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Local artist Rick Gillis releases new novel

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Lethbridge artist and writer, Rick Gillis  officially releases his new novel “The Boy Who Couldn’t Die” at Casa this Saturday, March 4 from 1 to 4  p.m.

Rick Gillis releases his new novel on the weekend. Photo by Richard Amery
The novel is loosely based on his life growing up in the Crowsnest Pass in the 1950s and 60s. It was a time when the Pass was a booming coal mining and lumbering centre. The novel, titled  traces a period of time in the life of the Callaghan family, more specifically that of Little Ricky Callaghan, as told through the memories of his older sister, Kathryn.


The novel runs its reader through a rollercoaster of emotions, from humour, love, sadness and a surprising twist to its plot line.


The book is currently being made available through Casa in Lethbridge. Gillis returned to the Pass in March of last year and took a residency at the Gushul Writers’ Cottage in Blairmore for a month, a return to his hometown and more importantly to the very neighbourhood in which he grew up. It was at the Gushul that he wrote the lion’s share of  “The Boy Who Couldn’t Die.”


“Though the novel draws upon my own life experiences growing up in that neighbourhood, the story line diverts sharply from reality as the tale unfolds,” says Gillis.


“It definitely is not your standard fare, since few elements resemble anything close to a formulaic novel. Much of it seems reminiscent, but it is far more than that. As ridiculous as it appears at times, the anecdotes as told through the memories of Kathryn Callaghan are all, without exception, true, though at times altered or embellished in the interest of good story telling.


“To say that my decision to return home to write this novel was inspirational would be an understatement,” Gillis added.


  “Though sequestered for long periods of time at the writers’ cottage, my frequent walks through the old neighborhood brought back long buried memories, and with them a host of emotions and deeply-felt sentiments.”
In addition to being made available locally, “The Boy Who Couldn’t Die” is also available on line through Amazon.com (not Amazon.ca) as well as http://www.createspace.com/6890547.

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Artists explore different mediums in three new exhibits at Casa

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New exhibits opening at Casa this weekend show the diverse artistic palates of three different artists.Janice Rahn polishes one of her etchings on steel in her exhibit Composition in the shape of A Pod at Casa. Photo by Richard Amery


Local artist  shows both his dark side as well as his more whimsical side in his exhibit, “ The Age Of Man,” on display  on the second floor of Casa in the concourse gallery.
 The exhibitions officially open, with a reception, Jan. 7. They run until Feb. 18.


 The Age of Man includes two cabinets of sculpture  created out of found items as well as a series paintings hanging on the walls of a more lighthearted, pastoral nature.


“I used to work in a mine. There]s wood salvaged from a mine. There were a lot of widows and husbands injured  from working in the mines. So this is a comment on that,” he said of one of the pieces.
 Another piece also created out of wood salvaged from a mine featuring a face peering through a roughly hewn wooden window, is about the plight of immigrants coming to Canada from Europe. Anybody who has a great great grandfather or grand mother mother who came here, they probably come over in steerage and that was not a peasant experience,” Gillis commented.


 Other pieces look at popular children’s tales, like “Rumpelstiltskin.”
“It is a pretty grim story,” he said indicating his piece “Rumpelstiltskin.”
“The paintings are a little more lighthearted,” he said, indicating a series of paintings reflecting tranquil scenes and memories of the past.

Janice Rahn was inspired by the intricate details of poppy pods for her exhibit “Composition in the Shape of A Pod: surrounded by exquisite detail.


The exhibit includes a variety of lithographs, sculptures, textile prints and etchings on steel and mirrors placed throughout the main gallery inspired by  a variety of her passions including traveling, teaching, gardening and history.
 There are some of her sculptures set in the middle of the gallery, etching on burnished steel on the west wall and prints on the north wall. The back room has a display of curiosities.

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Old McNally school turned into new art studio

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A group of Lethbridge artists have repurposed an old school to make art together.

Rick Gillis touches up one of his works at the McNally Studio. Photo by Richard Amery
Jeanne Kollee and Rick Gillis have made the decommissioned McNally school their artistic home  for the past two years with a cadre of artists including  Ann-Laure Djaballah, Aaron Hagen, Pam Vera , Leila Armstrong, Annie Martin, Kasia Sosnowski, Wende Luco and Robert Bechtel.


Each of them took over a former classroom in the renamed McNally Community Hall, located two kilometres south of Hwy 4 on McNally Road, though Kollee and Gillis share a room, while Bechtel shares the basement with  the stained glass guild.
 It is a beautiful setting for studio, the old schoolhouse, which was built in 1947, is nestled in the countryside just  at the edge of Lethbridge. The floors are beautiful hardwood and the artists have hung their art on the walls of long halls which used to host rows of student’s lockers, which were removed and sold when the school was decommissioned in 1989.


“It’s a full building, we actually have a waiting list to get space here,” said Gillis, who has used the studio to create many of his works for several exhibitions coming up in January including  a group exhibit celebrating the 50th anniversary of the University of Lethbridge and his own solo exhibition opening, Jan. 7  at Casa called “the Age of Man.”


“ All of the works are allegorical. Just about all of the pieces were created here or my basement. There are a number of paintings and a lot other projects and I’ve assembled some photographs for it. I’ve been working on a more sentimental series,” Gillis said, adding he is pleased with the new space.
“There’s lot of room in the halls to organize works  for exhibitions, so all we have to do is truck it out,” Gillis said.


Kollee is continuing work on her “Unter Dem Messer exhibition which ran  June 25-Sept, 2 at Casa.
“I’m going to  do six or seven more canvasses for it. I’ve applied for  other arts  groups too,” Kollee said, adding they
Kollee and Gillis were part of a collective of artists called the Potemkin Collective, which  used to work in the basement of the old firehall downtown. When the firehall location became untenable, they moved to a location above Adam’s bookstore. But when the landlord sold the building housing their studio above Adam‘s bookstore and the group disbanded, they had to move again.
“We‘ve been using a lot of different spaces for art, which we used to do all the time  with the Potemkin.  So we were looking for a space when we moved out of the space above Bob’s bookstore, and this place came available,” Gillis said, adding they discovered the location through the Allied Arts Council. Leila Armstrong and Robert Bechtel were already ensconced there.

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Casa presents darker themed exhibits with Mixed Narratives and 26° 16'9.00"N 127° 44'31.79" E

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The two new exhibits at Casa opening, Saturday, Nov. 5 have a little bit of a darker tone.


 The official opening reception for “Mixed Narratives” and  Kazumi Marthiensen’s 26° 16’9.00”N 127° 44’31.79”E is Saturday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

Kazumi Marthiensen opens her new exhibit inspired by Okinawa at Casa on Nov. 5. Photo by Richard Amery
“Mixed Narratives,” features the works of three  Crowsnest Pass based artists Debbie Goldstein, Tony Partridge and Yurek Panek.


“ The artists use three different mediums painting, drawing and sculpture,” said Casa curator Darcy Logan, who is excited to present an exhibit with a slightly darker theme.
“Tony was inspired by Dante’s  Divine Comedy. On first glance they look so pretty, but then look a little closer,” Logan continued.


“ (Debbie Goldstein’s) These lollipops look pretty but when you look at them, they have scenes of torture on them. And on this ceramic cupcake, the girl is ripping out her own intestines,” he said.
“Yurek uses pen and ink to reflect his interest in comics. Their works reflect their personal viewpoints,” he continued.
He is excited to present Crowsnest Pass artists.


“It’s fun to have an exhibit which has a darker theme and I feel the Crowsnest Pass is so close, it is great to feature exhibits from artists from there working in such different mediums,” he said.
Local artist Kazumi Marthiensen drew on her experiences growing up on the Japanese island of Okinawa and  the political disputes arriving from the presence of American military bases for her exhibit 26° 16’9.00” N 127° 44’31.79”E.

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