Lake Country Cloth Culture

I popped in briefly to my local art gallery tonight. Even though I spent a year working in Kelowna’s largest art gallery, there were only a few faces I recognized at this smaller event. To me, this is one of the best features of the art world. It’s a small community. Except when it’s not.

I attended tonight out of curiosity to see how a smaller, local gallery handles an opening, and I was impressed. It appeared to me that they solicited a decent turnout, and they offered an array of finger food that easily equalled the selections at my former gallery. I had a nice chat with gallery manager, Petrina, who remembered that I had left my former job and asked me about my current life — full-time writer for two more weeks then back to part-time writer, part-time employee collecting paychecks. I thought it was classy that she would ask after me even when she was hosting an opening. She made me immediately glad I had decided to come.

The exhibit that opened is called Cloth Culture, and features, “Six contemporary artists [who] explore the tactic emotional and experiential resonance achieved through the active labor of material production and bodily awareness.” Reading the invitation to the event over Facebook, I gathered that the exhibits would feature cloth in some fashion (pun intended). I wanted to see for myself how the artists would handle their medium in order to achieve their message.

Even though my visit was brief, I came away intrigued. Creativity always has that effect on my brain. The exhibits were varied, some binding garments fashioned into bolts of cloth together in imitation of various recognizable objects, others more abstract in intention.

My personal favourite was the simplicity of the long suspended swath of fabric (linen, possibly?) which had been painted in bold strokes with fluid black smears of paint then draped from ceiling to floor along one wall. I also appreciated the weave of wool, as well as the crinkled design of ribbon and bow-embellished paper. That one had so much texture and variance built into its construction that I had to study it in detail for several minutes before getting any sense of what I was observing. For instance, I first missed the chocolate liquors which had been inserted into the pattern of the work. I also took awhile to see the ivory sewing pins fastening the art to the preserved tree branch from which it hung.

I’ve spent my week anchored to my computer screen building word counts and story scenarios and character complications. I am rushing towards the completion of the fourth novel I’ve written this year, which leaves me well within range of drafting five novels in this twelve month period. It also leaves me with brain bleed, and a serious need for a break, for a change of venue, for a refresh button so I might cement the last two scenes I have yet to write for this novel. This is another reason I popped into Lake Country Art Gallery tonight.

What I got for my trouble was a sausage roll hors d’oeuvre, a brief but pleasant reconnection with real human beings I am not related to and have not crafted from the recesses of my mind, and best of all, sparks for my imagination.

I don’t know if I left the gallery thinking about the relationship of working with cloth to attain body awareness. That was there, but for me, that was a background note. Instead, I left thinking about the impressive way some people have of taking simple, basic materials and re-imagining them into art objects which make a statement. I left thinking about the way art has of creating differing impressions on the psyches of each individual who views them, and about the beauty of transmitting meaning and inspiration in such a fluid fashion. I left thinking about how art works in simplicity and intricate detail with equal power.

Hanging in the window at the gallery is a large cloth hand. From inside the gallery, this was simply suspended fabric which mimicked the flimsy material of a woman’s glove. From the other side, though, when the light from the gallery shone through the material, a shadow world could be seen. Inside the glove was a world of intricate detail which I won’t describe — I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

After studying those shadows, I left. I’m a writer, not an artist, and when I feel inspired, words are my medium of expression. When I slipped out the door, though, I left reminded that in order to really see, you have to take time to truly look. A surface, cursory glance is only stage one in the experiences of life, and of art.

I recommend a visit to Lake Country Art Gallery and Cloth Culture. There you will find shadows under cloth, fluidity of pattern and space, the intricacies of design, and if you take the time, maybe you, like me, will find a moment of contemplative inspiration.

 Lake Country Art Gallery is located at 10356A Bottom Wood Lake Road. Cloth Culture can be viewed until November 17, 2019.

On the 400th Anniversary of his Death, Maximillian III

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He captured me, that first day, with the enigmatic expression on his face. It seemed fathomless to me, a different mood depending on the part of the room I was standing in, and that, of course made me have to understand.

The portrait, Maximillian III, Archduke of Austria, is part of the Herman H Levy art collection which has been on loan to the Kelowna Art Gallery — where I work — for several months. Part of the loan agreement stipulated that someone be in the gallery with the art at all times, ensuring the safety of these priceless works from the over-exuberance of the viewers. Since this became my task, I was fortunate to spend a portion of each shift in the presence of these masterworks. I was fortunate to spend a portion of each day with Max.

Within the art community, who hasn’t heard of Peter Paul Rubens? It is a famous name. Rubens painted in the Flemish Baroque tradition, and although he had a studio full of apprentice artists painting with him, he was known to have reserved the most important portraits for his own completion. Therefore, though there is no way of guaranteeing that Rubens himself painted the portrait of Maximillian III, Archduke of Austria, it seems plausible.

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Whomever the artist, he did a masterful job, and the attention to detail astounds me. From the lip churl to the vein throbbing in his forehead and the long eyelashes framing his intelligent brown eyes, the artist captured this man’s likeness in exquisite detail. And, since I’ve always had a thing for brown eyes, I decided to google Maximillian, and learn about his life.

Maximillian was a member of the House of Habsburg, which originated in 1438 and was one of the most influential dynasties of Europe until 1740, when they failed to produce a male heir. Queen Elizabeth II descends from their line, but their ethnicity is Austrian with Spanish, Italian and French influence. Maximillian’s great grandfather, Maximillian 1 became Holy Roman Emperor in 1508, but due to the dangers of travelling from Austria to Rome, he broke a longstanding tradition of papal coronation, and instead was declared Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Julius II at Trent. Once broken, this tradition was never reinstated. Maximillian I struggled with the French, and was plagued by financial issues throughout his life, and therefore became obsessed with arranging marriages for both his children and himself which would increase his fortune and power. He also, in 1496, banned all Jews from Styria and Wiener Neustadt and later ordered the destruction of all Jewish literature, with the exception of the Bible.

Maximillian II was born in Vienna, Austria, but spent his formative years at Innsbruck, Tyrol, meaning he was primarily educated in Italy by humanist scholars. He also came into contact with Lutheran teachings and corresponded with the protestant Prince Augustus of Saxony. None of this went over well with his strongly Catholic family, or with his extremely devout wife, whom his uncle arranged for him to marry to strengthen his ties with Spain and with Catholicism. The relationship between branches of the Habsburg family grew strained, and in 1553, Maximillian II is believed to have been poisoned on behalf of a cousin. He survived, and went on to father 16 children with his wife (9 surviving) and to become Holy Roman Emperor, Archduke of Austria, King of Bohemia, King of the Romans, King of Hungary and Croatia. All of this despite only living to the age of 49.

Maximillian III was 18 when his father died. Since he was the fourth surviving son, he did not inherit his father’s many titles, despite being his namesake. His eldest brother, Rudolf II, would succeed their father. Rudolf was educated in Spain and returned home quite aloof and stiff. This concerned their father, who was disdainful of the Spanish, but pleased his Spanish mother, who saw his new traits as courtly and refined. Either way, Rudolf would for the rest of his life be somewhat elusive and a homebody who ruled ineffectively. Continue reading “On the 400th Anniversary of his Death, Maximillian III”

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