Tuesday, August 16, 2016


This past week Collette and I returned to the Royal Ontario Museum to check out new exhibitions, both concerned with some very particular areas of art.

We started out with the new Tattoo exhibit; Collette and I are what you would call lightly tattooed but we know people more involved in that lifestyle. And we're just interested in tattoos, from a historical perspective, as art and socially as well.

We thought the ROM would be a perfect place for such an exhibit, I've enjoyed pretty much every show I've ever seen there but I was not overwhelmed by this particular one. I was not underwhelmed, mine you, I was just whelmed.

Part of the problem was that it was a rather small exhibit. Perhaps if you know nothing about the history of tattooing it would be interesting but there was nothing really in depth, it was more like a teaser. A little bit about the cultures around the world where tattoos have some cultural significance; a little bit about the North American subcultures where tattoos became a novelty and from which people were able to make a living through them, in sideshows and such

Below is the picture of one of the most famous of tattooed ladies. Her husband discovered tattooing, as did many people at the beginning of the last century while travelling through the South Pacific. He met a gent there, returned from England, who said that he was making 60 dollars a year just by being heavily inked And thus started a robust sideshow industry in the west

Besides the South Pacific, where tattooing has been a part of their ritualized lives for centuries, the exhibit examined the tattooing practices from other cultures, from the Yakuza in Japan, the Maori in New Zealand and the East L.A. gang culture.

Our biggest grief with the exhibit is that there were not enough photo's of actual tattoos. There was a lot of artists renderings, they had mocked up "sleeves" of fabric with ink drawing pulled down over mannequins but there was a real sparsity of actual tattoos. And there were not enough personal stories about the tattoos. We learned a little. The lady pictured in the sequence above is a 100 year old Phillipino tattoo artist who became fond of a western artist and permitted him to tattoo her. But those interesting stories were few and far between.

But that was not the only exhibit we saw at the ROM. There was also an exhibit featuring the art of Seattle based glass blower Dale Chihuly. The name was not familiar to me but as we moved through the hall I realized that I have seen some of his work before, on TV and in real life. I've always enjoyed blown glass but Mr Chihuly definitely takes it to another level

The boat above is filled with different blown glass pieces. In outdoor installations, Chihuly would toss them in ponds and rivers to float around, he came up with the boats as vessels (get it) to collect them together

He's been doing this a long time and he's the kind of artist who leaves himself open to creative whim and also the kind of artist (with backgrounds in architecture and design) who lets function help him push out new forms

There is a lot of variety to his work but my favourite installation was title Persian Carpet. You walked into this little room, looked up and found a glass ceiling filled with hundreds of individual pieces of blown glass

They had bean bag beds scattered around and it was good for the perspective but also a required comfort, you really could spend a long time laying there, staying up, discovering one new detail after another

The Chihuly exhibit was successful because it was all about the art and they showed that art. The Tattoo exhibit tried to more than the art, it tried to encapsulate a very complex topic and, well, they fell a little short If it had had more art I would have been more satisfied but it was a good start. If they combine the annual Tattoo Convention with the ROM, well I'd probably walk away with some new ink

As it is, you may walk away after watching the video

Royal Ontario Museum Visit, August 2-16 from Victor Kellar on Vimeo.

Friday, August 12, 2016


They could come from anywhere. At any time

They could come as you sat in one of those big recliners, with snow slapping against the big picture window, a beer in your hand or a coffee in your hand or an ice cream.

They could come in the cab of the truck or the minivan. In a restaurant or a bar. At a kitchen table over dinner. At a dining room table with your family all around.

You could expect them, you could ask for them but often they could come at you anawares. Unasked but always welcome. The stories. Garry's stories

True stories sometimes. Stories about his life, about the Lodge, about the people he'd met, the places he'd been. Stories that informed

Stories about why, during winter, when driving an Acadian you shouldn't take the hills on Lodge road too fast or you'd lose your catalytic converter. And why you didn't really need the thing in the first place. Stories that educated

Stories about my partner, his sister, stories from Collette's childhood, a bit embarrassing but equally informative, educational, but mostly funny

Then there were the stories that were, well, stories. Those ones you had be on the watch for. You had to be alert. They were sneaky, these stories that were stories. They were like ninjas

They would begin like any other story Garry would tell you. There would be logic to it, there may be some element of past experiences, there would be familiar names, all designed to lure you in.

There were traps here, my friends, cunningly laid by an expert. The deadpan delivery, the sincere hand gestures, just enough detail to make it all seem plausible. But of course it wasn't. It was all a set up. For another kind of story. The kind of story that you became a part of, because if you weren't paying attention, suddenly the point of the story would be you. And your total gullibility.

At the end of the story, whenI realized you've just been taken for a ride I'd ask Garry if that was true and he'd look me right in the eye and say "Oh yeah" And it would be there, that glint in his eye and even if the story just made me look like another citiot I'd have to laugh He'd got another one over on me and I was quite happy with that

Because it was all in fun, it was all part of who Garry was and he wouldn't have done it if he suspected that I couldn't handle it.

When the storytellers pass they never really leave us. They will always be there. "You remember when Garry told us about that" "There was that time Garry set me up, man he was good" "Yeh, I heard that story from Garry before"

He's always going to be there, in the stories, in the sense of fun, in that glint in his eye

So thank you Garry. Thanks for teaching me, for informing me, for helping me, for entertaining me. And yes, thanks for busting my balls.

I'll miss you

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