Critically acclaimed as Canada’s best brewery, The Establishment Brewing Company invites applications from artists and illustrators, with priority given to those residing in Calgary or Alberta, for artwork to include in beer labels for their limited-edition barrel-aged bottle program.

In 2021, The Establishment commissioned me to provide artwork for some new beer labels, each one presenting a rotationally ambiguous image. These digital collages use found imagery, and as such, were actually created in much the same whimsical, improvisational manner as my sculptures.

“Root Down”

This ambiguous artwork is inspired by the Root Down name, the “interplay between the complex mixed cultures,” and the dualities (‘old world’ traditions/‘new world’ thinking, art/science, yin/yang, etc.) inherent to beer-making, and life.

Right-side up, you’ll see a ginger-bearded wise man, clothed in a starry robe. To the right, a small chapel, and beyond… an inverted landscape in the sky? Upside-down, you’ll see “Device to Root Out Evil” by Dennis Oppenheim, a well-known Calgary public artwork. Oppenheim’s sculpture—a tiny church with its steeple jabbed into the ground, to “ROOT DOWN” and vaccinate against earthly evil—also plays with contrasting dualities and inversions.

In the foreground of the inverted image, a masked, modern woman appears: smartly dressed, ginger curls up in a sophisticated do. Above her, an open, starry sky.

“Ramblin’ Rose”

Ramblin’ Rose is an old torch song, sung from the perspective of a tragically besotted suitor, about a ‘wild and wind-blown’ wanderer who goes their own way. It brought to my mind the classical Greek myth of Hades and Persephone (mother of Dionysus), which inspired this ambiguous image.

Persephone, goddess of grain, was gathering flowers in a field when Hades, god of the dead, plucked her up, and took her down to his Underworld kingdom. There, confined in darkness as his queen, she was obliged to spend part of the year; however, for the rest of the year she could still roam freely above ground. Not even dread Hades “can cling to a ramblin’ rose.

This story is a parallel to the beer itself: chosen grains and roses, married with the magical powers of decomposition, mingling in the mysterious sanctum of the oaken barrel, create a legendary union.