Art to Science

Both of us feel honoured to have been invited to this prestigious gathering and excited to present our work to plant pathologists. We hoped to inspire them in their work and to learn from their latest research. Many thanks to all who have helped us travel to Palencia with our art (for a list of supporters, click our Sponsors page). We are grateful for all the contributions we received!

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SEF Learnings, Leaving, and Hospitality

SEF poster.

SEF poster.

It’s impossible to encapsulate the experiences or learnings of such a big gathering like SEF 2016 where so many presentations and poster sessions took place. However, we were fortunate to be given a book version of the abstracts and posters presented at the conference (you can download the PDF version here), as well as an in-depth study of Fusarium disease control. Thank-you, organizers!

Abstracts and poster summaries from the SEF Congress.

Abstracts and poster summaries from the SEF Congress.

A case study available at the SEF Congress.

A case study available at the SEF Congress.

Since we design and silkscreen shirts, we couldn’t resist buying two souvenirs from the SEF Congress! One featured a comical graphic of a scientist looking at fungi and pathogens designed by Kukuxumusu in Pamplona-Iruña; the other had the elegant Congress foliage-P graphic.

A shirt design from the SEF Congress.

Kukuxumusu design from the SEF Congress.

A shirt design from the SEF Congress.

SEF Congress shirt design.

With so many delegates attending the Congress, the organizers faced a massive job in coordinating not only the presentation and poster venues, but also the coffee breaks. Their brilliant system assigned delegates to certain restaurants and bars downtown near the Teatro Principal. On our first morning, when we poured out onto the street for a coffee break, five people from the organizing committee awaited us, each with a sign indicating where we were going.

Nuns watch as SEF delegates pour out of the Teatro Principal.

Nuns watch as SEF delegates fill the street outside the Teatro Principal.

Let's follow Juan Asdrubal to Bar Maño!

Juan Asdrubal ready to lead the way to Bar Maño!

Claire and I followed Asdrubal Pacheco with the others in our group to Bar Maño (more photos on their Facebook page) where our amiable host Alberto had tables set up with coffee, juice and various snacks downstairs below his street-level bar. After that, we knew our way around!

We had met Paula Zamora at the 2011 IUFRO conference in Montesclaros and were delighted to reconnect with her in Palencia. Originally trained as a forestry engineer, she has written a fascinating thesis on biological controls for Chestnut blight (she also makes beautiful enameled objects!). On our last day, after we took down and packed our exhibition, Paula kindly took us on an outing to some of her favourite places near the city: beautiful oak-covered hills, and a viewpoint from which we could see for miles across the northern Spanish plains.

When we returned to her flat, her partner Tano, a gifted machinist, had prepared a lovely lunch for us on their patio. What a wonderful way to spend our last hours in Palencia before Paula drove us to the train station. We boarded the train to Zumarraga feeling blessed and full of the warmth of Palentino culture.

After a restorative overnight in Antzuola near Zumarraga, we took a bus to Bilbao for our last evening before flying out early the next morning. After we stashed our suitcases at the pensión near the bus depot, Pilar and Oscar rendezvous’d with us downtown. They are the parents of our friend Paula Laita Pallarés’ who has been working in Williams Lake, BC. Accompanied by their mellow dog, Walter, they took us for a fantastic coffee and pastries.

On the way, we stopped into a massive building that has been converted from a wine warehouse to a beautiful public space that includes a library, gymnasium, swimming pool and exhibition/trade fair facility. Two new buildings were built inside the old one, with unique columns decorated by artists through a public art process. That was just the beginning of a delicious crawl through the old Casco Viejo part of the city with its tantalizing pintxos bars. After we were no longer capable of further culinary research, Oscar and Pilar walked us back to the neighbourhood where we were staying and said good-night. We felt very grateful for their hospitality.

Susan Madsen met us at the Vancouver airport. She and Stephen Mitchell helped us recover at their house from the long trip back to Canada with their usual generosity, thoughtfulness and warmth. It was great to be able to debrief with fellow artists like them over delicious meals before starting our drive back north to Wells and returning to our various fall projects.

Reminiscing about Ribera del Duero with Susan and Stephen while sampling a gift from Juan Barbé.

Reminiscing about Ribera del Duero with Susan and Stephen while sampling a gift from Juan Barbé.

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Spanish Plant Pathology Society Field Trips

On the last day of the Congress we had the opportunity to accompany delegates on field trips. The first was to see some Pinus pinaster (resin pines – native to the Mediterranean) that have been suffering from a collar root fungus. Cristina Prieto has been studying this in great detail and shared some of her investigative work with us. Unfortunately, because this is not a commercial pine species, funding for further research is difficult to source. It was very poignant to stand under the remaining pines.

Cristina hold us her poster with Pablo while Julio gives an overview of the decline of the resin pines.

Cristina holds up her poster with Pablo to explain more about the fungus after Julio’s overview of the decline of the resin pines.

Resin pines, live and dead.

Resin pines, live and dead.

Many pines that have succumbed.

Many pines have succumbed; dry weather increases stress and mortality.

A closeup of a portion of Cristina's poster.

A closeup of a portion of Cristina’s poster.

We also visited a vineyard that produces grapes for the PradoRey winery in the Ribera del Duero region. Their technician showed us the damage caused by a insect that bores holes in the vine stalks. Because of its erratic nature and nocturnal activity, it’s difficult to treat.

Next stop was a tour of the PradoRey winery where we learned about their production process, including the aging of wines in oak barrels, mechanical vs hand harvesting, materials used, etc. The facility is immaculate. They produce their own olive oil which is as delicious as their wines.

Our tour learns more about fermentation.

Our tour learns more about fermentation – an exciting topic for natural scientists!

Bottling production line.

Bottling production line.

This clip

shows the bottling and crating in action.

Our final destination was a lovely lunch at a small hotel-restaurant operated by PradoRey. La Posada Real de Sitio Ventosilla was built for the Castilian Royal Family in the early 17th century. It has a small number of rooms and a lovely, airy restaurant with super-friendly staff and excellent food – tasty and unpretentious. Later we learned that the painter Rubens visited the premises! We felt very lucky to be there.

Claire with Celia and Belén at lunch.

Claire with Celia and Belén at lunch.

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Our presentation to SEF 2016

Julio Casero gave us a warm and heartfelt introduction to delegates in the Teatro Principal on the Thursday morning of the Congress and noted that we had mounted a crowdsourcing campaign to attend as visual artists. He also explained that we were donating my beetle gallery silkscreen prints and a selection of archival reproductions of Claire’s art to the University of Valladolid. Since it has a Sustainable Forestry Institute, the UVa seems like a perfect place for our art to reside!

Bill and Claire at the Teatro Principal after their presentation; photo courtesy of Cristina Prieto.

Bill and Claire at the Teatro Principal podium following their presentation; photo courtesy of Cristina Prieto.

The goal of our presentations was to explain where we come from, how the mountain pine beetle epidemic affected our environment and our art, and the processes we use to make paintings, silkscreen prints and hand made papers. (I managed about 3/4 of this in Spanish, but reverted to English occasionally 😉

Here are some screen shots to give a flavour of what we showed:

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Photo of Claire in her studio by Annerose Georgeson.

Photo of Claire in her studio by Annerose Georgeson.

Claire's first solo exhibition of her pine beetle based work at Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George, 2009.

Claire’s first solo exhibition of her pine beetle based work at Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George, 2009.

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Dead standing Lodgepole pine on the left reveals beetle galleries below the bark; Edgeworthia "paperbush" at Vancouver's Van Dusen Gardens (photo courtesy of Kathy Kinakin).

Dead standing Lodgepole pine on the left reveals beetle galleries below the bark; Edgeworthia “paperbush” at Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens (photo courtesy of Kathy Kinakin).

The late Nicaraguan artist, muralist and teacher, Boanerges Cerrato, making Espadillo paper with Bill at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Managua, 1986.

The late Nicaraguan artist, muralist and teacher, Boanerges Cerrato, making Espadillo paper with Bill at the Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas, Managua, 1986.

Thanks again to Chris Harris and Annerose Georgeson for allowing us to use some of their photos.

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Reunions

Bill & Claire with IUFRO President, Mike Wingfield.

Bill & Claire with IUFRO President, Mike Wingfield.

We felt very lucky to reconnect in Palencia with the organizers, as well as some of the speakers and delegates we had met at previous IUFRO conferences, and it was a pleasure to make some new friends, too. Having lunch with Mike Wingfield, Julio Casero and Jorge García before the congress began was a real privilege.

Claire with SEF President and Congress organizer, Julio Javier Díez Casero.

Claire with SEF President and Congress organizer, Julio Javier Díez Casero.

Claire with Elena Hidalgo Rodríguez, Carmen Romeralo and Diana Bezos from the organizing committee.

Claire with Elena Hidalgo Rodríguez, Carmen Romeralo and Diana Bezos from the organizing committee.

Claire with Montse from Catalunya.

Claire with Montse Rosello from Catalunya.

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Rosa and Elena were at IUFRO Montesclaros in 2011 and it was great to see them again.

We were also blessed with a visit to our exhibition and our presentation to the Congress from Juan Barbé of Eskulan paper studio and Papyriphera who made a big detour from his trip Gijón to Bilbao and who had sent me the Mitsumata paper I printed along with Curly Dock paper we made together in Zizurkil in 2013. Always a pleasure to talk about fibres!

Juan Barbé points to the Mitsumata paper he sent for Bill to silkscreen with an image of the plant; the Curly Dock paper they made is below it.

Juan Barbé points to the Mitsumata paper; our Curly Dock paper is below it.

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Opening of the 18th Spanish Plant Pathology Society Congress

The Teatro Principal, with the red Diputación de Palencia building to its left.

The Teatro Principal, with the ornate Diputación de Palencia building to its left.

The Congress opened at Palencia’s Teatro Principal, an elegant building downtown, with speeches and welcoming remarks by representatives of various levels of government and of course, organizer Julio Casero from the University of Valladolid, who is the current President of SEF.

Welcoming ceremony at SEF 2016.

Welcoming ceremony at SEF 2016.

Mike Wingfield gave the main keynote presentation, “Fungal Tree Diseases – Can We Rise Above the Gathering Storm?” As well as being Director of  the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute, at the University of Pretoria (FABI), he is the President of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO); he gave the keynote speech at the first IUFRO conference we attended with Claire’s art (see the Montesclaros entries from 2011 in this blog) and he was as riveting in this talk as he was back then. One of his messages was that we achieve better results when we collaborate. We really appreciate his wide range of interests and his support for interdisciplinary activities.

Mike Wingfield speaks to the 2016 SEF Congress.

Mike Wingfield speaks to the 2016 SEF Congress.

The interior of the beautiful Teatro Principal as seen from an upper balcony.

The interior of the beautiful Teatro Principal as seen from an upper balcony.

Most of the presentations were in Spanish, and some were extremely complex, so it was challenging for us to understand at times. However, the scientists shared an incredible range of fascinating information and investigations, such as Marta Vasconcelos’ study from the Universidade Católica Portuguesa that revealed more and more layers of insight the deeper they looked with newer and newer genetic tools that progressively cost less each year.

Marta Vasconcelos gives a detailed presentation on Pine Wilt disease.

Marta Vasconcelos gives a detailed presentation on Pine Wilt disease.

Another that stood out was a 90 minute talk on “Viroids: a journey from plant pathology to the origins of life” by Ricardo Flores of Valencia’s Institute of Molecular Biology and Cell Biology. His animated, passionate and detailed talk evoked sustained applause at the end.

The program of oral presentations can be downloaded here.
A PDF of the book of abstracts presented at SEF 2016 and the posters can be downloaded here.

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Setting up in Palencia

Our exhibition was located in the City of Palencia’s Culture Centre, a lovely building downtown just a few blocks from the Teatro Principal where the keynote speeches and many presentations were to take place.

The City of Palencia's Cultural Centre contains a gallery, a theatre/conference room and offices.

The City of Palencia’s Cultural Centre contains a gallery, a theatre/conference room and offices.

We rolled our suitcase of art from the hotel and unpacked our work so it could flatten out while we found the ladder, assembled our hanging kit, and surveyed the space. A few months back, Julio (the Congress organizer) had sent us a photo of a previous exhibition here, and it looked much as we imagined, with high ceilings and wooden trusses. The entire wall at the end of the gallery was set aside for us.

Claire's canvas "trees" rolled up for travel.

Claire’s canvas “trees” rolled up for travel.

In the same space, a SEF Congress team was setting up a labyrinth of wooden support panels for the many “posters” – large plotter-printed displays with photos, diagrams and text summarizing recent plant pathology investigations. They were very helpful in finding tools and answering questions, as were the Cultural Centre’s staff, security and custodial personnel.

The labyrinth of panels await their posters.

The labyrinth of panels await the posters.

Hanging took all Monday, plus the next morning. No accidents and no mishaps, although one of my hand-made silkscreened papers (Broom paper) fell off the wall twice! The dry atmospheric conditions meant that our low-tack tape was just strong enough.

Claire makes a few adjustments to one of her trees.

Claire makes a few adjustments to one of her trees.

By running picture framing wire between trusses we were able to hang some of Claire’s trees farther out into the gallery to create a more dimensional effect.

Bill with the high wires.

Bill with the high wires.

One view of our exhibit.

One view of our exhibit.

Bill's silkscreened mountain pine beetle galleries.

Bill’s silkscreened mountain pine beetle galleries.

Bill's silkscreened handmade papers.

Bill’s silkscreened handmade papers.

The labyrinth of posters installed in the Cultural Centre Gallery.

The labyrinth of posters installed in the Cultural Centre Gallery.

A sample of just how much information was packed into each corner of the panels of posters.

A sample of just how much information was packed into each corner of the panels of posters.

A significant portion of the SEF Congress was devoted to studies of the Xylella bacteria that's been killing European olive trees.

A significant portion of the SEF Congress was devoted to studies of the Xylella bacteria that’s been killing European olive trees.

A pathogen attacking pineapples.

A pathogen attacking pineapples.

Study of nematodes.

Study of nematodes.

Visual markers of viral infections of plants.

Visual markers of viral infections of plants.

A PDF of the book of abstracts presented at SEF 2016 and the posters can be downloaded here.

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Travel and Transition

Because the flights are long and Spain is nine hours ahead of the Pacific time zone in which we live, we planned to spend our first three days in Gernika to try to recover before carrying on to Palencia to install our exhibition.
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View from the Akelarre pension patio.

View from the Akelarre pension patio in the heart of Gernika. This time the weather was not as sunny as this earlier photo shows!

Claire patented jetlag recovery plan in action.

Claire with her patented jetlag recovery plan in action.

An hour by bus or train from Bilbao, Gernika is a lovely Basque town almost entirely rebuilt after Hitler’s Condor Legion bombed it in support of Franco in 1937 – commemorated by Picasso in his mural.

To absorb all of the Gernika Peace Museum takes at least a full day. I recommend taking a walk or going for pintxos to debrief between the exhibits on each floor. A powerful place. Since the museum carries out educational programs, we brought along a copy of Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future, the 388-page summary of the final report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (printed and bound by Publication Studio in Vancouver) to donate to their library. The next day we were pleasantly surprised when the museum staff kindly gave us a gift of one of their printed canvas bags with a museum DVD inside it.

The Gandhi quote reads, "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

The Gandhi quote reads, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”

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Gernika Peace Museum DVD.

Although rain was soaking the entire Bizkaia region, we embarked on a short excursion from Gernika to Bermeo via Euskotren. On the advice of Igor at Leogie Taberna, we disembarked at Mundaka and walked the rest of the way. He was right: it’s a lovely stroll along the Basque coastline in the Busturialdea-Urdaibai district, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. However, we didn’t realize that we were walking right into Bermeo’s annual rowing contest! Hundreds of people thronged the streets, many in team uniforms, and various vendor booths were set up along the quay.

Euskotren lines east from Bilbao, including the Bermeo line.

Euskotren lines east from Bilbao, including the Bermeo line.

Looking east from the road between Mundaka and Bermeo.

Looking east from the road between Mundaka and Bermeo.

As a surprise for Claire, I had arranged to rendezvous with our friend Alberto Letona, a Basque author who lives in Lemoiz, over the hills to the west of Bermeo. It was lovely to casually walk up to him on the quay and see the delight in Claire’s face as she realized who was approaching us with open arms!

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View of the Bizkaia coast from the village of Armintza farther west (where Alberto took us the last time we visited).

Bill & Alberto last year in Armintza.

Bill & Alberto last year in Armintza.

After strolling around the quay, we stopped at a bar renowned for its olagarroa/pulpo. It was packed, so we sat at table outside, just as another downpour began. A family under an awning invited us to squeeze under the shelter with them, where we all watched the volume of rainwater accumulate above us, in case it spilled! It was great to catch up with Alberto and we were grateful that he took the time to bus all the way over from Lemoiz.

Time to leave Gernika for Palencia via Bilbao.

Time to leave Gernika for Palencia via Bilbao.

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