From the Art Gallery of Alberta’s Travelling Exhibit: Halfbreed Mythology

The History of My People (Grandfathers)
Mixed Media
on Canvas
2009

This is another of the works currently traveling throughout Alberta. The show has been going for a bit more than a year and will continue for the next couple.

The works in this show tend to be a little more introspective and this is no exception. I tried to tackle a couple aspects of Canadian history here. The landscape is the coast of Newfoundland as it glides by the Nordic explorers who were searching ever further beyond Iceland, beyond Greenland, braving the oceans and the unknown.

Although L’Anse aux Meadows was a colossal failure as a diplomatic mission, it also marks what we can say is the first Euro settlement on First Nations land and the first contact with the Skr├Žlings who inhabited the place. The birth of a new conflict, or the slow beginning of an eventual cooperation?

This is the reason for the iconic image of the prow of a longship stretching up beyond the upper edge of the canvas. A vessel containing Pandora’s mysteries.

Below is a mythic Raven. One large all-seeing eye and two faces, representing both the worship and stories of Odin, the All-Father, and of the Trickster Raven. That there are so many similarities in these very disparate cultures has always been a source of fascination for me.

And below it all, a giant golden orb. The centre of the earth? A rising sun or moon in a starscape also serving as the water’s depths, an indication that we are adrift, sailing through an endless ocean of time and space, held safe on a tiny, spinning planet? Or a portal through our limited awareness and understanding of each other?

The sidebars display the decorative, goldworked images of dragons or serpents, physical incarnations of unknown fears and dangers. The myth was that there were monsters beyond our ken, beyond our knowledge, beyond our borders. On ancient maps you find the phrase, “here be dragons”. A statement serving as a warning to those who would dare journey out and further than our fears allow.

These dragons seem to stretch down, curling into a rising future: a Metis sash. A symbol of joining and blending together. The interlocking fibers and colours indicating an ability to set aside differences and work for the common good. A sash is awarded these days to people in the community who have offered outstanding service or have achieved something great. A mark of honour and representative of the best in all of us.

Through time and conflict and blood, we stand today together on this land, a vast array of personal and family and cultural histories leading us to this moment, our moment, our children’s moments. Who we decide to be, what we decide to honour, what fears we choose to conquer – all these things will determine the world to come. We have inherited our world from our grandfathers with its many opportunities and challenges. How will we honour this?

And what will we leave for our grandchildren?

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Hawai’i

Once Waikiki
Mixed Media on paper
2010

I had an incredible opportunity to go to Hawai’i last month and I jumped on the chance. I went to the island of Oahu, home to the mythical Waikiki Beach, Hanauma Bay, Pearl Harbour, North Shore, The Dole Pineapple Plantation, and on and on.

It was amazing place with remarkable contrasts. High tech, high end wealth and very low-tech, simple living. From unending riches to aching poverty, it was easy to get overwhelmed by the non stop overload. The cure: The Ocean.

Warm, inviting, violent, gentle, white with wrath, clear, pristine blue with quiet calm. It took all these strange extremes and washed them together, mixed them up, made them one.

Waikiki is now a tourist haven. Gorgeous vistas, magical history…I fell in love. Once upon a time, the whole basin stretching between the volcanic mountains to the smooth beaches was a wetland. A swamp. A place that naturally lent itself to crops of all kinds. It was a bountiful harvestland for the native Hawai’ians. Now it has a different sort of riches and I couldn’t help but daydream while the sun set and the stars came out.

I imagine the land without buildings, as it might have looked hundreds of years ago when surfing was the sport of Kings, a spiritual pursuit, and the people sang and danced for the pure joy of it, edifying and teaching each other, the Ha -the inspiration of the gods- living in and permeating everything…

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A bit o’ history:

When Capt. Cook landed on the Hawaiian islands, no matter which island he was on, when he asked the natives what island he was on, he got the same answer: ” I live in Hawaii”. What the overly educated fellow didn’t realize was that the natives were sharing a profound spiritual insight with him. An insight that has completely escaped western culture to this day. The indigenous Hawaiians were actually trying to convey that they didn’t just live on a clump of real estate like western man does.

The Hawaiians were saying that their life force dwells within the one Supreme Force of the Universe and rides upon the breath which causes our own heartbeat. That divine breath is called “Ha”. The medium which nurtures life, is water or “wai”. Epitomized as the supreme causation, known as “I”.

They were saying that they live, dwell, and find their being within the true meaning of paradise, sustained by the supreme force of the water and the divine breath of life, which is everyone’s connection to paradise who would understand this…Ha wai i”.

From the book entitled: “Secrets & Mysteries of Hawaii” by Pila of Hawaii

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