Thursday, January 22, 2015

Phyllida Barlow at Tate Britain

John and I loved Phyllida Barlow's installation, dock, in the central courtyard of the Tate Britain.
 We kept getting glimpses of dock throughout the galleries of British art that surround it.
It was the Tate Britain Commission for 2014 and Ms Barlow certainly delivered.
The piece seemed to be both monumental and in a state of collapse.
Intrusive
and at the same time gorgeous.
It was apparently inspired by the Tate Britain's location next to the River Thames.
Where do great site-specific works go after they've been shown?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wassail Night on the Island

Bill's last Christmas/New Year's card came to life last weekend on Ward's Island. Our friend, Q, invited us to help wassail her newly planted apple trees. Do you know the wassailing tradition?
It has two meanings: one is what we would call carolling: walking from door to door singing Christmas carols, the other is to take the same activity into the orchards, singing to the trees, scaring away evil spirits with loud noises and pouring cider on the roots to ensure a good harvest next year.
From the Ward's Island Ferry boat we saw people out on the Lake Ontario ice. To me they look uncomfortably far from shore.
We traveled with our friends Shelley and Geordie.
Lake Ontario has frozen over except this path of chunky ice between the two docks.
Ward's Island dock.
Some devilry afoot?
Devils One and Two at your service! (Thanks, Shelley for these two pics!)
Q had made a Somerset Cider cake with a pea and a bean. Bill got the bean, which made him the Lord of Misrule for the evening. He ordered everyone outside so the ceremony could begin.
Haley got the pea, becoming the Lady of Misrule. She led in the singing of the first Wassail song.
Here's to thee, old apple tree,
Whence thou mayest bud.
And whence thou mayest blow!
And whence thou mayest bear apples enow!
Hats full! Caps full!
Bushel, bushel, sacks full,
And my pockets full too! Huzza!
The night lifted into a weird half light.
We hung toast in the branches of Q's two fine apple trees and danced between them
Making as much noise as we could.
The Lady of the Manor (Q) began the final invocation
And vanished.
We continued the dance.
Sparks began to fly between the trees.
The Lord of Misrule called on the obstructive spirits in the earth
to rise up out of the ground
and disperse.
clearing the way for the Lady of the Manor to return to her fine young trees and lead the final song.

Friday, January 16, 2015

New Workspace

Our friend Ali is a gifted carpenter.
He gave us a tremendous gift today.
He installed some new work spaces for us.
He's given us over seven feet of new tabletop to spread stuff out on.
It is always a pleasure to watch an expert at work.
Every tool is at hand.
Ali even let me help. 
And then he was done.
His tools fell back into place.
And off he went.
Thank you, Ali! Best gift ever!
These tables drop down to make room for parties.
And pop up to create project space.
My first retirement projects, two "mix tapes", now have a home.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

John Elmslie's Retirement Party

I just retired from the Toronto Public library after working for 35 years. Last week my dear colleagues, Irene Götz and Valentina Ciric,  catered and organized this sensational send-off.
The first thing I saw when I walked into the room was a cake, crowned by a portrait of myself in fondant icing
by genius librarian-pâtissière Kathleen Wyman.
Wyman's inspiration was this Christopher Sykes portrait of the Duke of Devonshire napping in the library at Chatsworth House.
William Kimber, Kathleen Wyman, myself.
Irene drew this picture of me and my honey on a large sheet of paper for people to write farewell messages on.
Irene and Valentina catered this delicious, fresh and colourful spread of goodies.
Irene's girlfriend made the cupcakes.
Bill Vrantsidis, the head of the Arts Department at the library, read a short tribute.
Library staff and a representative of our union presented me with cards and gift cards for Amazon, Chapters/Indigo and Henry's Camera Store.
Then it was my turn to speak.
I looked out at my colleagues of all these years
And realized how much I was going to miss them.
Then Arts librarian, Will Charbonneau, sang "Little darling, it's been a long cold lonely winter. Little darling, it seems like years since it's been here."
"Here comes the sun. Here comes the sun. And I say, It's all right." We all sang along.
After that, there was nothing to do but cut that delicious cake. Thanks to every one who came or contributed. And thanks to the photographers Iana Georgieva-Kaluba, Irene and Eric Schwab.