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.

 

 

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.

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.

 

The Poetry of Being There: The Art Gallery of Ontario

Becoming a contributing member of the AGO is probably one of the best annual investments any Toronto artist can make. Not only do you get to go for free any day of the week with a contributing family membership, you can bring two friends with you each time you go. If you do the math on a few visits, it already adds up to well over the cost of the membership. Check out their membership options here.

DAVID BOWIE WAS…  Awesome!

 

I think one of the biggest spectacles they’ve hosted since the reno was the recent David Bowie exhibition. If you missed it,  above are a couple panos to enjoy. Be sure to click and drag your cursor over the images to pan left or right. For an even more exciting experience, check out this post on your iphone or ipad. Click on the image and activate the gyroscope that appears at the bottom of your device’s screen. Tilt up and down and spin around.  So…that’s what you missed.

I was really impressed with the RFID technology used for the audio tracks which accompanied the exhibition. Gone was the arduous task of punching in numbers to hear factoids about specific artifacts. Instead, the headset sensed where you were in the exhibition and played the appropriate music or audio track. I was fascinated and impressed by this integrated sound experience developed by Sennheiser.

Screen Shot 2014-09-03 at 11.29.12 AMI’ve seen the current Alex Colville exhibition three times already and will be back again. It is an impressive survey of his work considering many of the paintings are on extended loan from private collections. Also, the connections drawn between his work and filmmakers Wes Anderson, Stanly Kubrick and the Coen Brothers is impressive – I’ll let you see for yourself. To not leave the work in the past, the gallery has asked several contemporary artists to create responses to his work. I had the pleasure of walking through the exhibition with Simone Jones who’s three channel video rests poetically at the very end of the exhibition. It’s a contemplative piece about place and identity. Two boys fight in a field full of powerlines. I couldn’t help but hear echos of ‘I’m gonna get you after school.’ in my head. Below is a pano of one of many rooms in the exhibition.

If you do get a membership, it has it’s privileges. The members’ lounge has WIFI so if you want to take a break and get out of the studio, you can take up an afternoon residence there, blog away, get some work done and enjoy their yummy menus. The members’ lounge has big couches and tables where you can invited friends to lunch or for a meeting about projects you are working on. It’s lovely.

One of my favourite rooms at the AGO is on the second floor. To get there, take the stairs before Walker Court, walk around and straight through to just before Galleria Italia (Room 218 on the Visitor Map) It’s been the home of paintings by Lawren Harris since the renovation and a place a go to nearly ever visit. It’s partly the paintings in the room, but also the size of the room. There’s plenty of space for the paintings to breathe and the natural light makes for a great view of the works.  I could sit in this room for hours.

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In fact, for some time, I’ve wanted to set up a pop-up painting studio in the corner of this room to create a response to these paintings. It would be nice to revisit them as seen from above, using the same locations and colour palettes as the originals. A month long residency here would be dreamy. So often we don’t get to see artists working in their studios. To spend a month here would be a like a durational performance with finished artworks at the end. Above are three shots of a painting of Sicily I am working on. While the land mass would be quite different in colour, the water might look similar, showing the depth of the icebergs underwater – something not captured in Harris’ original paintings.

If you know anyone who can make this happen, send me an email!

Do you have a suggestion for a place that should be captured in 360? Leave me a note in the comments below. Also, what’s your favourite room in your favourite gallery? Leave your answer in the comments and leave a link if there’s a photo online.

 

Appointed Co-curator of Church Street Murals

PrintI’ve been selected as one of two curators for the Church Street Mural Project. Together with co-ocurator Syrus Marcus Ware, I will oversee 12 murals coming to Toronto’s Church Street Village in 2013 to help beautify the neighbourhood in preparation for World Pride in 2014. This legacy project, stewarded by the Church Wellesley Village  BIA, aims to depict the history and heroes of Church Street and illustrate key moments in Canada’s LGBTI civil rights movement. For more information, visit the website.

TweetChat: PUBLIC ART

I am co-hosting an Akimbo TweetChat with Jacquie Severs from The Robert McLaughlin Gallery on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 at 1pm EST. This month’s topic will be: PUBLIC ART.  More info…

24 Hour Artathon

 

Next Friday I’ll be joining other artists for a 24 ARTATHON. The 24 hour event will raise money for publication costs of the 10X10 Photography Project book, launching June 28th at the exhibition opening at the Gladstone Hotel. Proceeds of the sale of the 10X10 book go back into the project to help pay for future exhibitions..

Please visit the 10X10 website for more details or pledge me in person at the event!

Tom Thomson where are you?

 

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Above: Studio Building – Then and Now

I’ve been reading a fair about Tom Thomson’s life and about the Group of Seven activities during 1918-1928. I went to visit the historic Studio Building last week on Severn Street.

It’s the building Lawren Harris had commissioned in which the group painted regularly. Tom’s cabin, which was originally near to the building, was moved to the grounds of the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg. The front windows of the building have been changed which are not nearly as useful now that it sits in the shadow of the condos Canadian Tire built after a long legal battle. you can read more about the history of the building here.

It would be nice to work in the building while working on paintings that responded to their works. Perhaps I’ll investigate space availability.