In the Land of the Great Canadian Painters

Two weeks ago, I visited Oxtongue Lake and Algonquin Provincial Park. Being a fan of A.J. Casson and the Group of Seven, it was fun to visit their old stomping ground.

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ABOVE: A.J. Casson, The Bay, Oxtongue Lake, July 1982, oil on board, 12 x 15 inches

BELOW: The location from which the above was painted (marked with a plaque at the Blue Spruce Resort)

From coast to coast, Canada is a nature lovers dream, and of all it has to offer, the areas in and around Algonquin Provincial Park are some of the finest. It was here that a few of this nation’s greatest artists traveled and worked, and it was here that I humbly visited in their footsteps.

My vacation started at the Blue Spruce Resort where one of my biggest artistic influences, A.J. Casson stayed on multiple occasions. He loved to sketch and paint around Oxtongue lake, and the cottage he rented with his wife still stands on the resort today. I can see why they visited so often; there’s plenty to do on site, and it’s perfectly situated to explore all the area has to offer.

From the Blue Spruce, it’s a short drive to Algonquin Provincial Park which covers almost 3,000 square miles, and contains over 2,400 lakes. The park is a vast wilderness virtually untouched by man, and it was a favorite of another Group of Seven painter, Tom Thomson. He traveled and painted extensively in the park, and on July 8, 1917, his short life came to an end when his body was found floating on Canoe Lake. To this day, nobody knows what happened.

For the adventurous – and those skilled with a canoe – there are a ton of things to see and do in the park. For the less adventurous, there are plenty of well marked trails along highway 60. Whatever you choose, this place is spectacularly beautiful. I didn’t paint while there, but I went bonkers with my camera.

If you’re a fan of the Group of Seven and/or a lover of nature, then Algonquin Provincial Park is the place for you. And, if you’d rather cottage then camp, so too is the Blue Spruce Resort.

A bucket list adventure, if ever there was one.

CHIHULY at the ROM

Last Sunday, I visited the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) to see a selection of works by famed glass artist Dale Chihuly. Here are some of my thoughts on the exhibition.

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ABOVE: Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, installation

BELOW: Dale Chihuly, Float Boat, 2014, blown glass and wooden boat

I like all types of art for all types of reasons, and often, what I like wouldn’t fall into anyone’s definition of beautiful. That said, I do appreciate aesthetics, and sometimes, I like an artwork for it’s beauty alone. One artist whose work I do consider beautiful is Dale Chihuly. He’s currently showing at the Royal Ontario Museum, and last weekend, I stopped by for a look.

I really enjoyed this show, and I loved the fact that photography wasn’t just allowed, it was encouraged (Instagram, here I come). What I didn’t love was the price of admission. It was way too steep.

If you’ve heard about the exhibition and are debating whether or not you should go, I highly suggest you do (if you can afford to). It isn’t overly intellectual, but it is jam packed with eye-candy, and based upon the reactions of the people I saw there, it’s a real crowd pleaser.

CHIHULY is at the ROM until January 2, 2017.

A Visit to the Royal Botanical Gardens

Last weekend, I got in the car, and left the city to see the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario. The place is huge (Canada’s largest) and well worth checking out.

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ABOVE: Dave Hinds, Pollinizers, sculpture

BELOW: Steven Siegal, Land, sculpture

If you’re in the Toronto area and have a car, or know someone who does, you should jump in it and head down to the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ontario. I went for the first time last weekend, and I was impressed.

The first thing to note is that this place is not only huge, but spread out over several locations. Fortunately, there is a shuttle bus that runs frequently, and even better, it’s included with your admission ($16). Each garden is unique, and depending upon the season, offers something new.

If art is your thing (it is mine) you can see some at the International Sculpture Garden in Hendrie Park. It’s a small collection, and the artists within it are relatively unknown, but the work is fairly good, and new sculptures appear to be added regularly.

If you’re looking for a day out away from the city, and you love to walk among nature, then this place is for you.

A Brief History of John Baldessari

I recently went down a YouTube rabbit hole and came across a great little video about conceptual artist John Baldessari (narrated by Tom Waits). What an interesting guy.

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ABOVE: John Baldessari, Stonehenge (With Two Persons) Violet, 2005, mixografin print on handmade paper, edition 60, 29 x 32 inches

While I recognize the importance of conceptual art to the modern art canon, more often than not, it’s total bullshit. One conceptual artist I do admire is John Baldessari – he manages to push the boundaries of art without being annoyingly pretentious about it.

I recently saw a great little video about him on YouTube, and in it, he comes across as a pretty decent guy (not pretentious at all). I had planned to embed it, but after reading a bit about copyright, I’ve decided instead to provide a link. It’s only 6 minutes long and it’s super fun.

Here’s the link.

Summer Art Shows in Toronto

In addition to all the city’s outdoor arts and craft fairs, there are two very big artists coming to town this summer – one a national treasure, the other an international star.

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ABOVE: Lawren Harris, Lake and Mountains, 1928, oil on canvas, 51.5 x 63.25 inches

BELOW: Dale Chihuly, Persian Ceiling, 2012, installation, 25 x 15 feet

For those looking to see art by notable artists:

The Idea of North: The Painting of Lawren Harris

Art Gallery of Ontario July 1 – September 18

Co-organized with the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and co-curated by Steve Martin, The Idea of North brings to the AGO over 30 paintings by one of Canada’s most beloved artists.

CHIHULY

The Royal Ontario Museum June 25 – January 2, 2017

In a few weeks, acclaimed glass artist Dale Chihuly will be bringing some of his fragile installations to the ROM. Critics be damned, this show promises to be a crowd pleaser.

For those looking to buy art at reasonable prices – from artists who need the support:

Riverdale Art Walk

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition

Art Walk North

Queen West Art Crawl