Cool Vintage Junkyard For Sale

I came across a news story that led me to a real estate listing for a well-organized junkyard in Tappen, British Columbia with over 300 vintage cars and trucks crammed into 5 acres.  Along with the land comes a few buildings and all of the classic junkers to boot.  Asking price is almost CDN $1.5 million!

The colorful pictures taken by the selling real estate agency (Century 21 Agent Hudson Purba) are superb, several of which are posted here (more can be viewed on the listing site).  This throwback reminds me of Old Car City in northwest Georgia, a salvage yard dating to the 1930s which is filled with truly old rusty vehicles that Mother Nature has slowly reclaimed. Both places are full of eye-candy for photographers and the just plain curious.

(Image credits:  Century 21 Agent Hudson Purba)

In Praise of Aislinn Hunter’s “Linger, Still”

Earlier this year, Gaspereau Press, a small press in Kentville, Nova Scotia devoted to exquisite bookmaking, released Linger, StillAislinn Hunter’s most recent poetry collection.  (Aside from the wonderful writing, I think it’s great that a brilliant writer from Vancouver is published by one of the country’s highest caliber presses, all the way on the opposite coast.)

Hunter has penned many riveting pieces in this volume, which I highly recommend. Here’s one of her standouts for me:

Esk, Part V.

The starry heads of the woodruff

are saying No to the wind,

 

though they might also be nodding along

to the song of their own great ideas.

 

Still, today it feels like

the clock of the world,

 

its ticking heart,

is less fired-up than usual.

 

The talk last night was of violence,

and the right to be offended.

 

Tonight I’ll aim for lightness

and fail —

 

forget the names

of the field flowers,

 

say the wrong things at dinner,

ghost past the dusky mirror.

 

I’ll try to talk about the girl I met

at a workshop in London,

 

the one whose brother

mounted neon signs

 

on the outside walls

of cemeteries —

 

YOU ARE STILL ALIVE one said,

in a pulsing red fluorescence.

 

YOU ARE STILL

ALIVE.

           ~ Aislinn Hunter

“Dear Auntie . . . don’t be cross”: Scenic British Columbia in Old Postcards

gorge-bridge

Postmarked July 12, 1921 (Note Is Below)

Back in the day writing letters and cards was the routine thing to do if you wanted to stay in touch with distant friends and relatives. Picture postcards also allowed the recipient vicariously to experience what the sender did and saw.  As suggested by the note below on one of these cards of British Columbia, the folks back at home expected a long form letter if possible and sending only a postcard from a trip was an occasion for an apology (being Canadians and all). 🙂

gorge-bridge-note-side

Note Side of Card Above of Gorge Bridge, Victoria, B.C.

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yoho-glacier

Yoho Glacier, near Field, B.C. (About 1910)

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simash-rock

Simash Rock, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1905)

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seven-sisters

Seven Sisters, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1910)

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lynn-canyon-bridge

Lynn Canyon Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1915)

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fraser-river

Fraser River, Yale B.C. (About 1910)

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capilano-suspension-bridge

Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, B.C. (About 1951)

Vintage Picture Map Geography of Canada

nw-territories

I recently came across a copy of an old school book, “Picture Map Geography of Canada and Alaska” by Vernon Quinn, that includes charming woodcut picture maps by Bruno da Osimo, a then noted Italian illustrator, for each of the Canadian provinces (other than Nunavut, which was then part of the Northwest Territories).  Originally published in 1944 and updated in 1954, it has a light but well-written chapter devoted to individual provinces.  Each map features animals, plants, activities and industries peculiar to the province depicted.  In addition to the maps (scanned in above and below), the book is adorned throughout with other delightful illustrations by da Osima (some of which I’ll compile in a future post).

alberta british-columbia manitoba-saskatchewan newfoundland nova-scotia-new-brunswick-pei ontario-2 quebec yukon

 

Similar Posts on O’Canada Blog:

1933 Quebec Tourist Road Map

Old Maps and Their Hidden Stories

Songs & Ballads From Nova Scotia

Vintage / Mod Design: The City Bus

vancouver-bus-4

City Bus on Vancouver Street (about mid-1950s)

Distinctive industrial design reveals itself in many ways and, when done well, can be a genuine pleasure to take in.   While the specialness of such design is often difficult to see in our contemporary surroundings, its otherwise subtle impact jumps out when looking back at vintage images. A case in point: the humble municipal bus, operated in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities across Canada.  Over this period theses buses began to display a very mod sensibility as they evolved from the severe boxiness of earlier 1930s and 1940s versions to later, during the 1950s through the 1970s, being adorned with more rounded contours, sleek curves and very stylized lines and chrome elements.

Green With Envy

aaDSC_8282

Headstones, Old Burying Ground, Halifax

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Given its immense size, Canada is blessed with vast forests, sprawling farms and sweeping fields all of green.  Adding to previous posts featuring red- and blue-themed photo galleries, this collection showcases many shades of green that I’ve encountered through my photos from coast to coast across Canada.

Joy of the Blues

Nfld -- Boat on Grass

Small Fishing Boat, Near Port Rexton, Newfoundland

I love playing around with themes.  In an earlier post, I grouped together a bunch of my photos from across Canada that featured a strong element of red.  Today, I thought I’d do a similar thing with some photos that incorporate blues (of the uplifting kind).

Lyssa Kayra’s Inspired Tree Ring Art

Vancouver's Winter (2015)

Lyssa Kayra, Vancouver’s Winter (2016)

Lyssa Kayra’s art is striking!  I love her skillful use of colors and her expressive creativity. Her imaginative large-scale paintings use the form of tree rings — the natural design of which alone makes an intriguing subject and which is suggestive of time and memory — as a means of conveying ideas about specific places that have influenced her.

More info about this wonderful young Vancouver-based artist and her gorgeous work can be found on her artist site here.

Anjuna Textile, India (2015)

Lyssa Kayra, Adjuna Textile, India (2015)

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Berlin Wall (2015)

Lyssa Kaya, Berlin Wall (2015)

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Sahara (2015)

Lyssa Kayra, Sahara (2015)

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Purple Study (2016)

Lyssa Kayra, Purple Study (2016)

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Canadian Cities in 1950s Watercolors

Edmonton

For Canada Day weekend, this post features images that span the geography of this vast country.  Around 1953, in a grand display of national pride, the Montreal-based alcohol and beverage giant Seagram Company commissioned over a dozen Canadian artists (including several among the famed Group of Seven) to create a series of  watercolors of major Canadian cities. The paintings were subsequently the focus of a world tour organized by Seagram to showcase Canada and its urban landscapes.

While recently rummaging through an antique shop I came across a small booklet, dating to 1953, in which these paintings were reproduced and for which this post shows a sampling of the now somewhat faded images.  While many of the provincial capitals are depicted, I find the inclusion of several less prominent cities (including Fort William, Hamilton, Sarnia, Shawinigan Falls and Trois Rivieres) to be fascinating.

St. John's

Calgary

Shawinigan Falls

Charlottetown

Halifax

Montreal

Regina

Quebec City

Saint John

Hamilton

Vancouver

Toronto

Winnipeg

Windsor

Intricate Pebble Paintings by Kristina Boardman

K. Boardman, Caras Pebbles

Kristina Boardman, “Cara’s Pebbles”

Photo-realistic paintings, such as these by BC-based artist Kristina Boardman, easily fool the casual observer as well as the more-studied eye.  That’s amazing enough!  But in addition, these works of pain-staking exactitude nicely capture the whimsy and pleasure of surveying a shoreline adorned with swaths of smooth-faced multi-colored stones and pebbles that have been thrown together randomly over long periods.

Although the realism of these paintings dictate a dominant blue-gray hue, Boardman wonderfully conveys nuance within that muted palette and complements this with perfect pops of other earth tones and pleasing juxtapositions of size and shape.  The compositions of some of these images, such as “Cara’s Pebbles” (above), suggest small jewels just underfoot.

Among other venues, her work is available at the Ian Tan Gallery in Vancouver and can also be viewed on Boardman’s website here.

K. Boardman, Communication

Kristina Boardman, “Communication”

 

K. Boardman, Saltspring Sunday

Kristina Boardman, “Saltspring Sunday”

 

David Pirrie: Mapping Western Terrains and Our Sense of Place

David Pirrie, Mt Phillips, BC Rockies (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Phillips, BC Rockies (2016)

There’s a great deal of pleasure to be found studying maps, replete as they are with seemingly arcane symbols, dots, lines and grids awaiting patient deciphering.   Among the fascinations of Vancouver-based artist David Pirrie is the iconography of maps and how they influence our sense of place, which he nicely explores in a wonderful series of paintings recently exhibited at Vancouver’s Ian Tan Gallery.

Pirrie’s paintings of Canada’s western landscape, particularly of mountains in the Alberta  and British Columbia Rockies, are overlayed with mapping details and pastel hues that display a slight pop art sensibility that is both intriguing and pleasing.  His having climbed many of these mountains adds an element of intimacy to his gorgeous representations of these majestic formations.

More of David Pirrie’s work can be seen at his website here.

David Pirrie, Mt Assiniboine, Late Summer (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Assiniboine, Late Summer(2016)

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David Pirrie, Columbia Icefield (2016)

David Pirrie, Columbia Icefield , 1/50,000 (2016)

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David Pirrie, Mt Edith Cavell (2016)

David Pirrie, Mt. Edith Cavell (2016)

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David Pirrie, Kates Needle, BC Coast (2013)

David Pirrie, Kates Needle, BC Coast (2013)

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David Pirrie, Mt Robson Ice Fall (2016)

 David Pirrie, Mt. Robson Ice Fall (2016)

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Artist to Appreciate: Walter J. Phillips

Walter J. Philips -- York Boat on Lake Winnipeg (1930) v2

Walter J. Phillips, York Boat on Lake Winnipeg (1930)

Walter Joseph Phillips is yet another unquestioned master of magnificent woodcut images of the Canadian landscape.  He often printed his artwork in color inks rather than just black ink as used by many of his contemporaries working in the same medium.  Although born in England, he settled in Canada as a youth and resided in Winnipeg, Manitoba for much of his life (the same place, coincidentally, chosen as a newfound home by another exceptional Canadian woodcut artist and fellow European immigrant, Eric Bregman).  Phillips produced the bulk of his work from the late 1910s through the 1940s.  In many of his images of the Canadian west he situated people within the scene, providing both a sense of scale and nice human emotional element.

Walter J. Philips -- Mount Cathedral & Mount Stephan (1928)

Walter J. Phillips, Mount Cathedral & Mount Stephan (1928)

Walter J. Philips -- Lake of the Woods (1931)

Walter J. Phillips, Lake of the Woods (1931)

Walter J. Philips -- Red River Jig (1931)

Walter J. Phillips, Red River Jig (1931)

Walter J. Philips -- The Clothes Line - Mamalilicoola (1930)

Walter J. Phillips, The Clothesline –Mamalilicoola (B.C.) (1930)

Walter J. Philips -- The Stump (1928) v2

Walter J. Phillips, The Stump (1928)

The Sweet Lowdown: “Red Shift Blues”

The Sweet Lowdown

The Sweet Lowdown is an amazingly talented folk and roots music trio based in Vancouver Island, B.C.  The group consists of Amanda Blied on guitar,  Shanti Bremer on banjo, and Miriam Sonstenes on fiddle.  Their wonderful harmonies and skillful musicianship and songwriting are starting to attract much-deserved wider recognition, including coveted nominations by the Canadian Folk Music Awards as 2015 Ensemble of the Year and 2015 Roots Group Recording of the Year by the Western Canadian Music Awards for their album “Chasing the Sun”.

The video above is for “Red Shift Blues”, a soulful tune from the band’s 2011 self-titled album “The Sweet Lowdown”.  More info on them and their music can be found on their official band website.

(Photo Credit: Ashli Akins)

Janis Woode’s Thought-Provoking Sculptures

J. Woode -- Personal Tornado

Janis Woode Personal Tornado

While reading a recent issue of Arabella magazine I was captivated by the intriguing and thought-provoking sculptures made from steel, wire and other metals created by Salt Spring Island, B.C. artist Janis Woode.  Although some of her works suggest a whimsical element, Woode also manages to convey an array of deep emotions to which I expect many of her viewers can readily relate.  See more of her cleverly crafted art at her website here.

J. Woode -- Cupid

Janis Woode, Cupid

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J. Woode -- Root

Janis Woode, Root

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J. Woode -- Stilted Walker

Janis Woode, Stilted Walker

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J. Woode -- The Musician

Janis Woode, The Musician

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J. Woode -- Boat

Janis Woode, The Boat

(Image Credits: Artist Website)

Appreciating Each Precious Moment

Butchart Gardens -- Water Leaves

Floating Fall Leaves, Butchart Gardens, Victoria, B.C.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”

                                                                      ~ Henry David Thoreau

Bridges As Depicted on Vintage Postcards

High-Level-Bridge,-Edmonton

 Steam train crossing as onlookers leisurely enjoy the vista.  Postmarked 1921. 

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Even with sophisticated modern equipment, bridges are marvels of engineering skill.  Bridges from earlier periods, such as the array of Canadian ones featured on these vintage postcards, built without the benefit of such conveniences and often at the cost of many lives and injuries, are that much more impressive!

Heading into Canada from Detroit.  About 1940s, when cars featured many curves.

~

Victoria-Jubilee-Bridge

Love the simplicity of this image and the partial reflection. Postmarked 1906.

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Similar posts:

•  Beautiful Old Railway Bridge, Near Clementsport, N.S.

•  Canada-U.S. Friendship Postcard and Stamps

•  Vintage Quebec:  Ox Carts, Dog Carts and Sleighs

Simple Beauty in Stanley Park

Blades of Grass, Stanley Park

Along the Seawall, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.

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“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”
                                                                                  ~ Walt Whitman

Old Maps and Their Hidden Stories

Nova Canadae 1693

Nova Canadae (1693)

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Good historical maps combine science and art to guide its users through its subject geography, with the best such maps igniting the imagination about the many backstories underpinning its cartographical offerings. Some of the oldest maps of North America include parts of Canada, which then featured place names such Terra Nova (now Newfoundland), Nouvelle France (most of what is now Eastern Canada), and Acadie (now Nova Scotia).  The following collection showcases some interesting old maps of Canada I’ve come across.

Related Posts on O’Canada:

1933 Quebec Tourist Road Map

Stanley Park — Non-Traditional Views

Blades of Grass, Stanley Park

Blades of Grass, Stanley Park

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Many photos from Vancouver’s Stanley Park are of the more traditional sights there, such as the native American totem poles about which I posted earlier.  I certainly have taken my share of those but I also like less customary images of off-the-beaten-track details from a location such as Stanley Park.   These images I captured from the Park are examples of ordinary details that convey a different sort of majesty for that place.

Weathered Mooring, Stanley Park

Weathered Mooring, Stanley Park

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Bush and Rock Minimalism, Stanley Park

Bush and Rock Minimalism, Stanley Park

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Along the Seawall, Stanley Park

Along the Seawall, Stanley Park

Vintage Canadian Apple Crate Labels

Ogopogo Apples

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In the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and many places in between, Fall is harvest time from coast to coast for Canada’s rich variety of apples.    That variety is also reflected in the colorful artistry of numerous vintage apple crate labels — such as the incredible OgoPogo one above — which recently caught my eye and which I thought would be worth collecting here to share.  (You can click through the slides below.)

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Stanley Park Totem Poles

Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Chief Skedans Mortuary Pole, Stanley Park, Vancouver

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Stanley Park is a beautiful, peaceful greenspace on a sprawling peninsula in the heart of bustling Vancouver.  The Park’s collection of native American totem poles is eye-catching and conjures marvelment and reverence at the creativity of the people of the Pacific Northwest that made these exquisite carvings.

In these photos from a trip there not long ago it was challenging to separate the poles from the surrounding trees so these don’t do justice to the majesty of these enduring artifacts.

Sky Chief Pole, Stanley Park, Vancouver

Sky Chief Pole, Stanley Park, Vancouver

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Images of Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens -- Water Leaves

Butchart Gardens — Maple Leaves on Water

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The spectacularly beautiful Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. has many gorgeous flower gardens, but I gravitated toward the serenity of its many trees as these images show from a trip there a few years ago.

Butchart Gardens -- Gnarly Limbs

Butchart Gardens — Gnarly Limbs

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Butchart Gardens -- Moss and Branches

Butchart Gardens — Moss and Branches

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Butchart Gardens -- Walkway

Butchart Gardens — Tree-Lined Walkway

Manu Keggenhoff’s Photography of the North

Manu Keggenhoff -- Arctic Cup O Grease

Arctic Cup O Grease

_ _ _

I’m a sucker for images of the lonely, serene beauty of the far northern wilderness — they readily draw me in and don’t easily let me go.  So, I was delighted recently to happen upon the work of Manu Keggenhoff, an Atlin, B.C.-based photographer whose exquisitely keen sense of composition wonderfully showcases the Yukon, British Columbia and other northern regions.  She also has a lot going on that’s worth checking out.  Among other things, her work is on display through the end of this month at the “Mood of the Land” exhibit at the Yukon Arts Centre; she’s just published a sumptuous photo book, Northern Exposure, about the Atlin, B.C. area; she’s working on a new series of photographs called “Art and Soul” that looks intriguing; and she does graphic design for Yukon, North of Ordinary magazine.

See Keggenhoff’s website for more of her outstanding photography.

M. Keggenhoff -- Northern Exposure

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Manu Keggenhoff -- Snow Relic

Snow Relic

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Manu Keggenhoff -- Burning Sky

Burning Sky

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Manu Keggenhoff -- Aurora Across Atlin Lake

Aurora Across Atlin Lake

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Mood of the Land

Retro Winter Recreation and Travel Ads

Temperatures this far south, as well as the extreme cold gripping much of eastern Canada this week, leave no doubt that we’re deep in the heart of winter.  Because of this, my thoughts turn toward skiing, ice skating, hockey and other winter recreations and the many places above the 49th parallel — among them Banff, Quebec, Whistler, the Laurentians and Jasper — that are popular destinations for cold weather and snowy pastimes.  So, I thought I’d share some retro travel ads and posters touting these places and this season’s activities.  Many of these are from the Canadian Pacific Railway, which engaged in  a wide range of travel promotions for locations throughout Canada (and beyond).  The vivid graphics work their magic by conveying visions of boundless wintry pleasures.  Among the more distinctive of these works are those by Peter Ewart and Roger Couillard, two of the more notable artists commissioned for their attractive illustrations.  More Canadian Pacific travel posters may be seen here on an earlier O’Canada Blog post.

Image Credits:  Library and Archives Canada; Canadian Pacific Railway Archives

The Hidden Treasure That Is Haida Gwaii

“My interest in Haida Gwaii spiked when I mentioned it to a few more worldly adventure writers than myself — folks who spend their weekends traversing Mongolia on skis —  and got a collective “Haida what?” in response.  Can’t blame ’em.  Though it’s only 80 miles off  Canada’s Pacific coast, Haida Gwaii (previously known as the Queen Charlotte Islands) gets perpetually bypassed for the cruise-ship-frequented shores of nearby Alaska, just 50 miles to the north.  Getting to the island chain is also logistically challenging enough that the spoils remain a step removed.  . . . If you’re looking for a Lost World, these islands — isolated since the last Ice Age — fit the bill in every way that counts:  geographically, biologically, and culturally.”

Ted Alvarez, in “Canada: Treasure Island,” in Backpacker (Jan. 2013)

Haida Gwaii 2 Map

(Photo credits: Upyernoz per Wikimedia; Map credit: Koba-chan per Wikimedia)

Douglas & McIntyre: An Exceptional Indy Publisher

Although several volumes produced by the Vancouver-based Douglas & McIntyre have sat upon my shelves for quite awhile,   I had not focused on this independent publishing powerhouse until I recently posted some thoughts about art in the Pacific Northwest and pondered the coincidence that two art books (Shore, Forest and Beyond and Mythic Beings) mentioned then were from D&M.  I also count Inuksuit (noted in O’Canada Blog on January 31, 2011) and Arctic Eden  among my books from D&M that contain beautiful images of special aspects of the Canadian physical and cultural landscape.

Exploring their catalog of titles, what strikes me are the diverse range and high quality — there are many award wimmers here — of Douglas & McIntyre’s art-themed volumes and its literary fiction and non-fiction.   Its affiliated imprint, Greystone Books, is also quite good.  I’ve added several to my wish list.   Some of the titles that stood out from my browsing include those below.

First Nations Art of the Pacific Northwest

During a trip to Vancouver last December with my two sons, we visited the Vancouver Art Gallery’s outstanding exhibition “Shore, Forest and Beyond: Art from the Audain Collection”.  What a spectacular display of traditional and contemporary artworks related to British Columbia!  The Vancouver Art Gallery and Douglas & McIntyre Publishers (more on them in a later post) collaborated on a book, Shore, Forest and Beyond, showcasing the exhibition that is well worth obtaining.  On that visit, I also brought back a copy of Gary Wyatt’s beautiful book, Mythic Beings: Spirit Art of the Northwest Coast (also published by Douglas & McIntyre).  While there’s much that can be said about the show and several of the commercial art galleries in that region that focus on such artists, for now it prompts me to share some contemporary art with traditional motifs from the first nations tribes of the Pacific Northwest and a few of the galleries where such works can be found.

Selected Art Galleries:

Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, Port Alberni, BC

Spirit Wrestler Gallery, Vancouver, BC

The Path Gallery, Whistler, BC

Coastal Peoples Fine Arts, Vancouver, BC

Black Tusk Gallery, Whistler, BC

I-Hos Gallery, Courtenay, BC

Inuit Gallery of Vancouver, Vancouver, BC

Spirit of the West Coast Art Gallery, Courtenay, BC

Vancouver Canucks Not Canadian Enough?

 Canucks Fans (Photo Credit: Canucks.com)

Interesting and very entertaining piece written by Jeff Klein in today’s New York Times about the ambivalent feeling shared by many Canadians — at least outside of British Columbia — regarding the Vancouver Canucks, which is the only Canadian team still in the playoffs for the Stanley Cup.  While Canadians would undoubtedly be proud to see a home team win the championship for the first time since 1983, the persistent regional / provincial rivalries and the roster of Vancouver team (being comprised of fewer actual Canadians than some U.S. teams),  leave many hockey fans uncertain.  Among the humorous observations noted in the article is this quote by Paul McDonagh of Dawson City, Yukon Territory:  “Of course, we’re supporting the Canucks.  It’s kind of a love-hate thing [many Canadians] have with Vancouver, like with Toronto.  Only with Toronto it’s mostly hate.”

Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, Other Canada Coastlines Top Rated by National Geographic

Thanks to a justifiably proud friend from Newfoundland for calling my attention to the latest issue (Nov.-Dec. 2010) of National Geographic Traveler magazine, which features a cover story rating 99 of the world’s best coastlines.  Coming in with the highest rating was that province’s magnificent Avalon Peninsula.  Having spent part of a wonderful family vacation there several years ago (about which I’ll write more in a later post), I can attest to that place’s beauty.   The article quotes Ross Klein, a professor at Memorial University in St. John’s, who sums up the Peninsula’s charms thus:  “Visiting the Avalon Peninsula, with its close-knit communities and strong local culture reflected in the music and arts, is like going back in time.  The unspoiled scenery ranges from stark moonscapes to crystal-clear lakes to open land where caribou roam.”

Of the 99 places rated, 18 made it into the highest category of “Top Rated,” and of those Canada claimed an impressive 4 spots, more than any other country.   Making that short list were the Gulf Islands of British Columbia, the south shore of Nova Scotia, and the coastal areas of Prince Edward Island.

(Not surprisingly, Canadian locations also received at least a few other mentions in the magazine’s most recent issue, including an interview about a trek down the monumental Mackenzie River and the Yukon River (p.24), a note on skating on Ottawa’s Rideau Canal (p.36), and an overview of new hotels in Toronto (p. 46).)

Link to feature and complete list on National Geographic Travelerhttp://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/coastal-destinations-rated

The Rakish Angles: “Dan and Misha’s Wedding”

A couple of months ago I stumbled onto the web site for Bearwood Music, a small music label in British Columbia.  While there are several artists recording with Bearwood that interest me, one of the standouts is the band The Rakish Angles, who are from Gibsons, British Columbia.  The amazing quartet performs a wonderful mixture of instrumental bluegrass and jazz, that has both traditional elements and some experimental aspects (for instance, a couple of their pieces meld bluegrass with flamenco — a combination I’ve not heard before).  Although they were justly among the nominees for “Instrumental Group of the Year” in 2009 at the Canadian Folk Music Awards, I sense that these solid musicians don’t yet get the exposure their considerable talents deserve.

The song “Dan and Misha’s Wedding”, from their debut CD “The Rakish Angles”, is particularly beautiful as both a hopeful piece and as a contemplative elegy containing musical threads that, at least to me, are readily connected to  Scottish and Irish traditional pieces.  Because of this, I’m sure that the graceful notes of the violin in this song would have been familiar to many early pioneers in Canada from the British Isles.  It’s also reminiscent of any number of instrumental folk tunes still common today in the mountain regions of the southern U.S., which was also populated early on by immigrants from the same region and which has its own rich bluegrass heritage.   The song, which I’ve had on one of my recent iTunes playlist and which I’ve listened to repeatedly this past week, can be listened to in full on the band’s MySpace page (link below) or sampled and purchased on iTunes.  Give them a fair listen and I’m sure you’ll find some other truly good things  by these worthy performers.

Link to The Rakish Angles on MySpace:  http://www.myspace.com/therakishangles

Link to The Rakish Angles on Bearwood Music site (and from which other Bearwood recoding artists can be accessed):  http://www.bearwoodmusic.com/artists/the-rakish-angles/the-rakish-angles/

Ice Wine Taste Test

An article in last Friday’s NY Times (http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/travel/escapes/26icewine.html?scp=1&sq=icewine&st=cse) on Canadian icewines caught my attention both because of the connection to Canada and because I had previously not heard of icewines.  I’ve sampled many wines over the years but am by no means an oenophile, so my being unaware of a notable wine variety is not that unusual.  It turns out that icewine has quite a following and the wineries of the Niagara Peninsula of Ontario, and to a lesser extent those in southern Quebec and the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, have played a major part in elevating the popularity of icewine on this continent and beyond.

The key factor that distinguishes icewine is that the grapes are left on the vine past normal harvest season and when the temperature is below -8 Celsius (about 17 Farenheit), usually in December or January, the grapes are carefully picked by hand.  At such low temperatures the water content in the grape stays frozen resulting in a significantly higher concentration of juice when the grapes are crushed compared with the process for making other wines.  The yield from each harvest is also correspondingly lower, which translates into the wine being more expensive to purchase.

With this background in mine, a few days later I ventured out to a local wine shop to purchase a bottle to sample.  Although judging by the websites for several leading icewine wineries, there is an extensive range produced, this far south in the U.S. the selection is quite limited and I was only able to track down a bottle after visits to three shops that normally have extensive wine offerings.  At the place I located this elusive wine, Ansley Wine Merchants, they actually stocked two types of Canadian ice wine, Inniskillin’s 2006 Vidal and Jackson-Triggs 2007 Proprietor’s Reserve Vidal.   I got both thinking I would compare the two.  (They also had an Austrian icewine on hand, but the priciness — US $55 for the 375 ml bottle of Inniskillin and US $21 for a 187 ml bottle of the Jackson-Triggs — restrained me.)

A few days later, after letting the wine chill, my wife and I tried each of these two curiosities.   Icewines are generally referred to as dessert wines and I was expecting them to be sweet in the manner of many flavored liqueurs.   Sampling the Inniskillin first, this partly turned out to be the case, but the sweetness was balanced by a brisk acidity, which apparently is characteristic of icewines, so the level of sweetness is not intense to the point of tartness.   The same was true of the Jackson-Triggs, although this particular vintage seemed even sweeter.  I’ve never been good at describing the flavors present in wines, but the makers of both attribute flavors of tangerine, papaya and apricot, which even I can discern.   My wife immediately pronounced the taste pleasantly complex.  Being more of a vodka drinker myself, I was glad to see that an icewine martini was among the serving recommendations and this suited my own tastes better than the straight icewine.

Sweet drinks are not normally to my liking, so I am unlikely to become an icewine connoisseur.  Yet, all in all my introduction to icewine proved to be an interesting diversion and another useful learning experience about an aspect of Canada previously unknown to me.

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