Phoenix Riting! – August 3rd, 2023

Phoenix Riting!

It’s been a busy week of art events for me. I went to see the wonderful singer-songwriter Kim June Johnson on Wednesday evening when she played with Jordie Robinson on cello. The show was at the old Cardboard House Bakery which is sadly underutilized these days; it was sweet to hear music there again. As usual, Kim sang beautifully. The audience was small but enthusiastic. At one point, during “Windows,” as she sang the lines “I am lonely for the summer / I am lonely for the wind,” the wind rose suddenly and gusted through, ruffling hair and shuffling papers. Magic. Despite technical difficulties and a smattering of rain, it was a splendid evening.


On Friday evening, I went to the Artist Event at the Rubinoff Sculpture Farm, for Scott Smith and Nettie Wild’s stunning film installation called ‘Go Fish.’ It’s too late to view this one on Hornby now but I believe may still be a chance to see it on Denman; it will be viewable at the United Church there. I am not sure about the dates/details, but if you can, do see it.


In 2017, I was privileged to live in a home adjacent to the water, with deep water fairly close to the shore, so I had a front row seat when the herring spawned right outside our door. For a few days I was immersed in a swirling maelstrom of feasting, as sea lions, eagles, seagulls and all manner of other creatures competed with fishing boats for a share of the bounty of tiny silver fish in milky turquoise waters. All night long the boats bothered us with bright lights through our bedroom window and relentless noise, clickety-clack rumble as engines pulled aboard endless nets of wriggling gasping herring. 


Scott’s and Nettie’s brilliant piece of work evoked for me all the feelings and impressions of those few days in 2017. The film took four years of filming and comes in at seventeen-minutes, and that is, somehow, exactly the right length. The finished product is a gorgeous work of art, with mirroring, kaleidoscoping, drone footage and gorgeous underwater footage all combined beautifully. And oh my, you have to see the stretchy boat to believe it. Genius.


The question the film asked was, “If the herring put on a dinner, who would come to the table?” Presented on three screens, with a dramatic and effective audio track, but no dialogue, text content or editorializing, audience members were allowed to respond according to their own inclinations. At the artist talk, someone asked Scott how he wanted people to feel watching the show. He said, “I just want them to feel.” 

And we did feel. People’s faces after were variously deeply thoughtful, grief-stricken or happy and excited, but no one appeared unaffected. The film will travel to Toronto later, to its rightful worldwide audience, but we got to see it first–after the Comox Valley of course.


Saturday night I attended the opening of Ted Gooden’s and Alastair Haseltine’s show at the Hall, “Various Positions.” Alastair’s life drawings were a revelation! This show was a coming-out for him. He has been part of the life drawing group for many years but has never before exhibited this work. We all know Alastair as a gifted sculptor and crafter with willow withes, but it turns out he is a skilled and imaginative visual artist as well. The drawings were more than simple life drawings. Rich, detailed backgrounds, all added in the past six months, were stunningly rendered and fantastical. Models were placed in a wild variety of scenes: bucolic, apocalyptic and everything between. It was fun to see which of the models we could recognize.


Ted’s sculptural figurines were already familiar, as he had shown a version of this show last year. Somewhat similar figurines feature in “Cosmic Bowling,” a book he collaborated on with the poems of Cornelia Hoogland, published in 2020. This show had the figurines all standing on one leg in, well, various positions. Ted’s figures are highly effective as an installation; their arrangement is very much part of the art. These groupings create such a collective mood that it’s difficult to imagine one apart from its companions. Perhaps for this reason, sales of the figurines were not exactly brisk.


There was a dance performance by several dancers who moved amongst the figures, which many found deeply affecting, especially Ted. He said, “My art may not make me rich, but this might be the happiest day of my life!” It was tremendously moving: such moments make us rich, for money is not the measure of success. The accompanying music featuring David Kaetz on clarinet and Elliot on piano filled out the evening beautifully. The opening was well attended and received. I enjoyed this show very much and hope you all had a chance to go out and view the art.

That’s what I think! What do you think? Email me at