Art School: Semester 3, Week 12

Hello again everyone. It’s been an interesting week, and it’s time to pause and reflect because it’s been about a year since we arrived in Canada. That’s right, for those of you playing along at home, we’ve been at this major lifestyle change for a year. At some point I promised a “Year In Review” post, and I think this is it. This is longer than usual as a result, but I hope it’s a worthwhile read.

The first thing to know is that so far it’s still good up here. We don’t regret the decision to pick up everything in the middle of our lives, move a thousand miles across an international border, and start doing things in a whole new way. We definitely still miss our friends from California. We’d built quite a community down in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and we still miss seeing you on a regular basis. That aspect of moving — tearing up your existing life — is definitely hard to do, and even a year later the repercussions remain.

But there are compensations. We have new friends, and the circle grows slowly. We have new things to do, and we live in a completely different way. Everything is a bit new and different, even after a year, so I (at least… don’t want to speak for the wife) am always on my toes. I feel the need to be just a bit careful because it is possible to misunderstand or say the wrong thing and not know it. And there are always new things to learn as well, of course, which is fun.

One major difference is that we went from living in the country (though it was less than 20 miles from Silicon Valley) to in the city (sort of). In California, we had to drive everywhere. You depended on your car for everything. We actually owned three vehicles for just two of us, and the closest gas station was 12 miles away, give or take. Here, we barely drive at all. Mostly to the grocery store and back, along with a few other errands. Anne works from home (so the commute has a lot of dog traffic, but nothing else) and I take public transit to school, including the SeaBus, which is where all those weird pictures of ships and stuff come from. Public transit pretty much works here, though yesterday I did encounter my first real issue. There was a medical emergency (apparently… there were mixed reports on the nature of the problem at the time) and the Canada Line sky train shut service down for an hour as I was coming home. I walked a ways to a bus line and picked up a bus that got me to the SeaBus terminal. It was hot, and it took a bit longer, but it worked.

All in all I strongly prefer public transit, even after that experience. Americans are so in love with their cars (and in truth Canadians seem to love them as well) but public transit is much less stressful, even if it takes longer to get where you’re going. Honestly, I could have the stress of all the traffic every day — and there is plenty of that here, as there was in California — or the occasional stress of an event like yesterday’s transit stoppage. I’ll definitely take the latter if I have a choice.

Another change is that we no longer live in rural country. The first place we lived — in Richmond — was just south of the airport. We had relatively constant but not overly loud engine sounds from the jets taking off and landing, and during the day we had regular overflights by beavers (commuter planes equipped with pontoons, for water landing and takeoff). The latter were loud, and they were very low, right over the house. We’d have stayed in that house another year if we had the option, but the owners were planning on tearing it down to build something much larger, so we had to move. Now we live in North Vancouver, on the other (North) side of the harbour from downtown. We don’t have aircraft noise here, but we do live a few blocks from the only freeway in the area, and that puts out a fair bit of traffic noise.

Beyond that, though, both Richmond and North Vancouver are essentially suburban. Close in suburbs, but still they are suburbs. Full of single family homes and growing sets of infill town houses and tower blocks. It’s dense living compared with the Santa Cruz Mountains, and even if you discount the airport and freeway noise, it takes adaptation to live this close to others again. People walk the street in front of our house all the time, and they talk. The dogs hate that. There are cars on the road at all hours, and when someone revs their Harley Davidson six blocks away, we know it. Our old home was on a road to nowhere, and there wasn’t much traffic at all. Quiet doesn’t begin to describe it.

Then again, in the time we’ve been here the city has already replaced the water main in the street, and the entire street is going to be repaved soon as well. Services! From the local government! We have water, sewer, natural gas, cable, phone, and electrical service to the house, which I am sure sounds perfectly normal to most people, but where we lived in California we had only electrical and phone for something like 20 years, and then we got cable. We had our own wells and a septic tank. Our home was all electric, but others in the area had propane tanks. There was lots of DIY and paid professional and maintenance on those various systems. In particular, I recall complaints from some people I knew who were lucky enough to be on local water systems. The water bills were high — $200 to $400 a month — and they hated that. But I figure my wells cost that much to maintain over the time we were there. Hire a well company to diagnose and replace a failed pump in a 400 foot deep hole in the ground and you’ll see some big bills. Add water storage tanks, pressure pumps, ozone treatment, filtration gear (and regular maintenance on that), and expenses go way up. I don’t romanticize living in the country anymore. A professionally run water system — in particular — is amazing, and worth every penny.

Mind you, I do miss the quiet, and the stars. Despite being so close to civilization, a wall of redwood trees just north of the house screened off most of the city lights. Many nights we could see the Milky Way, and I regularly saw the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye. That was beautiful. Here, the city lights are all around, and we have fewer stars by far. I haven’t seen the Milky Way since we arrived. Most nights I don’t even look up, since the view is paltry in comparison. That’s a bit sad, I must admit.

School is great fun though, despite my advancing years. I still adore the fact that I am called a “mature student.” As if. Being surrounded by 19–22 year old kids definitely keeps you on your toes, and motivates you as well. I find that fascinating. I am also in the interesting place of being older than most — possibly all — of my instructors. As a result I am more than willing to have conversations with them that the kids just wouldn’t do. Thus far, they seem to appreciate it. Maybe when school is all done and the spectre of friendships influencing grades is gone, some of these folks will become friends we see outside of school. I certainly hope so.

As for course content, that’s mostly been a blast, though I am just not as happy in 2D media. Drawing, printmaking, and painting were harder for me than sculpture, ceramics, media, and design. The academic classes have been interesting as well, and fun in ways I didn’t really expect. Art History has been fascinating, and while it isn’t a discipline I would take up to make a living, I have picked up a number of useful things from it, particularly relating to Canada, Canadian history, Canadian art, and Indigenous art. I am not an expert at all, but I know a bit more now, and I like that. My English class has been much more fun than I expected as well. There was a bit of stress over the final paper, but that was all on me and my inability to narrow the topic down adequately earlier on. It’s done and submitted now, but more on that below.

I’m also happy to report that so far I have learned nothing in conflict with what I taught my stone carving students down in California. That was always a worry. I wound up teaching stone carving (with a dear friend who is much more qualified than I am) without any formal training at all. Talk about a case of imposter syndrome! For the first few years it really bothered me, and though it got better, it never really went away. Thus far my art schooling hasn’t pointed out any gaffes on my part, and I am thrilled. This fall I will be in an advanced sculpture class, and stone is one of the media taught there. That will be lots of fun because simply hearing how it is done from another perspective is always useful. I might even encounter totally new things, and that would be great!

When Summer school is over I’ll have completed 13 of the 20 classes needed to qualify for my diploma. Technically I could complete the diploma in just two more semesters — assuming the courses I want can be scheduled without conflicts — but I think it will take me longer than that. There are classes that I want to take beyond the required ones, and getting them all in will take an additional semester or two. It will be interesting to see how it all works out.

Some of you will wonder how we’re doing on making Canada a permanent place of residence. We’re working on it. Details on that are too private to share in the open on the net, but it is a work in process. We think it will happen, and we’ll be able to stay, but until it does we don’t really control our own destiny.

A major thing to ponder in that case is where we’d wind up living. Housing costs in Vancouver are unbelievable. Depending on the article you read they are as bad as — or worse than — downtown San Francisco. Starter homes — little, 1000 square foot, old, beat up places that need to be completely modelled — go for over a million Canadian dollars. There are three homes for sale within a block of me right now, and they are listed for approximately two million, three million, and five million dollars. That last one is something of an exception: it’s a 5000 square foot house designed by a famous architect, and it’s quite pretty from the outside. The other two are normal, suburban homes of differing sizes and ages.

Assuming we get through the immigration system as expected, we then have to figure out where we live with our pack of large dogs. Those critters rule out all the condos (usually called “strata” here) and most of the town homes as well. To get a single family detached home that we can afford might mean moving pretty far out of the area, or onto one of the islands. But so far we’ve had no chance to do any travelling to see where we might like to go. It’s all up in the air. Home prices seem to be levelling off lately, so perhaps things will be a bit more affordable in a year or two if (or when) we’re ready to make such a decision, but that is unpredictable as well. There is a huge housing bubble and I suppose it could burst, though people have been predicting (and waiting for) that for a long time now. Again, we’ll see.

I’m not sure what else to say in review at this point. We are enjoying ourselves, even if we’re busy. We like the country and the people, and I can definitely say I really don’t miss US politics, except that I am still drenched in it here. If Canada can avoid going the nationalistic, jingoistic route the US has gone, it will be much better off in the long term, and there is hope on that front.

Only one more thing to mention before getting into the classes themselves. (Oh, the pictures section has other stuff in it too. Keep on reading, please!) Anyway…

Last week I shared a link to a painting by Titus Kaphar, and I linked to his website. I have no idea how many of you visited that website, but at least one of you did, and she noted a Ted talk by Kaphar on that website. I watched it and teared up. Literally. Here’s a direct link to the talk itself: Can Art Amend History? Watch it, please. It’s amazing and important. And speaking as someone who is now finishing up his third art history class in a year, Kaphar’s points are spot on.


This coming week I have one last quiz to take on the last short story, and early the week after I have the final exam. Then this class is over and my poor instructor’s email inbox will get a breather.

The final will be essay questions about the stories we read, so I will reread them all next weekend, just before the test. Should be pretty simple.

Next week I will include a full list of all the stories we read. I think I promised to do that some time back, but this post is getting too long to include them all here.

Canadian Art

  • Charles Edenshawimages — the first First Nations (specifically Haida) artist to have work attributed to him by name.
  • Bill Reidimages — the first First Nations (again, Haida) artist to have a solo art show.
  • Bob Boyerimages — a Métis Cree artist who created paintings with significant political concerns. (“Métis” comes from an old French word for “mixed” and means mixed race; Indigenous and European, usually, as I understand it.)
  • Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptunimages— a Coast Salish and Okanagan artist working in a combination of surrealist and native styles; very confrontational works, but really interesting and (I think) lovely.
  • Brian Jungenimages —a Dane-Zaa (or Dane-Za or Dane-zaa or Dane-za; I’m not 100% sure of the proper spelling and capitalization) artist working in sculptural forms, mostly (I think). Probably most famous for works made from Nike Air Jordan shoes cut up and reassembled into striking forms, patterns, and designs that look like classic Indigenous art.
  • Susan Pointimages — a fantastic Coast Salish artist. Lovely prints!

All are fascinating, and I hope you’ll chase some or all of those links. The images links all go to Google Images, so you can see a bunch of their work.

Here’s something to think about: how does a First Nations artist who doesn’t work in a style that is associated with his or her heritage get classified? What kind of work is that? Say it’s abstract expressionism. Is she a first nations artist? Or just an artist? And if the latter, how do they get recognized, given the marginalization that goes on with the First Nations in general? And given that so many non-natives want to collect Indigenous art, would that work qualify? And does continuing to work and sell more traditional style work have any negative consequences? Does it reinforce stereotypes, for example? It turns out this is complicated.

And here’s another: Susan Point and other artists have work installed at the YVR airport in a very interesting place: it’s called the Musqueam Welcome Area, and you go through it as you head towards customs and immigration. Interestingly, the airport is built on unceded Musqueam territory. That is, there is no treaty or agreement between the Musqueam band and the Canadian (or British) government governing who owns the land. Technically the land is in dispute, but the Musqueam were here first. It’s interesting to have a Musqueam Welcome Centre setup in a part of the airport where you’re not technically in Canada yet. The political statement there is powerful, even if it probably isn’t legally meaningful.

Finally, think about Brian Jungen’s works as a serious critique of consumer culture and how Indigenous people fit within it. Here’s a closeup of some masks he created. Quite impressive, and they really make you think if you let them.


  • The usual index of art school posts and other things here on Medium, because Medium didn’t get the ordering right when I imported posts from somewhere else, and I can’t figure out how to fix it.


Invictus (left) and Attessa IV with copter (right)

First, about Attessa IV and her copter — registration N165WC. A quick search on that registration number tells me the copter is owned by WCA Holdings based in Missoula Montana. Searching for that doesn’t find much. I suspect they are in the aircraft biz, somehow, and the best I can find says they do $2 million in business a year and have a total staff of four.

But the copter had an accident once. It was blown over on the deck of the yacht in strong winds off the coast of Monaco. There’s a photo of the mess here. Also note that the author of that post calls the Attessa IV a “superyacht.” Whee.

As for the Invictus, she appears to be a rental. You, too, can rent a superyacht for the low, low price of $525,000 (USD) per week. You read that right… five hundred twenty five thousand US dollars per week. Rates go down to a more manageable $476,000 per week in the Winter. You can read all about it here or here.

Excuse me… I feel the need to go vomit.

Sorry. Better now. I hope.

Anyway, I am guessing — and this is only a guess — that these people and their boats full of money are here for the big Festival of Lights celebration. It’s a three day fireworks show in Vancouver, out on the harbour. From their superyachts they can get the best views and stay away from the hoi polloi. I am sure they will have a wonderful time, whatever they do.

Now for something completely different. It’s quiz time. Here are some images, all of symbols on the walls (in various places) on the SeaBus. What do they mean?


This is a pain, and I want help. From left to right and top to bottom, here’s what I could figure out:

  • Fire Bucket. Though whether that means a bucket of fire, or a bucket full of something (probably sand?) that can be used to put out a fire is left as an exercise for the interested reader.
  • No clue. The best I can find via Google is the Deathly Hallows symbol, and I know that isn’t right.
  • No clue. Not a hint.
  • Also no clue. Google wants me to believe it’s something to do with “NYC’s largest commercial landlord” or Sri Lanka. I don’t think so.
  • Nadda clue here either.
  • Don’t Put Your Hand(s) Here. I think. This is over a hatchway, and it could be trying to keep people from putting their hands there so they don’t get smashed by the door. I can find the text “Hand Prohibition” as the description of a similar sign, but it’s not definitive.

Anyone know what these mean? I can try to ask one of the people on the SeaBus at some point, if they aren’t busy, but that hasn’t happened yet. Seriously, help me out here!

And In Conclusion…

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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