By Deb A.
Happy Canada Day! Just two days ago a new slew of recipients of the Order of Canada were announced. The many-tiered award was established on Canada's centennial 51 years ago to recognise "outstanding achievement, dedication to the community, and service to the nation." Here are the individuals who were appointed to the Order of Canada for their contributions to Canadian art and literature:
Canada's first female astronaut Dr. Roberta Bondar was recognised not only for her work in space medicine research, but also for promoting environmental sustainability—in particular through photography and writing. Her fifth photo essay book will be published soon.
Journalist and author Lise Bissonnette received an Order of Canada for her work as a journalist and author, as well as for her pivotal leadership role at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.
American-born sculptor-painter Eli Bornstein became a Canadian citizen in 1972. He was honoured by the Order of Canada for his groundbreaking structurist reliefs and his contributions to art theory as the founder of journal The Structurist.
Hédi Bouraoui is a poet, novelist, and essayist. He received the Order of Canada for his various writings and his theories on cultural boundaries and identities.
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Exile Quarterly Barry Callaghan has been lauded as a preeminent man of letters. The poet, writer, and painter was named to the Order of Canada for promoting Canadian literature at home and abroad.
Writer, artist, and art critic Gary Michael Dault has been writing about Canadian art for decades; he currently writes a weekly column for the Globe and Mail. His commitment to celebrating visual artists was a key factor in his inclusion on this year's list.
Anyone who has ever read I Want My Hat Back to their child will appreciate that illustrator and author Jon Klassen was named to the Order of Canada this year for his work as an illustrator and author of children's literature.
He is the artist and graphic designer responsible for the CBC's iconic 1974 logo: Burton Kramer received his honour for his extensive and influential contributions to the field of graphic design.
Scott Thornley's contributions to "the advancement of our collective appreciation of art, culture, science, and education through his unique graphic and verbal designs" were recognised this year—a sure boon for his consultancy, STC.
Novelist and essayist Aritha van Herk's work has shone an international spotlight on the western Canadian experience; her books, essays, and other writing have been translated into ten languages.
Elizabeth Hillman Waterston is Professor Emeritus of the University of Guelph. She is a founding editor of Canadian Children's Literature, an authority on Lucy Maud Montgomery, and the author of several books. She was named to the Order of Canada for her role in developing the academic field of Canadian literature, and for her years of mentoring Canadian authors.
By Deb A.
This Earth Day we join NASA in looking back at a single iconic photograph: Pale Blue Dot, taken in 1990 from Voyager 1.
While it still looks the same from this vantage point, that single speck now contains more microplastics than there are stars in the galaxy.
Here's how the Earth Day Network is working to ensure that our pale blue dot doesn't get choked by plastics.
By Deb A.
You've seen the poster: a familiar blue-red-beige stencil style that shows a Muslim woman wearing an American flag as her hijab. It, along with two others by Shepard Fairey and one each by Jessica Sabogal and Ernesto Yerena, is part of the We The People campaign, which was launched to "ignite a national dialogue about American identity and values through public art and story sharing." Behind the effort is an organisation that calls itself an "art machine for social change": The Amplifier Foundation.
Headed by photographer Aaron Huey, The Amplifier Foundation funds collaborations between grassroots movements and contemporary artists in order to amplify their voices. Its stated goal is "to flip artists into activists and observers into participants." Alongside the We The People campaign, it has funded efforts to liberate Native American activist Leonard Peltier, to collect art for the Women's March on Washington, to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and to protest the high incarceration rate of black men in the United States.
The Amplifier Foundation's images are available free for download, but if you want the stickers--or simply to support social justice through art--get ready to donate.
All images via The Amplifier Foundation.
By Deb A.
The latest report on the state of the Great Barrier Reef has emerged (despite having been deleted), and the prognosis is alarming. Images of bleached coral practically devoid of life have become a stark, painful reminder of the impact of climate change on the world's largest living structure.
In contrast to the near-monochrome imagery of dying underwater ecosystems are the vibrant sculptures created by Washed Ashore artists and volunteers. Focused on bringing the maritime impact of our love affair with plastics into full view, each artwork is built from the a fraction of the billions of pounds of plastic pollution that float in our seas.
The non-profit organisation was founded by Angela Haseltine Pozzi, an artist who was profoundly affected by the amount of plastic she found on the beaches of Oregon. So far the plastic debris collected from over 300 miles of beaches has been used to create 65 sculptures of ocean life that are exhibited around the U.S.A., mostly in zoos and aquariums. Currently, the Smithsonian's National Zoo boasts a turtle in a coral reef and a nine-foot penguin named Gertrude is presiding over the Georgia Aquarium.
Washed Ashore hopes that its art will save the sea by encouraging its audience to think twice before purchasing plastics, and to reuse and recycle the products they do own. Viewers may be surprised to identify disposable lighters and children's toys in the fins of a giant fish; while these have been removed from the water, millions of similar pieces are finding their way into a real fish's digestive tract instead.
By Deb A.
Most reports about centenarians focus on their longevity: what they did or didn't eat, drink or smoke; what words of advice they have to offer for readers who wish to blow out 100 candles one day. The sheer fact of having reached a century's worth of existence is deemed fascinating, possibly even educational, in and of itself. But when recounting Tsuen-Hsuin Tsien's life, there is an even more remarkable figure than his 105 years: 30,000, the number of rare Chinese books he risked his life to rescue from obliteration during World War II.
T.H. Tsien, a librarian and renowned scholar of Chinese writing and printing, was tasked with finding a safe haven for around 60,000 rare volumes during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai. Had these cultural artifacts been discovered, they would have been destroyed. Had his plans been discovered, he would have suffered a similar fate. However, he saw the work as his duty, and never looked back.
The Library of Congress in Washington had agreed to take around half of the precious inventory, but customs was under Japanese control, and it took Tsien several years to work out how to get the books across the border. Upon the advice of a sympathetic customs agent, he crated the goods and labeled them as new books purchased by the Library of Congress, posing as a bookseller and including bogus invoices. The treasures were shipped out throughout 1941, a few crates at a time, until all 102 had reached their destination. In Washington, they were copied onto microfilm and made available to scholars around the world.
When Tsien was sent to bring the books back home in 1947, a civil war in China left him unable to return. He joined the University of Chicago, earning two degrees there and becoming a professor emeritus of Chinese Studies and curator emeritus of the university's East Asian Library. He died at his home in Chicago on April 9th.
Thousands of books from T.H. Tsien's personal collection are held in a library bearing his name in Nanjing University. Tsien's own writing includes Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions, and Paper and Printing.
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