Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bmad Redux: the blog reboot

Okay, so here is the short story: my server's hard disk had a complete failure in January 2015. All images from this blog were lost, leaving the just the text (which was hosted at Blogger). So, "Yay!" for the free Google service, "boo" for the service I pay for...well, we all pay Google and Facebook indirectly, but that's another story. Additionally, my entire website was lost, but it was 10 years old and needed an update, that I was planning on doing in summer 2015.
I now have a new website up and running, but without content, just the skeleton.
This part of the website will continue to be my blog, which tends to be my travel blog, since I used to only add to it whilst travelling.
This photo above shows a beautiful black and white photo taken in Joshua Tree National Park by MFA classmate Darcy Curwen. He gave it to me when I visited with his lovely family in February 2015. Below, is the empty bed of my F150, just prior to loading it up for a trip to Georgia via NYC, in my attempt to escape the perpetual cold of this winter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

UNPACKED a the Gladstone Hotel

Finally, after being back for nearly 3 years, I am having an exhibition of some of the work I made during my sabbatical year that this BMAD blog is about.

here are the details:




1214 Queen Street West, Toronto, Canada

Opening reception:

Thursday April 14, 7-10 pm

Artist’s talk: Sunday April 17th, 2- 4 pm

(the exhibition continues to April 19)

An exhibition of some of the work created by Burke during his sabbatical. Researched and developed in Rome; painted, drawn, shot, and machine-lithographed in Calcutta; hand-litho'd in Honolulu; organised, tweaked, painted, printed, edited and framed in Toronto.

I would like to thank Havergal College for their support of the 4/5 leave program, and encouragement of my professional development as both an artist and teacher.

In keeping with one of the shows underlying themes, artwork about the making of artwork, I have posted a video about the making of the invitation image for the show. Thanks to Jonathan Howells for the design of the logo and text; Andrew McHaffie for his assistance with the formatting, general support and tech brilliance; and Dave Trattles for the best kwalitey Jetliner suitcase and the inspiration to go to India.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Can See for Miles (and miles)

I thought I would steal the title for this posting from The Who, since this is the second End of the Blog posting I have put up, third if you are reading into it.
What follows was written about a month ago while I was lakeside at Summer Wind in Muskoka, just before moving back into my place after an 11 month 3 week absence.

30, 000 miles later, and I am back where I started
Since my return to the glorious nation of Canada over a month ago, I have been asked many questions about my trip. What was my favourite place?...the best moment?...did the trip change me? Before I left, I could have probably anticipated these exact questions, and would have imagined that the answers would have been of a non-discriminating and oblique nature: "It's really impossible to say which place I liked best...they were each so different and wonderful in their own way, yadda yadda". But, in actuality, I have had very little difficulty jumping straight to the answer: "Rome!" And, as for a best moment, there was one of those, too: my spine-tingling experience of the Bernini sculptures at the Galleria Borghese in Rome. As for me being a changed person: yes, of course I have changed. A year has passed, and even if I were at home and teaching everyday, I am quite sure I would also be a changed person. What I have learned from being away is certainly different, and exciting, but in general I would say that I am still the same person, with the same values, idiosyncrasies and desires. Before I left my extremely decadent and cushy life here in Canada, I was already aware of the fact that my friends and I had won the birth lottery: being born in Canada in the late part of the 20th Century is like being given a 90 metre head start in a 100 metre race. And, as long as you don't look at life as a race, it is hard not to find a happy way here. Seeing less fortunate parts of the world, where life is more difficult merely reinforced this idea. So, instead of crossing the street and discussing these ideas over an imported beverage at Boo's with Phil and co., and at other times feeling overwhelmed and somewhat oppressed by the massive amount of material stuff in my life, I lived out of a suitcase for a year. A suitcase with cameras costing more than an entire family's worldly goods in certain places; while in other places all my travel belongings combined cost far less than the watch on the wrist of the chic women walking past me.
Oh dear, I have just caught myself trying to come up with a conclusion of some kind to my trip/year off/what have you. This however, seems impossible, since such a year cannot exist in any kind of exclusivity from life in general. However, if I had to make a general conclusion about my year off and my round the world trip, it would be that we humans are eerily similar in our ways and desires, for better or worse.

As for change, let me share a journal entry from February 5th, 2008:
Some (people) say that India changes you. Well, I have changed. I used to be not just afraid of rats, but rather, I thought they were the embodiment of pure evil. Now, I see they are just another cog in the scavenger hierarchy; which here includes cows, cats, dogs, humans, crows and yes, rats. I just saw another massive one here at the train station in Varanasi...and I didn't jump 10 feet. Yes, a changed man I am.

Meanwhile, here I am up north, writing at the lake just days before I return to my teaching job after 14 months off. And, I am most happy to end this travel blog by saying I am looking forward to it.

Oh, one more thing: I really missed my bath. I am listening to Sigur Ros, thinking about how fantastic it will be to be back in my tub and listening to them again.

Thursday, July 31, 2008


Before leaving Vancouver, I did, in fact, pick up one last souvenir from my trip: a 1983 Toyota Landcruiser. Here is my new truck (relative to my '66 El Camino) on its way from sunny BC to rainy Ontario. If you look closely, you can see that the 'cruiser is bringing the sunny weather with it. You will also see that I chose to ship it home, rather than drive it. I sent the Landcruiser (half toy, half winter transport) home on the Matchbox Racing Team truck. This photograph was taken as it rode along the Canadian Shield, a couple hours north of Toronto.

Like the '83 Landcruiser, George Michael is another survivor from the Eighties. One of the reasons behind my decision to not drive the newly acquired truck back home myself was that I had tickets to see George again, this time in Toronto. Here he is at the ACC, as photographed by EO. The Wham! I'm Your Man man was just as awesome the second time around. The video, lighting, staging, concept and direction was by Willie Williams, and was the best I have ever seen. If you're going to do it, do it right! ...Right?

Well, this travel blog is pretty much done. I returned home mid-July, but could not move back into my home because it was rented out for another month and a half. Thanks to my friends and family who put me up while I was homeless at home.

Vancouver and Lions Bay

An El Camino outside the Great Canadian Superstore in Greater Vancouver. The strange rickshaw bumper sticker reminded me of India. I feel the design of the rear end of this fifth generation Camino (1978-1987) to be rather intriguing. It has the license plate holder located in the centre of the tailgate, which usually is a no-no, but somehow the chrome frame here adds a certain formality, which seems to work. Then there are the tail lights, low set and integrated into the bumper. Not necessarily the best for safety and visibility, but their absence from the body allows the sheet metal to curve around the corners smoothly, with little interruption. The shape of the red plastic lens recalls Clint Eastwood's eyes in the Good, the Bad and the Ugly, squinting and staring down the enemy with controlled fury...yet parked in the handicapped spot?

Very little of my time in Vancouver was actually spent in the city of Vancouver. Most of the time I was on the prettier and cedar scented north shore. My brother, his son and I visited the old family house in North Van, hiked alongside the Seymour River, and waded in the frigid river where we used to ride old truck inner tubes as kids. I don't recall the water being so cold back then; nor do I remember appreciating how clean and clear the river is. It was so beautiful, the kind of perfect sunny day that makes you want to live there.

Before my brother and nephew came over from Nanaimo to pick me up, I was staying with the G family in lush Lions Bay, around the corner from West Van. Their home is a modern, minimalist tree-fort of a house perched on the mountain side looking out onto beautiful Howe Sound.
After so much travelling around, it was a pleasure to spend time with old friends, and meet their lovely children. I celebrated Canada Day with the G family at Lions Bay beach, after which a fateful event occurred: Mr. G wanted to ride back up to his house with Mrs. G and kids in the G wagon, and asked me if I would follow them in his Landcruiser. I have always loved the look of these trucks, especially, most especially, the wrap around curved back windows. And, I had enjoyed being a passenger in Mr. G's Landcruiser many a time, fully appreciating the headroom and sight lines. But, as soon as I switched sides, got into the driver's seat, started the diesel engine and drove off, I felt an unexpected rush of good feelings. My friend Cal taught me the word the French use to describe this pleasure one feels fully: jouissance. When left unchecked, this joiaissance business can lead to somewhat irrational behavior: like the searching for Landcruisers on-line after realizing I must have one, and that it is the thing I have always "needed", but never realised because my life is cluttered with rational thoughts and careful decision making. So, after many hours of searching and researching with Mr. G, I decided that BC was a good place to get one, and I should see what's available while I was there. As it happened, the day before I drove the Landcruiser I had test-driven a new VW Eos hardtop convertible with Mr. G. Having rented a couple on my trip, I had decided a my next car should be a convertible (lots of headroom with the top down). Although the VW was smooth and new, it provided little in the way of jouissance. Long story short: on the day my brother took me to the George Michael concert I found a suitable Landcruiser in nearby Coquitlam, and we went off to investigate.

Looking out from Dad and M's house in Nanoose Bay on Vancouver Island. Looking at the birds flying, thinking about flying home myself. It's time.

San Francisco

Further north on El Camino Real, I spotted a real El Camino. This one is a '65 and is the of the same generation as my '66. The front clip, bumpers, rear lights and interior are just some of the year to year differences. Back in the Sixties, when GM ruled the roads of a booming America, they could alter models each year and still make a profit. This owner and driver was proud to point out that the paint was original. And, sad as it is to say, this paint seems to have faired better than GM in the last 45 years.
This picture was taken in Corte Madera where I was staying with Chad and Amy. It's in Marin County just across the Golden Gate bridge, after you drive through Sausalito ( a Rambler, if you're being true to the Diesel tune, "Sausalito Summernight" which in 1981 rose to #25 on the U.S. Top 40. It reached #1 in Canada. I did not know that. That is weird, wild stuff.)

After a few days of R and B (Rest and Blogging) I left the heat of Corte Madera and went into San Francisco for a few days.
One of the first things I did there was to visit the DeYoung Museum with my favourite barmaid, who had just moved out there with her man.

The DeYoung, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, is a sublime structure with incredible details like this fine line where the wood veneered wall meets the gypsum clad wall.

On Thursday June 20, I went to the opening of a show of drawings and prints by Jon Carling in the back room of the Bell Jar, on 16th Street in San Francisco.
I remember being in Halifax back in '94/95 and hearing the singing style of The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan coming out of a beautiful pixie called Michael. She was unique in her Tinkerbell-ish-ness and man-name-ish-ness, but not so much in trying to sound like Dolores. It was pretty common back then, even in Halifax during its when-hipsters-cared-about-Sloan-and-friends-and-therefore-Halifax-was-cool era. It would seem people took the Cranberries' album title "Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We?" to heart and started copying their sound. Now, judging from what the singer I heard at this art opening, Leslie Feist has the sound-du-jour that so many people are clamouring to emulate. This is not a bad thing.
My good friend EO would love this shop, and she coincidentally not only looks a bit like Dolores, but is also an English teacher and would appreciate the nod to Sylvia Plath.

This bookstore called Abandoned Planet, on Valencia, was in fact abandoned during my days in San Fran. It was a very inviting space, to which no one was invited. It was unclear whether it was shut down temporarily or permanently.

There were many beautiful vintage motorbikes on the streets of San Francisco, but this is the only one I saw with a solar panel attached. I know not what its purpose is. If you come up with a something...let me know.

One more El Camino for the road. This down and dirty beast was so perfectly colour-matched to its enviroment that I couldn't resist a short photo shoot with her.

Santa Barbara, SLO, Paso Robles

This 63 Ford Falcon is the predecessor to the Ranchero that was atop the Los Angeles posting. Even though Ford beat GM to the market with this car/truck hybrid vehicle, it is the El Camino moniker from GM's Chevrolet division that is synonymous with this type of vehicle (in North America, whereas in Australia - and I assume in New Zealand - sorry for the assumption kiwis- they are called Utes). This one was parked across the street from my hotel in Santa Barbara. As it happens, my first car accident was in a Ford Falcon, in Scarborough of all places, to add insult to the injury. As soon as I thought out "first car accident", I immediately became aware of how messed up and North American that statement is. And then I began to think: "How many car accidents have I been in?". Six is how many crashes I can recall: one in Mom's Falcon; one between a '74 Impala and a ditch and a series of fence posts on a Friday the 13th in rural Ontario, just before I was the 13th parachute jumper out of the plane later that day; another one in a NYC Taxi in Queen's on the way to Laguardia; one in an '83 BMW in Vancouver; one in a Buffalo snowstorm in a 95 Nissan pick-up; and one between a VW Jetta and a fire hydrant, also in Buffalo. All pre-airbag, two (maybe 3) without a seat belt (not recommended). I was the driver in just one, the snowstorm accident.

There is, actually, a slight, perhaps bent, connection between the car above and the Santa Barbara Mission seen here. In California, El Camino Real usually refers to the 600-mile California Mission Trail, connecting California's 21 missions, 4 presidios, and several pueblos, stretching from Mission San Diego de Alcalá in San Diego in the south, to Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma in the north. I am not sure if this is related to the alarming popularity of El Caminos in California, but I willing to believe that it might be, at least subconsciously.

Inside the Santa Barbara Mission church.
Above: St. Francis of Assisi and St. Clare.
Below: JC and MM
(all in bronze, all by Bruce Wolfe, Anno Domini Nostri Iesu 2000)

Whilst out for a walk in Santa Barbara, I stopped in my tracks to admire this 1970 Cadillac. Shortly thereafter, a man in a eighties Mercedes station wagon pulled up alongside my spot on the sidewalk and asked: "Do you like that car?". I answered: "Yes, I love it!". He told me it was his car, and proceeded to pull the Mercedes into the lot of the car repair shop he worked at, and that I was standing in front of, apparently. He then walked over to me and we shot the breeze for a bit in the California sun. His name was Mason, and he bought the car from a guy that was driving through town and had to unload it. It wasn't clear to me why the previous owner had to sell it, but it was clear that Mason loved this car.

After Santa Barbara, we headed up to San Luis Obispo, where I saw this Pacer.

Soon after sighting the elusive Pacer, I came upon another AMC product: the Concord. I suppose if you are going to drive one of the ugliest cars ever made, it might as well be brown. In language, we have a term for words that sound like the thing they describe: onomatopoeia. But, is there a word for things that are the colour of the things you associate with them?
The Cheech and Chong dolls on the rear dash seem to be asking for the Border Patrol to impound the car.

From San Luis Obispo we drove to Paso Robles and visited the winery belonging to my friend's son, Minassian Young. When we left the winery, the thermometer on the car read 105 degrees, and 15 minutes later when we reached the coast at Morrow Bay it was down to 68.

Los Angeles

Sky blue Ford Ranchero, Silver Lake, Los Angeles.
I had a mini Queen's BFA Reunion in LA. My architect friend GS flew in from Toronto, and together we visited our classmate from Kenya, in Santa Monica. We first met at the car rental shop where I had booked us a convertible, which GS had rightly insisted was necessary for LA, especially since we'd be looking at a lot of architecture, and the open top affords a less obstructed view. Despite it bring Pride weekend, there was in fact a Chrysler Sebring waiting for us, and not just a reservation for a car, which I worry about ever since seeing that episode of Seinfeld.

The Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades, near Malibu.
The remodeling of the J. Paul Getty Museum (a re-creation of the Villa dei Papiri, a first-century Roman country house) was by the architecture firm of Machado and Silvetti. The stunningly detailed renovation cost so much money ($275 Million) that the super-rich Getty Foundation had to actually borrow money, in order to not dip into their 4.4 Billion dollar endowment. It was oil money that created this vast fortune. Getty used it to buy approximately 44,000 Greek, Roman, and Etruscan antiquities, and re-create a Roman Villa to study and house them. All this without the use of slaves, who likely had a fairly integral role in the creation of the original villa in Herculaneum, and in the making of the Getty Villa's collection. I mention this because I am of the opinion that oil, which is maligned for obvious reasons, helped end slavery. It is nice to think that after thousands of years of slavery humans all of a sudden became enlightened. But, seeing as how the demise of slavery came on the heels of the the industrial revolution, one is lead to speculate that if we didn't have oil-powered machines to do the things that were once man-powered, then there would still be slaves. This takes me back to something Ed Burtynsky said at a talk he was giving on his shipbreaking photographs. He said that in Bangladesh, where it is cheaper to get 100 men to carry a cable, than it is to run a diesel engine for an hour to do the same task, the man-powered option is exercised. So, yeah for oil! It helped end slavery, and built some pretty fantastic museums in LA (which are free, btw). Not only that, I am fairly confident that Getty oil money is also subsidising the restaurant at the Villa: two glasses of Chianti and a platter of artisan cheeses for two cost only $26! So when you plan your visit, plan to eat there, too.

When money is no object, the objects that you are afforded to create can be quite sublime: structural bronze railings, cast bronze stair treads, and concrete detailing that lovingly partners with the ever present sunrays of Los Angeles.

After seeing the art of bricks and mortar at the Villa, it was off to the metal and rubber shrine: The Petersen Automotive Museum. In addition to the permanent collection, there was an exhibition of LowRiders, like this sick Buick Riviera. Notice the coffin in the back seat. This is the kind of machine I want to ride in to celebrate the Day of the Dead.

There was also an exhibit on the Pixar movie Cars. It was great to see the original hand-drawn sketches and process work, for a production that is such a technical tour de force in the digital revolution.

Just down the street from the Petersen is the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. We actually walked there, on sidewalks free of any other pedestrians, but after deciding to stay a bit longer, had to walk back and move the car out of the Petersen lot. Otherwise, it would be locked in, and we'd be stuck in downtown LA without a car and horror would quickly ensue!
The LACMA also had a pretty sweet fence detail, sans horizontals.

This Nigerian water spirit was known for his excellent light-sabre skills and heavy breathing.

After we moved the car from one parking lot to another, this little guy was one of our new neighbours.

The house we stayed at in Silver Lake was perhaps THE find of my trip: views of the Hollywood sign out the windows, sandwiched between two Rudolph Schindler houses, a deck with a BBQ, all in a great location in trendy/bohemian Silver Lake. Four nights=$450. Wifi, full kitchen and organic fair trade coffee included.

Brite Spot diner down the street in Silver Lake headed towards Echo Park.

Richard Neutra's VDL Research House is a paradigm of his perceptions and beliefs. This house faces the lake in Silver Lake and the large vertical forms (louvers) on the right side of the house rotate to adjust to the sun's position.

After Frank Lloyd Wright sent him to Los Angeles in 1920 to supervise the construction of the Hollyhock House, Rudolf Schindler established his practice there in 1922 with his own Kings Road House, seen here behind a site colour co-ordinated GS.

It was a real treat to see this amazing David Hockney image on display at the Getty Museum in Brentwood.

Dropping GS off at LAX, the "Theme" building undergoing construction.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


I spent five weeks on the Hawaiian island of Oahu. The first week was spent travelling around the island, checking out the North Shore, Windward Coast, and Pearl Harbour.
For the next four weeks I stayed in a rented condo in Waikiki, and made lithographic prints at the Honolulu Printmakers printshop.

The condo I lived in is the plain white one on the left. The one up front, with the wicked cantilever, was my daily eye-candy on my bike ride to the printshop. I had hoped to see some great mid-late century concrete buildings like this one in Honolulu, and was not disappointed. I was disappointed, however, in the lack of all things pertaining to Jack Lord: 20 ft long black Ford coupes, long sleeve Aloha shirts, "Book'em Dano" t-shirts. Seriously, he is all but forgotten, ditto for Magnum, only the TV show Lost matters now.

Looking out my condo window over the canal and golf course. I was near the Diamond Head end of Waikiki.

I met Gary on the way home from the printshop one day. He asked if I was the guy photographing his car the other day. I confessed. The next time I came by, he was there again, applying bondo to the body of his Camaro. He offered me a Bud, then I took this picture of him giving the Bud salute.

The Academy of Fine Arts building, home to the Honolulu Printmakers printshop, a gallery space and a ceramics workshop.
Below, the litho room, where I spent most of my time. The stone sitting on the press has my "AfterLife" image on it.