Thank you, Carole Baldock, for including “City of Tulum” in Orbis: International Literary Journal, #191, Spring 2020.
My visit to the Maya ruins of Tulum came about as a wonderful bit of travel serendipity during a sailing sojourn to Isla Mujeras. My friend and I took a ferry from the island to the mainland and rented a car to drive down the Maya peninsula to the archeological site. Rain pelted and the streets flooded as we crossed Cancun and made our way southward. Harrowing — as Tulum once was for sailors approaching from the sea.
Tulum is unique among Maya sites: it is the only one of the ruins on the water. That day, after the rain softened to mist, we ventured along winding paths past stepped-structures reaching into the sky. We could hear waves breaking before we came to the precipice overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The poem describes one of the historic edifices, as well as the use the people made of the treacherous shallows. I hope that you enjoy reading “City of Tulum.”
City of Tulum
A veil of constant rain cloaked Tulum
perched high on a cliff above this ancient Mayan port
where ships with hulls of treasures were guided into shallows onto reefs
where once Mayan priests
ritualistic keepers and writers of knowledge astrology and cultic rites
climbed wearing long robes their heads drooping plumage
climbed close to their gods in the sky
where a still beating heart pulled from a chest fed the gods’ hunger
where shadows cast ominous stains on an altar.
I search the ruins of Tulum
for what lingers ghostlike in the mist.
At the precipice above fishermen casting nets from small boats
my feet cling to the edge high above the sea.
This exhibition celebrates International Women’s Day, March 8 — a global day honouring the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women all over the world. The show’s goal is to encourage women to express themselves artistically and authentically.
Mounted broadsheet: “Avatar,” a poem and original watercolour image
Oil sketch: “The Seeker”
These works join an amazing group of artists – painters, photographers, writers. Drop by the Quinte Arts Council at 36 Bridge Street East, PO Box 22113, Belleville, Ontario K8N 5A2, phone 613-962-1232 or visit the website: Quinte Arts Council.
Please share if you want to celebrate International Women’s Day. And, please, let me know what you think.
Previously published in the Intelligencer on: June 6, 2019 | Last Updated: June 6, 2019 10:08 AM EDT
By Kathryn MacDonald
Quinte Arts Council
On a cool afternoon last fall, I met Daniel Fobert at Gallery 121 on Bridge Street East in downtown Belleville, where he was exhibiting two oil paintings.
One of Fobert’s greatest strengths is the narrative in his paintings. In Kensington after the Rain, the foreground is taken up by a man gazing at a cell phone, while two friends look on. Behind them, people go about their daily business beneath colourful awnings. Imagine the story.
In the second painting exhibited at Gallery 121, a colourful nude fills the canvas. Here the oils dance in bright rainbow hues. In Untitled, a portrait of an unnamed woman, we have an example of Fobert’s balanced use of complementary colour.
He tells me that his greatest challenge “is to feel that what I do is relevant in the face of a world where everything is non-representational.”
Abstract expressionism has been a dominant trend in Western art since the 1950s led by artists such as Jackson Pollock. Essentially, it defines non-representation work that strives to show the interior energy of experience rather than the outward image. Fobert adds even “[Jean-Paul] Riopelle returned to representational work after developing his renown in abstract expressionism.”
To compose the scene, Fobert uses photography as a guide to street paintings.
He doesn’t copy them; rather, he says, “I translate the photographed scenes into my composition.”
Daniel’s paintings demonstrate his drawing skill and his strength of composition. He also successfully achieves a sense of atmosphere or mood, a quality that is reminiscent of colourful expressionist artists such as LeRoy Nieman, whose name sports fans are especially likely to recognize for his paintings of athletes and sporting events.
Fobert began painting in high school, which is when he decided to “pursue an art career.” After studying graphic arts at Sheridan College—a wide-ranging program that included such courses as life drawing, print making, and colour theory—Fobert became involved with Toronto-based Screen Art Products.
There he was mentored by the owner, Ira Noble, who had studied with Arthur Lismer of Canada’s famous Group of Seven. Fobert eventually became co-owner of the company with his life-partner Mervin Patey. Among their clients were the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Aga Khan Museum. During this period, Fobert “kept his creative spirit alive” by participating in Artists 25, a non-profit artists’ cooperative in Toronto.
A few years ago, Fobert “came home” to the Quinte region. “Part of my retirement goal is giving back,” he says. He is an active member of Gallery 121, the Baxter Art Centre, and the Quinte Arts Council.
To see more of Daniel Fobert’s work or to be in touch, please visit his website: danielfobert.com. You can find him on Facebook and Twitter as well.
This article about artist Emebet Belete was first published in the “Intelligencer,” Belleville Ontario’s daily newspaper (2018-10-17).
By Kathryn MacDonald
“Creating art is constant reflection: I love finding the perfect colour to express a mood, or to balance a painting so that I can look at it again and again and lose myself in the scene.”
Emebet Belete is a world traveller, a woman who was born in Ethiopia where her career as an artist began and who moved from East Africa through South Africa and Zimbabwe, Eretria and Egypt, Europe and finally to Canada in 1997 where she earned Fine Art and Education degrees from Queen’s University. In 2008, she taught art in Tianjin, China, returning to Canada to settle in Belleville in 2013.
“In school I learned about Ethiopian art. I was fortunate to have a good art teacher. My parents were very supportive and I had a studio in our family’s yard.” Unfortunately, that studio burned down, but it was replaced, and Emebet continued to create art out of the materials she could gather together. These early roots have since branched into collages in which she explores her Canadian context.
Emebet Belete’s philosophy lives in her art. Her intention to seek something mysterious and lasting through colour, mood, and balance draws viewers deep within the work. In “Birch,” our eyes are pulled from the foreground birch, past the evergreen, deep into the depths of the Canadian landscape. This is also true of “By the Door,” a painting in which she captures a doorway into Debre Berhan Selassie, one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches.
As with the Canadian scene, we find a story unfolding. Here we see the hot colours of Africa and our eyes are drawn to the partially open doorway to wonder what lies beyond. The white-robed figure looks forward, while we see only his back. We enter with him. We can read the painting in different ways. Perhaps we see the fading frescoes or the ceiling of winged cherubs within the mid-15th century church. Or perhaps, instead of a sanctuary to contemplate, our mind focuses on the dark beyond the open door, on the unknown future. Art expresses a vision of the artist, but it also welcomes viewers with ambiguity, sparking curiosity and enlarging knowing.
“Art is a journey for me. I can see paintings…watercolours I’ve done. They relate to my life, my experience, my background. I like to put things together, to go deeper, to learn who I am.”
I glanced at the table between us. It is covered with work-in-progress and bits of birch bark and paper. “So your life is a collage, like your art?”
“Yes, it is.”
Emebet Belete is preparing for a show at the Modern Fuel Gallery, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, January 2019. It will explore “white space and mood. I’ll use traditional fabric from Ethiopia” combined with music—Seongah and Jimmy by Neil Diamond—“that I listened to again and again and again.”
For more about Emebet’s art, please see her website: Emebet Belete.
Travelling provides a portal between cultures, a bridge between what’s known and what’s unknown.
Travelling makes me foreign; my perspective shifts from that of an insider to that of an outsider.
While I love the adventures and the hikes, exploring historical sites and the art world of the places I visit, it is people that intrigue and engage. One thing that soon became clear, as I wandered the neighbourhoods of Baracoa, is that people don’t shut themselves inside—even when home or at work—they peer out from windows and doors. Often, I was greeted with a dias (abbreviating the more formal buenos días/good morning) or simply hola (hi).
This collection of photos called “Windows & Doors” taken during my March-April 2018 trip to Baracoa focuses on people. Each photograph records a mere moment in time, capturing the liminal space between public and private, between personal and social. Each photograph documents spontaneous, transient moments, none were posed.
Travelling, I become an observer of people’s connections with each other, and at times with people engrossed in their phone, newspaper, or thoughts. Sometimes—especially with the children—there’s awareness of my intrusion. The children, like me, are observers.
Outside Baracoa in the little fishing village of Boca de Miel on a day when the rainforest earned its name, I captured this man who rode quickly down the muddy road. He took refuge under the awning of the park’s booth (entrance to Elemento Natural Destacado Mara-Majayara). I’d taken refuge with my friend “Alber the Hiker” on a cafeteria’s bougainvillea-verandah. (More of this later and about the Oriente’s rainforest where it poured proverbial buckets.)
Also for a future blog: Excursion along the Toa River, seen here through the kitchen window where we enjoyed a visit with Alber’s relatives and a feast.
To be notified of future posts, click on “follow” and fill out the form; you’ll receive email notifications.
I’ve just returned from nearly a month’s stay in the eastern tip of Cuba where I explored nature, history, the unique Baracoa style of art and its many studios, and so much more. It was my third trip to the area and each visit opens doors to new experiences and insights.
Cuba’s eastern tip, known as Oriente, offers
one of the few rain forests in North America (although most of us think of Cuba as Caribbean, and it is that too) where Hurricane Matthew left a path of destruction but didn’t dispel the indomitable spirit of the people;
the tallest waterfall in the Caribbean (the 20th tallest in the world) and many lesser ones with their own special beauty;
a semi-desert in the region of Maisi (say My-see) and the Terraces that step up from the lowlands to the sea with breath-taking twists and views (and for geography buffs, the Maisi lighthouse on the Windward Channel is only 80 kilometres from Haiti);
the Farola Highway, which creates passage from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean Sea, is known as an engineering marvel, not to mention an adventurous ride (and on the south shore where I set off on foot to the site of poet-revolutionary José Marti’s famous landing in 1895, which set off a revolution that aimed to free Cuba of Spain’s rule);
Baracoa — a provincial city with a two-kilometre-plus-long malacon, that brims with art galleries, parks, and the friendliest people you will ever meet. It’s the biggest city in the area and the starting point for numerous day-trips to places like Rio Yumuri, Rio Toa, Rio Miel, each providing its own unique experience and ambience — and Alejandro Humboldt Nation Park, a United Nations designated site to touch on only a few places to enjoy a boat ride or to hike.
Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting photos and stories; click below to follow my many adventures in one of the most varied and beautiful landscapes in the world (and this is not hyperbole).
Travel memories: Winter in Canada has kept me reading and sketching, hence the book reviews and now this ink and watercolour sketch.
Without travels, I’ve been kept inside reading-like-a-writer (my creative writing muse seems to be on vacation) and sketching. These moccasins, purchased from the Beaver People in northern British Columbia Canada, now have holes in the soles. I still treasure them and the memories of that visit in the 1990s. Here they’re rendered in ink and watercolour.
Water fowl – Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, an immature Little Blue Heron, and Mute Swans – all put on spectacular shows for me over a couple of afternoons and two misty mornings last weekend.
We left the marina aboard Magic Badger (a 38-foot sailing sloop) on Friday morning and took our time (about five lazy hours) to travel across the Bay of Quinte down through Long Reach and across the northern end of Adolphus Reach to Picton Harbour where we arranged a mooring near the harbour’s entrance. It was a weekend of reading and photography – two of my passions – and the water fowl put on quite a show.
Cormorants are my least favourite water fowl. They tend to flock to a single area and their guano kills the trees in which they perch. Seldom do you see one or two; they are very social. They’re easily recognized flying low over the water across distances with black, rough feathers and yellow-orange bill; quite big with up to a 33-inch wing span. Swimming they lift their beak in the air looking very snobbish. They rest atop rocks, holding their wings out to dry like Anhinga. This photo was taken near a tree the cormorants are defoliating. The reeds in the background provide protection from predators for the swans, and I managed to capture three of them along with the cormorants.
Saturday morning I woke early and crawled out of my sleeping bag and the forward cabin. Quickly I put espresso on to brew and climbed above into a spectacular morning. On Sunday I set the alarm and rose at 6:30, climbed above to enter what felt like a cloud. I could barely see anything. With coffee brewing I took a seat at Magic Badger’s stern, camera in hand. (She’s a 38-foot, 2-cabin and 2-head Beneteau sailing sloop with a fully-equipped galley and large salon; her cockpit is canvas enclosed and I think she’s beautiful. The camera is a Nikon Coolpix P610 that works very well when the situation doesn’t lend itself to a tripod and various lenses).
Watching the Canada Geese in early mornings made me laugh aloud. They swam across the channel from a place hidden behind a point of land over to a weedy shore across the way. I had a good view from Magic Badger’s stern. They honk and honk and honk, calling to each other until finally the last one must say okay in honk language because they all begin flapping and lifting up from the water like a chorus line that can’t get it together.
Once in the air, Canada geese are graceful as they push the air with their huge 45-inch wing span. I snapped photo after photo as they emerged from early-morning mist.
On Saturday afternoon I dawdled away the hours keeping my eye on a small white heron (the guide says 27 inches) but I was some distance away stranded on the sailboat. It was feeding along the grassy shore and frequently hidden by a row of posts driven into the waters’ edge. Then one of the posts seemed to move ever so slightly; not a post at all but a Great Blue Heron (50 inches) in dark morph. It resumed a hunch stance with its head almost hidden. So it isn’t a great photo of the two, but the best I could do with the limitations of the camera I had aboard.
Later, at dusk, I managed to catch the Great Blue Heron flying low across to the east side of channel.
But the crème de la crème is the Mute Swan…and I saw a few, more than ever before as Magic Badger has journeyed back and forth through the passages leading out to Lake Ontario. They surpass the Canada Geese by 10 inches and are far more graceful with their S-curved necks. The adults carry themselves with extreme dignity, hovering and turning quietly toward their young, constantly checking like protective parents.
As we made our way up Long Reach toward Deseronto and our home port at Crate Marine, Belleville, I looked up to see three swans flying. Fortunately I had the camera slung around my neck.
In a short while – where Long Reach flows out of the bay – a large family swam across in front of us. They were moving toward to place where the first photo (with the cormorants) was taken.
Days and nights off the dock and away from the marina are always treats, but this September weekend has outdone them all. It looks as if it will be the last time out this season before the boat goes up on the hard for the winter (like Scrooge, I echo “bah humbug”). But what memories captured in early morning mist and in the dusk of ever-earlier evenings.
Reference: Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region
Lucky me! I have a studio room, an atelier, a room of my own. It sits in the front of the house with tall north-facing windows and good light. Once it was the dining room, but rarely used. Now the dining table sits at the rear overlooking the small city backyard. It’s closer to the kitchen with an even better view. Why not?
With the dining table gone – replaced by a smaller more practical one in a place more convenient – the empty space quickly filled with a row of bookcases, a small collection of indigenous baskets, red-tailed hawk feathers (and others) from the fields, favourite photographs and paintings, a drop-leaf worktable, an old secretary topped with a computer (and more bookshelves), and a claw-footed piano stool for the desk. All this came together quite readily as I scrounged through the house and visited Funk & Gruven – all except for an oversize, elusive wing-back chair.
After weeks of peeking into antique and used-furniture stores, I was returning home from a workshop with a fellow writer in a neighbouring town. There, in an old church-cum-shop, stood my chair. It is big; I can curl up in it and be hidden by its high back and broad wings. It is plaid and in my favourite colours – rosy and green hues. It is the perfect chair. In it, I’ve been rereading Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’sOwn, again. Much has changed since c.1928, but travel, life experiences beyond the immediate family and social circle, and a room of one’s own – Woolf’s prerequisites for a literary life – remain paramount. They are more accessible, c.2017, than in Woolf’s day, but still….
I have now spent hours in the chair, lost in virtual travels through distant places and inside others’ lives (hence the book reviews), and I have sketched the chair (but that’s another passion for another day).