Art, head on

I had an interesting conversation the other day. Two young women came into the office to ask some questions and make a donation. One of them looked at me closely and said, “Are you the guy who wrote that piece about art in Tofino Time a while ago?”

I knew what she was referring to — a locally infamous rant about the Tofino art scene that sparked discussion, and dissention, among local artists and art lovers. (See some reaction in the blog post below.) I said yes, sheepishly, stunned that anyone after five months would remember it and bring it up again. I wondered why she asked.

“I’m an art student and i’m staging a show in a month,” she said. “I want to invite you to come and see it … and slam it.”

This startled me on a couple of fronts. First (because, after all, it’s all about me) that i seemed to now have an enduring rep as (a) an art critic and (b) some kind of art-eating carnivore.

Second, it was the audacity of the gal to spontaneously invite such a “slamming.”

“Now wait a minute–,” her companion said, protectively, probably thinking she was doing something impulsive and crazy.

“No,” the artist interrupted, “the critical process is an important part of the art scene.”

“Wow,” i said, “that’s pretty … not ballsy, let’s say gonad-y.” She laughed.

I explained that i would not automatically slam anything, that my art rant in Tofino Time was as much fiction as critique. But i couldn’t help being impressed that she was actually hungry for a reaction — even a lambasting — from what she seemed to think was the fiercest (or maybe just the most outspoken) critic in town.

On reflection, that nervy request seems to me one of the most genuine expression of artistic integrity i’ve come across. The sentiment that I’ve done my best, now do your worst speaks strongly of the her view of art and its place in her world.

She said her work was “just student quality” — she’s a first-year student at a cross-island art college. The phrase “student work” fell harshly on my ears, but i wasn’t quite sure why. Afterwards, it occurred to me there are two aspects to visual art: the skill with which it is executed, and the (harder to articulate) content of the art — what it says, or means, or invokes. And i thought, to label something “student quality” is to do it an injustice from the outset. Skill of execution is a continuous spectrum, that starts with a child’s first crude scrawl with a crayon and evolves from there; there’s no “arrival” at professional quality, there’s just a gradual and ideally continuous increase in competence.

So “student quality” doesn’t bother me, because i think most of us can look beyond the quality of execution of a work to get at least an inkling of its content — whether it’s merely trying to be an attractive picture, or there’s something more underlying the effort. Which is, in a nutshell, what my Toff Time article was about.

Without cue from me, she pointed out that one of her techniques is to re-use her old paint chips in new works, because she didn’t like the thought of just sending them to the landfill. This interested me immediately, because one of my concerns about art is its environmental impact — all the plastic and chemicals it uses, the consequences of which most artists, in their ecstasy of creation, seem oblivious to.

I look forward to seeing this woman’s painting and drawing, and trying to give her an honest reaction. This will be near impossible, i fear. She is well liked in the community and, i think, senses she will get little but unqualified support from the public. I doubt i’m going to find much to “slam,” if only because she already has the confidence to stand up and invite it.

Art is hard, even in its simplest incarnation. As anybody who’s sat down with a pencil and a piece of paper knows, it’s damn difficult to produce something that’s even just passably pleasing to the eye, never mind embodying something deeper. I don’t want to set up impossible expectations here, but that’s what i’ll be looking for come July 24th (an approximate date, i think).

We suck!

Five toga-clad revellers pulled off a coup that stunned even themselves in the Oyster Slurping Contest at last Friday’s Mermaid’s Ball. — the costume-party element of the (in)famous annual Clayoquot Oyster Festival.

Left to right in the pic (which is one of the least scandalous of our slurp posted on Facebook by Ed Henley) are winning team members Kim, Josie, me, Katie and Lyndsey.

Josie was the organizational brain behind this … triumph? Spectacle? Debacle? Whichever, i’m sure we all take great pride in the victory, and comfort in knowing that what happened at the Mermaid’s Ball … stays at the Mermaid’s Ball. Right, townsfolk?

For those at the raucous event who did not hear Cameron reading our  explanatory speech (i.e. everybody), here’s the text:

Friends, Tofitians, countrymen … Centuries ago, the ancient Greeks instituted a festival of sport.

YEA, in the very shadow of noble Mount Olympus, home of the GODS, they held a yearly contest of physical prowess FREE of cheesy corporate sponsorship and obscene insider profit at taxpayer expense.

This ancient, shining civilization — the very birthplace of democracy itself — NEVER compromised its citizens’ civil rights as they enjoyed their traditional sports of naked wrestling and WOMEN’S SKI JUMPING.

NOW, in a tribute to their TRUE spirit, we present the long lost opening event to those ancient Games … the OLYMPIC OYSTER RELAY.

And the sign that Josie held up at the end read:

This Olympic relay cost taxpayers $0!

In a lovely touch, it was printed in the Coca-Cola font. We rest our case.

I’m with this guy

‘Tis the season. The season to climb under your bed and not come out until the Boxing Day sales. I don’t want to come across as Grinchy, but puh-leez … the consumer orgy has reached such a pitch that even the consumers are not enjoying it anymore. Will we ever smarten up?

This item dates from 2001, but the sentiment is timeless. Why does this sort of thing only happen in British newspapers?

A CHEEKY Santa has been given the bum’s rush by Harrods’ bosses for baring his botto in their grotto. Managers have sacked him and his little helpers after the unnamed Father Christmas stripped off. They took an after-hours photo of Santa wearing nothing but his boots to boost the festive spirits of staff at the posh London store. But the prank was rumbled when frosty bosses discovered the snaps of the out-of-work actor. And instead of any more Ho Ho Ho, Santa was told to Go Go Go.

The girl student who took the snap was also axed and the staffer who printed the photo was ordered to resign. A Harrods’ spokesman said: “The photo was not obscene and we recognised it was a prank. Nevertheless it was unacceptable behaviour.”

Full article from the archives of The Sun — Britain’s answer to Vancouver’s The Province.

Thou clouted clay-brained bum-bailey!

One last time-waster. Go here for your custom Shakespearean insult. Thou vain spur-galled scut.

UPDATE: Some of you fawning earth-vexing dewberries have been complaining that the link doesn’t work. Works for me every time, thou beslubbering beef-witted barnacles. See?

Try cut-and-paste with the web address: If that doesn’t work, click REFRESH. If that doesn’t work, do this Google search for “shakesperean insult“. If that doesn’t work, you’ll have to invent your own insults. May i suggest you start with the word “fucking”?