My frequent collaborator and co-conspirator on many adventures Kris Krug has a new website. KK is a Vancouver-area based photographer (he lives on idyllic Galiano Island) with creds ranging from conferences to rare bird docs on remote islands to sojourns in distant countries spreading goodness.
We’ve done many projects together over the years including Frederick Varley Vancouver-address photo essay, trip to Jamaica, several SXSW and Gnomedex geekfests and all sorts of goofing around in unusual circumstances.
Kris Krug’s Flickr archive is majestic and his new website is a replacement for his previous iterations which were hijacked via an SMS hack in 2018. So frustrating and a reminder to solid up your security (including SSL) and ensure you are working with a reliable host and domain registration provider (i use Laughing Squid and Gandi for the record).
There are many posts in this archive under the Kris Krug tag as well including lots of Olympic social documentation stuff around the True North Media House project, TEDx events at which we were the “official” documentation squad, longboard hockey for Heads Magazine and a panel about Rock n Roll photography with legend bev. davies.
Along his namesake trail on banks of Lynn Creek comes story of Group of 7 bohemian painter Frederick Varley’s 10 wild years in Vancouver teaching and founding art schools, developing new aesthetics and shacking up in an $8 mountain home with mistress.
My WordCamp Whistler co-conspiritor, photographerKris Krug , shot video of my entire “Are you Worthy?” spiel with his new Flipcam and posted it in a YouTube playlist in 5 segments for your viewing convenience – in 2009 (when Youtube had a 10 minute limit). Meanwhile in 2018, I’ve stitched the bits together into one video for your viewing amusement.
Artifact dossier: Collage art boards from “Forgotten Vancouver Stories (aka Poets, Punks and Revolutions)” spiel presented in various formats at Pecha Kucha Night Vancouver, All-start edition, and Northern Voice 2013 closing keynote. Video and roundup of both prezos exists elsewhere in this archive.
Each collage “slide” was handmade (obviously) with ephemera from my personal collection (exceptions credited on final “slide”) then, arranged on hemp cloth “storyboards”, photographed by Rachel Ashe, then disassembled. An analog to digital remix of sorts. Presented here in rather large size for your printing/screensaver/ amusement and posterity.
Leading up to Vancouver 2010 Olympics, filmmaker Andrew Lavigne followed, filmed and documented various stories around social justice and social media. One storyline was the “True North Media House” a renegade media project cooked up by me, Kris Krüg & Robert Scales based on our experiences documenting previous Olympics. In brief, we wanted to create a context in which grassroots bloggers, photographers, podcasters, vidmakers etc. could capture and share stories, reach a wider audience, and (if they chose to) stay out of trouble with IOC.
We aimed to take a non-political, non-denominational, non-everything kind of approach in that folks were welcome to write about whatever they want and participate anyway they wanted as long as they: took responsibility for their own work, published content under creative Commons license, submitted their RSS feeds to our “firehose”. This was unique amidst the adversarial relationship the Olympics built up with various constituent groups in the community. In other words, the Olympics were going to happen in our city, and we had an opportunity to share stories of what life is really like in Vancouver, the neighbourhoods we live in and the changes we saw to our civic society during that time, plus lots of parties
Wisely, we eschewed a physical space in favour of providing a litany of meet-ups, campaigns, workshops, and offering access to our mailing list and other channels to all the PR agencies, hospitality houses, various educational an activist groups and so on providing a wide variety of topics and events for TNMH accredited documenters to document. By the way, to be accredited, one must agree to the three principles above, and print out their own badge, lamination optional but recommended. Overall, so many wonderful people took on this challenge from youth to elders, people who thought they would have no interest in the Olympics to people who were diehard enthusiasts, to activists to people seeking free beer.
Uncounted thousands of stories were created, amplified through some very strategic social media kung fu, and the story of True North Media House became a story for the mainstream media with coverage in dozens of publications. Indeed, some “mainstream” journalists wrote with a glint of envy about our lack of word counts, deadlines and assignments… Yet we were motivated and focused enough to actually create compelling narratives and artifacts.
Storymaker Dave uncleweed Olson shares an eclectic variety of stories from Vancouver’s counter-culture history on a stage adorned with a record player, campfire & cub scout blanket, art easel, flowers and an Expo 86 mug – plus pulls artifacts from an old-timey suitcase to illustrate forgotten past of a city which is/was much cooler than most realize.
Presented at Northern Voice, June 2013 in Vancouver, Canada, his 11th presentation to this noted personal expression conference (and his last talk before a medical “retirement”).
At the iconic Smilin Buddha Cabaret and Restaurant in Vancouver’s downtown Eastside, legendary punk rock photographer bev. davies (sic) shows the photos in her recent “(Return to the) Scene of the Crime” exhibit featuring photos taken at his landmark venue between 1979 and 1983.
Dave uncleweed Olson — with attorney Lindsay Lazlo Bailey — asks about her process, the stories behind photos, anecdotes about the subjects and flashbacks about the shows.
Plus, they discuss:
* various parenting tips and stories with heavy metal warlords (Bruce Dickinson, Lemmy Killmister, Dee Snider)
* ideas for a book of bev’s photos (form, cost, etc)
* the history of her remarkable calendars with Nardwuar
* some friends who’ve died (RIP Dave Gregg, Brain Goble)
* hollandaise sauce and skateboards ramps
Note: As a fan and supporter of bev’s work, i’ve also interviewed her (along with new-school photographer and activist Kris Krug) at Northern Voice in a talk called “Building a Scene — Rock n Rock Photos” and another interview to appear soon.
Originally published in Heads Magazine Toke on the Porch blog on January 22, 2007
Out n’ about on assignment for a forthcoming Heads article, I witnessed a sport hitherto unknown to me which combined many activities I enjoy into one sublime recreational pursuit: full contact hockey, tasty weed, chillaxin’ and longboarding (I am a newb – just cruised the Stanley Park seawall a couple times).
Anyhow, ace photog KK+, fashionista Kdon and my rolling amigo Cousin Herb chronicled the action – both the ongoing hockey games and boarders running the six story garage kamikaze style while sliding hard stops at the bottom and riding elevator back up for another go. Besides KK‘s tasty snapshots, I shot some video I’ll cobble together into a clip soon.
Here are a few outtakes, anecdotes and pics of the exploits:
On the stuffed elevator ride to the 6th floor, before I can pull the fattie of Chocolate Jack Herer from behind my ear, a smiling chick in blond pigtails and a Team Canada jersey sparks a beauty doobie.
Turns out she’s The Bloods’ goalie Natasha getting in another run before playing her former team, the North Shore Slashers after they finish off the Shitmix. She doesn’t seem insane yet she eagerly faces wildmen firing beer cans at her head, “It’s nuts out there, there are no rules, everyone should try it.”
Some incredible boarders (behold the mightiness of King Brian!) and a bewildering assortment of boards, mostly Landyachtz and Rayne.
“The Meathheads” are up 2-1 thanks to a wiry dude sans helmet who snakes through defenders – hard sliding to the left while shooting off the right, one foot flying behind.
Just when it looks easy, he takes a hit goes Bobby-Orr-flying through the air onto the pavement, then leaps back up before being run down. Turns out this savant is “King” Brian who skates for the 9-0 Chilliwack team. He’s also the Longboard Hockey League’s defending scoring champ and frequent curator of the Chanley Cup.
Besides the Longboard Hockey League, Coastlongboarding organizes a 4 day festival in May on the Sunshine Coast with a downhill race, championship hockey game and punk bands at a reserved campground at Danger Bay.
I ask another Chilliwack Meathhead called Tyson what possesses them to drive out from the farthest burb of Chilliwack – a town I remember mostly for grow houses and cow shit – “it’s about the community” he says rolling up a huge cone from my ample first aid kit of bud. His buddy adds, “Yeah, all we do is skate and smoke weed.”
Sounds good to me, pulling a hoot with my head fogged and face grinning. “Good stuff” he says, as i dodge a bearded dude on a six wheel skateboard barrelling down the garage ramp.
An intriguing evening at the LHL games for sure – I spread the custom Heads rollies around Cousin Herb rolled up the aforementioned Chocolate Jack Herer using the “made in Spain” Raws and those clear rolling substrates I’ve become so fond of.
Of course, I recorded interviews and action for a forthcoming Choogle on with Uncle Weed podcast. Recent episodes make fine companions to my HeadFirst articles, “Rebagliati Positive for 2010” and “Zen Rambling in Japan.” Check out “International Heads and Hemp Oil – Choogle on #34” for some behind the scenes commentary and anecdotes from the articles plus my interview with Ross is at “Coffee talk with Gold Medalist Ross Rebagliati.”
My article “Rebagliati Positive About 2010” was published in “Heads – the Marijuana Lifestyle magazine” Vol. 6 Issue 10 “The Stoned Cold Issue.”
Like “Zen Rambling in Japan” the Ross article is the “Head First” lead article and over 3000 words and I also managed one photo in there (the one with the big nug). A great layout and Kris Krug‘s fine shots of a candid Ross frame the article nicley indeed.
The article discusses 1998 Nagano Olympic snowboard gold medalist and Canadian sporting legend, Ross Rebagliati’s quest for 2010 Olympics in Whistler/Vancouver plus his training routine, fundraising efforts, quest to make the team role on tour and recreational interests.
Importantly, he breaks down the events and emotions of the big shakedown in Nagano. Hear more about the fallout from his positive marijuana test from an interview I did in Vancouver during the 2006 Turin games.
Originally published on Aug 17, 2014 at Vancouver Observer. Republished here intact for posterity.
What follows is Part 3 of a three-part series exploring the decade which Group of Seven painter Frederick Varley lived in Vancouver and played a pivotal role in the creation of a west coast art movement and sensibility.
Trained in Belgium, and unlike the rest of the G7, primarily a portraitist, Varley explored his rugged new location – from a Jericho cabin to summer-long camps in Garbaldi – and often with a group of students and artists along, before moving to a cheap place in Lynn Canyon with his mistress. While there, broke and often drunk, he painted true masterpieces on insulation paper. Commemorated with only a trail along Lynn Creek, come along to learn about one of Vancouver’s (almost) unknown shapers.
Art creates our future. When master craftsman skills, meet emotional intent, and is amplified by originality and integrity, a piece of the human experience – a chapter in the collective history – is minted.
As these artifacts are assembled and cherished by subsequent generations they inspire and demonstrate the struggles of existence, evolutions of culture, sagas and stories, and idealized figures, through paintings and other medium.
But art is not static – or shouldn’t be anyhow. In the best works, the influences and interpretations are able to inspire beyond generations. And of course, there is no end of stories about artists who are undiscovered or underappreciated in their own time.
Frederick Varley fell somewhere in between.
Early notoriety came with the Group of 7 and adventures with Tom Thomson and the idea of hearty artists clambering mountains, canoeing rapids, and laying thick swaths of paint in free forms in the then emerging country. These painters created a new kind of Canadian hero, artistic Coureur des bois, adventurers seeking views, rather than pelts.
Unlike his peers, Varley was a portraitist and a reluctant landscape painter. However his landscapes were often so stirring, when complete the images somehow “felt” like nature more than “resembled” nature. So it goes, the painting which defines Varley to many art historians and enthusiasts is “Stormy Weather, Georgian Bay” which hangs in the Canada’s National Gallery.
The public (read: art dealers) always wanted more grand natural scenes like others of his Group produced – to great acclaim and often financial success. But Varley felt there was no challenge in landscapes, and since several other of his G7 colleagues had painted this same bay over the years, so he saw no point in creating an industry of this one location.
By any measure, during his time in BC, he produced his most transformative works. The mix of his eye and energy, coupled with the stunning, rugged vistas and interesting human faces, was a perfect match for Varley to create without restraint or direction from anyone.
By fusing Chinese scroll paintings and unique perspectives, colour symbolism, and pushing the subject to the outside of the canvas, he created a purely original aesthetic which was unlike any paintings hitherto created on the rugged West coast.
Though not a landscape painter per se, towards the end of his time in Vancouver area, flat broke living in Lynn Canyon he returned to landscapes because there were no other models besides the two of them, both of which he’d painted many times.
The results of these final months are often watercolour gouache on insulation backing paper, or odds and ends of colour tubes, and board. Yet even with scraps of supplies, his subtle technique captured both the tranquility and promise of unexplored nature, and the quiet potential power of the same nature around him.
While your humble writer attended school diligently in then barely sprawling suburbs of Vancouver, stomped around Lynn Canyon (and the free suspension bridge!) with my brothers, as a scout hiked along the Baden Powell trail, at no point did I hear of Frederick Varley – until I moved to a new neighbourhood, and found a perfect trail which led me to learn who Varley was, and what he left behind.
From a practical standpoint, he left debt to his partner in BC Arts College, his wife Maude and children (who later bought and lived in the Lynn Canyon house for many years until she died in 1975), his mistress/muse Vera Weatherbie, who after relationships with both Varley and Vanderpant, married Harold Mortimer-Lamb, a painter (whom Varley painted).
Later in her life, Vera received more appreciation of her art but, by that time, she had left her artist life mostly behind and preferred to promote interest for her husband’s works.
We know Varley left Vancouver towards Ottawa. We know he easily found art-minded ladies to be his patrons, he emerged for sketching and painting journeys to the Arctic, the USSR, and returned as far west as the Rocky Mountains. And he emerged for this film in 1953. Still somewhat spry, still somehow sad. But, tracing his steps amidst the neighbourhoods in Vancouver, where he captured his artistic lightning, i can’t help to feel like something of importance is missing from these seminal days of local art. A slice of the story, yet unpreserved or underused.
Link Library: Further Frederick Varley reading: This link library contains dozens of links to Varley bios, critiques, histories, plus anecdotes from local historians and hikers.
Film: In 1953, Varley played himself in a 16-minute film directed by Allan Wargon and produced by the National Film Board.
In the film which really has no dialogue, we see Varley returning from a hike in the hills. He hitchhikes back into town and into a small apartment and studio with canvases in various states of completion. Fred mutters and fumbles around before going out for bread and cheese. Soon after a nibble, he finds his spark, his flow, his inspiration and begins a new creation.
In the background, you’ll notice the his late masterpiece, the translucent and radiant “Liberation”. A skeletal man in a state of bliss or transcendence – or perhaps he is suffering?
CBC Interview: “A Visit to Frederick Varley” was again created by Allan Wargon. While not available for embedding or downloading, this interview which aired on CBC on April 20, 1965 (4 years before his death), is likely the last video footage of Varley. In this clip he candidly discusses his technique for painting portraits – including his opinion about beautiful people.
Blogger: Eve Lazurus in Spacing.ca also turns in a charming personal account of hiking around Varley’s Lynn Canyon home (and also stopping in at End of the Line cafe) in her Frederick Varley’s Vancouver.
Photographs: Kris Krug displays his favourites Kodachromes from the exploration of addresses on Flickr, KK Varley tag.
Gallery: There is a Varley Art Gallery in as part of the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham, Ontario and a street in Unionville, Ontario bears his name. McKay refers to a patron who supporting Varley later in life.
VAG: Vancouver Art Gallery has collected 19 Varley paintings or sketches as well as a fond of personal papers including some illuminating letters from his son who became an art dealer and was agent for selling the elder Varley’s work.
Varley paintings at Vancouver Art Gallery
Portrait of H. Mortimer-Lamb, c.1930 Untitled Figure Study, 1939 Dawn, 1929 Steeple Mountain, Kootenay Lake, 1956 Sketch of Garrow Bay, c.1935 Mountain Vista, B.C., 1929 Untitled, 1929 Untitled, 1929 Untitled, 1929 Swimming Pool at Lumberman’s Arch, 1932 Untitled (Vera and Mr. Weatherbie), 1929 Young Artist at Work, 1924 Ice Floes, Low Tide, Cape Dorset, 1938 Blue Ridge, Upper Lynn, 1931 Bridge Over Lynn, 1932 Girl’s Head, c. 1931 Evening-Georgian Bay, c.1920 Mount Garibaldi, 1927-1928
Artists influenced by Varley
Along with the aforementioned Ms. Weatherbie, other painters influenced by Frederick Varley – either as students or contemporaries – include: Emily Carr, Charles Scott, Jock MacDonald, Irene Hoffar Reid, Beatrice Lennie.
There is a variety of ways to connect your contemporary experience with Varley’s era. Whether you paint, record, dance, hike, write or otherwise, find a way to create and share your work.
Below are more examples, resources, ideas, ephemera and creative prompts to inspire and celebrate the birth of a Vancouver art culture, and the renegades who shaped it, and us.
“Varley at Jericho”
Two swimmers, heads bobbing way out there beyond the buoys Varley solid after a bottle of red with gaggle of glowing students striving for direction and inspiration about how to go beyond ~ what is the level above?
when human and nature, face and landscape portrait and treatment are lost ~ all forgotten in the sublime asymmetry
Vanderpant and his photos showing more than just the realness – tell the story beyond the moment – the river doesn’t stop after the shutter closes where did the rivers without end begin?
Look closely across the inlet and you can see where to wander to find the first
drops of melting cascading over lichen and rock, filters through alpine moss & gravel into a ravine, the gullies collect the raw material to begin the rivers which continue to flow until they find their end
Blackberries grow where Varley sat Jericho now leisure-time activities weddings for international industrialists sandy for blue- haired lounger – leathery from routine silhouette of grey and green, cypress to seymourdivots for Capilano and Lynn the horseshoe toes slipping into the sound the only clears for the sky
island and headlands fjords and freshers lighthouses & old growth anoint the end of land give away to the space in between
higher now they climb wooden pioneers drifted into the concrete and glass cantilevered over cliffs craning to see what is directly ahead.
the veranda hosted parties fraternized student faculty late conversations with wine moving rugged frontier forms and vocabularies of culture not contrived, not crafted but not wrestled, – coaxed from the confluence of river, sea and land sit with your tools where were you when no one was here but beachcombers and outliers and occasional picnicers
the ferries would carry you from Jericho to Ambleside, forays and for day of weekend holiday respite but the more, someone needs to the tell the story of how the tree became logs and people grow into the land and emerged after exploration and surrender – well affected
Varley Residence & Studio Map:
Artist Joanna Ambrosio remixed the Google Map into something more “Varley-ish”.