Eastside Culture Crawl 2007: Gung Haggis paddlers invade 1000 Parker – meet artists Janice Wong, Arleigh Wood, Wendy Sexsmith, Robert Kwon, Kathryn Youngs, Rebecca Blair and Erin Williams

Eastside Culture Crawl 2007:

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We met at Janice Wong's studio at 318-1000 Parker St.  It's a huge warehouse, a 4 story rabbit warren filled with artist studios. You can spot Culture Crawl first-timers by the glazed look in their eyes as they try to see everything in every studio.

Janice Wong is artist-cousin who also wrote the book C H O W from China to Canada: memories of food + family – which contains some history of her family growing up in Sask, and our revered ancestor Rev. Chan Yu Tan. She also knows our paddler Dan Seto because Dan and I took the CCHS writing workshop, and Janice came to give a talk.  Janice and I are also featured in the CBC documentary Generations: The Chan Legacy. She for her book and art work, me for my community service and Gung Haggis Fat Choy events.

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This is the third year I have visited artist Arleigh Wood.  I really wanted our paddler Leanne to meet Arleigh, as they are both Japanese-Canadian internment descendants, as well as Hapa-Canadians. Leanne really appreciated how Arleigh has also drawn on her Japanese heritage to incorporate designs and photographs.  I really like her themes with ravens and trees.  This year her work also featured embossed patterns.

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Erin Williams shared some space in Arleigh's studio and was launching her satin wear. She demonstrated her satin tool belt for “provocative play” and had an assortment of blindfolds and arm/leg restraints.  They are unlike anything I had seen before… Very interesting!

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Wendy Sexsmith had some wonderful series of works using Asian themes, such as Buddha, Ganesha, a sumo wrestler and a couple in kama sutra poses.  Paddlers Wendy and Jonas bought the Buddha series as part of their quest for really cool christmas and wedding gifts. I asked Wendy why she had Asian themes, when she was so convincingly non-Asian looking.  She revealed that she had spent some time growing up in Japan, when her parents had worked there.  As well she had travelled and worked in India and elsewhere.  She loves Asia… so why not?  She had a great attitude and we loved speaking with her.

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Robert Kwon had some lovely landcape pictures.  I loved how they were almost like colour field paintings – but expressed through nature.  When I told Robert that we had been visiting my cousin Janice, he said that he also liked Janice Wong's work.  We talked about her monotypes, and the relationship of modern expressionism and colour field paintings. Robert has Korean ancestry, and invited me to visit his Autumn Brook Gallery on 1545 West 4th Ave, just East of Burrard.

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Rebecca Blair saw me and said “library guy” or was it “accordion guy?”  In addition to being an artist, and a part-time library worker, Rebecca is also a celtic harp player.  We didn't play any duets together while we were on the library picket line – but maybe for a future Gung Haggis Fat Choy event.  I have invited Rebecca to perform at the annual Gung Haggis Fat Choy World Poetry event at the Vancouver Public Library, Monday January 28th.  We will read Robbie Burns, as well as ontemporary Scottish-Canadian and Chinese-Canadian poetry.

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“You have to see this!” my girlfriend Deb exclaimed to me. “I love these!” She showed me a wall of ceramic hearts made by Kathryn Youngs.  Being a good boyfriend, I immediately said that I would buy her one.  Of course we decided we couldn't buy just one… we had to have one for each of us.

Kathryn's ceramic works are whimsical.  She creates ceramic fruits and flowers and even a kitty cat.  My girlfriend just had to take more pictures of her work. While in the store, we discovered we had a mutual friend in Sean Gunn, who posed with Kathryn. I have known Sean for many years.  Recently we were on the head tax redress campaign together.  Sean has also performed at my Gung Haggis Fat Choy events where he has performed his song “Head Tax Blues” and “Gim Wong.”

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We went into The Mergatroid Building at 975 Vernon Ave. for the first time ever.  I was instantly fascinated by Joe Blow Glassworks.  There were $600 glass ray guns! Okay… I settled for the $25 Glass ornaments by Ilona.  I also liked the $95 gold leaf glass paper weights.  If you spent $150 in the store, they they would let you make your own glass paper weight.  Glass is cool.  Last year, members of the Gung Haggis dragon boat team when to Tacoma's Museum of Glass, and saw the incredible work of Dale Chihuly.  Maybe I will take a glass course one day.

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Kroma Arttist Acrylics didn't have any artworks for sale.  Instead they sell acrylic paints.  For years they wondered how they could be part of the Eastside Culture Crawl happening around them.  Their idea was to open up the shop and let people use their paints.  This is now the favorite stop for kids.  I bumped into my library colleague Janis who said her young daughter kept asking “When are we going to paint?”  This was definitely a highlight for Deb and me – just sitting down, relaxing, and exploring colour and texture.  Of course I painted a dragon boat.

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