Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Elements in Ice

This summer a fellow from Red Deer, who is passionate about art, visited Bergen Rocks for the second year. He fell in love woth Bergen Rocks and Bergen Store's smoked farmer sausage. While Carlos and I were creating a sculpture for one of his projects in Red Deer he felt that an arts event would be a good way to raise some funding for another project he is involved in in Red Deer, and to give families something interesting to attend during the Christmas season. "Julietta's Place", a 10 unit transitional housing project for women and children that are victims of violence falls under the umbrella of Womens Outreach Society. We only got started on the event about 2 weeks before it was to take place so it was a real whirlwind of recruiting sponsors, setting up the site in downtown Red Deer and getting all of the equipment and materials we would need for the ice sculptures, breakdancers and native dancers that would participate. We had to harvest ice, recruit sculptors, build a stage and artists lounge where we could all warm up if it was cold (and the last day was bitter cold for the grand opening). Ken and his

crew from River City Developments worked like crazy to get everything ready and we got it done just in the nick of time. All of the artists worked really hard too, volunteers made sure we had lots to eat and we slept as fast as we could in the hotel rooms provided so we could get back to work early again each day. The site was ready about 15 minutes before the gates opened for the unvieling ceremony! That was just great! Native dancers and breakdancers put on a wonderful show despite the bitter cold and everyone that came enjoyed the sculptures after they were lit up all at once in dramatic fashion following the ceremony (cut short on account of the cold weather). Here are some pictures and videos that will give you an idea of what got done.

Victor Hernandez a Canadian from Cuba played sax at the opening. He was worried about how the cold would affect his instrument but after we reminded him that he is now Canadian and the cold is something we just deal with he got out there and wailed on his horn. WOW! what a show.

Greg McMartin's chief surrounded by mushrooms, snails and inukshuk was a crowd pleaser.

Will Truchon put up a huge inukshuk that you could see from the road, it was beautiful and let people know there was something going on at the site. The form it's standing on is 8 feet high and 10 feet across so you get an idea of how big this guy is.

It's early in the year for snow around here but we got it this year. Some of the equipment we needed was buried at the bottom of the six foot fence along the back of my place. No problem getting it out of there but first I had to find it.

The ice had a really thick rind on it this year and for most of the artists chose to leave it on and use it to create definition. This one of a thunderbird worked out really well. There were also some air bubbles in the ice which lend some interest and challenge to making everything work out too. My daughter Jessica and her friend Candice helped out with this one and they got all excited about doing some ice carving again when they get a chance, we're hoping to get more locals involved next year.

The indian face here showed up really well from just the right angle, he has sun shining on one side of his face and the other is in a shadow.....you have to imagine it because I didn't get a picture that shows how the illusion is created but still an interesting piece.

The rind really worked to bring out the buffallo.

Eagle and some native symbols-bear's paw and a shield kind of thing
Carlos from Cuba did an awesome job on these two friends, a bear and a raven.

Some tools make the ice just fly and fill your pockets with chips, here I'm using a draw knife usually used for pealing logs, it really pulls the ice off the block and leaves a nice straight and smooth line.

At night the pieces change completely, here is Carlos with his bear and raven after the sun went down. You can see what I mean about the rind on the ice, it was up to 6 inches thick on some of the blocks. You can also see the size of our blocks, not the 36" high and 20" wide ones commonly used in ice carving events. This is so unique we will be able to attract more top notch talent next year to carve "Big Ice" in Red Deer.
It took a lot of ice to create the whole on-site scene and a full day to harvest it. You can't tell but this is Morton, Carlos and Ryan. When we realized we were a little short of helpers Ken got Ryan, a neighbors son, over to help us. He ran the loader while Carlos cut the blocks and I rigged the equipment to pull the ice out. The channel into the lake is about 50 yards long.

Ken was pretty worried about Carlos having an incident with the cold water at the pond. He made us promise to keep him away from the edges and wear the full size life jacket all the time. Here's Carlos with the floater jacket on and as promised well away from the edge.....actually in the very centre of one of the blocks. Well, you just can't keep big kids from playing when there is ice and water involved.

A dance troop from Red Deer came out and did some high energy break dancing for the crowd followed by wonderful native children doing traditional dances. I didn't get any video or photos of them as my camera batteries had frozen up and my fingers were too cold to put new ones in by then, but suffice to say it was awesome. The last dance they took partners from the crowd to participate in the "Owl Dance" then the lights went on the sculptures and people mingled around the site enjoying the artworks for a little while despite the biting cold.

Ken was wanting to do some sculpting all weekend but was just too busy getting things ready on the site. When he got his chance he said to heck with a shovel or chisel, (bless his heart)....I'm going to shape this big block of snow in a hurry. It didn't work out to be the piece he started out to make but he did get a form to develop that we later went to work on and made the face of Old Man Time. Greg McMartin from Bowden got that going just before the construction guys were going to haul the pile away......

See you next year at "Elements in Ice" Red Deer, Alberta

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bergen Rocks Videos

Bergen Rocks 09 Videos

I'm sure it would be pretty easy to put together about 3 hours of video, I have a pile. There is only so much you can get from pictures though so to get the real experience you'll have to come out to the event next year, here are a few videos of different things that went on during the event, you can see it is a lot of hard work and fun too. We create our own ceremonies, emulating the places where these events are celebrated by the commuinities they are held in......these are a good demonstration that this really is a grass roots symposium, we're doing it on our own. We feel that we are making headway though, we had two volunteers from Sundre this year and one from Bergen, in the future we expect that more and more local people will get involved. We donated 30% of the admission fees to local organizations to help demonstrate that art can be beneficial to everyone where art happens.

About 5 days into it we had a flag raising ceremony, as each flag went up we sang the national anthem just like they do in other countries where symposiums are held. Two people showed up just after we started, that made our little ceremony a public event! Here's Paul....

This is an overall shot of the work area when everyone is working, it is exciting and a little noisy. Paul is uing a finger chisel, creating texture on the face of his cross, Chander is firing his bells, Chien is grinding, Gerard is polishing and Carlos is just starting back to work after changing a worn out diamond blade on his grinder.

This short clip is Chien cutting frets. After the slices are cut he will remove the frets with a chisel and hammer or a power chisel. As you get closer and closer to the final surface the size of the frets is made smaller and smaller so that a big piece doesn't come off where you didn't want them to.

Here is Chien removing the frets he cut. When working farther from the surface of the finished piece larger frets are cut and removed with hammer and chisel or a larger power chisel. Even though we aren't purists (using only traditional tools) the work that is realized in only one month is incredible.

Chien uses a large bushing hammer to flatten a surface on "Spring" This may also serve as the texture on some of the piece while other areas are polished. The bushing tool erases the small cut marks left after cutting frets.

Chander is helping Paul to cleave a large piece from his stone that will free up the underside of one of the arms of the cross. First, holes are drilled along the line and then chisels are put in and tightened progressively to apply even pressure. When they get really tight we wait a few minutes to let the energy travel through the stone then tighten agian. The whole process takes several minutes to an hour depending on the thickness of the stone etc. Listening to the energy travel and watching carefully that it is going where it should are parts of the process that take up some time and make it interesting. Here are the last few seconds before a stone wieghing over a ton is removed.

Carlos has the form now and is working the surface with a diamond cup wheel on a grinder, eventually he will work down to polishing pads and water......step by step.

Well, we had to include a shot of Old Blue in action. It chugs and bangs along but gets a lot of work done for us. This may be the oldest relic in use at a symposium anywhere. Bergen Rocks is the only grass roots international sculpture symposium in the world, that makes adapting to what we have to work with nessecary. We move a lot of stone with pulleys, rolling pieces on logs or posts etc. It is more time consuming than at larger events where all kinds of equipment is provided but gives us a challenge and the comraderie that develops as we help each other achieve our work is a big part of what makes this symposium unique.

Carlos is cutting frets on "Prelude". Although it is about 30 degrees today we have to dress up pretty good because stone dust draws the moisture out of your hair (hat, toque), the machines are loud (ear protection) the stone dust should not be breathed (respirator) and there is water flying everywhere (rubber suit and boots). No complaints from the sculptors though, the satisfaction of creating a piece of art that will be enjoyed long after we are gone is exciting enough to make all this worthwhile. The work is as hard as any job in the oil patch but we do it eagerly and the result is always considered well worth the effort.

Biesiker volunteer Mark Stuthiet gives directions to the crane as "Prelude" is guided onto it's base. Several people were out for the whole month of the event to get involved. Stephen Turner (Calgary), Robyn Webster (Calgary) and Mark were here throughout the event. Other volunteers from as far as Kelowna and Vernon put in several days, some local people offered help when they dropped in to see what was going on, inertia is building.....maybe the fun they have will inspire some to explore sculpting for themselves. The symposium offers the opportunity to learn the techniques used, it is inspiring to see peoples interest and their enthusiasm when they realize that they could also do this kind of art themselves.

On our way back from the airport one evening we stopped at the studio of Will Hamm near Cremona. Will makes stringed instruments (awesome stringed instruments) and plays them too. Here he is playing on a (?) I think it is basically an Irish guitar. We really enjoy seeing and experiencing the work of other artists, our own sing songs around the fire at night include instruments such as hammers, bottles, saw blades etc.....what ever makes a noise, and we have so much fun. These people are really creative and it is so interesting an fun to see what they will come up with next.

After the sculptures were installed we spent a couple of hours enjoying them, taking pictures with the group there etc. Here my daughter Jessica and Chander decide to get a look at the park from the top of "Gates to Heaven". What a pile of fun, the realization that the work is done is kind of sad and it seems like a rush to get as much enjoyment from the sculptures as possible before the artists have to leave them here for ever.....too heavy for checked luggage and they would get confiscated in your carry on.

Just having fun.

As I said.......Christine brought out a drum, Gerard picked it up and started a beat. Everyone there grabbed what was handy and joined in, eventually lyrics. Sing songs around the camp fire or these kinds of things that might break out at any time during the work day are a pile of fun, we are hoping that in the future more and more neighbors and other local people will visit the sympoium and experience a little of this kind of thing and add there own individual contribution. We could have a hundred people in on it, banging rocks together, sticks, whistling, knee slapping.........This little session went on for about 10 minutes but here is a short taste of it.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Aug 19

Bergen Rocks 09

Saturday night after supper we had a chance to get pictures of all of us with the sculptures, last chance for that as Paul is leaving at 7:30am tommorrow. This is Carlos' piece, "Prelude".
"Desire To Be", Gerard Motondi. All people desire to be something which they are not, some in society will look up to leaders and desire to have what they have achieved while some who have achieved in leadership or business will look at those that lead simpler lives and covet their lifestyle.........we all desire something other than what we have or are.

Paul realized another incredible Celtic cross. So many people who came out over the last year and marveled at the cross will have another to appreciate with the new cross at the park. This one is slightly taller than "Ancient Cultures" from last year, as large as manhy of the High Crosses in Ireland.
Chander's sculpture is a temple. He says that in India there are 100's of these temples, that even a small town may have several of them. In the morning people go there to pray and pur water on the bells, they are nondenominational, Budhists, Hindus and Christians are all welcome to pray there. The title conveys this mutual respect idea perfectly, "Gates to Heaven, Anybody can go"
It was so much fun and amazing things happened in the creation of "Gates to Heaven, Anybody can go". The sculpture changed dramatically, many challenges and coincidences presented themselves that influenced the result. Chander had already carved one bell which wieghs approx 300lbs when he decided to switch to welded steel bells. Lots of other neat stuff that wasn't planned was incorporated in the final piece, this temple was a piece that evolved as it was being created.
"Spring" is such a serene and beautiful sculpture, especially with the artist meditating on top of it after being placed. The form of a young lady ready to bloom like a flower in the spring, in white and blue marble. The base is the shape of Viet Nam and the sculpture is placed right where Hanoi is. I see a message in this creative base although Chien never mentioned it. Viet Nam is also a flower that is ready to bloom. It is a beautiful country with such warm hearted people, tourism is increasing yearly.

Monday, Aug 17 Gerard left for Kenya, he will only have 2 weeks at home before going to Korea for another symposium there. Everyone that is still here went down to see him off.

Aug 15

Bergen Rocks 09....Aug 15

It is closing day, yesterday was a rainy and cold one so instead of the laundry hanging on the fence it is all over the house, looks like we can expect nice weather today. That's great, last year was cold and rainy on closing day. Our county reeve, Al Kenmere, attended the closing ceremony along with the councilor for our area Kathy Blaine. Both said flattering things about the symposium and the resulting artworks. It is great to have this local support. Over 7% of the attendants this year were from our nearest town, Sundre! We hope to see that number increase in the future as well as attracting even more people from outside of our area. The City of Calgary named all the participants Honorary Citizens of Calgary, Calgary Tourism performed a white hat ceremony, Travel Alberta gave gifts, Up Towne Olds sponsored a reception......several communities in our area (Western Canada) are interested in holding a symposium of their own. This is really exciting for us, this kind of interest and recognition satisfies several of our objectives and confirms to us there is potential for the program to expand beyond Bergen. It is actually a few years earlier than we projected for this kind of enthusiasm to develop.........art is a powerful commodity.
Chander Parkash sposke on behalf of the sculptors at the closing, expressing that the stone was good, the working atmosphere a pile of fun.........that this year's symposium was a big success from the point of view of the artists.

Carlos rang the bell (a stone splitting wedge) to officialy close the event. (Big whoo hoo here)

Everyone had fun "exploring" their work and others. My daughter Jessica and Chander his sculpture and gave a celebratory wave. This sculpture is a temple, similar to 1000's across India. People go each morning to pray and pour water over the bells. I don't think they are devoted to a particular religion, regardless of your faith you can pray here. The title " Gates to Heaven, Anybody Can Go" is perfect, in itself a wonderful message.
We asked attendees to pay $2 admission, this was split several ways. The participants each recieved a share of 30% of the total and local organizations recieved an equal amount. This will help the artists with their travel expenses and help the event to provide benefit to our community. There are so many good causes to contribute to it was difficult to choose, we decided that we'd go with these:
Bergen Community Association; the event is in Bergen and this group is involved in contributing to the community in many ways.
Sundre Paddlers; We scheduled a raft trip on the Red Deer River three times, each time the weather wasn't cooperative. The Sundre Paddlers were going to host this trip. It is always a challenge to maintain and replace equipment etc, over the years many many people have learned to enjoy the river safely through this club. Sundre boasts a long list of competative paddlers who have had success' provincially, nationaly and internationally and were introduced to the sport through this club.
Sundre Pioneer Museum; Sundre has a first class museum, it is a focal point for the energies of many local residents. The museum is something that should be accessable to the public, funding to allow for that is constantly an issue.
Sundre Community Van; The Sundre van came out several times with groups of seniors and shutins. We really enjoyed having them come, the sculptors took time to meet and speak with them. This is a great service to have in our community and we look forward to seeing them on site again next year.
Orphanage in India; That the participants came from around the globe for such a short period of time demonstrates that we live in a global community now. In some of the countries where our guests came from challenges in the day to day lives of some people are insurmountable. Although it isn't such a large amount, the money that we sent with Chander to donate to an orphanage in India will likely make more of a difference than the other four shares above combined.
The remaining 40% will help us to hold another symposium in our region in the future.

Aug 14

Bergen Rocks 09....Aug 14, Installation day

Paul's cross was the first piece to be loaded from the site, it is a cold and rainy day but the work has to get done. We're hoping for bettter weather tommorrow.

The cross was stood on the grass first then picked straight up and placed over the locating pin in the base.
The weather got worse as the day went on, "Prelude" is hoisted onto the trailer. Kind of cool to see these huge sculptures flying through the air........that's what iron workers call it when they hoist beams etc.

"Spring" and "Prelude" were loaded on the trailer at the same time. When a sculpture is placed it is pretty common to adjust the orientation more than a couple of times before the final OK. Sometimes we get it right the first time and then still move it at least a couple of times to be sure there isn't a better angle for it to face etc. Chien has a look at "Spring" from every angle before we move on to installing "Prelude"
I think this is the first picture of "Gates to Heaven, Anybody Can Go". Although one of the straps is still on a column the lintle was finally in place. After the bells are installed and the pad is covered with sod this sculpture will appear to be a 1000 years old already......coool!
We did a lot of just running around taking pictures after the installations were finished. This old saw did a pile of work this year. As soon as we get slowed down and organized a little I will start work on building another one for next year. Since we use eratics rather than quarried stone there is a lot of prep work to do on the stones that isn't required if the material arrives cut to spec.

Aug 13

Bergen Rocks 09
Aug 13

The local Legion is installing a memorial at the Sundre cemetery, the stone they have isn't quite the dimensions they need so they stopped by this morning to have it trimmed up. Steve Turner helped out with that a lot, it is really busy on site with everyone finishing up some detail or other. A couple of the sculptures were placed today, in some cases they need to have them in place to ponder the orientation..............
To be sure that the location pins glued into the pad will slide right up into the bottom of the columns the receiving holes have to be drilled perfectly straight. Chander watches that the bit is going in parallel to a line scribed on the side while I watch that it stays straight left to right as we drill the hole.

Paul is texturing the feather that runs all the way up his cross, it is the first in the work area so we will move it first in the morning. The big crane that is coming can't get past it without moving it.

We set Chander's columns on the pad to be sure they would sit plumb and mark the pad for the position of the locating pins. Chander is drilling the hole for the righthand column. Both columns will be in place and ready for the big crane to set the lintel on tommorrow morning.

We also placed Stephen Yettaw's sculpture today, this sandstone cutoff is the base.
After setting the columns Chander cut the tops so that the lintel would sit perfectly on top. Most of the guys worked until 10 or 11 tonite. The realization that there is only one working day left is keeping everyone at their work.
It drizzled all evening as well, the forecast for tomorrow looks bleak too. Guess we'll light the woodstove in the house (we had to dig up the propane line for the furnace to pour Chander's pad) and the one in the barn again tomorrow. It is really nice to slip into the gallery and warm up around the wood stove.

Final check with bar to verify that the tops of the columns are on the same plane, it is completely dark now and pretty chilly. The crane comes at 8am for the installations.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Aug 13

Bergen Rocks 09
Aug 13

On Tuesday we placed all of the bases, this one is Gerard's for "Desire to Be". Volunteer from Bearberry, and artist, Danny Joe Jones was there most of the afternoon and helped out with chains and blocking etc that makes this kind of work a 3 man job with Old Blue.
On Wednesday Desire to be was the first sculpture to be placed on it's base. Gerard will spend time on Thursday working on small details for the final installation.

Paul, Gerard and Mark Stutiet, Bieseker sculptor, discuss what will be done to match the base and the sculpture for the final installation. A few options are available, Gerard decided to sleep on it and make a decision Thursday morning.
We also placed Chien's base on Wednesday. Thursday Mark, Steven Turner and I used about 3 cu meters of soil to create an artistic element to the base which Chien designed. No picture right now but it is really beautiful and interesting. I can't wait to see "Spring" installed.....and all of the others.

There have been several pictures of the big drills, saw etc. Details are done with chisel and hammer, and specialized tools like this one. A straight air powered die grinder with a carbide burr. Many shapes of burrs are used to make recesses or to shape some of the outside edges etc. Really, what ever works is the rule of thumb for working stone. We build our own chisels on site , I'll try to gather some up and get a picture of them today.

At the end of the day we sat on the deck with the heater on. It was a little chilly for this time of year, hoping for nice weather again tommorrow.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Aug 10

Bergen Rocks 09
Grass roots symposium

Chien takes his turn cooking breakfast.

Bergen roots is a grassroots (created and produced by the artists themselves) event. Without the volunteers and sponsors neccesary to provide things like prepared breakfasts, laundry service, internet access etc. the sculptors are kicking in their help where needed. It has worked out great as everyone is taking turns making breakfast and even lunches and suppers some days. We are being treated to international quisine and having a lot of fun, sometimes there are dirty dishes in the sink and crumbs on the table when everybody gets to work after a meal but we get everything in order somehow before we sit down again.

Their love for art, the opportunity to work with sculptors from other countries, to promote art and arts events and to become familiar with other cultures are strong motivators for the participants. Bergen Rocks has become a unique way for us to achieve those things together. Visitors are coming from long distances to experience the creation of these sculptures, yesterday a couple who came up from Gem (near Brooks) made the day trip because they had read about it in a Calgary newspaper. Another couple told us that they decided to travel to Alberta this summer from San Diego because they wanted to see Bergen Rocks along with other Alberta attractions. They had a couple of other destinations in mind but neither one of them had a sculpture symposium going on......

All of the artists are great cooks! This is an egg dish that Chander prepared for supper last evening, first he boils the eggs then peels and fries them. Over rice and seasoned to taste with chili sauce it is delicious. We have been treated to other ethnic dishes from Ireland, Kenya, Viet Nam and Cuba.

Cleaning your work area is an important task though mundane. Here Chien is removing rubble from his work site, although the sculpture is on it's side it helps to "see" your work if keep your work area neat and tidy. We try to keep ahead of the need for the artists to do this work themselves but they make these chips so fast it is tough to do. Something to work toward in future events will be to provide a little more on site assistance for these kinds of jobs, allowing the artists to stay focused on their work when they get into the "creative zone"......everyone looks to be on schedule to complete on Thursday as planned and install the sculptures on Friday.

Monday morning a group of seniors came out from Red Deer. They enjoyed the tour that we give to groups when we are able. The artists took the time to meet and speak with them. We've had community buses come out from Red Deer, Olds, Didsbury and Sundre. The site is set up so that they can drive the bus right onto the work site so that people who aren't able to get out can see the sculpting action up close. Lots of great comments, we love having them come out. They enjoy seeing the work in progress, the gallery and the sculpture park. This group stayed about an hour, they were very nice people.

I am around this kind of thing quite a lot now and sometimes forget that many people in our area have never seen stones being sculpted. Although it is smaller than many other symposiums a similar atmosphere is created when the work starts, many visitors will stay for an hour watching as we prepare the big saw for a cut and then watch as the 3 foot diamond blade slices down into the stone. Mean while other artists may be turning their stones by hand or with the crane, drilling and cleaving, cutting and chiseling frets, grinding or polishing. It's great to see people come out and spend a couple of hours watching as the slow process of forming a stone into an artwork progresses.

Putting videos on takes a lot longer than still pictures so I haven't done any so far. Yesterday every artist was working and I happened to be on the site, so I took a video of the work and decided to make a point of getting it on here today. I think it is universal that people enjoy watching as these stones are slowly shaped into the beautiful forms that will remain in our area for thousands of years into the future.

Paul is chiseling to the surface of his cross while volunteer from Calgary, Steve Turner, uses a bushing tool to texture the feather lower down. Chander is creating patina on his bells using heat and water, the heat creates blues and yellows and greens, water rusts the steel. Chien is working with an angle grinder creating a surface on the back of "Spring". Gerard is polishing "Desire To Be" with a diamond impregnated disc and water for lubrication. Although I didn't catch Carlos in action he is also cutting with an angle grinder.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Auyg 8

Bergen Rocks 09, Aug 8

Today was another busy day, the guys were busy working on their sculptures or bases and Mark and I got things lined up to pour concrete for Chander and Paul. The weather was nice and there was a pretty good turn out of visitors. A lot of people from Calgary, Didsbury, Red Deer, Olds.......we are really pleased that they have the interest to travel here to experience the symposium.

Only two of the bases will require concrete this year so we rented a small mixer, volunteers Mark Stuthiet (Beiseker) and I did the heavy work, Brad Callihoo (Edmonton) was in charge of the water. After losing his left leg in a motorcycle accident in 04 he has learned to assume management positions on our projects.

This stone weighs about 6000 lbs, it will be the base for Chien's piece, "Spring". With such a big footprint it won't need concrete under it. The ground is very firm, probably hasn't been disturbed for 30 years or more. After placing his sculpture the base stone will be covered with soil and laid over with sod.
Just goofing around! Chien almost fell off just before I took this picture, those 4" stainless steel hoops make nice rails for the bridge onto the lawn where last year's sculptures are installed.
I remembered that Peerapong found my big down filled parka cozy last year so I dug it out for Chien, we all sat around the picnic table until about 11 enjoying the evening. Lightning to the south had Chander a little concerned after the storm last Sunday night. I don't think we'll see another one like that for years to come.