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Rick Gillis explores early twentieth century Crowsnest Pass in new novel

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 Local author Rick Gillis revisits the Crowsnest Pass in his second novel  “Buckskin Girl and Blackheart.”Rick Gillis is proud of his latest novel  Buckskin Girl and Blackheart. Photo by Richard Amery
 But unlike his first book, “ The Boy Who Couldn’t Die”which was directly inspired by his childhood growing up in the Pass, this book comes directly from his imagination.
 Gillis returned to Crowsnest Pass artist’s retreat the Gushul House Blairmore last March to get his idea about a woman, Danielle, who inherits the memoirs of an elderly woman’s adventures beginning with growing up in the Crowsnest Pass at the beginning of the twentieth century.


“It’s completely different than the last book,” Gillis said, describing it  as ““Buckskin Girl and Blackheart follows the extraordinary life of Rebecca Sarah Deering ( Buckskin Girl) from her birth in  a simple, rough cabin in the north valley woods north of the Pass from her birth in 1907. Her terrible birth left her father an embittered widower and Sarah a confused and lonely child.”
 Gillis noted the story, told  through Danielle’s reading of the memoir, takes the reader through Buckskin Girl’s life as Danielle learns about the woman who turns out to be her long lost mother.
  She meets a massive black wolf (Blackheart) and forms a mystical bond with him throughout the story. He provides a mystical guiding influence  throughout her life.
“It plays with the preconceived idea that people have of wolves and darkness are bad,” Gillis explained, adding writing the book itself was fairly quick, but a lot more work went into editing it and researching the era, so the background was as accurate as possible.


“It was all in my imagination, so I just let loose and wrote it all down in about four months,” Gillis said.
“I did a lot of research into things like whether they actually had school buses in  the early twentieth century. I also researched the language,  some of the language might not fit into that era, but Sarah was writing her memoir in the ’80s so it fits then,” he said, adding even though   the story is fictional, ensuring his historical details were accurate was essential to not distract from the story.
 “ I Have to write when I’m inspired  to write. I’m not just going to sit in front of a desk and write like professional writers who have  to release books every couple of years or so. If something comes to me, I’ll write it down,” he said.

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Diana Zasadny inspired by Waterton Lake for Shadows From Fire at casa

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Lethbridge artist Diane Zasadny draws a lot of inspiration from Waterton Lake Park. So she decided to create art out of the tragedy of the Kenow Fires in Waterton Lake in 2007 for her new exhibit “Shadows From Fire” in the Upper concourse gallery and showcase. It is a combination of paintings, photography and her fist foray into wire sculpture which not only explore the devastation wrought by the wildfires, but also the rebirth of flora a year later.Diana Zasadny was inspired by the Waterton Lake fire for her new exhibit Shadows From the Fire. Photo by Richard Amery
“I’m inspired by hiking with my family and painting in Waterton Lake. I was actually evacuated from there while painting,” she said, setting up her works.


“I have four life sized wire sculptures of plants and animals. It’s my first time working with  sculpture,” Zasadny continued, who graduated from The Alberta College of Art and has been painting for over 20 years.


“The four paintings are very abstract and very similar to what I usually paint, she continued.
“I was distressed by what I saw happening, I painted the devastation but I also painted the regrowth,” she continued, listing an array of colourful flowers which grew from the ashes.


“In the winter of 2017, I explored the area where the Kenow Fire hit in Waterton. Walking through charred trees, bones, artifacts, ash and litter were exposed. The experience was upsetting, seeing my favourite sites diminished. On the way home from the park, I took a shovel full of ash which I mixed into my paint for the next year. In the original proposal for the exhibition, I planned a series of large scale drawings and paintings, depicting the change of the landscape. I imagined laying out an enormous sheet of paper or cloth in an open field and drawing out a scene in big sweeping gestures using a big graphite stick.

Then I wondered how to move the artwork without damaging it, thus I arrived at the idea of wire sculpture as an alternate means of making a line drawing. A trio of whitetail deer comprised the first sculpture, from there I decided to make this an exhibit using new materials. The sculptures focus on whimsical, larger than life plants and arrangements of deer. Over 2018, I sketched and photographed the explosive super bloom of wildflowers at Waterton, making several trips to document the scene. In August, I took the opportunity to try another new method for me, cyanotype printing. Photographic impressions of plants were created in the fire areas near the Bison Paddock and Maskinonge, documenting the renewal. Shadows from the Fire is an opportunity to challenge myself as an artist and explore materials outside of paint on canvas. It required imagination and problem solving that will hopefully enhance my practice,” according to her artists statement.

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Jamie-Lee Girodat explores reproduction in Pluck exhibit at casa

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Edmonton artist Jamie-Lee Girodat explores the issues of reproduction in her new exhibit, “Pluck,” opening at casa this weekend.Jamie Lee Girodat presents Pluck at casa. Photo by Richard Amery

It is one of four exhibits opening including Troy Nickle’s “Contours of Time, which shares the main gallery, Diana Zasadny’s “ Shadows From the Fire, which explores the aftermath of the Kenow fire in Waterton Park and High Notes in Low Lighting, 16 music photos by L.A. Beat editor Richard Amery turned 3 D and adorned with paint splashing.
“Pluck” is  an exploration of female autonomy related issues such as having children through a variety of mediums including hand painted glass and paintings.


“I’m 28 and most of my family are women most of them have children,” said Girodat, noting her exhibit explores changes in reproductive technology like genetic modification and genetic engineering


“ So there are a lot of issues like should I have children, or should I wait until they’ve cured certain diseases. There’s a lot to think about. It has to do with a lot of changes in reproductive technology and the choices you have to make  to have children,” she continued. She noted the art includes images of blasts cells.


“There  are also female body figures,” said Girodat who is studying for her masters degree in printmaking at the University of Alberta, and who completed her bachelor of fine arts at the U of L in 2016.


She has several animations she created running on a loop.

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Casa kilns fired for 1000th time

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Aaron Hagan is pleased to see the pottery program take off at Casa.Aaron Hagan shows off some of the works produced  from the 100th firing of Casa's kilns. Photo by Richard Amery
 On Wednesday, he fired up the kilns for the thousandth time since Casa opened in 2013.


“We started with three kilns and now we have six,” Hagan said, adding a variety of students, adults and arts groups, with a core group of 75 active members using the kilns the most,though he estimated over 500 people have used the kilns including school groups, a special needs program and much more.


“ We have a lot of different programs o for pottery and object production. They’re probably among our most popular classes,” he said.
“We fire  the kilns up two or three times a week,” Hagan observed, adding last year he predicted they would reach the milestone about this time.

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CASA exhibits celebrate spring and gardening

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Casa celebrates Spring with new exhibits running until April 13.
Darcy Logan examines a piece from Cultivating Creativity at Casa. photo by Richard Amery“‘Cultivating Creativity‘ is a group exhibition on the theme of gardening,” said curator Darcy Logan, noting 17 artists submitted a variety of works in a variety of mediums including clay, textile and, painting and drawing. They are in the back half of the main gallery as well as in the main foyer.


“There is also an installation of photographs suspended from the ceiling,” Logan continued.


 The other major main floor exhibition is Beany Dootjes’s ‘Gardens III’ in the front half of the main gallery.


“She’s a sustainable gardener. She grows her own produce, fruits and vegetables and even grapes and berries and her art is inspired by that,” Logan said.

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