Three shows or Embarassment of Riches

So, how busy am I? My show, Maisons modèles, opened at the Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal on January 29. For more info on that you can read the article in Le Plateau. My exhibit of illustrations from Tork Angegh opened at Atelier Circulaire on February 8. On March 3, my show, Animal Instincts, will open at Atelier-galerie Alain Piroir. Whenever I get tempted to feel a hint overwhelmed I think of women who have three children in a row…or triplets! Then I realize that this is a relative breeze. I can have three shows in a row, bang, bang, bang. At least I don’t have to feed, burp, and diaper my artwork and at the end of my busy day I go to bed and sleep peacefully the whole night through!

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Speaking of kids, on Sunday, my son, Pablo, came to Atelier Circulaire to help me hang the illustration show. We lugged 21 framed pieces from the car to the fifth floor of 5445 de Gaspé Avenue. Fellow artist, Wing, was quick to suggest stretching string across the wall as a guide for our nails. When I hear good advice I follow it. At one point I sat down while Pablo hammered the two rows of nails. Just then Stella passed by and said that I looked like a queen. At that moment I did feel quite regal, almost as regal as Haykanush on her wedding day. If you want to see what she wore on the day of her marriage to Tork Angegh, you have to come to Atelier Circulaire and see for yourself in the final image in this perfectly hung sequence of illustrations!

Exhibiting these works at my own studio is a wonderful experience. Every time I pass the gallery, invariably on my way to the kitchen to brew a pot of brown rice tea, someone comments on the show. The artists at my studio know Talleen the printmaker and are surprised to discover Talleen the illustrator. Up to now, my favorite comment came from Frederique: “I didn’t know you could draw!”

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Whenever I sit at the kitchen table I can see and contemplate my exhibition. I feel a sense of pride and also a sense of relief that I got through that challenging, stimulating, yet at times arduous project.

Stella, Wing, and Roberto suggested that I use the showcase on the ground floor to advertise my show. When I was little I used to think that it would be cool to be a window dresser. I told Wing I could display my book in the showcase with a bottle of expensive wine or maybe some plastic sushi to lure people up to the fifth floor studio. The promise of food and drink always works. Then I thought of changing the display every day. My final idea was to stand in there for a whole day in a fancy evening gown showing my book the way the gals would show off prizes on The Price is Right. I saw a Ritzy version of that trick in a New York jewelry shop on Fifth Avenue. I don’t know where they found that stunning, blonde woman. She was a real head-turner in that long, black gown and that glittering diamond choker as she leaned against a shiny grand piano. For now, I have a copy of Tork Angegh in the window…and this blog to attract visitors to the show.

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On a more mundane note, these days it’s quite easy to find parking spots around Atelier Circulaire. O.K. I’m feeling generous–on Henri-Julien, between Laurier and Maguire. Between April 1 and December 1, when parking bylaws become stricter, it is not unusual to circle the area for up to 20 minutes before parking and finally feeling the bliss of pavement beneath your feet. This morning I literally had a choice of three parking spots. I had the luxury of choosing the big one, on the left, perfectly shoveled by an unknown citizen of Mile End. I thought to myself, parking these days is so easy it’s not even fun anymore. The intensity of the challenge equals the intensity of pleasure when that challenge has been met. The point being, when my third show opens on March 3, I should be flying pretty high. Come check out my flight pattern. In the meantime, you have two other shows to choose from. L’embarras du choix, which translates into a strange expression I have never heard–embarrassment of riches.

Talleen Hacikyan

Animal Instincts
Atelier-galerie Alain-Piroir

5333, rue Casgrain, suite 802
514 276-3494
March 3 to 28, 2009
Vernissage: Friday March 6, 5:00 to 9:00 pm

Maisons modèles
Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal

465, avenue du Mont-Royal
514 872-2266
January 29 to March 8, 2009

Illustrations for Tork Angegh
Atelier Circulaire

5445 de Gaspé Avenue, Fifth floor
514 272-5413
February 8 to 28, 2009

Exhibition at La Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal

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It’s show time. That special time when every activity revolves around the final stages of orchestrating a solo show. Updating the list of invitees, making sure I don’t send any to Mr. and Mrs. so and so when the couple has split up, or worse still, when one of them has died. Then there is postal code detection. At least I don’t have to go all the way to the post office anymore to consult the fat book of postal codes from across the province of Quebec. The answers to my postal code queries are virtually at the clicks of my fingertips.

The invitations and press releases have been sent. The prints are framed, hanging and awaiting fame and glory under the spotlights. The artist will get a good night’s sleep and try not to have the classic pre-vernissage nightmare where prints fall to pieces like Humpty Dumpty.

Only artists who like to live dangerously have solo shows in Quebec between the months of December and March. It’s always a bit of a gamble with Mother Nature. Will the vernissage be blessed with a snow blizzard? There isn’t a snowstorm in the forecast for tomorrow’s opening. I just got back from the Plateau and according to all the orange No Parking signs that have been planted into snow banks, the City of Montreal will carry out its snow removal ceremonies de 19h à 7h! So come one come all, to the Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal for the royal treatment and for a treat for your eyes and soul.

Maisons modèles
Exhibition of collagraphs and monoprints
Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal
January 29 to March 8 2009
Vernissage Saturday January 31 from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m

Talleen Hacikyan

Making Coney Island Memories

“I wanna go to Coney Island!” I kept pestering my husband, Diego, even before we stepped off our New York-bound Greyhound. Put me anywhere near a major body of water and I will gravitate toward it. When I was in Bruges, Belgium, two summers ago, I lured Diego and our son, Pablo, to the North Sea.

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Zeebrugge

La mer du nord! The very words sound so lulling. We rented bicycles and rode on bike paths along the canals, for 15 kilometers, past windmills and grazing horses, to Zeebrugge. The spectacular shore, the powdery atmosphere, and the sensational lemon mango sorbet cones made the long ride worth the effort.

It was much easier to get to the Atlantic Ocean from New York City, than it was to cycle from Bruges to Zeebrugge. It was a surreal experience to hop on a subway in Park Slope, Brooklyn, and end up in Coney Island, a mere twenty minutes later.

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I had never been to Coney Island so it isn’t as if I had any nostalgic memories attached to the place. Somehow, accounts of other people’s memories must have seeped into my consciousness, and I vaguely remember scenes from a film taking place there, or somewhere that conjures the same sense of bygone days of seaside pleasure.

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On January 1, on the second to last day of our trip, we went to Coney Island. After days of intense museum visits I felt I had earned the right to let loose at the beach. We missed the spectacle of the polar bear bathers. The Coney Island Polar Bear Club is a group of wild souls who brave the frigid waters of the Atlantic throughout winter. On New Year’s Day other crazy people join in the fun. I did catch a glimpse of one twenty-something guy still high after having dipped into the water. He was on the beach with some friends, towel drying his hair. Let me add that this was a crispy-cold day. I overheard him tell a curious passerby, “This was the best thing I did all year (I suppose he meant 2008 because 2009 was only fifteen hours old.) It’s warmer in there than it is out here!!!!!”

We appreciated the water without entering it. We walked along the beach, collected clamshells, played tag with the seagulls. Pablo found a horseshoe crab shell. I took tons of photos. We walked along the boardwalk.

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While Pablo bought a hot dog and onion rings from a food stand, a group of protestors chanted, “Save Coney Island, save Coney Island.” The food stand vendor explained that developers want to tear down Astroland and build a new amusement park. “I don’t know what’s going to happen to us,” he said, clearly worried.

Although Coney Island used to be an island, today it is a peninsula, located in southernmost Brooklyn, with a beach on the Atlantic Ocean. It is also a neighborhood with a population of 60,000, made up of Russians, African Americans, Hispanics and West Indians. Coney Island was an important resort and site of amusement parks that reached its peak in the early 20th century.

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I love the sound of the words Coney Island. Native American inhabitants, the Lenape, called the island Narrioch, land without shadows. This is because its compass orientation keeps the beach drenched in sunlight throughout the day. The Dutch name for the island was Conye Eylandt, Rabbit Island, because the area used to be teaming with wild rabbits. Rabbit hunting was common until the development of resorts eliminated most of the open space. Coney is also an obsolete and dialectal English word for rabbit. Even though the history of Coney Island’s name can be traced to historical maps there are people who contend that the name derives from other sources. Some say that the cone-like hills inspired early English settlers to come up with the name.

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The only hill formations I saw were the undulating wooden tracks of the Cyclone roller coaster, featuring an 85-foot drop. It was built in 1927 and is still running today. As soon as we stepped out of the subway, at West 8th Street station, Diego noticed the towering red Parachute Jump. “Look!” he said, as he photographed the unusual landmark, “The Eiffel Tower!” The Parachute Jump ride was built for the 1939 New York World’s Fair and has been closed since 1968. Between 2002 and 2004 it was dismantled, painted and restored. Diego was not so far off the mark; the Parachute Jump is referred to as “Brooklyn’s Eiffel Tower.”

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We visited the New York Aquarium, located right on the boardwalk. Pablo found real live horseshoe crabs, along with other delightful creatures, such as walruses. I had never seen such a variety of sea horses and was fascinated to discover that it is the male seahorse that becomes pregnant, not the female. The Alien Stingers exhibit of jellyfish is mesmerizing and could easily win first prize at the Venice Biennale contemporary art exhibition.

Once we resurfaced from our underwater exploration at the aquarium we ran around on the shore for one last time, put more shells and sand into our pockets, and rode the subway to Chinatown. As our train crossed the Manhattan Bridge I looked at my son sitting opposite me. Behind him the six o’clock sky boasted a trace of orange that highlighted the majestic skyline. He had that tuckered-out-but-content look to him. I may not have childhood memories of Coney Island, but one day Pablo will.

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Talleen Hacikyan

Aquarium videos and photo by Pablo

The Cats of New York

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After gallivanting New York for twelve days, from Queens, through Manhattan, to Coney Island, Brooklyn, I want to write about cats. At first sight New York appears to be void of cats. Even the Broadway musical that mewed all the way to the bank is currently closed.

My son, Pablo, however, has a sixth sense for detecting animals in any setting, whether he is in a Laurentian forest or the New York subway. My husband, Diego, took Pablo to the Metropolitan museum to see the collection of armor.

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Berkeley Street, Park Slope

At the end of the day, we met at our apartment—a fabulous sublet in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where I did not unfortunately bump into Paul Auster, who lives in this quaint neighborhood. Gathered in our cozy living room, aglow with Christmas tree lights, I asked Pablo, “What did you see today?” My son’s face lit up, “In the Met…” I was elated to see what an impact this cultural outing had made on him. As this thought flashed through my brain, I heard Pablo add the syllable ro to met. I figured he hadn’t been in the city long enough to realize that most New Yorkers refer to this museum as the Met.

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As I waited for him to pronounce politan, followed by the wonders of fifth century Japanese, and Medieval European armor, I grasped what Pablo said: “In the metro I saw a rat!” He was as excited as an archeologist unearthing the missing shard of an Etruscan vase. I was glad I was spared his discovery of subterranean wildlife. My rodent-free bliss didn’t last long, however. The following day, while we were waiting for the Q train on the platform of the Canal Street subway, Pablo spotted another rat, “Oh look, he’s licking the root beer off the can!” As if that wasn’t enough, about a foot away from this soda-addicted creature, Pablo detected a mouse’s head gnawing away at something under the metal track. I say mouse, but it could have been a baby rat.

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A couple of days later we visited the New York Transit Museum, in Brooklyn, a must-see for anyone with or without kids. Between the three of us we rode the New York subway 99 times, thanks to our 14-day unlimited passes. It was interesting to learn about how this ultra efficient transport network was constructed. This intriguing museum is housed in a decommissioned 1936 subway station in downtown, Brooklyn. The collection includes 19 restored subway cars, dating from 1904 to 1964. We visited the cars, bouncing on springy, wicker upholstered seats, and contemplating the nostalgic advertisements.

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There was an over-abundance of soap and detergent ads for everything from the face to nylon stockings. At the end of the platform, in a dim corner, on a blanket draped over a crate, Pablo spotted a curled up, grey cat. We asked the museum guard about the cat. The young woman was happy to provide information: “Oh, yes, that’s Subway Sadie. She belongs to the museum.”

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Pablo wanted to know if she caught her own food in the genuine, albeit defunct tunnel. “Oh, no, there isn’t much to be found here. We feed her real cat food,” which got me pondering about real versus fake cat food. I imagined a colorful bag with a silky Siamese printed on it, and live vitamin-enriched mice scrambling inside.

I have trouble believing that Subway Sadie doesn’t get to feast on the occasional mouse. We have a friend who lives in an elegant apartment, across from Prospect Park. This is a nice building, with a swanky lobby with a porter and a revolving Christmas tree. I was surprised when he told us that a mouse used to hang out at their flat. I was even more amazed to find out how he finally managed to catch it. He didn’t lure it with Swiss, French, or Dutch cheese. He had better luck with Maltesers, chocolate covered malt biscuit balls.

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On a balmy day, tropical by Quebec standards, Pablo spotted another cat, this time above ground, on Park Avenue and 79th Street–a robust, massive, stately feline. Not a tabby, or a calico, but a bronze, sculpted by none other than Fernando Botero. There is nothing shy or reclusive about El Gato, who stands proudly amidst the sky-tickling Manhattan buildings. Perhaps El Gato is Subway Sadie’s alter ego. Maybe when Sadie retreats to the quiet corners of the New York Transit Museum, she dreams that after her nine lives come to a gentle end, she becomes reincarnated into a gigantic bronze cat, stationed in front of the Metropolitan Museum, near the fountains. She pictures children and honeymooners climbing on her back and posing for that perfect snapshot, the one with the hotdog stand in the background. I wonder if Botero knows about Subway Sadie. I’m not taking any chances. I’m going to immortalize Subway Sadie myself, in a print.

We’ve been back from New York for a week. I can’t sleep at night, too charged with the art I saw and the art I want to make. The city has seeped into my bloodstream. I can’t wait to return. A friend of a friend has proposed to let us stay in her Manhattan apartment, the next time she leaves on vacation. I look forward to this opportunity. The apartment will be extremely affordable since we will be staying there in exchange for taking care of two wonderful cats. This place promises to be cheap…and rodent free!

Talleen Hacikyan

Tork Angegh and Orhan Pamuk

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On December 16, the Sanahin branch of the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural Association hosted the Tork Angegh book launch and exhibition at the Armenian Community Centre. This was the first time I hung a show on the same evening as the event. This, coupled with unusually heavy traffic on Decarie North, the Metropolitan, and the 15 North, en route to the community centre, had a jolting effect on my central nervous system!

Once my twenty-one illustrations were hung, and the spotlights were installed and directed onto the frames, I took a deep sigh of relief. Varty, Garo, Seta, and Anahid were most efficient and pleasant to work with.

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Before the talks, the public had a chance to look at the exhibition. People were curious about my technique– a combination of acrylic, collage, and hand-stamp printing.

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Stephan Daigle, Annouchka Galouchko, Talleen

The event was organized by the Hamazkayin literary committee, and coordinated and presented by Varty Tanielian. Varty got the evening rolling by talking about Ghazaros Aghayan (1840-1911), the writer who recorded Tork Angegh. Aghayan wrote novels, poetry, textbooks, children’s stories, and had a special talent for retelling folktales, in a way that emphasized their inherent social and moral values. The most famous of these retellings is Tork Angegh.

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Varty Tanieleian

Varty went on to present my father, Agop Hacikyan. He had warned her not to dwell on his achievements, to save that for his eulogy! But strong-willed as she is, she read four pages worth of claims to fame, from his novels and translations, to his two-year appointment at the United Nations in Geneva in charge of the official languages of the organization, to his year of traveling around the globe with the National Defence College of Canada. When he finally got up to speak he said, “Well, I guess I’m dead now, so I can’t speak!” Somehow he managed to talk about the art of literary translation. He explained that a literary translator does not translate words; he or she translates meaning. . Last year he edited contemporary Armenian short stories by writers of Armenia, translated into English by Armenian translators in Armenia. Agop said that while their effort and the proficiency of English was commendable, the translators lacked the needed cultural background in order to make the translation meaningful. They did not have these cultural references because they did not have a chance to be exposed to them, due to lack of financial support. This was one of the main points that he underlined; it was more of an appeal than a formal presentation. He asked Armenian cultural organizations to provide funding for the translation of Armenian literature.

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Talleen, Agop Hacikyan

Three of Varty’s students did a marvelous job of reading excerpts of Tork Angegh in Armenian. I read three excerpts in English. In the restaurant next door there was a party– a lively party, with dance music that seeped through the wall, into our hall very successfully! It was incongruent reading about summertime on the summit of Lok mountain, the “numerous fountains, pure and crystalline,” and the shepherd flute that was singing “but one song: Love! Love!” to the backbeat of the Village People belting out, “Y.M.C.A.” Thank God for my microphone. At one point during Varty’s talk, I went to the restaurant, walked across the dance floor through strobe lights–resisting the urge to dance the night away–and kindly requested the DJ to turn down the volume, which he did, for a while.

When Varty presented me, she traced my interest in art and writing to my parents’ creative endeavors and to the trips and museum visits I was exposed to at an early age. Next, I spoke about my experience illustrating Tork Angegh. I described what I wrote in my previous blog, « Tork Angegh Book Launch and Exhibition. »

I also told the audience that after posting that blog I got the most interesting comment from Nicole Milette, an artist at Atelier Circulaire. She asked me if I had read Orhan Pamuk’s My Name is Red. Nicole said that my illustrations reminded her of this novel. This is incredible! Not only have I read it. Not only is it one of my all time favorite novels. I was reading it when I was illustrating Tork Angegh. This 417-page story became my companion and source of strength during the sometimes-difficult illustration sessions. My Name is Red is a historical novel about miniaturists in the Ottoman Empire. Events revolve around the murder of one of them, Elegant Effendi. The characters have poetic names such as Kara (black in Turkish), Butterfly, Stork, and Olive. These artists had it hard. Besides one of them getting murdered, many of them suffered eminent or actual blindness from painting such detailed images. Their pain made me realize that I had it good in my little heated studio in my home. These characters gave me strength. So did the shear imaginative power of Pamuk. The author compares illustration to the afterlife. He says that through both people aspire to achieve a sense of eternity. I did not set out to become eternal through my illustrations. All I know is that I am glad that I made them and that they have found a home in the form of a book.

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Centre: Varty, Agop, Talleen, surrounded by organizers
Front : Students who read

Talleen Hacikyan

Tork Angegh Book Launch and Exhibition

Tork Angegh
Book launch and exhibition
Tuesday December 16, 8:30 pm
Armenian Community Centre
3401 Olivar Asselin (cross street Dudemaine)

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When Agop J. Hacikyan, my father, edited volume III of The Heritage of Armenian Literature (Wayne State University Press, 2005), he only included the first canto of Tork Angegh, in the section devoted to Ghazaros Aghayan (1840-1911), the writer who recorded the story. My father wanted to publish this ancient Armenian folk tale in its entirety, in the form of an illustrated book. The result: Tork Angegh, translated by Agop J. Hacikyan, versified by Edward S. Franchuk, illustrated by Talleen Hacikyan, and published by Gomidas Institute, in London, U.K.

I cherished this occasion to collaborate with my father. The fact that I was illustrating his book, however, made me put extra pressure on myself. I wanted each illustration to be perfect.

I had done some editorial illustration in the past, including two cover pages, one for Montreal Magazine, and one for Revue Liberté. However, this was the first time I illustrated a book.

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My first task was to decide on a technique. I wanted the images to have the look of a print. After exploring many possibilities I decided to work on black cardboard. The cover page is in color and the twenty interior illustrations are in black and white. I used acrylic paint, collage, and hand printed stamps and objects. I printed wood blocks used for textile printing. Over the years I have collected these blocks from left and right, east and west. I bought Afghani wood blocks at Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar, and Indian wood blocks from Granville Island, in Vancouver. I integrated the prints from these blocks into my illustrations. I also had fun printing other materials: I used sliced onion to make waves, crumpled paper to make rocky texture, broccoli for trees, leaves for…leaves! I also collaged textures that I photocopied from my prints.

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The next challenge was to develop my two main characters, Tork and Haykanush. Only then was I ready to decide which passages to illustrate and to start sketches of the illustrations–an infinite number of rough drawings that filled an entire sketch book.

One day I was waiting in line at the dollar store and I saw Haykanush! A girl in her twenties was paying for some Bristol board. I observed her profile. Her round face, cat eyes, and gentle smile looked exactly like the features I had developed on paper over the past weeks. Then, to my delight, I heard her speaking Russian with her friend. Granted she wasn’t speaking Armenian but at least she came from that general area of the world and I took that as a sign that my Haykanush was a good interpretation of this fictive character.

Yayo was the in-house, unofficial artistic director for this project. He was as demanding of me as he is on himself. I am truly indebted to his ability to bring out the best in me. Every eyelash, every hand position, each brushstroke passed his inspection, and ultimately my own. No matter how busy he was with his own illustrations he always made time for my numerous consultations with him.

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After toiling full time for eight months on this project I have tremendous admiration for illustrators. It is a demanding, exacting profession. So is printmaking, of course, but that comes more naturally to me after all these years of practice.

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I will be exhibiting the original illustrations during the book launch. Students of École Arménienne Sourp Hagop will read excerpts from the book in Armenian and I will read the English translation. My father will speak about his translation and the art of translation. The event will be held in English and Armenian. The public is invited to join us. Hope to see you there!

Talleen Hacikyan

Illustrations by Talleen Hacikyan

Expozine Report

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Yayo and I did it! Expozine, that is. On November 29 and 30 we stood (and sat) behind our three and a half square foot table, and interacted with the public as they browsed through our books and greeting cards.

I felt like I was on a submarine– because we made maximum use of every square inch of exhibition space, because the hoards of visitors reminded me of waves, and because the basement of Saint-Enfant Jésus church had that below-sea-level feel to it.

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Expozine was an exotic trip. We met outlandish inhabitants. The girl selling knitted hats reminded me of Vermeer’s girl with a pearl earring. She sat, back straight as a cutting board, head draped with a long silk scarf–that changed color a few times a day– knitting her life away, stoically, silently. There was a Mr. Bean look-alike. At one point, a guy paraded down the aisle, sporting a pink Styrofoam machine gun.

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Pablo, Yayo, and Siris

We sat next to Siris. You may have seen his mural in China Town, on Saint-Urbain street. According to Yayo, this well-known comic book artist looks and talks like the characters in his comics. We chatted up a storm in between talking to potential customers. Siris has been on the Montreal comics circuit for a long time, knows everyone. He pointed out the silkscreen artist across from us. “He’s a good salesman. He’s Greek. His father has a store on St. Lawerence.” I studied the guy’s technique. Rule number one seemed to be: never sit down! I admit, he was a naural, making eye contact and easy conversation with everyone. By day two, Yayo picked up a few tricks himself, luring customers with a free greeting card with each purchase, a healthier option than the free cigarette being offered as a promo by Matrix Magazine!

At Expozine you are sure to find items you’ll never see at the Bay or anywhere else. Two tables down from us, Shannon Gerard was selling original gift ideas, perfect stocking stuffers. If Expozine had a competition for the most angelic looking exhibitor, this girl with long hair, the color of red gold, and an ethereal smile would have won. She spent two days crocheting red…you guessed it…vaginas! Shannon was selling little boxes, with the words Four Play printed on it. In the box were four finger puppets: a vagina, a penis, a tongue, and an anus, or if you prefer, « two insies and two outies. » These cute pieces were available in tones ranging from peach to chocolate. She also sold crocheted boobs and, Plushtashes– mustache pins. She was a hit with the twenty-something female crowd, and with a baby– probably a breast-feeding baby–who loved squeezing one of the pink boobies on display!

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Talleen’s one of a kind artist’s books

Apart from my book, Postcards, I showed ten new one of a kind artist’s books, made with my prints and words cut out from The New York Times Magazine. I also had a selection of collagraph and woodcut print greeting cards.

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Talleen’s greeting cards

One guy was selling books of drawings he made at night, in bed, just before sleeping, in total darkness. There was a vegan themed stand, featuring a book called, Get it Ripe. Another woman was promoting a book she wrote on potatoes. There was a girl drawing faces on clementines, and selling them for one dollar, 75 or 50 cents, depending on how cute the buyer was. There were bracelets made of recycled vinyl records, pins galore, figures made out of wire coat hangers, and the list goes on.

Driving home at the end of Expozine, past the Christmas lit homes on Côte-Saint-Catherine street, Yayo and I felt happy to have been a part of this huge celebration of creativity. Visitors were aplenty. The books and crafts were unique. The vegetarian chili with corn bread, which sold for a mere three dollars, was, like Expozine itself, inspiring and yummy.

Talleen Hacikyan

Photo of Talleen by Pablo
Other photos by Talleen

Postscript

It’s been a busy week for me and my artist’s books. On December 3, I read, along with seven other performers, at the Visual Arts Centre Poetry and Prose Reading, organized by Ilona Martonfi. I read from Fragrance For Men and Torso Tale. There’s nothing like reading for a live audience to bring a story to life.

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Visual Arts Centre Poetry and Prose Reading

Talleen and Yayo at Expozine

Expozine 2008 will take place on Saturday, November 29 and Sunday, November 30, from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. at 5035 St-Dominique, (Église Saint-Enfant Jésus, between St-Joseph and Laurier, near Laurier Métro). Admission is free.

Words– zany, bizarre, poetic, delicious, sexy, tantalizing words. Books, comics, zines–in English and French– posters, original art, postcards, crafts, home-cooked soup…You’ll find all this and more at Expozine, Montreal’s annual small press fair.

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This year, for the first time, Yayo and I will have a table at what has become one of North America’s biggest small press fairs. Yayo will be selling Humoro Sapiens (Les 400 coups), the latest compilation of his cartoons, along with other books featuring his cartoons and humor illustration. I will be selling my artist’s book, Postcards, and a few fun surprises.

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I went to Expozine for the first time last year and decided then and there that I wanted to participate in this year’s show. This is truly a one of a kind event, celebrating the love of printed matter and the power of free spirits who take the wicked business of publishing into their own able hands. There in the basement of Saint-Enfant Jésus church I was struck by the laid back creative energy of the young writers and artists. I was also impressed with the crowd–its volume, enthusiasm, and diversity. Expozine attracts thousands of visitors, as well as exhibitors from France, Belgium, British Colombia, Philadelphia, New York, Halifax, Toronto, Vermont, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Côte Saint-Luc!

From the Expozine press release:
“At Expozine, one can discover a multitude of publications and printed works that are often difficult to find anywhere, much less all in the same room! The result is a rare opportunity to peruse the work of hundreds of young and emerging authors, publishers and artists, and to see what the winners of last year’s Expozine Alternative Press Awards are up to. Not to be missed!”

Hope to see you there!

See a slideshow of Expozine 2007.

Talleen Hacikyan

Blog suprimé

 

 

Johanne Weilbrenner an Artist of All Trades

There are so many artists I want to write about but the natural place to start is Johanne Weilbrenner. After all, she is the instigator of my blog site and if it weren’t for her, I would not be writing this or any other blog. Johanne is a major force of creative energy to be reckoned with. She is an illustrator, a ceramist, a jewelry designer, a web master, and a printmaker.

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Coeur de boeuf, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

After earning a B.A. in Graphic Design at Concordia University in 1985, Johanne began her career as an editorial illustrator. Eventually, she became disillusioned with the high pressure, dog eat dog milieu of illustration and gravitated toward ceramics.

When Jean-Claude Lebeau, her high school sweetheart, a ceramist, rented a studio, Johanne, put her illustration skills to work, by decorating his ceramic pieces. They exhibited in 1001 Pots in Val David, as they do annually, and their ceramics sold like hot cakes. The couple founded Poterie Weilbrenner et Lebeau, a thriving ceramics business. Jean-Claude throws the pieces on the potter’s wheel and Johanne decorates them, with distinctive motifs such as apples, chickadees, cherries, and olives. They make a wide array of porcelain items, sure to embellish your dinner table or kitchen. I always delight in eating my cereal in one of their pirate’s bowls.

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Their studio is located in the basement of their home, practically located in the shadow of Montreal’s Olympic tower. Whenever I visit the Weilbrenner Lebeau household I am impressed by the buzz of creative energy. Jean Claude, covered in white dust, a natural byproduct of ceramic studios, may be filling or emptying one of the kilns, or doing inventory, while Hugo, the assistant potter, finishes pieces on the wheel, and Johanne’s sister, Sylvie, packs pieces for a rush order. Ça roule! I never get to see Johanne at work in the studio because whenever I visit she’s busy with me, involved in one creative project or another.

This year I made several visits to her home so that we could work on the website she designed for me. We worked for hours at a time in the mezzanine, where I got to witness the development of my site, step by step. Johanne is proud to explain that when she creates a website she does not impose her own esthetic. Her goal is to make the site reflect the look and feel of the client’s work. She was a joy to work with and I treasure the experience of being part of the creative process that led to my finished website.

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Joanne also designs and makes jewelry. She discovered this passion when she was looking for an activity to share with her daughter, Léa, who was making jewelry at the time. With four days left of summer vacation, Johanne, together with her daughter and ninety-year-old grandmother, sat by a lake in the Laurentians and made necklaces. Today Johanne creates silver pieces and also works with resin, natural stones, porcelain beads, hand-shaped felt, and other materials. She sees jewelry as little sculptures and it thrills her to see people wearing her pieces. This year for my birthday she offered me a lovely pair of silver earrings, and a gift certificate to come to her house to create my own piece of silver jewelry. I am not a metal person, meaning I do not have an affinity for working with metal, but the idea of going to the Weilbrenner Lebeau home for yet another creative project appealed to me. Johanne had me using a torch and soldering my silver fish pendant. I can’t say that I mastered the art of making silver jewelry (I still have to finish my piece) but let me tell you I know how to use a torch!

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Folle de Dieu, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

Johanne is also a printmaker. She has studied lithography with Carlos Calado, at Graff, and Donna Miro, at the Saidye Bronfman School of Fine Arts. In 2003, she joined Atelier Circulaire, where I have had the pleasure of teaching her collagraphy, intaglio woodcut printing, and monotype printing. Johanne’s background in illustration, and undoubtedly the influence of all her creative interests, shines on the printed page.

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An Ordinary Day, monotype, 13×10 cm, 2008

These days she is making monotypes. This medium suits her perfectly and she enjoys the freedom of creating spontaneous, painterly images. Her approach is instinctive and intrinsically connected to her emotional states. Johanne believes that images have the power to heal, whether we are making them or looking at them. Creating prints helps her work through personal issues and helps release “internal pollution.” “Perhaps that’s why I make volcanoes,” she says, chuckling.

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Toxic Volcano, monotype, 25×15 cm, 2008

When I asked Johanne to explain the fact that she juggles so many creative endeavors, she says that this is her way of striving for balance. Each activity fulfills a different need. For example, pottery is a source of income, whereas printmaking nourishes her emotionally.

Johanne is a mother of two: Léa, a budding soprano, who sang her heart out at my birthday this year, and Tom, eleven years old, who plays with my son, Pablo, whenever our families get together.

A few weeks ago Johanne invited us for supper. I looked forward to a visit where I wouldn’t have to work and dispense any creative energy. No such luck! As we gathered around the kitchen table, beers in hand, Johanne cheerfully announced, “Tonight each of us is going to make their own pizza!” We got to work and deigned exquisite, one of a kind pizzas, some of which (not mine!) towered as high as the leaning tower of Pisa! The evening was complete with music, with Johanne playing her repertoire of waltzes, blues and gospel on the piano. I hadn’t sung “Kumbaya” since day camp! When it was time for us to leave, Johanne said, “The evening passed too quickly, next time let’s just sit together and do nothing!” But that is not a possibility in this realm of reality because this woman is simply an artist of all trades, and is happiest when she creates.

Talleen Hacikyan

Artwork by Johanne Weilbrenner, ceramics by Jean-Claude Lebeau and Johanne Weilbrenner

Johanne Weilbrenner’s jewelry show: November 28, 29, 30, 2008. To receive an invitation contact: jweilbrenner@videotron.ca

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