WHAT THE ARTIST WORE

I was stopped again on the street today by a well dressed man on his way to work. “Those are colourful pants!’, he said. Yes, yeah they are.  “You should sell those!’, he continued… and so the conversation goes…  It is not uncommon for me to get stopped like this on any given day while wearing my painting pants. I must admit, in the people traffic wearing black and grey and brown and blue, they are a conversation starter – in line getting coffee, at the grocery store, or out running errands. I’ve even worn them in the summer with sandals and a white linen shirt. It makes for creative evening attire and perhaps makes me more approachable. People are curious to know where I got them.

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I think my first pair of painting pants were an old pair of doctors pants, cut off at about the knee for more freedom of movement. I liked the drawstring which made it easy to get in and out of. The fabric was light and comfortable, but like jersey material, they didn’t hold the paint. Often, it would soak through to my skin, leaving me with thigh markings in a tribe all my own.

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I opted for denim jeans, choosing ones a bit too big for me made it easy to slip out of at the end of the painting day. Many times I’ve asked friends for their old jeans and put them to good use.  On several occasions I’ve been loaned pants with the request that I wear them while painting and then give them back. It seems some of my best work ends up on my clothes.

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I can’t exactly explain why, but I have saved all my painting pants since I started painting full-time and I keep documenting them when each pair are ready to be retired.  I sometimes wonder if they might look good framed and hung on a wall. There seem to be secrets and stories hidden in each of them. Other times, I think it would be fun to make a coffee table book with my art followed by the clothes I wore while making the paintings. It’s like keeping a bit of a diary in paint and fabric. If you look through some previous work, you can probably pick out what pants were worn during certain paintings. I think a fund raising auction would be amazing if it consisted of only artists’ painting clothes in large shadow boxes. Imagine owning the painting clothes of one of your favourite artists. What a treasure to have something so personal.

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For now, my retired pants sit folded on a shelf in my studio, and they’ll likely stay there until I figure what to do with them. If you have an ideas for a good use for them, feel free to leave a comment by clicking the speech bubble icon to the right of this blog title above.

…And for those curious, I wear a 36 waist and am always in need of new denim pants for painting. Feel free to email me and drop by the studio for a visit.

 

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THE MAKING OF A MULTIPLE

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Friday nights at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre was a staple for me in university. I’d travel down with friends from York University, dance the night away and end up taking the ‘vomit commit’ back to residence. Those nights, in the early 90’s, were special and provided my first feelings of belonging in my coming out years. Later, I started seeing theatre there, and to this day I make my way over to see as many shows as I can. So, when Francisco Alvarez called this September to ask if I would create this year’s art multiples for ARTATTACK!, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre’s annual fundraising art auction, he barely finished asking, when I said YES!

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We decided on the Church Wellesley Village as a starting point and I knew it should be colourful. I had made ‘Lemon Go-Round’ earlier this year, so I wanted to pull some inspiration from that. It was also important to highlight some of the green spaces in the area and i realized there are many important place in the area that have helped to share the village into what it is today. The plan was that each of the twenty pieces would be hand embellished with at least 25 difference and I would hide the word ‘LOVE’ in a different place in each one.

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It didn’t take long to get the original art completed. There were lots of bright colours and it felt really playful. I kept thinking about all the vibrant characters I’ve met at Buddies through the years. I’ve met interesting creatvies, thoughtful writers, hip staff, and really talented performers, as well as dedicated players behind the scenes. It felt like all these personalities help to give shape to the artwork. While the painting is a view of the area from above, woven through it are lots of fanciful faces and kooky things going on. Oh, the Shenanigans!

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The original is 20×20 and was brought to Dimitri Levanoff at Image Foundry to create a high resolution scan and to make prints. Dimitri was a great help with deciding on paper and how to make the work look best as a print. The prints are 16×16 with a one inch border. We decided on a Hahnemühle bright white paper which really makes the whites pop and using gouache for the embellishment makes it almost impossible to see where new elements have been added.

As you can see in the video above, I had a lot of fun hand embellishing each print. It took me a bit longer than anticipated, but the final images are really great and something of which I am proud. The community has be been very kind to me through the years, so giving back feels good.

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While it is publicized there are over twenty-five differences in each piece, I got a little carried away and that number is probably closer to two hundred. When looking at the images in rapid sequence they look like a short piece of animation.

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Sonja Scharf and Kelly Kyle and their team at Akasha Art Projects on Church Street have framed each of the twenty artworks. I have worked this dynamic duo on many projects and they always do an amazing job of making my art look fabulous. The white border and  white frame makes for a clean and crisp presentation and was a perfect choice. Sonja and Kelly are huge supporters of the arts, the LGBTQ community and, important causes so it has been a special pleasure to work with them for ARTATTACK!

Giving new work a name is always fun and can sometimes be challenging. A big thanks to my partner, Rick, who took a look at it and called it JUICY FRUITS!  A very fitting name indeed.

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Some of my favourite places in downtown Toronto are included in this painting. If you look you can find Church Wellesley Village (look for the pride flag), Allen Gardens, Ryerson Image Centre, Ryerson Univerity Toronto City Hall, Queens Park, The Art Gallery of Ontario, Dundas Square, the former Maple Leaf Gardens, The Carlu, The Eaton Centre, The Royal Ontario Museum, University of Toronto campus, the 519, Barbara Hall Park, Nathan Phillip Square, Ontario College of Art and Design University, Grange Park, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Gardiner Museum, Akasha Art Projects, Hart House, Moss Park, Old City Hall and many more…

Lastly, I was delighted to hear the day after Juicy Fruits became available, Buddies had already sold half of the limited edition multiples. Currently, there are only five left. If you are interested in getting one and in supporting Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, you can find out more on the ARTATTACK! website.

ARTATTACK! live auction will be held on Thursday, November 10th, 2016 at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street.  Find out more about the event, participating artists and get your tickets here.

I hope to see you there!

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AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 DAYS – Day 2: Paris

The Man With The Plan.

Ouuuuch… I planned to hit the ground running, but running turned to slowly walking with my head in my hand by the time I got to the bathroom at the inn. I was up late finishing the first painting and a bottle of wine on an empty stomach can take its tole. I’m not a fuckup. I’m just a slow learner.   Brush teeth, sink bath, Advil, water. More water. Coffee. Road.

I arrived in Gander on time to meet Stan, a guy my friend had also solicited to help with the moving of this heavy and multi-part artwork.  She has a knack for getting people to do free labour for her. Burners are like that. I find this both admirable and annoying. I arranged to meet Stan at the van rental parking lot because I have to return the one I have. I arrive there first. He finally pulls up in a tan VW bus with a jerky stop-go stop.

‘Heeeeyyy’, he says with smoke swirling around his head. He looks like Shaggy from Skoobie-Doo, but older, long after the Mystery Inc disbanded and became married with children.  All the stereotypes stayed intact.

‘I don’t think your van is going to be big enough to pick up the artwork.’ I explain.

‘Nodda problem. bro. it can fit on the roof’

This is going to end badly.

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We drive to the airport where the boxes are waiting. Several staff discuss the best way to attached the boxes to the vehicle and finally decide on the use of a forklift, a tarp and the better part of a spool of yellow nylon rope. Everyone pitched in to help except one guy who stood nearby silently vaping and judging. I was judging too, but I at least knew how to tie a few helpful knots.

The way back to Twillingate was slow. The car rocked back and forth with the top heavy load and a few times I could feel the car go up on two wheels.

“Whouldn’t it be cool if the van went all sideways and we drove part of the way on two wheels.’, Stan mused aloud.

No, it would not.

I remarked that Stan the man with a plan in the tan van was an old Sesame Street skit I remembered and liked as a kid. Stan laughed and processed to tell me about how his dad met Jim Henson when they were at the University of Maryland together and how he went on to work for Henson into his Sesame Street years. His mother and father are named Dan and Franny and they inspired the skit.

‘Yeah, bro. This is the tan van!’, he says, ‘I sorta inherited after my dad died and my mom moved back to the rock because her family is from here. I’ve had this thing forever. Her name is Tanny. We drive her down to Bonnaroo every year. Not sure if we’re going to make it this year though. Last year she overheated in the wait to get in and we had to push her to get repaired. It was a bummer.’.

His laugh reminded me of ‘The Dude’ in the Big Lebowski. That sort of laugh a stoner guy makes when he’s laughing, but forgets what he’s laughing at and then realizes he’s kinda laughing at nothing, but mostly he’s just making a sort of slow stunned moan, but then finds that funny too. This happened a lot the entire ride back.

We unloaded at the lighthouse as a crew was attaching a winch at the top to pull the bull up. I had to get back to the airport to catch my flight so Stan drove me back. We stopped for lunch and I shit out my hangover and I got my flight to Paris. So much for iceberg watching. I really have to go back.

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I can’t count how many times I’ve been to Paris, but when I go I’ll make it a point of heading to the closest bakery and wolf back a croissant or two. I held off this time though because I’m staying with my friend Jackie who works at Pierre Hermé. It was perfect timing because she was getting off work so I met her at the store and tried a Croissant Ispahan for the first time. ohmyfuckinggod. Lychee and raspberry and candied rose petals. I want everything to taste like this.

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It was pissing rain and we both got pretty wet trying to find a place to have a drink, so we just went back to Jackie’s place which was nowhere nearby.  A hot shower and a glass of wine warmed me and helped us to settle in for a bit of catch-up. Jackie’s been in Paris for two years now learning to make pasties, her tiny kitchen is neatly and densely organized vertically up the walls to the high ceiling.  She was living with a french guy named Gilles for the past six months, but things weren’t working out which I said that was good because if it did work out and they got married to bring them a pail of water. Jackie stared blankly. I think she was tired.

It was getting quite late and Jackie had to work early so she left me a spare set of keys on the table and and left me to work though the night on my new painting. She turned out the lights as she went down the hall. The room felt quiet and still and the wine soothed my travel fatigue.  Rain fell rhythmically on the skylight above me and the view from Jackie’s living room was inspirational. Paris in the rain at 2am. I let out a deep sigh and opened my case and set up a little place to work. I may have left my brushes on the table at the inn in Twillingate so I only had two brushes to work with. I’ll pick up more tomorrow. I could hear Stan’s voice repeat in my head… ‘bummer.’

While setting up, in my bag I found a small heavy box wrapped with a fat elastic bands. It let out a low and clinky rattle when I shook it. Inside were six glass bolts with rubber washers and what looked like a steal core in each of them. I had no idea what they were for or how they got there. Twenty minutes later I got a text from my electric-bull-art friend asking if I had seen any bolts, that they were custom made and she needed them to have the sculpture assembled. Fuuuuuuccccckkkkk.

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PARIS AT 2AM.  12in. x 12in.  Acrylic on paper.  2016
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Around the World In 30 Days is a somewhat fictional travel journal and fundraising art project which runs May 2 to May 31, 2016.  To find out more about the project or to request a city to be painted, follow the link here.  If you would like to follow along with the adventure, you can joint the event page on Facebook, subscribe to this blog at the top of the home page or see image updates on Instagram.  Please feel free to leave comments by clicking the comment icon at the top of this post.

 

 

AROUND THE WORLD IN 30 DAYS – Day 1: Twillingate, Newfoundland

Because It’s Art.

What. A. Day… I woke up this morning and left for Montreal while it was still dark. I needed to drop off some artwork before starting my adventure, then had to catch a plane in the early afternoon from Montreal to Newfoundland so I gave myself plenty of time to drop off the cube van, have lunch and catch my flight. Yeah… not so fast.
 

I get a call from a friend who finds out I’m traveling with a van and asks if I could please pick it up some of her artwork in Montreal and take it with me. I say sure because I’m nice. Here’s a little tip about traveling with art for friends: Ask how big it is. I didn’t. Big mistake.

I get to this place that is an art gallery/art bar/barbershop/tattoo salon and this heavily tattooed guy shows me what I’m picking up. It’s a fucking MECHANICAL BULL! Yeah, no…. I call my friend and tell her she’s insane and she asks if I could at least take the package to the airport and that she’ll make all the arrangements and she’ll rent me a van once I get there and she misunderstood and thought I was driving all the way to Newfoundland blah blah blah… I’m thinking, I’m a nice person.. it’ll be fine, so …okay.  So here I am with this mechanical bull art thing in an alley to load it into the van and it starts raining and I’m hungry and cranky and this woman asks me if I need a hand and she helps me in with the first box and then I realize its Martha-FUCKING-Plimpton. I’ve cut my hand and it starts raining more so she asks some other guy to help us who does and tattoo guy has no interest in helping and goes back insite and locks the door. Then Martha asks if she can wait in the van with me until the rain stops. I say sure, but I have to leave soon because I’m going to the airport. She says that’s great because she has to go to the airport too, but could we swing by her hotel to pick up her stuff. My flight isn’t for another hour or so and it’s a domestic flight so I think I’ll be fine. It was a little weird riding around in a cube van in Montreal with Martha Plimpton, a mechanical bull, a cut hand, and eating McDonald’s fries. Yes, we stopped and got McDonald’s food. I thought she was a vegetarian too. The media tell lies.

She gets her stuff as quick as a celebrity can and off we go to the airport. I drop off the bull, I drop off Martha, and I drop of the van. All is good in the world. I get my flight and luckily no one sits beside me which was awesome. I sprawled out my stuff like a bag lady checking inventory. No inflight movie, so I watched old episodes of Bob’s Burgers on my laptop. I keep them stored there for just such an occasion. I get into St.Johns and get my connection to Gander. I pick up the new cube van to head to Twillingate, but the art my soon to be ex-friend sent hasn’t arrived. It was offloaded in St. John’s and it’s likely not going to come until tomorrow. So this means I get to come all the way back to Gander tomorrow. FML.
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The ride from Gander came with a soundtrack compliments of K-Rock, 97.4 FM. Bands like The Wings, and The Eagles made for a sunny late afternoon drive. These are songs I remember my dad playing when I was young and this being my first trip to Newfoundland it seemed fitting. My father’s father was from this area so I guess these are my people. Roll on Down The Highway by Bachman-Turner Overdrive was a personal radio favourite as was the story of a guy who was drunk and driving around town on three wheels with sparks flying off the bare rim. Billy Idol, not so much. Listening to the call-in all request afternoon gave me a quick primer in the local dialect. I found myself practicing o’ya, y’know and donchaknow repeatedly and out loud as I arrived at my destination.

Twillingate is pretty the way you imagine most Atlantic ocean-side towns. Quaint houses sit perched along the rocky shore like patient seagulls and all the docks remind me of rugged Hemingway books. It is a place where people wear sweaters in the summer and ‘cidiots’ flee at the end of cottage season. I checked into the Anchor Inn run by these two cool women, Deborah and Rebecca who both have braided ponytails. I think it’s a thing in Newfoundland because since I’ve been here I think I’ve seen about ten or twelve people with the same braided pigtails or ponytails. There was even a guy at a gas station in a truck who had one. He kinda looked like Willie Nelson, but not really. He was weathered and wore a bandana though and I’m sure he goes pot on his property. No overalls. No guitar.

It gets better…  It turns out the women at the Inn know my artist friend and I give them the address of where I have to go to drop off the art tomorrow. They show me on a map where to go and its not far and its still light so they suggest I might want to take a drive up to where it is. I get in the van and start driving north and the navigation gets a bit dodgy which it usually is when you get off the main roads in rural areas and wi-fi becomes one of those things you take for granted when you live in a big city and you start cursing rural life and getting worried you might have tostop and interact with a stranger to ask for directions. Yeah, that. The view was beautiful and other than a few turn-arounds the drive was pretty smooth. I get to the end of the road and the only thing in front of me is a lighthouse.  Yes, a lighthouse.  I spend sometime looking at the view because my cell isn’t working and get back on the main road to come back to the Inn. When I finally get bars again,  I call my friend.

 

‘You know the address you gave me is a lighthouse, right?’, I say.
‘Yeah, that’s where its going’, she says all matter-of-factly.
‘Where?!’
‘At the top.’
‘You’re fucking kidding me right?’
‘No.’
‘Why?’
“Why what?
‘Why would you put a mechanical bull at the top of a lighthouse?’
‘Because it’s art, James’. She sounds annoyed that I’d question this and says she’ll arrange for it to be ready in Gander in the morning.  (Because I have nothing better to do than chaperone a mechanical bull to the top of a light house… ‘because it’s art.’

 

I’m back at the Inn now and cracked open some white wine and finished the first of the 30 paintings for this project. Twillingate is a place I could spend some time in. Perhaps next year.
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TWILLINGATE.  12in. x 12in.  Acrylic and gouache on paper.  2016
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Around the World In 30 Days is a somewhat fictional travel journal and fundraising art project which runs May 2 to May 31, 2016.  To find out more about the project or to request a city to be painted, follow the link here.  If you would like to follow along with the adventure, you can joint the event page on Facebook, subscribe to this blog at the top of the home page or see image updates on Instagram.  Please feel free to leave comments by clicking the comment icon at the top of this post.

 

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Throwback Thursday: Everything old is new again


CITY PRIDE CITY SHAME. 22×30 Acrylic and ink on paper. 2001

The only image of this frenetic gem was found hiding away in an abandoned folder on an old laptop that can barely breathe. I had to boot it up to dig for another image and glad I stumbled upon this.

What I like most about City Pride, City Shame are the early references to cartography and map making. This painting links the scrappy figurative work I did to the work I do today. In the foreground, on the right, there is a man who looks a bit like a block-headed robot. He is slumped over, leaning away from the cacophony, and leaving the urban landscape. I was using ink and acrylic paint and experimenting with monochromatic palettes at the time. The air over the city looks smoggy or polluted and the lines become both onlooking figures and architectural details.

Some early mark making survives today. Tally marks can clearly be seen which were used often as a part of a personal lexicon. Over the past decade and a half, tally marks have transformed into groupings of three or four buildings, or cars found in groups of four or five. You can see these ‘tally marks’ as groupings in paintings a decade later.

Lastly, I like this view of a place, seen simultaneously at street level and from above. This dual perspective is not found in any other work.

 

THE STUDIO BUILDING & The Death of Defiance

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I don’t get much reading done in the summer. It’s the autumn that sees me curled up with tea and a good book. I started rereading Ross King’s Defiant Spirits: The Modernist Revolution of the Group of Seven. Given the centennial is coming up on their formation, I am particularly interested in their activities during 1916-1920. As I do every autumn, I went to visit the historic Studio Building last week on Severn Street in Toronto. The maple trees in front of the property were lit with splendid crimson leaves, the air was fresh and the sun was shining, but as I approached I noticed something different.

This marvelous building Harris had commissioned and in which the group painted regularly, and was situated to capture a perfect interior light, now sits in the shadow of a monolithic condo building. Sometimes progress really ruins things as this was an important part of the building for the painters. Tom’s cabin was originally near to the building, but has since been moved to the grounds of the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg. The front windows of the studio building have been changed. What remains is a heritage plaque on the lawn and the annual autumn spender that ends with thousands of red maple leaves on the ground.

I wonder what it might be like to paint in there.

DANS L’ATELIER: WEEK 43 Downtown + High Park

So here’s what’s happening in the studio this week…

I’m working on concurrent paintings for different clients. Similar palettes with slightly different over paintings and top colours. Similar, but different.

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Downtown (right) is a little more grey and High Park (left) is a little more earthy. Both are 24×24 inches on canvas.  I’m getting to that fun stage where I get to light up the sky with colours so we’ll see how these go. I should be finished up early next week.

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As if I haven’t done enough paintings of Toronto, TORONTO FOUR is going to be fun. It is only 18×36 so it should be quick and I get to use a colour palette I’ve used before…

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KOI was painted in 2010 so it’ll be nice to revisit the colour palette again.  Something I like about KOI is, while abstract, it is designed to look at from a distance. By squinting, you can see what look like koi fish swimming in a pond as seen from above.

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The long rectangular format and a conversation I had with a client inspired me to start another work. PICCADILLY + COVENT GARDEN measures 24×60 and covers both areas of London. You can see the Thames  and Waterloo Bridge in the lover right corner. It could be available as early as December.

flag2FLAG has been knocking about since August and should be finished up soon. There’s been a lot of planning in this piece commissioned by someone who has collected my work for a decade. It will effectively look like a giant paint by number of a pride flag reflected in water. You can see the outlines of the shapes so far.

CastroMuppets Lastly, I am happy to share, after many years in the works, CASTRO STREET MUPPETS will be completed for December 1st of this year. It (and the idea behind it) has followed me around three studios over five years. If you look in the top right corner, you can see two densely packed neighbourhoods which are the only two complete, but already you can see the likes of Piggy, Kermit, Janis, Scooter, Gonzo, Ernie, Bert, Rizzo, Pepe, Fozzie, Staler & Waldorf, The Count, Rolph, The Snowths, and the list goes on. After much research, there will be over 60 Muppets included in this painting. If you would like to know more about the Muppets’ history and characters, there is a fantastic Muppet Wiki online.   Prints of CASTRO STREET MUPPETS will be available in time for the holidays. The original is for a solo exhibition planned for next September.

QUESTION OF THE WEEK:
If you were to play WIN, LOSE, OR DRAW, which two artists would you like to have on your team?
   Leave your answer in the comments.  

 

 

 

 

OWL RIDGE ACRES: Artist Residency

OWL RIDGE BARNIn the Autumn of 2014 I received a commercial commission for a large painting to be installed in a new condo building in Toronto’s redeveloping Regent Park neighbourhood. The canvas, measuring 60×120, was too big for my Toronto studio, so I connected with a fellow artist, Joey Bruni, who had recent bought seventy acres of property in Bancroft, Ontario. Bruni is ambitious! He is turning the six bedroom farmhouse into artist accommodations and the barn into multi-purpose studio spaces. The entire space has become a hub for local artists with events throughout the year. Artists, writers, and musicians are invited to stay and work on projects, participate in skill sharing and even pay for part of their stay with a farm work program.

I spend most of the early winter there, helping to prepare the farmhouse for guests, peeling off wallpaper, painting walls, piling up wood and feeding an outdoor furnace that heated the house while Joey was away. The furnace became affectionately known as Baby because it had to be fed twice a day; in the morning and in the evening before bed. Failing to do so resulted in the fire going out and having to get the outhouse-sized furnace going again. This is not fun at 11pm or 6 am.

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I worked on the commission most days, walking the three kilometers into town by foot or with the neighbor, Bam (yes, that is really his name), in his truck. Because the barn wasn’t ready for artists yet, I was using a space in town called A Place For The Arts. It is an artist collective made of some of the most interesting people I’ve met in my life. It is full of creativity, love for the arts, spirit, enthusiasm and a fair helping of country wisdom. Cidiots, they call those from the city, but it wasn’t long before I fit in… well, almost.  I will share some particularly interesting stories in future posts including learning to make tintypes with photographer Don Wilson,  stories of Yurt-life with Harold and Dianne Eastman, and painter Tracey Lee Green’s joy of ‘ditch fishing‘.

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In addition to the commission work, I wanted to respond to the local community.  Since it was hunting season when I arrived, I worked on some small projects to responded to this local rural pastime. Hunting proved to be fertile ground for creative output.

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REGENT PARK 60×120 Acrylic on canvas. 2014

February came around quickly enough and I was due back in Toronto for other work so we shipped back the painting to be installed and bid my new winter friends farewell.

I am planning to return again in January to work on a couple video projects. One uses drones and the other is part of an installation using footage of nature with glitched video. If you are visiting or passing through Bancroft in January, please send me an email.

You can find out more about Owl Ridge Acres, the artist residency and other programs by visiting the website. To learn about A Place for the Arts, please contact them through their Facebook Page.

 

The Poetry of Being There: Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art

leslie lohman 3Having an institution dedicated to archiving, exhibiting and promoting gay and lesbian art is good for an international city, particularly one with established visual art and queer communities.  These spaces are the nexus where bodies from both camps gather to create opportunities for creative synergy, spotlight their hereos and, in many ways, offer a place to call home. Such is the theme of On the Domestic Front: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life, on now at The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York.

I had an opportunity to stop in and capture interactive 360 panoramic images of the exhibition, curated by James M Saslow, author of Pictures and Passion: A History of Homosexuality in the Visual Arts. I think I was listening to Bon Iver during my visit… so feel free to press play below and virtually wander through the gallery with me.

 

On the images below, pan left and right using your cursor or zoom in and out as needed. For best results, view this on your iPhone or iPad and activate the gyroscope icon to get the full effect of The Poetry of Being There.  ~Enjoy!

 

 

 

The exhibition is divided into three main chapters: At Home, At Play and At Work. On their own, some of the artworks in the exhibition objectify and sexualize the nude so I appreciated Saslow reframing them as illuminations of the domestic life of LGBT people. In At Home we begin with a much needed recess from tropes of virile recreation and political activism. Far away from the madding crowd, two figures sit on their living room sofa, quietly reading, while other couples shower and brush their teeth. This reframing could easily be viewed of as hetero-nomalizing queers and queer culture which seem to be part of Saslow’s intent, but the exhibition sharply turns, confronting us with the harsh reality of HIV/AIDS which swept though the community. On show are images of the impact HIV/AIDS had and has on so many – at home and at play.

 

 

I wonder if the narrative of this exhibition pushes toward ‘blending in’ or is it presenting queer life as a very real and distinct part of a greater whole? Are we the same? Are we different? Are we different, but equal? Is queer domesticity asking to finally put to bed the issues of equality so we can live unpoliticized lives and raise children like everyone else? As lesbian, gay and trans people become more accepted and ubiquitous does queer culture run the risk of disappearing? As long as there are fifty-shades-of-beige suburban housewives who desperately want their hair pulled, I don’t think so.

 

 

Something I noticed quickly in this exhibition is the scarcity of racial and gender diversity. This is still common in LGBTQ visual art history exhibitions. They are often heavily loaded with white gay cis-male images and only sprinkled with trans people and people of colour. In a time when diversity and inclusions is at the forefront of LGBTQ cultural discussions, I would have liked to have seen more balanced representations of queer personal life. As is, the exhibition seems to set its parameters in a specific place and time: New York, just before, during and after the AIDS crisis of the mid-80s. I do not fault the museum or the curator. Like the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives, I suspect much of the objects, images and ephemera collected and donated comes from the white gay cis-male community. As such, this abundance of material gets reflected in what is exhibited. This said, the exhibition is not whitewashed. There are racial and gender considerations and some effort made to mine the 24000 objects in the musuem collection. A daunting task to distill, I’m sure. When I curated Queering Space this summer, it was a chore to get my hands on many of the objects and, even then, many were not allowed to be put on public view. boo-urns!

 

 

I did enjoy the use of wall partitions as a way to divide the exhibition’s chapters and the clever use of hand-printed faux 50s cinematic wallpaper design to reflect each section. The time alone it must have taken to manually apply the step-and-repeat icons should be applauded. A for effort!

If you are in New York or visiting the city, On the Domestic Front: Scenes of Everyday Queer Life runs until December 6th with a number of talks and tours scheduled with an impressive list of speakers. The Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art is located at 26 Wooster Street in Soho.

 

BROKEN MEDIA: What do we do with an ad like this?

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I’m a Canadian Left-Wing Gay Atheist Pinko so when I see Conservative Party ads like this on the front page of Canadian newspapers, desperately grasping for votes by warning the masses that voting for any other party ‘will cost you‘, I’ll do what any lefty artist might do. I’ll make art out of it! The questions remains: what to make?

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Immediately, Dash Snow comes to mind. It’s easy to have that visceral reaction to his newspaper collages of crooked cops with his ejaculate smeared across them. They were distasteful and they were meant to be. What is perhaps most unsettling is some will find jacking off and calling it art ‘offensive‘. These people trip on what the artist did, and fail to catch onto the opprobrious actions of others to which the artist is reacting –a baseness, dismissed as ‘bad manners’. This is belligerence by those who fancy themselves part of the 1%. Was Snow’s act an empowering one? Was he asserting his dominance and disgust over images of evil doers in the same way the The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo confronts her rapist, ties him up and tattoos his chest? Does every shitty political action have an art-as-activism reaction? I think so.

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Maybe abject art is too obvious a response for this lemon letter.  Maybe making a delicate paper cut out of Stephen Harper’s face and then setting it on fire would be good.

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While I love Risa Fukui’s artwork (and her last name), my time is more valuable than to spend it meticulously making cutouts of douchbags like Stephen Harper.

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Viktor Mitic‘s 2013 work, Rob Ford, also comes to mind. This gun shot image of RoFo created some media controversy when he made it. Pointing guns at images of political leaders is sure to attract the wrong kind of attention and I don’t own a gun (nor do I want to) so that’s out.

I’m sure there is a long list of artists who have used (and abused) political newspaper ads and magazine images of political leaders in their art. Feel free to recommend other artists’ work in the comments section below along with any ideas on how I might use this honey-coloured nugget.

On that note, I leave you with inspiration I might draw upon. It is a video by bro-band, FIDLAR, who recently played to a full house at Webster Hall in New York. Of Nick Offerman‘s performance in this video, I have to say, It’s golden

Thank you to Mary Mondoux for hand delivering the ad to me today. If you have any other  copies of this ad, I encourage you to create your own ‘artwork’ from it and post a link in the comments below or email me and I will make a series of work from this little piece of piss… yellow… paper.

TODAY IS ELECTION DAY IN CANADA ~ PLEASE VOTE.

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