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Robert Bateman's magic in words

Those who packed into the Brackendale Art Gallery last Saturday (Jan. 10) experienced a rare and special treat. Robert Bateman took us on a journey of slide visuals and commentary, as he related about his art, nature and his concerns for mankind.

Those who packed into the Brackendale Art Gallery last Saturday (Jan. 10) experienced a rare and special treat. Robert Bateman took us on a journey of slide visuals and commentary, as he related about his art, nature and his concerns for mankind.

Appropriately, the evening's presentation was a fundraiser for the Art Gallery's latest nature project, the Brackendale Eagle Tower Monument.

A life-long birder and naturalist, Bateman's enchantment with and passion for nature have served not only his art, but his vocation as a teacher as well. The concerns he feels about how we humans are handling our planet are heartfelt. His gem of a book, Thinking Like A Mountain (Viking Press, 2000), expresses these very effectively.

Saturday evening's journey began with Bateman noting that bald eagles are one of what he calls "flagship species". Others are wolves, whales, spotted owls and sandhill cranes.

His first slide was of a canary in a cage. He related how caged canaries were used by miners underground to indicate the presence of poisonous gas.

Similarly, our major species of wildlife, such as bald eagles, are a signal of how our environment - which we rely on to sustain us - is doing. If such "flagship species" are in danger then the entire food chain is not doing well, our environment is not healthy; it is poisoned.

Bateman is particularly attracted, as many are, to the magnificence of the bald eagle. They have been the subject of many of his most famous and well-known paintings. We were treated to a series of slides, which served to illustrate some extraordinary commentary about his thinking and technique in the progress of creating these masterful paintings. We gained insight into his spatial and textural arrangement, placements of lines and patterns and the fact that the artistic balance and effect of the finished painting is the ultimate goal.

Bateman attributes the planet's ills to "three Fs": industrial fishing, industrial farming and industrial forestry. These activities, on a smaller human scale do not pose a concern to man. However, with the global actions of huge, highly commercial and mechanized fishing, farming and forestry corporations becoming more and more prevalent today, not only is our environment threatened, but also the independence and vitality of local people the world over is threatened as well. We see and hear of it often: individual fishers, family farms or independent logging companies being taken over by large corporate businesses.

The irony, Bateman stated, is that we support a great deal of this type of big business through our taxes, which are given to these corporations as subsidies or tax breaks. Bateman feels we have one effective way to protest - how we spend our money. He feels we should purchase goods or services only from those we can support morally and ethically.

Bateman closed his presentation with a slide of a profile of Mt. Maxwell on Salt Spring Island. In the scene, it rises on a steady incline from the right, to the peak of the mountain, and then drops suddenly to the ocean on the left. He used the mountain as a metaphor commenting that mankind is at a pinnacle: in technological knowledge and accomplishment, in the vast amounts of information we have access to and in our knowledge about our planet and mankind.

From the peak we can look back and benefit from the insights of where we've come from. We can look ahead and contemplate our future through the eyes of our current technological complexity. We can gaze up and observe an eagle flying ever higher. We can imagine an eagle flying so high it would see the world as the astronauts have - one incredible, unified globe. We have a choice. We can "think like a mountain", respecting the balances of nature and pass on the earthly treasures to our children.

Bateman feels we must make changes in the way we conduct our lives. He says we must ask ourselves, "Is it worth it?" and concludes that it is.

Bateman honoured with Order of Eagles medal

For years, the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society has been honoured by Robert Bateman's donations to its fundraising efforts. Now they've finally returned the favour.

On Saturday evening, BAG curator Thor Froslev presented "Bob" Bateman (as he calls him) with a medallion: Brackendale Eagle Award - Honourary Order of Eagles - Lifetime Achievement Award.

Bateman has been contributing prints to to the Squamish Estuary Conservation Society for their Annual Eagle Festival Raffle since his first visit to the BAG in 1991.

Hamaguchi, Valdy coming

The Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival continues with the next speaker in the Natural World lecture series, Roy Hamaguchi, speaking Saturday (Jan. 17) at the BAG at 8 p.m.

Singer/songwriter Valdy makes his annual pilgrimage to the BAG next Sunday (Jan. 25) with a solo show starting at 8 p.m.

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