Autumn at the McMichael Art Collection

I recently took advantage of a free pass and visited the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario. I’m glad I did. Its current exhibitions are excellent.


ABOVE: Simon Daniel James, Frog with Frog Headdress, 2000, alder, cedar bark, abalone, horse hair, acrylic, paint, 22.6 x 16 x 7.3 inches, Gift from the Cameron/Bredt Collection, McMichael Canadian Art Collection

If you’ve got a car, or know someone who does, you should jump in it and head down to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Klienburg, Ontario. While the museum’s permanent collection is itself a must see, its current exhibitions are exceptional:

Transforming Spirit / September 19, 2015 to February 15, 2016

The collection of Jamie Cameron and Christopher Bredt contains 28 artists from Canada’s Northwest Coast. As is the case with most Aboriginal art, the works in this exhibition are intricate, bold, and above all else, spiritual. This show alone is worth the trip.

This House was Made For Christmas / October 3, 2015 to January 31, 2016

A collection of Christmas greeting cards designed by some of Canada’s greatest artists, this exhibition includes works by members of the Group of Seven and the Painters Eleven. It may be a bit early for holiday cheer, but fortunately, this show extends through the Christmas season.

For Every Season: A re-installation of the permanent collection in 4 galleries / October, 2015 to January, 2016

As the title of the show suggests, this isn’t so much a new exhibition as it is a re-shuffling of the deck. Heavy on the works of the Group of Seven, each gallery in this show represents a different season. While many of the collections best works are on display, the McMichael’s most famous piece, AJ Casson’s The White Pine is nowhere to be found. They haven’t shown it in years. I wonder why.

Video Art Worth Watching

If you’re like me, you’re probably quite leery when it comes to video art. Fear not, there are actually some great works within the genre, Reel-Unreel being one of them.


ABOVE: Francis Alÿs, Reel-Unreel, 2011, single channel video projection, dimensions variable with installation

Full disclosure, being unfamiliar with the genre, my guard is often up when it comes to video art, and when in galleries, I’m rarely able to sit through a full showing. Maybe it’s me, but I find most of it to be pretentious and nonsensical. That was until I came across Reel-Unreel by Francis Alÿs in an off the path room at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). Stumbling upon it by accident, I was quickly compelled to stay for the full 20 minutes.

Based on the street game ‘trundling a hoop’ – which is common among Afghan children – the film consists of two boys reeling and unreeling two spools of film through the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan. As the first boy unwinds the film, he is followed by the other who rewinds it onto a second reel. While the action takes place on screen, the film itself reels and unreels in its projector.

Although simplistic in nature, Reel-Unreel provides an insider’s glimpse into the daily life of Kabul as the boys run through the oldest parts of town, over the rubble of war, and up a hill overlooking the city. Throughout it all, the sights, sounds, and people of the Afghan capital pass in and out of the frame, and the city itself becomes one giant movie set.

I really liked Reel-Unreel. If you’re going to the AGO, I suggest you see it.

Nuit Blanche 2015

Last Saturday, Nuit Blanche took over the streets of Toronto. While you can find plenty of complainers online, I really enjoyed the 2015 edition. Here is a short review.


ABOVE: JR, Inside Out, 2011-15, interactive photography installation (a socially engaged project, participants lined up [for hours] to have their picture taken and pasted to Nathan Phillips Square)

Every October, Nuit Blanche – an all night art party – comes to town, and every year, I stay up past my bedtime trying to see as much as possible.

This year, Mother Nature threatened to rain, but while an umbrella was needed to start the night, she held off, and the temperature stayed comfortable. Thanks Mom! And thanks for keeping the crowds down too.

While no one piece stole the show, the 10th edition of Nuit Blanche was definitely one of its best. Many of the works were conceptually strong (even when the execution wasn’t) and their messages were timely and relevant – especially those that addressed the environment.

In addition to the JR piece shown above, here are some of my favorites:

ABOVE: Heather and Ivan Morison, The Cleaving, 2015, sculpture (a wooden barricade across Queens Quay)

ABOVE: Los Carpinteros, Frío Estudio del Desastre, 2015, installation (a three-dimensional reconstruction of an exploding wall)

ABOVE: Anandam Dancetheatre, Glaciology, 2013/2015, performance (over the course of 12 hours, a human glacier drifted across the city)

ABOVE: Robert Wysoki, Lava Field No. 2, 2015, installation/performance (the product of 5 years of experimentation, this ‘mobile volcano’ used a coke fired cupola to produce a geomorphically accurate lava field)

ABOVE: Sean Martindale and JP King, There Is No Away, 2015, sculpture (an examination of our consumer habits, and Toronto’s waste management strategy, done with [smelly] recyclable cubes)

Kim Dorland on Art with Heart

I recently had the opportunity to speak with artist Kim Dorland about his involvement with Art with Heart, an upcoming charity auction to benefit Casey House in Toronto.



ABOVE: Kim Dorland, FUKD, 2015, oil, acrylic, ink and spray paint on paper, 40 x 60 inches, courtesy of the Angell Gallery (Lot 31, donated by the artist, estimate: $11,900)

Last week, I received an email asking if I’d be interested in writing about Casey House and Art with Heart. Being familiar with the them, I quickly agreed.

First, a little bit about Casey House:

Founded in 1988, Casey House is a specialty hospital committed to providing compassionate, inspired health care to people living with HIV/AIDS. Originally a hospice, it has evolved through the years to include home care and outreach programs in the Toronto area.

And now, a little bit about Art with Heart:

Casey House’s signature fundraising event, Art with Heart is an annual contemporary art auction and reception. Now in its 22nd year, the event features some of Canada’s most celebrated artists along with some top-notch emerging talent.

In preparing this post, I was given the opportunity to speak with one of my favorite artists, Kim Dorland. I’ve written about him in the past, so I was super excited to talk to him about Art with Heart, Casey House, and the piece he has graciously donated. Below, is a brief Q&A I had with him last night:

This is the 7th time you’ve donated to Art with Heart. How did you come to be involved with them and Casey House?

One of the first paintings I ever showed was with Art with Heart, back in, gosh, that would have been back in 2004. I think the painting was listed for $500 and if I remember correctly, it failed to sell. They approached me or my gallery, and you know, I’ve always felt very comfortable donating a painting to them.

Charity is obviously important to you. Has your involvement with organizations such as Art with Heart shaped your artistic practice, or any of the relationships you have within the arts community?

Well, I get hit up for charitable stuff all the time and I actually try to donate to as many people as I can because it’s a nice way to give back. But with Art with Heart, it’s first up.They always get a yes from me (I’ve had to turn down a few this year just because I’m so busy with shows and stuff). Obviously it’s a great cause, but also, they are such a pleasure to deal with. So it’s kind of an easy yes.

Why did you decide to donate the piece FUKD to this years auction?

Ha, ha, yeah, well, I always try to give a larger piece. The nice thing with a painting like FUKD is that it’s a work on paper so I think the price is a little more available for people. Therefore, I feel like Casey House is going to get a better result with it. And also, I was really happy with the piece. I did a number of works on paper this year and I felt like it was probably the strongest one.

FUKD contains trees that appear to have been vandalized (or graffitied). Is the scene you’ve painted metaphorical, or have you come across this type of destruction in your travels?

Ha, ha, sorry, the reason I titled it that, and I don’t know if this matters, but, it’s a double-edged title because it’s FUKD f,u,k,d but it’s also Fuck You Kim Dorland which I think is funny. It’s a little bit funny to me. I have seen that kind of destruction in my travels, but the other side of that is that’s a fairly prevalent scene throughout my body of work, that defacing of nature. So, I think people who know my practice and know my body of work are going to recognize that scene pretty well.

You mention in your statement (on the Art with Heart website) that nature plays a defining role in our identity, and that you are fascinated by the way our presence is eroding something that was once pristine. Are there places you’ve visited through the years where you’ve witnessed destruction occurring over time?

Well, there is a place called Waskesiu Lake in northern Saskatchewan, and certainly what used to be a pretty pristine landscape has changed completely. The water level is way higher now, it’s buggy, and it’s cool all summer. So, it’s kind of turned from a place that we used to adore going to, to a place that’s not as pristine as it once was.

Would you say that paintings like this are a ‘call to action’ for your viewers? What would you like them to take away from the viewing experience?

Well, first and foremost, I’m a painter and my my job is painting, so I want them to enjoy it on an aesthetic level. Somebody asked me once if my works are political, and the political is there, but I try not to make it the first component of the work because then something else happens with it. So I don’t know that it’s a ‘call to action’. The sentiment is there, but it’s not the first thing that I think the viewer is going to see with the work.

So what’s next? Solos? Group Shows?

I have a solo show here in Vancouver at Equinox Gallery in the Spring. I’m slated for a solo show in Toronto next fall, and I’m in a group show in Los Angeles this spring too.

Art with Heart takes place October 6, 2015 at the Carlu (reception 5:30pm / live auction 7pm). You can purchase tickets to the event here.