Friday, March 10, 2006

Emily Carr

I had this whole plan to blog during the Olympics but that week also happened to be reading week and I didn't really get around to posting anything.

But we did a great job with 24 medals, more than I ever expected. But that presentation for Vancouver 2010 at the closing ceremonies was embarassing. I watched the whole thing because I hoped it would get better towards the end. But no, my hopes were destroyed by Avril Lavigne, styrofoam snow and giant skiers on stilts. But fortunately that's over now and I no longer have the urge to rip my eyeballs out.

I'm reading Emily Carr's Growing Pains right now. It's part of a class I'm taking on her and she's an absolutely fascinating woman. She was born right here in BC and was way ahead of her time. She came from a very religious, conservative family and became an artist, studying in San Francisco, London and France.

She was absolutely fascinated by First Nations people and took several trips up the BC coast, sketching. She decided she wanted to document their way of life so she painted/sketched every totem she could. Historically this is important because many of the poles were cut down and taken to museums and other countries, others have simply rotted away.

I think what I love most about her is that she's so Canadian. When she went to study in London, various people looked down on her because she was a "colonial". She wasn't British enough for them and they kept saying, we'll smooth over that Canadian wildness in you. Of course, in Emily Carr fashion, she tells them she likes being Canadian.

"It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada but because she's something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of."

And her writing just makes me want to shiver. According to my prof she massively edited everything she wrote and it shows. Her books read more like poetry than anything and she has these funny anecdotes about her family, pets, etc.

I even went to see the house she was born in. It was interesting but very much removed from any house today. The floors creak with age and the rooms are so small as to make you feel claustrophobic.

And you know what, my favourite pieces are the First Nations work. I wasn't sure I'd like any of her paintings because I'd never taken a History in Art course before. But the colours and the brushwork just shout out and the most important thing, they made me smile. Now that's good art.

Oh, and one more thing. My prof has some connections and the first day of classes we went down to the university gallery and saw three original Carrs that the university owns. "Forest Scene", "Happiness" and "Chill Day in June".

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