How explicit is too explicit for a small town art gallery? Hint: it begins with a V and ends in gina.

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Vankleek Hill has a long history with naked people. Especially in our art.

For the past five years, the Arbor Gallery has exhibited an annual Valentine’s Day show specifically featuring erotic art in something we like to call ‘The Eros Show‘.

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In 2011, for example, we featured three paintings from Edwina Billyk, called “Seated nude male,” “Homo erectus et ludens,” and “Homo erectus”. All three featured realistic nude male figures, on blue backgrounds, lounging around… lets say, very comfortably.

Galleries in Vankleek Hill, including ours, have never shied away from exhibiting nudes, especially during the early years of our famous annual Vankleek Hill May Art Festival. From 1982 until (roughly) 1992, Vankleek Hill’s galleries had many erotic aspects to their shows, including Donald Liardi’s nude sculptures, and Susan Jephcott’s paintings… all of which either involve nudity, or make you feel like you should be naked. John Greewald’s paintings are another example of how accepting gallery visitors have been to exhibiting nudity in our local galleries.

Basically, what I’m trying to say, is there have been no uprisings. I can’t even remember a letter to the editor ever having been written — or, at least, published — regarding anyone’s morals being offended by any art featuring totally exposed, or engorged… pieces.

…of course, maybe the people who might complain just don’t bother showing up (I prefer to think they all just moved away back in 1983 when it became evident our artistic community wasn’t going to stop with the naked stuff).

But this year was different. This year’s Eros Show featured nudes by Erica Taylor — including her ‘Silver Streak Penis Car‘ sculpture, as well as John Greenwald’s work, and Susan Jephcott’s paintings shown openly on our walls. But the photography of newcomer, Roy Whidden, caused Jessica Sarrazin, the Arbor Gallery’s Artistic Director, to rethink some of our policies.

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Posted in Arbor Gallery, Art, Erotic Art, Vankleek Hill | Tagged , , , , , ,

The first in what we hope will be an awesome series of ‘How To Do Art’ essays… plus, expletives.

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This is the first in what we hope will be a series of “How To” essays. This week: How To Be A Writer. It’s entirely possible the next one will be ‘How Not To Write A How To Essay’. We’ll see how it goes…

If you have your own tips or lessons on ‘How To Write’, or links you think we should know about, feel free to leave them in the comments section, we’re all about sharing here.

So… my name’s Gabriel and, despite working as a reporter for so many years, it took a long time until I accepted what I do to be art, or that it could be considered art. I still have a hard time saying it out loud… weird but true.

Weird because it’s so obvious being a writer is who I am, and who I have been, not just what I do. For example, my little brother’s leather high school jacket had four different sports on his sleeves — track, volleyball, basketball… I think beer was the fourth.

My sleeve, however, had “Poetry”. It should have been ‘Writer’, which, to be honest, was the only thing I was really good at — it also would have encouraged me (an anxiety ridden, self-conscious teen) to wear the jacket more often. Either way, writing was the only reason I survived high school… but that’s a whole other issue I’m still discussing with several therapists.

“…writing isn’t about simply leaving material for someone to read. It’s about forcing your ideas into their brain and overwhelming their imagination until they see exactly what you want them to see.”

I wrote that… it’s a little further down in the essay, actually.

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Posted in Arbor Gallery, Art, Humor, Humour, Vankleek Hill, Writing | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Social media strategies… now we have one, and we’re willing to share.

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Welcome to our new blog…

We’ve decided to take our entire social media strategy in a slightly different direction… in that we decided to actually make it a priority. Until now we’ve limited ourselves to a static website — which looks awesome — and our Facebook page where we announce upcoming events.

But the problem with a static website is, there’s no reason to come back on a regular basis. So all of that wonderful information on local artists gets lost in the archives. And the problem with keeping our Facebook page all to ourselves — by only updating when there’s one of our events, is we get lost in Facebook news feeds filled with LOL cats and updates on dinner menus.

Done properly Facebook can be an awesome tool for artists and artisans, but if a page isn’t updated regularly and often, it gets ignored. And that’s just not fair to either the artists we exhibit, or the ones we could be helping get their start.

It also just doesn’t seem right to be so limited when the Internet is so unlimited… besides, this region has so many great artists who need more exposure, and we can help. So, instead, now we’re now going to (also) highlight artists and artisans from the Vankleek Hill region on our Facebook page, even if they’re not currently showing at our Gallery.

And we’ve also created a blog where we can post biographies and videos showcasing local artists and artisans — including letting our social media subscribers know where and when their shows will be held… we know we can help artists reach a larger audience.

And we know we can use social media to form partnerships with arts groups and councils to not only improve the services we offer at the Gallery, but to make the audiences for local artists even larger.

Frankly, there are things we can help with, and things we need help with.

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Posted in Arbor Gallery, Art, Photography, Vankleek Hill | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Photos from the 5th Annual Eros Show… but not the nudes. You have to show up for those.

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…these are some photos we took at Saturday’s (very successful) vernissage for the 5th annual Eros Show at the Arbor Gallery.

For anyone who couldn’t make it, the show continues until March 9, 2014. For those of you who could make it, thanks for making it one of our favourite shows of the year. The Eros Show, our annual Valentine’s Day show, has become a tremendously successful event for the Gallery.

This year features art from Isabella Di Sclafani, John Greenwald, Mark Greenwald, Eva Hoedman, Susan Jephcott, Reenie Marx, Erica Taylor and Roy Whiddon.

…if you’d like to find out more about the show, you can contact us here:, call us at 1-877-616-5086, or check out our homepage.


Posted in Arbor Gallery, Art, Photography, Vankleek Hill | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Little Victor Update | Finally, he can fly

Copyright ImageVictor takes flight


A few days ago Victor and Andrew, his older brother, were playing what was essentially ‘motionless tag’ in the living room. Basically it was Victor tapping Andrew’s shoulder, then yelling “tag, you’re it”, and Andrew immediately doing the same right back to Victor. After a few minutes I tried explaining the “no tag back” rule, but no one was listening.

Finally Victor, who is now 3.5-years old, ran away and I thought the game was over. But he came back with a little plastic stool. Then he tapped Andrew’s shoulder, yelled “you’re it”, but when Andrew moved to tag him back, Victor quickly raised the stool to his chest, and blocked it.

Then he laughed and said “, you’re still it.”, and ran away. Smart kid.

For a lot of reasons this is the first update in a little over a year. Hopefully the next one will come before he graduates college… but, still, that one will be pretty sweet as well.

Over the past few months, Victor has started and finished his first season of soccer, started T-Ball, started day camp and had a practice session for his upcoming first year of school.

For Victor, soccer was an opportunity to hug people his own size. Towards the end of the season he started to see the point of the game — that the ball was to be kicked in the general direction of the people wearing differently coloured uniforms. But he would still stop random kids at random times during the game, tell them his name, and ask if they wanted to hug.

…by the way, soccer played with eight teams of ten kids under 5-years old, who have never played organized sports before, on a regular soccer field split four ways, is like herding kittens when you’re off-your-face drunk.

In almost every activity we’ve enrolled Victor in, he has been the youngest kid. But not necessarily the smallest. I keep getting told that Victor is tall and broad for his age, but most of the kids Victor has grown up with have been friends of his older brother. So, until soccer started, I had never really seen Victor around large groups of kids closer to his own age.

He’s definitely a pretty large kid. At least he looks it… big hands, huge feet, big chest.

He’s roughly 40lbs and a little over 3.5-feet tall. Which, in writing, sounds impressive. If he keeps this growth rate going, by the time he becomes a teenager he should be 13-feet tall. I think that’s how it works.

My girlfriend and I moved in with each other last September which, because we share Victor, in the eyes of the government made us instantly “common law married” — which means all of the rights and responsibilities of actual marriage, but without the ring.*

Pretty much as soon as that happened, Diane picked up a full time job, so Victor and I have been spending most of our days together alone. We spend a lot of time at the parks around town (there are two), or walking, or playing with his little cars.

Two months ago Victor started pulling his hand out of mine while we’re walking, so he can feel the freedom. Of all the little, everyday advances in his evolution that I see and experience, that one probably hurts the most right now.

But the kid smiles. And laughs. Nearly all the time. It’s so easy to get him going, just walk towards him like you’re going to tickle him and he’ll start laughing and run away yelling “chase me, chase me”.

He’s also very, very brave. It’s rare, but sometimes he’ll do something pretty awful — relative to a 3-year old, he’s not boosting cars or slinging meth. But once in a while he’ll be in a bad mood, and he’ll throw something at me or his mom. And the kid has aim, and an arm — I’m surprised I still have eyes.

So I’ll yell his name, or get angry, and he’ll plant his feet, turn a little sideways, get angrier than I’ll ever be, ball up his hands into fists and let loose with what I can only describe as a war cry.

He has only done it a few times — I guess he’s only had reason to a few times, but every one scared the shit out of me.

Mostly he only acts out when he’s tired, or because of the heat. Ever since he could walk, Victor has done this weird walking dance thing when he gets really tired. It’s like he’s drunk. But a really friendly drunk.

By ‘acting out’, I mean he’ll start making weird noises, babble some nonsense and, depending where he is (car seat; walking with us; at home), he’ll walk around in looping circles, with his hands flailing around like he’s in an ’80’s aerobic exercise video. But then he always comes back to his mom or myself, and gives us a leg hug… I guess like a drunk trying to hold himself up.

I think it’s hilarious. I think his mom gets annoyed with it, but most times it’s a highlight of my day — not the fact he’s that tired, just that there’s a whole lot of foreshadowing going on.

The most important development over the past year, of course, is that Victor is 90% potty trained. He can do everything by himself, except wipe. But I’m so very okay with that, because — sweet loving Jesus — I no longer have to change diapers.

…I don’t think he’s peed in his bed in two (or more) months, but we still occasionally use the pull-ups at bedtime just in case. We tried to toilet train him, but mostly he did it all himself. I think he just connected what we were doing in the bathroom to something he’d like to try.

His language skills are awesome, he picks up new words and phrases everyday; when we’re on walks he likes to tell people who I am, and where we’re going, sometimes very, very loudly. That’s definitely one of the highlights of any of my days.


*…we’re making it official in September.


Photos Of Victor & Andrew’s Week(s):

Victor's Week

Victor's Week

Victor's Week

Victor's Week

Andrew's Week

Andrew's Week


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Posted in Family, Humor, Humour, Parenthood, Parenting, Vankleek Hill, Vankleek Hill Adventures, Victor's Week In Review, Writing | Tagged | 3 Comments

According to Walt Wawra the world is a place in need of infinitely more guns

Copyright Image...don't shoot, it's  family picnic.


If you were still wondering about the differences between Canada and the US, in terms of gun culture and other stuff, this might explain a few things…

According to his letter to the Calgary Herald, Walt Wawra, a Michigan police officer, was in Calgary, walking through a public park in the afternoon, when he was approached by two men. They asked if he had been to the Calgary Stampede yet. Walt felt so threatened by the encounter that he wrote the letter, complaining that he wasn’t allowed to carry a weapon in Canada.

Walt’s a 20-year veteran of his local police force. And he felt so threatened (“I thank the Lord Jesus Christ they did not pull a weapon of some sort…”) by the two men, who did nothing except ask him if he had been to the rodeo yet, that he felt he should have had a weapon to protect himself.


Walt’s letter [link]:

“I quickly moved between these two and my wife, replying, ‘Gentle-men, I have no need to talk with you, goodbye.’ They looked bewildered, and we then walked past them.”


The paper’s response [link]:

“Wawra’s mindset is what America’s gun mania has produced. How paranoid and how very sad.

“Americans argue that they need to carry guns, because having a concealed weapon makes them feel safe. Their thinking seems to be that at any given moment, they could be under attack from the very next person they meet on the street, and they’ll need to shoot in self-defence. Whereas, when you walk down a street in Canada, you don’t assume that you’re at risk of being suddenly assaulted or killed. You just see ordinary people going about their day and you give their motives no further thought.”

…someone pointed out in a comment thread that the murder rates (via guns) of Kalamazoo, Michigan (pop: 75,000) and Calgary (pop: 1.09 million) are very similar. Sad, sad, sad, sad… but mostly in a pathetic kind of way.

In 2009 there were 179 shooting related homicides in Canada, a country of 33 million people. According to the FBI, in 2010, 12,996 Americans were murdered by other Americans — 8,775 of them by other Americans using a gun.

Eventually someone is going to have to ask just how fucking retarded a people would have to be not to see a relation between the near total lack of oversight and regulation, and the number of people in America dying by gun.

Because, eventually, they’re going to have a country where frightened, paranoid people people draw their guns when approached by anyone who makes them even slightly nervous… oh, wait… right, ‘stand your ground’, ‘open carry’, ‘concealed weapons’.

Because, if it’s only for Walt’s peace of mind — and the peace of mind of thousands of other people just like Walt, we shouldn’t always have to be wondering how many guns there are in the room. Or laundromat. Or Starbucks. Or while we’re at the game. Or when we’re in traffic. Or walking down the street.

The rules of living in a civilized society should never include: never attempting small talk with an American. Or never buying Skittles and iced tea. Or never wearing a hoodie. Or never go to a theatre. Or never be Sikh. Or never go to an American university. Or never be a homeless Native artist in Seattle. Or… or.. or…


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Posted in American Politics, Canadian Politics, Civil Rights, Politics, Writing | Tagged , | 6 Comments