Talking Art and Alfred Wurtele

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Senior Officer's Mess at RMC

Wednesday October 3: Ex Cadet's luncheon at the Senior Officer's Mess.

Keith Orton was the perfect host for this event, making sure I had everything I needed for my presentation. It was wonderful to meet this group of alumni and share photos and details of my 2018 Artist in Residence. I was especially glad to speak about my research about the first RMC Cadet, Alfred George Godfrey Wurtele.

My goal for this presentation was to communicate the Four Pillars Art Project objectives, ask for participation, and share with alumni my residency successes and artwork.


Senior Officer's Mess interior, an elegant venue for my presentation

I had a mini exhibition set up beside my slide show, displaying: Wurtele collages, Commandant's Fire, and Reconnaissance of a Road. The Wurtele artworks are document collages that combine genealogical records, photos from RMC's archives and my own photographs of my favourite RMC trees.The Wurtele collages begin with Wurtele's parents and the family home in Quebec City, continue with Wurtele's school days at RMC and end with his time at RMC as the first alumni-professor.


Wurtele Collage #3: Childhood. The family home was one block from the Citadel in Quebec City.

It must have been an interesting experience for Alfred Wurtele, to live so close to the Citadel growing up, and then attend (originally called) the Military College of Canada in close proximity to Fort Henry and Fort Frederick.

In the collage above, the residence on the left corner was owned by William Wurtele (1816-1894), Alfred's father. A very short block away from 21 Ste. Genevieve Ave, Cape, Montcalm Ward is the green grass of the Citadel. In the collage I have used a screen shot from Google Streetview. Cut and pasted behind is my photograph of my favourite RMC campus tree: "Old Henry". It seemed fitting to combine the future with the past.

There is also included above, a payroll for February 1839, for the First Battalion Royal Montreal Volunteers (?) William Wurtele is listed, unfortunately I can't read the description of his status? His name is at the bottom of the roll, with a higher pay scale, in between the "Paymaster" and the "Adjutant"? Handwriting with pen and ink is not always ideal.

Other documents above: 1850 marriage certificate for William Wurtele and Mary Ann Lampson, 1851 Census, 1881 Census, and Residential Directory and a map of the time period showing the location of the Wurtele family home.


"Old Henry" just before the storm

Wurtele collage #2, School Days, was probably the most familiar to the ex cadets. It includes school assignments of Wurtele, his final year report card, a map of the area pre-RMC. My photos include one of a 1878 revolver, the "Stable Tree" and "Brucie's View". It is the birch tree Brucie looks at 24/7 out of the corner of his right eye. :) The tree is coming out of Alfred's head because he's growing. The revolver, is pointed downward, and when in place with collage # 3, forms a diagonal. It's downward angle infers that Wurtele never took up arms in battle.

I've cropped the photo of the"Old Eighteen" giving it a new look, superimposed over Wurtele's first-year school assignment.

Wurtele Collage #2: School Days

Wurtele Collage #3: Family and Teaching. This collage contains my favourite photos.

Wurtele Collage #3: Family and Teaching

The documents describe Wurtele's teaching at RMC from 1882 to 1897. He taught Mathematics and Geometrical Drawing. The beautiful photos of the Mackenzie Building in 1878, and an interior photo of a classroom began my wheel-spoke composition. The 1891 Canada Census, and Insurance map of Kingston shows Wurtele's residence at 140 Johnson Street (which became 178 Johnson Street). My photo of the residence as it exists today blends well with Old Henry photos. This is Greystone Manor, former residence of Sir John A MacDonald from 1849-1852.

The darkest photo of Old Henry I placed surrounding the Ottawa newspaper which contained Wurtele's obituary in August, 1898. When placed together, horizontally, Old Henry is the connecting thread. I chose to illustrate Alfred George Godfrey Wurtele's life this way because I imagine he felt rooted here in Kingston, at RMC.

During my residency, each time I crossed the Lasalle Causeway I thought of Wurtele doing the same. 135 years ago, in the early morning, he would have left his home at 140 Johnson Street, portfolio under his arm, and walked past City Hall and the new Fire Hall. Like me, did he think about his day ahead, and work out one more time what the lesson would be for his students?


2018 Winter Crossing, LaSalle Causeway. Selection from Photo Series, Reconnaissance exhibition May, 2018


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