She Paints (Edmonton Valley Zoo)

Zoos are controversial, apparently.

Some people think that we shouldn’t cage animals, like at all. Because of a few different reasons of course.

And they just might be right.

  1. Captivity can make animals unstable. Zoochosis is a condition where some animals pace back and forth, others injure themselves, and the rest seem to move their heads from side to side or back and forth frequently.
  2. Zoos are profitable businesses. This means that baby animals are traffic drivers but older animals are not, and are often sold off.
  3. Endangered species don’t live in zoos. Lots of zoos claim to care for rare animals and breed them for longevity of the species, but not for preservation.
  4. Limited education opportunities. Signage out front of animal displays only cover the basics, animals don’t exhibit normative behaviours, and people spend little time at each display.
  5. Enclosures are dangerous. For animals anyway. They eat thrown away trash, sometimes face negligence, and are a secondary consideration in the event of natural disasters, like floods and wildfires.

Walk With The Animals

But I wanted to visit the Edmonton Valley Zoo for myself this weekend. It reminds me of my youth, its located in the heart of the river valley, and it’s open every day of the year except for Christmas day. Owned and operated by the City of Edmonton, this zoo has by accredited by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

I know it’s weird for me to write about a zoo, which has little to do with the arts, except I’ve known an artist activist or two in my lifetime, and there is an elephant there who likes to paint sometimes. If that’s a thing, and not training.

It’s a big part of Edmonton history, just like Fort Edmonton Park. Founded back in 1959, replacing the Borden Park Zoo which was on the property that currently serves as Northlands, it was called Storyland Valley Zoo up until 2010, when it went under some major renovations. Why Storyland? Because a big section of the park featured nursery rhyme characters.

The zoo is also home to over 350 animals (both exotic and local, including hundreds of squirrels) and it houses over 100 different species.

Edmonton Valley Zoo regularly hosts events and raises funds through conservation efforts – the Makira Conservation Fund, Red Panda Network, and the Species Survival Plan to restore endangered animal populations to the wild. And things like letting children take on the role of a veterinarian of an animal hospital to see what zoo veterinarians do. After Edmonton City Council decided to inject $50 million into the zoo, we’ve seen the property expand to one and a half times its previous size. The Arctic Shores exhibit and The Wander Trail being key elements in the facelift.

Additionally the zoo is home to the Inner Zoo (formerly Storyland Valley Zoo), Makira Outpost, Carnivore Alley, Elephant House and Exhibit, Saito Center, African Veldt, Back Paddocks, and the Birds of Prey area.

So there are two sides to this story of whether captive animals are happy or not.

But let’s talk about Lucy for a minute.

Lucy

Lucy is the elephant which lives in the Elephant House and Exhibit – at over 4000 kg and forty two years young.

Something of a charmer, and called a peoples elephant by her adoptive herd, she visits with the public at least few times a day and supposedly loves to spend time with her zoo family. Many people have come from all over the world to see Lucy, and we’ve seen our share of protestors ready to come and rescue her from the zoo, including Bob Barker of Price Is Right fame. Lucy was orphaned in Sri Lanka and was brought to the Edmonton Valley Zoo through partnership with the Pinnewala Elephant Orphanage and Colombo Zoo when she was two years old.

theories Summarized

Do I think zoos are inherently evil? No. Do I think they are awesome? No to that too.

People have been domesticating animals since we’ve been able to, and the same can be said for eating them. I generally hold the opinion that eating meat is an acceptable way to go, but I’m not overly stoked at the prospect of it. That said, the zoo is a place to go and see beautiful creatures, living and breathing. As a visual artist, I firmly believe that seeing something in person is far better for your creative eye then on film, but I’ll let you battle that out in the comments. Theories and all.

I’m off to the zoo this weekend? How about you?

Tim!

Discover Their Stories (Women’s History Month)

Today I wanted to write about some cool cats I know. Well not personally, but nonetheless, individuals who make great art and inspire all of us to be better human beings.

Memes aside, a moment for all of the ladies who make art despite facing incredible challenges every day, is not nearly enough.

I’m doing this in acknowledgement and praise of Women’s History Month. Which is a pretty big deal if you stop to think about it.

This is not going to be a post where I pretend to know the details of women’s history, because quite frankly, I’m not an expert on any kind of history, save maybe art history, and even then I’m not actively thinking about it often enough to claim mastery. No, this is a post for me in which I get to share with you some artists which I think need more attention and why I like them. Not “like” like them, just like them as professionals. Some of them are more known than others, but regardless of stature, these creatives are important and make great art.

Now I should address some hesitations my Canadian readers will likely have first. Yes I live in Canada, and technically that means I should be celebrating this event in October with the rest of my ilk, but quite frankly, I needed something to share this week and we share a border with Americans. And in case you didn’t know they’ve been running this event nationally since 1987, whereas we only picked it up in 1992. Shocking I know.

Insert Privilege Here

It’s a privilege for me to be able to write about these women, primarily because of the internet and a post-secondary education which taught me better. And that is a sad sad thing, so my hope is that you read these little snippets and take some time yourself to learn about these artists.


Marilyn Minter is an American artist who has been active since the 1980s. Her work often features sexuality and erotic imagery. Working in both photography and painting, Minter looks at the various roles of feminism, fashion and celebrity as they relate to idealizations of identity. Having published works in major American magazines and television she is known for being controversial and never loyal to one brand, medium or group. Minter has had exhibitions all over the world including Les Rencontres d’Arles festival in France, shows in Spain and Germany, being showcased in MoMa frequently. She teaches at the MFA department at the School of Visual Arts in New York and recently had a retrospective of her work in 2015. http://www.marilynminter.net/

Hazel Dickens & Alice Gerrard were musical re-pioneers of what was a defunct form of music now popular once more – folk. The genre was given a boost back in the 1950s, and the duo of Dickens & Gerrard were at the forefront making friends and breaking hearts. Dickens, focused on bluegrass and acted as double bass, while Gerrard, also a singer, played both banjo and guitar, making them rather successful as both solo recording artists and as a pair. Their varied singing styles made use of both Dicken’s high-pitch and Gerrard’s love for crooning and shouting. The pair performed late into their lives but Dickens passed on in April of 2011.

 

 

Julie Taymor is an American director of theater, opera and film. She is definitely best known for directing the stage, as she has been responsible for The Lion King musical, which netted her two Tony Awards, a first for a woman at the time. She has also directed broadway musicals for Spider-man and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Taymore has an Emmy Award, a Drama Desk Award and an Oscar nomination, which is how I got to know her work. Directing films like Titus, Frida, and Across The Universe, Taymor has a natural aptitude for theatre which has spread throughout the performance arts.  Taymors work on Frida was substantial and got the film two Academy Awards – one for makeup and the other for costume design.

 

 

This might seem like a small sampling of professional women to showcase for this post dear readers, but my hope here is to demonstrate that women permeate throughout the arts, and that this is merely a drop in the bucket of talented creatives out there. And these are some of my personal favourite artists too, I could’ve listed off Tracy Emin, Cindy Sherman, Sofia Coppola, Sarah Polley, Debra Granik, Taylor Swift, Ellie Goulding, Leslie Fiest, La Roux, Adele, and tons of others, but then I would just be making lists, and this is about celebrating women.

A privilege in and of itself.

theories Summarized

So where’s the wisdom you ask?  Well, I’ll leave you with this quote by Susan B. Anthony and see if you can glean something from it. And I hope for damn sure that it’s absorption rate is quick, thorough and positively altering, and not a wasted theory.

It was we, the people, not we, the white male citizens, nor yet we, the male citizens, but we, the whole people, who formed this Union. And we formed it, not to give the blessings of liberty, but to secure them; not to the half of ourselves and the half of our posterity, but to the whole people — women as well as men.
Susan B. Anthony
We’re only telling half a story in many cases, but a half does not make us whole.
Tim!

Playing With Fire (Megan Warkentin grad exhibition)

In those seemingly quite moments of exploration, when we’re all alone, and when we don’t know what we’re doing, that is when we might be the most alive. Consider this quote by Chuck Palahniuk, who often pulls from personal experience when writing his novels. –

Our real discoveries come from chaos, from going to the place that looks wrong and stupid and foolish.
Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters

In the month of October I released a couple of posts about a friend of mine. These posts supported an important interview I had conducted with my friend in the fall of this year. You see dear readers, she is graduating from the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Arts after a stint of approximately ten years in post-secondary education – her name is Megan Warkentin and she is a visual artist with a masters degree in painting.

Our interview was about the importance of exploration, whether inside the framework of a creative discipline, as it relates to the occupations of the mind or when considering the physical world and the items contained inside of it.

Megan has always been a creative individual, but it wasn’t until she went after her university education that she really focused in on visual arts… And now she is asking one of the hard questions of life over and over again in her art.

Why would someone risk their safety, health and potentially their life in the pursuit of stunts and dangerous activity?

What began as a number of experimental paintings that featured still images from YouTube videos of people performing dangerous stunts and the resulting aftermath, has slowly evolved into a process surrounding larger ideas of risk and exploration. Megan is fascinated by human behaviour, and wants to know why people set themselves directly in harms way, why other people are fascinated by this behaviour in the first place, and how those onlookers might react to the sport of British cheese rolling or ravine jumping. Inspired by artists like Kim Dorland, Peter Doig, Daniel Richter, and Tilo Baumgartel whose work showcases contemporary society in interesting ways, Megan wants to truly address the absurdity of adrenaline junkies through crude art, with a hint of the sublime and mystical in the mediums used.

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This body of work culminates with an exhibition titled Playing With Fire between December 6-22 and January 30-7 at the Fine Arts Building gallery (1-1 Fine Arts Building, 89 avenue and 112 street, University of Alberta) and is the final visual presentation for Megan’s degree of Master of Fine Arts in Painting.

I realize it’s short notice dear readers, but if you want an opportunity to speak with Megan about her work, you should definitely check out the opening reception tonight, December 8th from 7-10PM at the FAB building. Otherwise the gallery hours are Tuesday to Friday 10-5PM, Saturday 2-5PM, closed Sunday, Monday, & statutory holidays.

I’m out of theories for the week my friends, but I hope you come back on Sunday for a new episode of Cross Talk.

Tim!

The Circle of Life (Megan Warkentin interview)

When I was a young warthog, I found that my thoughts were morbid and my labour was making me miserable. So I took a quick peek at John Ruskin and developed a problem free-philosophy – explorers always win. I needed to move away from my domestic environment, and even the primary school system to properly combine those processes of thought and labour, realizing that only exploration would get me on the true pathway.

Like Ruskin’s contemporary, Charles Darwin, I was forcing an evolution in myself for the sake of the bigger picture. The seemingly eternal struggle of the Brits, to expand but retain identity. Colonialism of the mind.

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After all, exploration is one of those traits that earns you kudos when you succeed and admonishment when you fail. No risk, no reward as the saying goes. But what is really an truly at stake here friends?

Well, if you were to ask our featured artist interviewee of the month, I bet we’d learn a lot of things about stakes. Like, what happens when you read lots of books versus travelling the world, why extremists and risk-takers aren’t some of the brightest lightbulbs in the drawer, the importance of finding mentors to guide you on your journey, if ever so slightly, and how the British sport of cheeserolling can help make great paintings.

She’s a laid-back treasure hunter who loves to paint, has spent the better part of a decade honing her creative craft, and has more composed intensity then an undertaker, Megan Warkentin is our favourite pioneer of the arts at the moment. Pay careful attention to what she says in this interview because if you gloss it over, you’ll miss the point, and I cannot guarantee you’ll find your way back.

I really think you’ll get a kick out of this one folks, exploration is one of this life skills we all need when we pursue the arts, and Megan perfectly embodies this ideology. So sit down (or stand if you like) and get ready for episode twelve of timotheories interviews.

And as always, if you want to check out more timotheories interviews or the Cross Talk series please visit our YouTube channel.  And please, please, please share this post and of course subscribe to both the blog and channel!

Now let’s talk about connecting – Megan is so busy globetrotting that she’s difficult to get ahold of. So please send an email to timotheories@outlook.com and I’ll get in contact with her for you.

Lastly my sincerest thanks to Megan for being magical, magnetic, and major league. See you tomorrow with an album review by a crappy punk rock band, but the album is kinda revolutionary.

Tim!

A Priori And A Posteriori (Critique of Pure Art series)

Quite a few months ago (way, way back in March), I decided to share some examples of my art with you.

I wrote that post with the intention that I would reveal my personal artist identity and foster a greater sense of the purpose for this blog and why you should never give up, and never surrender if you have a creative drive. Something I strive for with many of many of the posts here. After all, there are a lot of different things I write about on a weekly basis, and there are common themes I touch upon monthly, while other themes crop up in other ways, but what really drives all of those different posts is that I am a professional artist who wanted to find a way to build a better statement for himself and simultaneously provide a safe haven for those who are on similar journeys.

So today, I expand upon that idea some more.  As I’ve mentioned previously, I have made art to disrupt, I’ve made art to talk about concepts of philosophy, and I’ve worked produce ideas that promote human growth.

But I’ve since expanded on those ideas, and focused more on how I can contribute towards the local community, and to the much broader community of creative professionals in general – I want open up collaboration across art forms, create a digital gallery of art and artists, build a studio for art enthusiasts, and discuss all sorts of theories on the arts.

Which is why I ‘m going to also be building upon this particular series of work The Critique of Pure Art.

The Critique of Pure Art

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Effectively a series of work that reflects on the role of artist, subject, object, and the viewer to analyze the limitations of the form. Taken from Immanuel Kant’s “Critique of Pure Reason” my series challenges the ideal that not all art is taken from the senses AND conversely art cannot simply be shaped from experiences/ideas either in order to produce something beautiful.

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I literally and metaphorically draw with my materials to demonstrate that one cannot operate without the other, and it is all a related. Especially when we take into consideration limited perspectives. Perception is reality, after all, as attributed by Lee Atwater an American political consultant. So we paint with drawing materials, and draw with paint, and as the picture comes together, both parts are forced to exist as we understand them, though both the elements of line and form blur within the frame.

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It is a literal construction of pure art, and a metaphorical critique of reason. That the titles of these works are taken rather romantically from song lyrics all the more proves that experience comes before the art, but does that information inform the work afterwards?

As mentioned, I’ll continue to expand upon this series over time and share more works with you, but if I can do all of these things, surely there is a way for you to contribute to the arts too – and if you are interested in commissions, prices of the work I’ve included in today’s post, or if you want more information about the series, please leave some comments below or email me at timotheories@outlook.com.

And of course, please follow the blog to get even more awesome content in the future. I’m out of theories for the week, please have an excellent weekend friends, and I’ll see you on Sunday with a new Cross Talk episode!

Tim!