondolas in the foreground and the sun rising over Piazza San Marco and the Santa Maria della Salute Church.

We printed it in 24"x18"  at London Drugs (along with all of our other printing) and they did a great job. We went with 2 11"x 14" images along the top, the one on the left was taken in Rome, we had just arrived after a bit of a kerfuffle at the train station and then a mix-up picking up our keys and a rude person at the gelateria. While Rose kindly waited in line for some delicious gelato, I listened to the cello playing, tuxedo wearing busker in the most picturesque little alley staircase, it was quite magical and I took a couple of quick pictures (after depositing a few euros in appreciation).

Also in the top center is another shot of Venice taken on a misty morning on one of the smaller canals that criss-cross the city. Our first morning in Venice we woke up to some gorgeous fog blanketing the city and I loved it! On the top right side is a smaller shot of the ceiling in the Pantheon with a nice little beam of light shining through the 27 foot wide oculus. What an amazing building, we visited several times at different times of the day and it was always beautiful. Below that is another image from Rome, this one was taken in the Capitoline Museums but I don't remember who it is. The one below it on the right is a fairly modern statue built into the hillside in the town of Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy. This statue called Il Gigante, was built from concrete in 1910 but rough seas and allied bombs during WW2 have left this image of Neptune holding the waves at bay looking pretty forlorn and shabby. We both loved finding the statue there at the end of the beach and we visited it several times (gelato in hand) during our 4 days in Monterosso.

The living room with the couch half finished, but the art wall complete!
Stay tuned for part 2 of Reno's with Rosie where we do all kinds of other weird and wonderful things around the house over the Christmas Holidays.

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Saturday in the City

It's Family Day weekend in Edmonton, the dead of winter, the weather is a little perkier but spring still seems a ways off, oh what to do? Well if you are like me and you have an expired groupon for the Art Gallery of Alberta that you want to use, the farmers market is running at City Hall and you have a new fish eye lens for your camera and your daughter calls and asks what you're doing Saturday, you say, "I'm going downtown, you should come too."

That's pretty much what happened this past Saturday and it was a lot of fun. Kait and Nick met us at City Hall and we puttered around the farmers market for a while and then Nicks dad and sister met us and the six of us spent the day together.

Rose and I love farmers markets and we always spend too much and get into a little trouble buying delicious home made goodies to take home for later. This time though, we were on our best behavior. We are trying to make healthy eating choices and are doing a lot of juicing and smoothies and that sort of thing, so baking and sugar and all of the usual unhealthy choices are out! (mostly)

So we spent most of our shopping time looking at stone milled heritage grain products and fresh vegetables, chocolate ambrosia  (how did that one sneak in there?) and chipotle rhubarb ketchup. While Rose sampled home made Indian food from two different stalls I wandered around taking pictures of our remarkable city hall. It is a very impressive building, bright and airy, with some great chromed benches and beautiful artwork and of course some impressive stairs and columns that photograph quite well.

City Hall Farmer's Market

Our plan was to go for lunch at Tres Carnales, a Mexican restaurant that I've heard quite a few good things about, but when Nick checked their web-site we found out they don't open until 4pm on Saturdays, oh well. We decided to walk over to The Blue Plate Diner and the six of us paraded through some rather grungy scenery over to 104 Street, just in time for the tail end of their brunch menu.

Lunch was quite good but for a variety of reasons, Rose and I opted to split the Elk/Bison burger and have the house salad with it. That would have worked out quite well.....except we were surrounded by plates overflowing with delicious looking fries that were calling out to us to gobble them up and thereby putting us both out of our misery.

Rose weakened I'm afraid and wanted to order some of our own, but I stood firm in the onslaught of tantalizing aromas and sounds of people all around happily munching on fries, only slipping a little bit and "borrowing" a few fries from Nick and Kait's basket of golden deliciousness.

That minefield avoided, (mostly) we headed across the street to evoolution, a delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon, sampling premium olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars in cute, tiny little paper cups using bits of bread to soak up the mixed flavours and eventually choosing a few combinations to take home.   http://www.evoolution.ca/

                        Espresso Balsamic Vinegar & Blood Orange Infused Olive Oil

I LOVE that place, the only problem is, there is so much variety and everything is so tasty that it's hard to make a choice and exit gracefully! Eventually we did make a choice, a few choices actually and I can't wait to try them out at home, delicious.

After that it was a walk back to drop off a few parcels at the car and then on to the Art Gallery of Alberta. I confess, I am far more interested in the building than most of the art inside of it and so, as everyone else enjoyed the art, I thoroughly enjoyed the building itself. Of course I can't resist trying out some of the art filters that can sometimes jazz up pictures and give then a little bit more punch. Check out a few of the pictures below: all shot with a Sony NEX 5n and a Rokinon 8mm Fish Eye lens.

High contrast black & white filter

Colour Polarizer Filter

Partial Colour/Yellow filter.

And that was about it, just another Saturday in the city.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

A Farewell to Uncle Johny

While I was growing up, I had the privilege of having some very special people in my life. I had close relatives on the farm and there was a real community of them, all clustered around a few square mile chunk of some of the most beautiful land in Alberta.

A little West of Pigeon Lake, (my mom went to school at Lakedell school near Westerose Alberta) was where my moms family homesteaded back in the twenties or thirties. The land was pretty raw back then with a lot of trees and rocks and it took  a lot of backbreaking labor to clear the land and make it productive, but they persevered and had kids (a lot of them) and spread out and married and had more kids and bought more land and cleared it and on and on.

My Grandmothers brother (one of them, anyway) was John Satre, the big man that I always knew as Uncle Johny. He was one of those wonderful, laughing, wise, hardworking, great men that it is such a privilege and blessing to know and his farm was one of the regular stops in the valley whenever we would head out in the country to visit the family.

I always liked him a lot and when he passed away at the age of 97 on December 25 I got a call from his son, Roger. He asked me to pass along the news to the rest of my family in the city and he happened to mention that they might need someone to speak at the funeral.

Well always up for a challenge, (well not always, if I'm honest) I told him that, "of course I will speak if it will help out." I was a bit nervous about it because doing a eulogy (and I've done a few) and actually officiating at a funeral are not exactly the same thing.

He assured me that they probably wouldn't need me but of course a person can't just count on that happening and so I set about preparing. My uncle wasn't exactly a church going man and so the situation called for some delicacy, (not my strong suit) and I started to think about what I knew of Uncle Johny and what I would say to his family and friends who knew him so much better.

A funeral is one of those few times in life when people who might otherwise not be willing to listen and hear about Jesus are a bit more open and receptive to the message that Christians call "The Good News." That Jesus wants to have a relationship with them, He loves them no matter who they are and what their past is and that He died for them, so that they could have the chance to choose life.

So I thought about it and I prayed about it and I got a very clear picture of a man in a field running his hands through the heads of grain and stripping them off the stalk and crumpling them in his hand, (as farmers do) and just knowing, knowing, knowing, knowing. Without church and sermons, without the bible even, and I do know how important the word of God is, but without all of the usual and very necessary trappings of Christianity, just knowing......that, THERE IS A GOD!

And I wrote it down and I read it to my wife and when the time came to call Roger, he said "don't worry about it, we have an old friend of dad's to speak." And I said, "Oh, OK."

And that was that.

Well, it would have been, if not for Rose, she of course said, and I'm paraphrasing here. "NO, God gave you a word and you need to call him back and tell him that you have something to say and you need to speak!"
(But of course she said this in a way that was loving and supportive, but firm!)

So I tucked the paper in my pocket and told her I would ask him at the funeral and that's what I did, and when he and his wife read it, they said, "yes, please read it."

And so they tacked me onto the program and when the time came and they called, "Doug Perry, has something to say." I went up, (even though my name isn't Doug Perry!
And this is what I said.
"A lot of no nonsense farmers and ranchers whose life is taken up with their families and the land and their livestock and crops and the weather and the markets and their machinery…. maybe don’t think about it much. But when they're up before dawn, out bringing the cows in and getting ready for milking, when they look out over the foggy fields and dew covered grass and trees and they see how the thousands of spider webs are covered in dew and sparkling in the light of the rising sun, even then, they might not say it aloud, but inside, in their hearts, they just know, there is a God.

They might not have time to acknowledge Him in public or pursue Him in the way that others might, but when they hear the rain drumming on the roof and smell the new-mown hay, and strip the head of grain off the stock and marvel at the miracle of those tiny grains transformed into the slices of freshly baked, golden brown bread that is their lunch, they just know, there is a God.

When they reach for a tool to get the job done that needs to get done, that has to get done, and they strain and they wrestle with that stubborn rusty bolt that just has to come out because the combine is broken down and the crop has got to come off and the harvest is only half done and time is running out... and then, with one more heave, it breaks loose, finally: they whisper, "thank you Lord" And He hears.

Some men never really get into the habit of going to church, but they know there's a God just the same. when they look into the cradle and see the newborn child that is the product of the love that they have for their wife and they see those perfect little hands and those perfect little toes and those long eyelashes and the downy covering of tiny little hairs that covers a new baby, they just know, there is a God, because only God could make such a miracle."

It is always a privilege to speak in public and a funeral is one of those occasions when there is a lot of emotion and all a person can do is be willing and to do their best when called upon. And to trust that God will do the rest.
And I do.

And He will.