Saturday, March 25, 2017

Equinox Bonfire on Ward's Island

This Vernal Equinox -- first day of spring -- Bill and I attended the Ward's Island Christmas tree bonfire.
We waited for our boat with friends at the venerable Toronto ferry dock.
There is always a feeling of release when we leave the city behind and set off for the Island.
Winds were wild on the crossing, leading to much rocking of the boat and an exciting docking.
In the park facing the dock Christmas trees had been hung from the largest tree to mark the route leading to the Beach and the Equinox celebration.
More discarded Christmas trees lined the route and participants dragged them into a big pile on the beach.
Kids darted in and out of the boughs like colourful birds.
Shelley and Bill with trusty cameras.
A band of Island residents led the celebration. They took position outside the circle of blackbird plaques that bordered the central bonfire.
We met our friend, Eric, who said, "Whenever there is a pagan celebration on the Island I know I'll run into you people!"
As the day turned to dusk the romantic setting encouraged quiet reflection,
observation (that's me in green)
and contemplation of the future.
A dapper young man in matching hat and sweater oversaw fire safety
as participants approached the bonfire with their trees.
As the sun set, the crowd glowed in the light of the flames
and cheered as each new tree was added.
It got quite psychedelic
as the winds fuelled the flames
which soared into the sky.
The trees were so dry that they were entirely stripped by the flames within a few minutes.
We were glad to be invited back to our friend Q's cottage for mugs of hot soup and homemade pizza -- a perfectly cozy ending to an exciting evening.
We were happy and tired as we returned to the ferry dock. Happy Spring, everybody!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Afternoon on Queen Street West

Bill and I went for a walk on Queen Street West last Saturday with our friend Shelley Savor.
We fortified ourselves with a good lunch at our beloved Beaver.
It was mild for February in Toronto. The day was in a good mood.
We always visit Inabstracto when we can. Today there were small, very interesting, inexpensive paintings by the clearly talented Byron Hodgins.
We thought these looked very collectible. Still might bite.
 Nice wire sculpture ["Necklace" by Lisa Neighbour, wire, plugs, sockets. 7 feet long -- information added 25 March 17] in Katharine Mulherin's window. Now our whole walk was centred on seeing her new Keiran Brennan-Hinton paintings -- and they were so fun that I didn't take a picture to show you -- sorry! See the Mulherin gallery post.
Further east on Queen I liked the window of the discount appliance store at Fennings Street.
Their hard-edge aesthetic is irresistible.
The crossing at Ossington was also irresistible.
By the time we got to Pink Optical I fell in love with Bill and Shelley all over again.
We suddenly realized that we had completely walked past Dovercourt and so had missed Lynne McIlvride and Ann Cummings at the David Kaye Gallery. We walked back and I caught a quick snap of a Cummings sculpture. Exhibition continues to February 26th.
On our way home we flew past Trinity Bellwoods Park.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Kent Monkman at the University of Toronto

Kent Monkman, popular Canadian First Nations artist, has created a powerful and gut-wrenching exhibition at the University of Toronto Art Centre. The show is Monkman's contribution to the national celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation.
We first meet Monkman's two-spirit, alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, as a newborn in a diorama creche-scene.
The paintings in the exhibition are lit to bring out their "diorama" quality.
In Le Petit Déjeuner sur l'herbe, 2014, wounded Native people are painted in a Picasso-esque Cubist style while naturalistic angels hover overhead.
Here in Bad Medicine, 2014, grizzly bears confront European angels over the remains of a Native woman who is painted in the style of Francis Bacon.
In this detail from Bad Medicine, warriors emerge out of the foliage.
In Seeing Red, 2014, Miss Chief confronts a bison bull in a raw suburban setting.  Monkman often mixes his serious concerns with humour to make his points.
In another room Native children are torn from their parents by priests and Mounties to be "retrained" in residential schools in The Scream, 2016.
A detail from The Scream. Monkman quotes Duncan Campbell Scott's chilling words written in 1910, when he was head of the Department of Indian Affairs: "...Indian children...die at a much higher rate than in their villages. But this alone does not justify a change in the policy of this Department, which is being geared towards the final solution of our Indian problem."
Here I'm photographing the label for Reincarceration, 2013. Monkman's paintings often draw on Victorian landscape traditions such as we might find in Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Cole.
Iron Horse, 2015, is another example of this borrowing, and a clever pun.
The railroads proved to be a Trojan Horse, bringing disaster to the original inhabitants of the prairies.
In the diorama Scent of a Beaver, 2016, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, perhaps representing the spirit of Canada, is seen swinging between representatives of the French and British Empires.
We liked seeing Monkman's work installed with historical works.
Here Benjamin West's The Death of General Wolfe, c. 1760, has never looked more flamboyant.
Did The Fruit Dance, c 1616-1617 (from the Studio of Peter Paul Rubens)
inspire Monkman's vision of bucolic beaver in their natural state
Study for the Beaver Bacchanal, 2015 (with detail).
On the left find The Massacre of the Innocents, 2015,
with its stuffed-toy-like beaver being slaughtered by white hunters.
Robert Harris' Prepatory Drawing for the Fathers of Confederation, 1883.
Monkman's version of The Fathers of Confederation, renamed The Daddies, 2016, in which Miss Chief confronts Canada's founding fathers.
We'll leave you with The Bears of Confederation, 2016. Pardon us for not showing you details of the action but this is one painting you are going to have to see for yourself.
We exited the art gallery with a deeply enriched concept of the Federation that Canada is presently celebrating. Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience is not to be missed. Until March 4th.