Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Heavy as a Feather @ Stewart Hall

A captivating exhibition of sculpture is on view at Pointe Claire's Stewart Hall until August 30, 2015.

Chaise Roulante, Jannick Deslauriers
crinoline, lace, organza and thread

Artists Jannick Deslauriers, Kristina Lahde, Cal Lane and Clint Neufeld "destabilize the materiality of traditionally functional objects and uncover their renewed beauty".

Deslauriers works in organza and stitch, using delicate cloth to represent objects that in actuality are made from solid materials like metal and stone.

The fragile and ethereal 3-D objects assume their shapes by hanging from the ceiling, suspended by barely visible monofilament threads.

I was especially taken by Deslaurier's Chaise Roulante, shown at left. The vulnerability of the human body was somehow implied by the fragility of the chair's construction.

Disparition, Jannick Deslauriers
crinoline, organza and thread

Writes curator Manel Benchabane, these are "sculptural representations of known objects, [voided] of their core skeleton, [made] more transparent and delicate. Suspended, these sculptures take on a ghostly and magical air."

The showpiece of the exhibition was Deslauriers' Disparition, a replica of a church measuring perhaps 10 feet in length. Again, it assumed its full dimension by being hung by many fine threads.

Is the title (in English: disappearance) a commentary on the diminishing role of the Church in Quebec society?

Untitled, Cal Lane
plasma-cut wheelbarrow

Cal Lane had several pieces on display, all made of metal that had somehow been perforated into a delicate filigree. What began as common functional objects (shovels, oil drums, hoods of trucks) were rendered into decorative traceries, bringing to mind dualities of opacity and transparency, masculinity and femininity.

Pantie Can, Cal Lane

Items like metal ammunition boxes with an inherent air of menace were gelded into examples of sweet sentimentality.

What may have once been a container for turpentine is transformed into something resembling lacy lingerie.

Hive, Kristiina Lahde,
phone books

Kristiina Lahde's pieces were made of re-purposed paper that had been perforated, cut, or manipulated in novel ways.

Hive, detail, Kristiina Lahde,
phone books

"Confronted with these sculptures laced with contradictions, objects lose their function,but gain a new delicacy."

A thought-provoking exhibition that will intrigue with the unexpected.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Thank you, Kris Sazaki!

In the recent SAQA Journal, Summer 2015 issue, President Kris Sazaki gave me some wonderful coverage in her "Thoughts from the President" column. I found her insights to be thoughtful and perceptive and, with her permission, I have reprinted the text here:
"Last year, I wrote about why I donate to the SAQA Benefit Auction. This year, I want to tell you how important the auction is for promoting our artists to the public. This event is how I become acquainted with many of our members’ work, and there is so much interesting work being produced today. Just one example of what I am talking about is artist Heather Dubreuil, whose work can be seen at 
During the 2014 SAQA Benefit Auction, I was scrolling through the images of the artwork for sale. I recognized many artists and their stellar work, but at some point my eyes happened upon the piece donated by Heather. I was not familiar with her work, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the cityscape: the color, the line, the haunting quality of the empty yet somehow populated scene. I kept coming back to this piece. 
Connectivity: Port Clyde
Cut to the de Young Museum in San Francisco, California. In its permanent collection there is an oil painting by Charles Demuth called From the Garden of the Château (1921-1925). Every time I go to the museum, I try to take a few minutes to visit “my” Demuth. I love this painting so much that I keep a framed postcard of it in my office. The line, the color, the haunting quality of the empty scene. It didn’t take me long to realize that what drew me to Dubreuil were the same qualities that drew me to Demuth. 

Charles Demuth, American, 1883–1935
From the Garden of the Château 1921 (reworked 1925)
Oil on canvas, 25 x 20 inches
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco
museum purchase, Roscoe and Margaret Oakes Income Fund, Ednah Root,
and the Walter H. and Phyllis J. Shorenstein Foundation Fund, 1990.4
Demuth’s From the Garden of the Château is a prime example of his Precisionist paintings. Focusing on industrialization and modernization of the American landscape, Demuth and his fellow Precisionist artists often worked with rectilinear forms, the visual element I find so intriguing in Dubreuil’s work. (For more on Demuth, see Barbara Haskell’s Charles Demuth, Whitney Museum of Art, 1987.) 
While I draw a line historically from Demuth to Dubreuil, her work touches me in a different way than Demuth’s does. Trying to suss out why, I keep coming back to her art medium. I’ve now seen a couple of Dubreuil’s works in person, so I know how the lines are composed of machine stitching while the colors are created with her own hand-dyed cotton. Dubreuil says, “I see my work in cloth and stitch as a contemporary expression of the culture of women’s needlework.” 
Perhaps it’s this culture of women’s needlework that populates Dubreuil’s work so evocatively. Demuth’s cityscapes remain impersonal in a way, capturing what was in his time a new industrial reality. Dubreuil, on the other hand, infuses her cityscapes with line and textured color that deliberately slow down the pace, luring you into the individual stories that sit just behind the facades. The stitching lines in Connectivity: Port Clyde suggest stories pulsating through the telephone wires, while the strong color blocks individualize each building. 
I know our donating artists will gain more recognition as the Benefit Auction gets a broader audience. I hope you’ll help me spread the word about the SAQA Benefit Auction Sept. 18–Oct. 10 through your social media connections. I’ll 'see' you then!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

"Invisible Cities" as Inspiration

This is my challenge: I intend to answer a call for entry that requires me to make a work inspired by a snippet of text, whether from a poem, a song, an adage, whatever. My friend Lauma has been inspired by Italo Calvino's book, Invisible Cities, a collection of prose poems, and she suggested that I have a look at it for a suitable quote.

Gore Vidal wrote, "Of all tasks, describing the contents of a book is the most difficult and in the case of a marvelous invention like Invisible Cities, perfectly irrelevant."

Building on paradox and metaphor and vivid word-paintings, the book transports the reader. I'm looking for something with enough ambiguity to intrigue the viewer, no more than a sentence or two.  I have quoted a few possibilities from Calvino's text below that might fit well with my current theme of cityscapes.

Water Tower #7

"The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps...."

Camden Town #2

"[The city's] secret lies in the way your gaze runs over patterns following one another as in a musical score where not one can be altered or displaced."

Berkhamsted #2

"Elsewhere is a negative mirror. The traveler recognizes the little that is his, discovering the much he has not had and will never have."


"For those who pass it without entering, the city is one thing; it is another for those who are trapped by it and never leave. There is the city where you arrive for the first time; and there is another city which you leave never to return. Each deserves a different name...."

Brooklyn #5

"Traveling, you realize that differences are lost: each city takes to resembling all cities, places exchange their form, order, distances, a shapeless dust cloud invades the continents."

Port Clyde

"Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspective deceitful, and everything conceals something else."
If you know of a suitable snippet of text, something poetic and evocative yet pithy on the subject of the City, please let me know.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Tour de Chapeau @ Musée Regional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges

There's an unusual concept behind the current exhibition at Musée Regional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges. "Tour de Chapeau",  a collaboration by 21 regional artists, runs until September 13, 2015.

Though many readers will know that "chapeau" translates to "hat", some may not be familiar with the term "tour de chapeau", which in English is a "hat trick", which means that a player has scored three goals in a single game. In Canada, it's considered to be a hockey term, but elsewhere the phrase applies to football, rugby or cricket. Those of my generation may remember enthusiastic fans throwing their fedoras onto the ice in celebration of a hat trick. Where have all the fedoras gone? Brooklyn?


Each of the invited artists was required to produce a canvas of a certain size, on a subject of their choosing. They were also asked to make a hat, in keeping with the imagery used in their painting.  The canvas and the hat are shown together, the hat suspended from the ceiling, beside a photo of the artist wearing the hat.

I was generously invited to participate in this show, but after much thought I declined, reasoning that it was not going to advance my work or career to struggle with the making of a "cityscapes" hat. Having seen the show this week, I am still ambivalent about my decision.

Here are some photos from the show that you may enjoy:

Madeleine Turgeon,
Envolez-vous, je suis avec vous!
and C'est moi qui détiens les clés
Monica Brinkman,
Des ailes pour voler
and Vive les années folles
(the hat is trimmed with a warped Elvis 45 record)

Monica Brinkman,
Des ailes pour voler, (detail)
(mosaic of reclaimed costume jewelry and dressmaker's trim)
Sébastien Borduas,
Uniformisation and L'oiseau médiateur

Sébastien Borduas, L'oiseau médiateur
Claude Thivierge, La Naissance d'une oeuvre

Claude Thivierge,
La Naissance d'une oeuvre, chapeau

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Celebrating Hudson's 150th

Our little town of Hudson, Quebec (pop. 5100) celebrates its 150th anniversary this summer. The annual Street Festival, in conjunction with the Hudson Music Festival on August 1 and 2, is a much-anticipated event.

On the same weekend, the art project La Mémoire de Hudson will open to the public, with a vernissage on Sunday, August 2 at 3 pm. Fifteen local artists have each been assigned an aspect of Hudson's history, and have produced 15 canvases, each measuring 40 x 30 in a vertical format, to be displayed at the Hudson Community Centre, 392 Main Road, until August 30.

Subjects include gardens, farms, an old glass factory, our dairy industry, equestrianism, pleasure boating, our participation in the World Wars, and historic figures like Sarah Hudson and Norman McLaren, a pioneer in Canadian animation. My contribution is a fibre piece celebrating Greenwood, a vintage house, now a historic museum and home of Storyfest.

Another art project, already underway, is Land-Art Hudson. Each week for five weeks, an artist assembles an installation piece or executes a performance piece in the wooded, lakeside setting of Jack Layton Park. More information about this event can be found on the town's website.

Running all summer at the local landmark restaurant Auberge Willow is an exhibition of art by three local artists, Barbara Farren, Daniel Gautier and Shernya Vininsky-Krause.

It's wonderful to see local businesses supporting the arts. Many people now understand that culture can be an economic driver for a small town, and if there was ever a culturally-rich community, it's Hudson, Quebec. We have over a dozen cultural groups and a charming little theatre, but what we do need are facilities for exhibition, workshops and storage. Let's hope that this momentum will build and bring good things to our town.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Watercolour for Beginners

Here is one of the watercolours I did at Shari Blaukopf's workshop last week in Montebello. On this particular day, heavy rain fell in the morning as we huddled under big canopies for the morning demo. Once the rain cleared, I chose this spot to sketch, not realizing that within a half-hour it would become the busiest thoroughfare on the site. I wasn't able to complete the sketch until a few days later because I just ran out of time.

Here's the guest cottage where I stayed during the three-day workshop. Perhaps a little texture on the roof could be put in with pen.  One of Shari's insights was that my colour tends to be very flat, as though I'm laying down a piece of coloured cloth instead of watercolour.

This sketch was done on Day Three, when we chose a street scene in the town of Montebello. Shari suggested that we focus on a single building or part of a building, as we had only limited time. Again, perhaps some texture could be inked onto the roofs.

A few days later I went on a retreat to Dianne's cottage. We six members of text'art try to do this every summer. In earlier years we would often choose an activity to do as a group, like deconstructed screen printing or playing with decolorant or dyeing or carving our own rubber stamps or doing batik with soy wax. This year we each pursued our own projects. I found it a great opportunity to continue playing with watercolour. For the sketch above, I should have used a straight edge to ensure that the planks of siding were continuous from left to right.

And finally, this little sketch of potted begonias could have used more inked-in texture to suggest the wicker stand. Also, I wasn't happy with the way the lower edge of the planter is unresolved.

I look forward to a little watercolour sketching from time to time, especially when traveling. Will be sure to post the results here for your amusement!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Watercolour workshop with Shari Blaukopf, Part 2

On the first day of our workshop with Shari Blaukopf, we drove ten minutes out of Montebello to the home of Sara Pettigrew, set on 100 acres of rolling fields and woodland. We participants gathered around Shari while she explained what drew her to her subject.

Shari begins all her compositions with a value sketch, usually no bigger than a large postage stamp. For the sake of the demo, she made it a bit larger. The value sketch helps the artist plot out where the darks, lights and mediums will fall. This becomes important when laying down paint. Can I extend the sky wash below the horizon line? Or do I need to preserve some white areas? How can I create definition around this light area? 

Another function of the value sketch is to decide on the framing of the subject. What to include? What to exclude? Looking for interesting shapes, both positive and negative, for a tension between straight and curved, light and dark, horizontal and vertical. How can I lead the eye into the piece? What is this about? I don't remember Shari talking about focal point: perhaps this is just intuitive for her. 

The value sketch is put aside for continuous reference.

For subjects that require more veracity, like when the proportions of a building are key to a successful painting, Shari will use a B pencil to indicate the major shapes on the watercolour paper. In this case, I believe she went directly to pen and ink after a few swipes with the pencil.

Next came a very watery wash for the sky. Shari likes to drop extra pigment onto the wash while it is still wet to create more interest and surprises.

Using some of the grungy remains of previous efforts on the mixing portion of her palette helps Shari to create more interesting greens for the foliage. The next green builds on the palette remains of the first, with the addition of yellow or blue-green or red, and this continues with little regard for keeping the block of paint, the palette or the brush clean.

At this next stage, more detail is put in with brush strokes and sometimes textural lines with the pen. Notice the bits of white that remain, to enliven the composition.

Shari says that she knows the work is finished when there is nothing more for the brush to add. She graciously presented Sara with the painting when it was completed and signed.

These almost two-hour demos which began every day had us all standing, mesmerized and uncomplaining in the bright sun. We observed the small details of how Shari worked, including her easel, her posture, and how she held the pencil, pen or brush.

Below is a charming little sketch done by Catherine, one of the workshop participants, of the group "in action".

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Watercolour workshop with Shari Blaukopf, Part 1

images from Shari's website
I have just returned from a three-day workshop with Shari Blaukopf, a talented watercolour artist and a generous and seasoned teacher.

Shari teaches full-time at Vanier College in Montreal, and is a member of the Lakeshore Artists. She is also a leader of Montreal's Urban Sketching group, USK:MTL.

Shari teaches all over the world when her schedule allows and I feel so fortunate to have been able to attend this workshop, only an hour from home, in Montebello, Quebec. Others in the group of 18 had come from Texas, Alberta, Virginia and Connecticut. With over 4000 following her blog, Shari has a wide fan base.

Most of the workshop participants stayed at the Chateau Montebello, where we met each morning before setting off to our sketching site. On Day One we found ourselves in a pasture with rolling hills and rustic buildings. Our approach to the site was on roads blasted through granite, leaving interesting faceted masses of rock face with its subtle colouration.

Because of rain on Day Two, we stayed close to the hotel, using the tents on the restaurant terrace for shelter, and on Day Three we set up in the town itself, looking for interesting street scenes.

Each day began with a two-hour demo, complete with detailed explanations, and ended with a group critique of our own sketches. We got to know each other over dinner every evening.

I am so grateful for this opportunity to explore watercolour. I hope to take the next few days to do more sketching. Mostly, I want to learn to work more loosely, to play with the paint and explore how pigment and water can produce magic on paper.

Watercolour may not replace fibre as a medium for me, but being portable, it could add an interesting element to travel.

Shari has published a small book of her Montreal sketches, and has designed an on-line class that can be downloaded from Craftsy. Along with Marc Taro Holmes and Jane Hannah, she is showing her paintings and sketchbooks at Stewart Hall in Pointe Claire until August 30.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

"After Hopper" at the Addison Gallery, Orleans MA

Rooms by the Sea II, Philip Koch

While in Cape Cod recently, I learned of an event that will delight fans of American painter Edward Hopper. For decades, Hopper lived in Truro, a small town just south of Provincetown. The Addison Gallery will collaborate with the Cape Cod Museum of Art to celebrate the work of contemporary artists who are inspired by Hopper and Cape Cod. 

Paul Schulenburg

Plans for this celebration include exhibitions of new plein air and studio works, receptions, demonstrations, artist panels and talks by Hopper experts in 2015 and 2016.

The "After Hopper" event begins July 13, 2015, with a "paint-in" involving artists from across the U.S., all painting at various locations of their choosing, creating their own interpretations of scenes and the region that compelled Hopper.

Late Afternoon, Pleasant Street, Steve Kennedy

Keep an eye on the event website to follow this initiative.

Both the Addison Gallery in Orleans and the Cape Cod Museum of Art in Dennis have impressive collections of paintings, photography and sculpture, well worth a visit if you are in the mid-Cape area.