23 October 2015

Zimsculpt at the Muttart Conservatory

My daughter is learning to drive. So, last evening we went for a drive to practice parking and traffic circles.  It's not a secret that I don't like traffic circles and go out of my way to avoid them, even going as far as Googling alternate routes!  But she has to learn it to so I decided we'd practice another one, this one on the way to Muttart Conservatory. And, you know what?  She did just fine!  Just like I knew she would!!

With so many traffic circles to practice on, why go all the way to the other side of town?  We had to, you see.  Zimsculpt is on display in the feature pyramid at Muttart Conservatory only until this coming Sunday, October 25/15 and we hadn't yet gone.  I'd made a vow to myself to go each time the feature pyramid had a new display so time was ticking.

After missing the turn off to the conservatory (I've missed it before so I wasn't surprised), we managed to work our way back which, really, is just good driving practice.  Good thing her boyfriend was with us because he's the perfect navigator. It was rather dark by the time we arrived but we had plenty time as the conservatory closes at 9pm on Thursdays.

In the foyer, arranged on tables was a display of sculptures, each a nod to African culture.  In display cases on either side of the hall leading to the four pyramids, were more sculptures, as seen in this photo.

We saved the best for last, being the feature pyramid and strolled through the tropical, arid and temperate pyramids first, each had some smaller sculptures tucked in here and there but the largest and most impressive sculptures were saved for the very last in the feature building.

To the left are some of the fine pieces of art found in the tropical pyramid. Clockwise, beginning at the left: pregnant woman with hands in her pocket, leaves, elephant and a woman kneeling to bathe in the stream.

It's the first time I've gone late in the day and the lighting is subdued, up lighting and spotlights focus on the art and plants.  There were a lot of red spotlights which is a bit challenging for an iPhone camera yet it created such a great ambiance to see it in person.

The tropical pyramid is toasty warm and somewhat humid but it felt cozy and inviting on this cool autumn evening.

Next we visited the arid pyramid. Many people, including myself, think of arid as desert but it isn't necessarily so.  Arid simply means little rainfall. Here you find drought tolerant plants including many cacti, agave, and more.  It was lit with white and blue lights (it seems) and was much cooler in temperature but not cold.  The lighting contributes to the atmosphere, creating the impression of being in a desert at night.  

The temperate pyramid contains plants that grow in regions like most of North America.  It is a comfortable temperature in here most of the time and last evening it was somewhere between the cool dry arid garden and the tropical garden.  Red spotlights were mixed with cooler whites.  Take a look.  Clockwise, starting at upper left corner:  Japanese maple, gingko biloba (maidenhair) tree, mums and pampas grass.

The feature pyramid greeted us with dark cool paths, cool white lights highlighting the features, a waterfall and several sculptures.

Zimbabwean sculptors source the stone locally, the majority of which are a form of Serpentine.  The hardest stone is sought after by serious artists.  The most dense have very fine grains with a uniform structure which is ideal for sculpting. Springstone is an example of what would be considered desirable to create their art free-form.

The faces are exquisite - the chiseled baboon, the elongated arched necks, the expressions.... 

A little history about Zimsculpt seems to be in order.  Zimsculpt was established in 2000 by Vivienne Croisette in Zimbabwe to assist Zimbabwean artists achieve credibility and exposure through world wide exhibits, some of which in botanical gardens.  Each piece exhibited is chosen by Vivienne as she selects promising artists to be featured around the world.  Their travel and lodging are provided for them as they tour with their art.  At the conservatory, Edmonton has been fortunate to have artists in residence (Passmore Mupindiko and Aron Kapembeza), demonstrating their craft.  

Three of the four pyramids light up the river valley in this photo with the city lights behind just breaking the skyline.  And that, my friends, was a good night.

17 October 2015

Mood Altering Nature

Today I was in a funk.  I get like that sometimes when good things come to an end, like the car rental (really nice Mazda 5s that we've had for some time since our vehicle got hit while parked on the street in front of our house) and the change in work, different position same place but some time off in between. Ho hum.  It was time for some intervention.  

Well, I'd mentioned to a friend that I wanted to get some birch branches for Christmas planters and she knew just the place where there was a bit of birch windfall, so off we went with her dog Eclipse into the woods of the river valley.  Ah, the aroma of the forest was scintillating, while the leaves crunched underfoot on the unmaintained path and the sun shone brightly beyond the trees, casting shadows and highlighting unfallen foliage of mountain ash and poplar. It's been a beautiful autumn day and we even worked up a sweat hiking uphill and rooting around for fallen branches and treasures.  I came away with a nice bundle of birch, red twigged dogwood and some mountain ash berries.  Needless to say the fresh air, the good company, and the beauty of nature turned my mood right around.  Here, let me show you.....

The contrast of the white birch bark and the green lichen caught my eye.  There's moss on tree stumps, decaying wood, peeling birch bark...so many eye-catching objects of beauty in the woods.

The quack of ducks not yet migrated and the caw of an occasional crow were not outdone by the squirrel who scolded Eclipse as it sat perched in the tree above him.  Oh, to have that dog's stamina!!!

What a fine time in the forest.  It makes you forget you live in a big city with the nags of daily life.  Nature is my therapist.  I simply must go more often.  

06 October 2015

My Most Adored Maples

I'm certain autumn has arrived early this year as indicated by the early change of leaf colour in the local landscape.  Ash, poplar, maples all began turning colour the end of August, early September.  Now, it is early October and the maples along 97th street, which were in full astounding pigmentations of reds and oranges just two weeks ago, are now almost barren of foliage.  To blame is the weather.  This summer was a season of drought, thus plants in the region are stressed.  Then we had a storm last Friday and Saturday which brought wind and rain to continue the defoliation process.  Luckily, my daughter and I visited the famous stretch of maples a couple weeks ago.  Here are some of my most adored.

Is there a season more colourful, more crisp, more invigorating?  I doubt it. Cheers to fall!


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