Sometimes, Angela Antle has to stop and pinch herself.
Antle is the host of Weekend Arts Magazine (WAM), which airs Saturdays and Sundays from 6:00 to 9:30 am on CBC Radio. She gets to celebrate what Andy Jones describes as our "Galoot of a culture", interviewing visual and performing artists, writers and more in what is probably the best arts program in the province.
She is also a respected visual artist in her own right, working in encaustic, which uses melted beeswax as a medium. Her distinctive works are available at the Bonnie Leyton Gallery in St. John's and the Sandra Goldie Gallery in Montreal.
Last year, Antle hosted the national radio arts program Socket, in which she succeeded in doing aural justice to visual art. Currently, she is the national visual arts producer for Q, the afternoon arts program hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. That show, which airs on the CBC network, is now in the top five of the most-downloaded podcasts in the country.
"I have two great jobs and it doesn't get much better," Antle says, over a cup of coffee at Hava Java. "(Producer) Glenn Tilley often says, We're in the arts in Newfoundland and Labrador and we're getting paid for it!' We're lucky in that way."
WAM is a culturally important and highly entertaining program. In fact, its only drawback is its time slot, early on Saturday and Sunday mornings, when many of its potential listeners are sleeping off a night of revelry. The time slot is essentially a ghetto from which no program even one as good as this could expect to win high ratings. You can review much of the show's material in the WAM archive but I find that cumbersome; like trying to choose from a buffet of unfamiliar dishes.
"There's always been talk of changing the time but that's the slot that we've been given on the network. There's been talk of moving it (to a later time) in the weekend And they are also looking at podcasting. They agree there is no reason why we can't have a WAM podcast. It would be a great way to build an audience."
Antle pointed out that listeners sometimes come to the show whilst moving through life cycles. "Alan Doyle (of Great Big Sea) told me that he only ever used to hear the last 20 minutes of the show. But he said now he is standing there with a baby in his arms, waiting for the show to start!"
Andy Jones famous galoot' line has become WAM's unofficial slogan, and has even been reproduced on custom-designed promo t-shirts. "It's is a big galoot of a culture; this big kind of thing that we rassle with very week. We have 7 hours of programming (per week) and there's stuff that still doesn't get on the air. There's so much!"
When she first began working with CBC Radio Arts, Antle said, the prevailing wisdom at the time was that visual art can't be properly expressed on radio. "Never say you can't do anything to me! Everything we do is visual on the radio if it has a good story behind it, it works."
In parallel to her work on WAM, Antle has built a career of her own as a visual artist, working in the tricky but highly expressive encaustic medium. She uses beeswax mixed with oil paints for pigment.
"My palette is a muffin tin," she said, "and it sits in an electric frying pan. When you apply it, it's like waterit's liquid. It hardens immediately. It's fantastic."
And unlike water colours, mistakes can be corrected by scraping off the wax. "I do a lot of digging in it, and I make lines and fill the lines with other colours. I layer it on top and scrape it back I will often have a sore arm from all the scraping."
Antle's works are colourful, abstract and bursting with ideas. The piece shown here is 'Illusions of Permanence' - you can view samples of her work at her own web site or at the site of the Bonnie Leyton Gallery.
Antle has always had an artistic streak, working in theatre while growing up in Grand Falls-Windsor. But she didn't emerge "officially" as a visual artist until her early thirties, which, as near as I can surmise, was about 10 years ago. "I always fooled around with art and was encouraged (by others) and did set painting in Grand Falls but there were no arts classes."
She didn't come into her own as an artist until much later. She had quit a job with CBC in Quebec City to join her boyfriend (now husband) Mark Quinn in Toronto. "I was freelancing and finally lived in a city where there was an art school, so I applied to OCA (Ontario College of Art) with all these young kids Then I got a job at CBC at night in Radio News, while going to art school during the day. It was great idyllic. That was before kids!"
This was when Antle was first exposed to encaustic art. "I saw this encaustic artist in Toronto and thought this is what I want to be using!'"
Because she works the weekend, Antle is off Mondays and Tuesdays, and is "holed up" in her basement on those days working toward a new show at Grenfell in January. "I'm painting my butt off, trying to get these major paintings done."
"But it's really good to be involved (as an artist). It gives you street cred, when you're doing the (radio) show. You certainly understand more what people are going through when you're also going through it. I have the benefit of having a job to support my art habit."
The credibility Antle has earned with WAM, as well as her own visual art, helped lead to her work with Socket, which, in turn, led to her role in Q. "I've always had this dual thing going on, and they seem to feed off each other," she said.
This dual path is demonstrated in how Antle hatched the idea of Socket. She was an artist in residence at the Spadina Museum in Toronto, where she would work on her art while museum guests were wandering in and out.
They were in that history tour' mindset, Antle said, when they came into the room where she was working. "And you could see the panic on their faces. They just didn't want to be in the room with this contemporary artist. You could just see the were really uncomfortable."
Antle said she couldn't understand why people would react in such a way to an artist at work. "And that's what got me thinking about Socket. That's when I started thinking about doing this visual arts show that would bring artists into the realm of everyday. It's not so esoteric and academic and scary as you think. These are people with a sense of humour who are concerned about the same things you're concerned about and they're just finding a way to talk about it So I had this five week break from CBC to paint and yet that was when I formulated this show, because I had the space to sit back and think big picture."
Socket did achieve that; it found the humour, humanity and ordinary joe' element that resides in all artists, if a little deeper in some than others. "It was fantastic to do. It was really satisfying. And (producer) Ramona Dearing was fantastic to work with."
Socket was a summer replacement show and likely won't return, Antle said, especially with the emphasis the network is now placing on Q. "That is the national arts vehicle now. But I'm trying to bring that Socket sensibility to it."
And she is right. Antle's role is to identify visual artists from across the country who are interesting but also accessible. And her influence on Q since the show started in April has been obvious.
"Some of the highlights of Q are Allyson Mitchell, a Toronto artist who makes huge female Sasquatch sculptures, and Brian Jungen, a BC artist whose whale made of plastic patio chairs in now at The Rooms... he is an art god. I also got Wayne Baerwaldt on... he is widely considered the King Midas of Canadian contemporary art right now. A quirky artist named Kristen Horten who recreated scenes from the movie Dr. Strangelove out of household items and a woman named Liss Platt who made puck paintings with Jian... her work is all about the intersection between art and sport. Right now I'm working on a piece for them about mural painters in Belfast."
Antle says that comparison between WAM and Q are inevitable. "If you look at Q, it's very similar to what WAM does. It gives a broad range of what culture is. It's not high culture always, though there are elements of that. It's everything from who has a new CD or opera or book, and more... So there are similarities."
Antle's long term goal is to host an hour-long network program out of Newfoundland, much as she did with Socket. "We've shown that we can do that here," she said. "And I want to keep having that balance (between two careers) I need two or three days a week to work on other stuff."
Be listening to the national CBC Network this summer, as Antle fills in for three weeks for a vacationing Jian Ghomeshi.
Q airs weekdays at 2:30 pm and again at 10:30 pm. And don't forget WAM, Saturday and Sunday mornings at 6:00 am.