Meet Me at the McMichael

From Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven, to Mary Pratt and the Painters Eleven, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is a who’s who of Canadian Art.

 

ABOVE: Lawren Harris, Ellesmere Island, 1930, oil on wood panel, 12 x 15 inches

BELOW: The gravestone of Lawren Harris and his wife Bess in the McMichael Cemetary

If you grew up in or around Toronto, chances are you went on a school field trip to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. I recently (re)visited for the first time since childhood.

Established in 1969, the McMichael has an extensive collection that includes some of Canada’s most renowned artists. Whether you’re a fan of Emily Carr or Norval Morrisseau, all the stars are here, and then some.

As outstanding as the art is, so too is the building it is housed, and the grounds on which it is set. You really couldn’t ask for a better spot – it is distinctly Canadian.

Six members of the Group of Seven are buried at the McMichael, among them, my favorites A.J. Casson and Lawren Harris. Visiting their graves was a unique and humbling experience I will not soon forget.

Although the collections most iconic piece – Casson’s White Pine – was inexplicably absent, there wasn’t much else to complain about. Save for the weather, the whole experience was near perfect.

If you’re a fan of Canadian art, or looking to learn more about it, the McMichael Canadian Art Collection is a must-visit.

 

This coming fall, I will be exhibiting my work in the 24th Annual Autumn Art Sale at the McMichael. The exhibition runs from Friday, October 24 to Sunday, October 26, 2014. 

Blogs for Artists

Whatever your interest, the internet’s got it. From tips and tricks, to news and reviews, if art is your thing, you’ll dig the following blogs.

 

I love art blogs. Here are some of my favorites:

Hyperallergic

Billing itself as a forum for playful, serious, and radical perspectives on art and culture in the world today, Hyperallergic pulls no punches – case in point, this review of Jeff Koons at the Whitney.

Art F City

In addition to blunt criticism, Art F City keeps it casual with a section called STUFF. Basically, STUFF is a look inside the lives of artists through their personal possessions. A unique peak inside the creative mind.

Artyshark

With tons of articles on how to launch and grow a successful art or craft business, Aryshark is a valuable resource for artists at any stage of their career. Art + Business is especially useful.

Artpromotivate

Like Artyshark, Artpromotivate provides lots of free tips on a variety of topics such as art promotion, websites and blogging. You can even get an artist spotlight free of charge.

Edward Winkleman

Gallery owner, curator and author, Ed Winkleman’s blog is a mix of art news, reviews and tips. His Advice for Artists Seeking Gallery Representation is a must read for anyone looking to get signed.

Colossal

Light on the text and heavy on the eye candy, Colossal goes without the heavy discourse of most art blogs and focuses almost entirely on the inventive. Here are some of the sites top articles.

The Art of Selling Out

Is it really that easy to spot a sell out? Some would say yes. I’m not so sure. There are some strong opinions out there, but easy targets aside, what is a sell out anyways?

 

ABOVE: 2007 Presidential $1 Coin image from the United States Mint

According to Wikipedia, selling out is:

“The compromising of integrity, morality, authenticity or principles in exchange for personal gain, such as money. In terms of music or art, selling out is associated with attempts to tailor material to a mainstream or commercial audience.”

While I do think it’s possible for an artist to sell out, far too often, the term is used to deride the successful and boost the ego of the accuser –  who liked them ‘before’ they were successful.

Truth be told, unless you can read the mind of the artist, you’re not really qualified to call them a sell out.

Only they know for sure.

They have to.

Right?

Finding Beauty Underwater

When it comes to beauty, Mother Nature is the worlds finest artist. While she works in many mediums, some of her best creations can be found underwater.

 

Last weekend, I took a break from the studio and visited Toronto’s newish aquarium (Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada).

I had attempted to visit on Saturday, but the line up was ginormous, and the sun was wicked hot. So instead, I purchased timed tickets for Sunday – at dinner time – and sailed through the turnstiles. The timing could not have been more perfect. Save for a few stragglers, I had the run of the place.

Simply put, this place is spectacular – even with the $30 entry fee. There is a wide selection of creatures great and small, and most importantly, sharks – lots and lots of sharks.

When less crowded, this is probably the most tranquil spot in the city, and if you’ve got a decent camera, it’s a photographer’s wet dream – pun intended.

If you’re looking to add a little beauty to your day, I highly recommend you visit Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada.

And You Thought You Were Weird

Creative people are often a bit odd – I know I am. Fear not creatives, even geniuses can be a little strange – in some cases, really strange.

 

ABOVE: Albert Einstein (duh!), photo: Wikimedia Commons

Let’s face it, we all have our quirks. The following geniuses are no exception:

Andy Warhol

Warhol was a confirmed foot fetishist and even owned a mummified human foot. No one knows where he got it.

Leonardo da Vinci

da Vinci was a practitioner of polyphasic sleep. What’s that you ask? It’s the practice of taking multiple naps throughout a 24 hour period. He rarely slept more than two hours a day.

Edgar Allan Poe

Poe liked to write each of his works in a scroll fashion, on a continuous strip of paper, sealed with wax. He also proclaimed his cat to be his literary guardian.

Albert Einstein

Einstein refused to wear socks, no matter how formal the occasion. He also asked his estranged wife to sign a contract with the following clause: “You will stop talking to me if I request it.” Apparently, she agreed.

Charles Dickens

Dickens would only write at a desk facing north and when he slept, his feet had to point south. He always carried a compass, and would re-arrange the bed if necessary.

Salvador Dali

Dali was obsessed with Hitler and when asked about his obsession said: “I often dreamed about Hitler as other men dreamed about women.”

The Best of Dundas Street West

If you’re looking to gallery hop in Toronto, one of the best ‘hoods in town is Dundas Street West. Here are some of the area’s finest galleries.

 

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ABOVE: Photo of the Hashtag Gallery courtesy of Wllnttz

While it obviously can’t compete with a city like New York, Toronto galleries are by and large, friendly and accessible.

If you’re looking to gallery hop, one of the best ‘hoods in town is Dundas Street West. The following galleries show top-notch art, often at affordable prices:

Cooper Cole

A great space to view art, Cooper Cole shows cutting edge work by national and international artists. Mostly mid-career. Mostly awesome.

Hashtag Gallery

Probably the least intimidating space in the city, the Hashtag Gallery showcases emerging talent at emerging prices. Perfect for first-time buyers.

Erin Stump Projects

One of the most experimental galleries in the area, ESP earns bonus points for championing female artists. Respect.

LE Gallery

Arguably the best of the bunch, LE Gallery showcases the work of artists skilled in both craft, and discourse. You will be impressed.

Loop Gallery

One of the cities top artist collectives, Loop Gallery promotes the careers of those with a strong artistic practice. With 39 artist members, there’s something for everyone.

Artist Talk: Matthew Barney at Toronto’s Luminato Festival

As part of Toronto’s Luminato Festival, acclaimed artist Matthew Barney gave a Q & A at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Here are some of his best quotes from that day.

 

This past weekend, I attended a Q & A with internationally renowned artist Matthew Barney.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from that day:

“My interest in storytelling was there from the start, but I don’t think I knew what to do with it really. I think what I did know what to do, was to use my body as a tool. I understood that and so, I think by default, I started setting up these situations with my body, and experimenting that way on my own, and asking a friend to videotape it.”

“I was educated in a period where the post-minimal tradition was the work we were all looking to. That kind of dialogue was how I was schooled, and I think the idea of making a cast bronze piece was just…not available.”

“I’m interested in…(and) I think any sculptor has to be…the investment of the spirit into the object.”

“People tend to ask what my relationship is to that material (Pop Art) and I always feel…I don’t have a very strong relationship to it, although I think you can find it in the work. I think that my influences are much more to do with the language of sculpture, the  language of performance based sculpture. So, I think it’s more about the way that language collides with the sensibility of Pop, and then trying to keep the work from not functioning as image, but functioning as form.”

“I think, when I start to feel my work being overproduced, it gives me a lot of anxiety. When you start to think about work that you’ve seen more reproductions than you have in person…there’s some images you know, and I think that’s something that scares me, because I’ve pushed my work so far out into the realm of…say cinema, or performance, or something that functions more in the world of art. So, I do have an anxiety that sometimes I feel I’ve pushed it too far, and that at some point, it’s unrecoverable. If it becomes an image, then I’ve failed.”

“I’m ambitious for sure, but I think that my ambition is to do with scale and complexity, and I think it always was.”

“When I started exhibiting work, that initial impulse was really as much about rejecting what was around me. At the time in New York, the kind of pictures artists and the kind of Neo Geo work…this was what was in galleries. So, I think what I was doing, and what a lot of other artists from our generation were doing, didn’t have a place in galleries at all. We all finished school thinking we would be exhibiting in alternative spaces. That would be our path. What happened as I was graduating college, is the art market collapsed. I think it’s something that affected my trajectory a lot. It opened things up in New York, and people from my generation were able to show publicly very early.”

Photography as an Artistic Tool

Of all the tools available to an artist, none is as important as the camera. Here is how it can take your art to the next level.

 

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ABOVE: David McDonough, White Elephant, digital photograph

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“For me, the camera is a sketch book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity.” Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” Dorthea Lange

“The more pictures you see, the better you are as a photographer.” Robert Mapplethorpe

“Wherever there is light, one can photograph.” Alfred Stieglitz

“The pictures are there, and you just take them.” Robert Capa

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Whatever the medium, I firmly believe that all serious artists should have a decent camera.

It doesn’t need to be a professional model. It needn’t cost an arm and a leg. It can be purchased used, and you can learn how to use it via the internet.

By no means, do you need to master the craft. Just get out there and have fun – it’s amazing what you can learn when you’re having fun.

Some of the advantages of owning a decent camera are:

  • It makes you look at things you otherwise wouldn’t.
  • It reinforces the importance of composition.
  • It leads to a better understanding of light, shadow, and texture.
  • It is a great way to fill the void left by artist block.
  • It gives you ideas.