Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 8, No. 2, 2009
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Mark Goldfarb
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Bernard Dubé
Diane Gordon
Sylvain Richard
David Solway
Marissa Consiglieri de Chackal
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Emanuel Pordes
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
Emanuel Pordes
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  Armand Vaillancourt
Les Cosgrove
Gustavo Sigal
Guy Benson
Eric Bertrand
Lyne Bastien
Kapal Harnal
Nguyen Tai
Magdalena Magiera
Charles Malinksy
Marc Fortier
Bernard Dubé
Remigio Valdes de Hoyos
Mylène Gervais
Christina Coleman
Laura Hollick
Louise Jalbert
Rosemary Scanlon
Manitoba Art
The Gambaroffs
Francine Hébert
Marcel Dubois
Ruben Cukier
Raka B. Saha
Purivs Young
William Kinnis & Dominique Tremblay
Gudrun Vera Hjartardottir
Gee's Bend Quilt Collective
Magie Dominic
Ryan McLelland
John Gordon
William Noguera
Manita Shine
Ken Matsumoto
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward

from the outback to the art of



A short while ago I received an intriguing article from an artist named Amy Bernays. The story (in words and images) is about a very eventful, frigid journey which resulted in what she refers to as “Kennedy Meadows Ice paintings.” I wrote back to Amy and asked her to tell me a little bit about herself and her paintings.


My fiancé’s father built this cabin with his own hands in the 1960s. It has no electricity or running water, is nestled up a 25 mile, single track canyon road.

We watched as the dash display blinked out the temperature. Twenty seven Fahrenheit at the turn off to the lonely road, 26 as the sky drained of the lingering light, 23 as the Joshua trees held on to the steep slope, 20 as the dry desert gravel banked with snow. Several tracks were cut into the afternoon dusting on the road. And then 17 and still dropping and the slush was black, hard ice.

The little car beeped and the green temperature gage was joined by a yellow flashing skidding sign. The speedometer stayed level but we slowed as the tires lost the battle for traction. We slipped, we skidded, we revved and then we came to stop, perched on the black ice like stilettos on glass. And the car started to slowly slide backwards.

There is no rail on the side of this road, just a few boulders and banks of snow from a past plow, and no way to tell the difference between the two. Behind that, just a steady grade of loose rocks and century plants tumbling down to the desert floor. I jumped out of the car. My boots slipped on the black. With thermals, jeans and three sweaters, a coat, hat and gloves the cold bit into me like a black snake. It rasped at my cheeks and pushed me down the slope.

Rush rush, gathering the chainsaw from the back yard, paper to paint on, linens to sleep in. We were almost late for the fifteen mile an hour traffic jam and the gray rain that greeted us on the highway. We sat behind a socking big rig and looked into the windows of the other cars, skis on roofs, bored children with messy faces, too many college kids in one car, smoking. The rain chilled and, as we started to climb into the high desert, it started to snow, then hail, then snow again.

“Do you have a paint brush?” I asked. She cocked her head, pursed her lips and looked up into the recesses of her mental stock list. She shook her head. The shop was attached to the three gas pumps on the side of the road. She had thin brown hair and it was scraped back into a kinked ponytail, the florescent light flickering green on her smiling rosy face.

Dream catcher key chains and laminated roadmaps fluttered behind the cash register as ice air came in through the old wooden door.

“Not to sell,” she qualified. “My kids have a box of that kind of thing,” and then she called over the chipped counter to the big man sitting in the plastic booth. He wore a thick red checked jacket with worn elbow patches and a ‘Fish Fear Me’ baseball cap. Three kids of varying stickiness fidgeted in the slippery red bench, eating chips and toys. “Honey, can you grab that box of art stuff from round back?”

He said something while I thanked her, and Brad (my fiancé) honked the car from the gas pump. The sky and all the desert around us was turning blue and cold was rolling in.

“Sorry, kids got to it. We have a toy painting set,” she offered. I fingered through the plastic coyotes, snow globes and Cheetos. It was hung at the back, plastic and pink and I paid my $2.99 for a set of Venetian masks, a pot of blue, red, and yellow paint and a plastic stick with twenty strands of nylon sticking out the top of it. Yeah!

We had to hike the last mile to the cabin. We made it over Big Pine Pass in the footsteps of past 4 x 4s and a little way cutting our own tracks along the trail from the Federal road. But once the drifts in the trees and the winding hillocks set in we were buried.

The little stove that is the only source of heat in the one room cabin pours out warmth. The logs boiling with sap fill the room with the mnemonic smell of pinion pine and holidays. With an icicle, we stir a cocktail from an old bottle of vodka that we found on the shelf. We were warm and tired and happy to be 7000 feet high.

We both tossed and turned after we had fallen into bed. A headache and
nausea now overcame me; when I stood up, I immediately stumbled and fell back. The room was thick, my head spinning; something was very wrong.

Altitude, bad old vodka, monoxide? I opened all the doors and windows
in the cabin. We hid under the covers, the weight of all the blankets and sleeping bags I could find pushing down on us. The flickering light from the stove that tried to burn a little warmth was whisked away by the coldest night that flooded in.

Rustling from outside mingled in my mind with monsters and bears, hiding in the shadows out the open door. “Where’s the gun?” I whispered and I slipped into sleep.

I ached from shivering as the brightest sun bounded about; glimmering on every melting icicle and blue tits sang, steaming through the snow-laden limbs and crisp bacon on the stove. With hot coffee and too much food unloaded from our stranded car, I wore every piece of clothing I had brought.

Fortified, I marched up the hill, and with stick that passed for a paint brush I painted the world. Below I could hear Brad towing out the car with the ’61 pickup, revving and swearing merrily.

Shards of ice formed while painting.

The wind cooled the watercolour I was painting with, freezing the brush
to the paper and growing ice shards in the pool of blue that was my darkening sky.

Neighbours from the general store came by for drinks. I stared longingly at the bearded man’s snowshoes as the boys talked about the next storm. It was debated whether it was wise to drive the little car to the Federal Road, which is plowed even on Sundays. The pros and cons went on past dusk and it was decreed that if it snowed, then that would be a good course of action.

The stove chewed through wood for a second night. My sleepy eyes left the warmth of the cabin and out through the window onto the world. The silent morning was billowing in fat snowflakes, drifting onto the forest like feathers

“Shit. I jumped from the bed and started pulling on long johns. “It’s

“What?” One eye opened from under the covers, warm against the cool
smoke cabin air. “How much?”


We both began leaping about the cabin putting on thermal underwear,
hats, gloves and jeans, about in that order and began the long journey

For more of Amy's remarkable work, visit her website:


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