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Art Trip: Meryl McMaster's haunting self-portrait at As Immense as the Sky merges lineages – The Globe and Mail

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Meryl McMaster’s There Are No Footprints Where I Go.

Courtesy of the artist

In Meryl McMaster’s haunting self-portrait There Are No Footprints Where I Go – part of the exhibition As Immense as the Sky, on view at Ikon Gallery in Birmingham until Feb. 23, 2020 – the artist retraces a journey taken by her mother’s Dutch ancestors during the 18th century, when they crossed into Canada via Picton, Ont., at the time of the American Revolution.

In McMaster’s restaging, however, the boat is guided by a distinctly Indigenous cultural figure: Raven, the trickster hero who put the sun back into the sky after it was stolen by a man. The sun is perhaps what he is carrying in the lantern he holds in his beak, as he and his blindfolded companion row toward the horizon.

By assuming this guise – aided by theatrical props and costumes, which the artist creates herself – McMaster merges her matrilineal European and patrilineal Plains Cree heritage, and charts a course through a place that belongs both to her direct ancestors and a time that predates human existence.

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In McMaster’s work, which earned her a Scotiabank New Generation Photography Award in 2018, birds often function as “a reminder to see the world from different perspectives,” the artist says. In other photographs from the series, canaries and goldfinches “reference unwanted creatures who were exploited in the interest of exploration and industrial progress.” Birds use stars to navigate, and having Raven guide a boat beneath an overcast sky is a warning to remember that, “as the stars become hidden by light pollution, we start to lose our way.”

In an effort to better know herself, McMaster has embarked on a journey that uses “stories from family and knowledge keepers” as signposts, helping her bring awareness to the fact that both the environment and the body are sites clouded by the consequences of colonialism. The experience “has reinforced for me how small I am in the universe,” the artist says, “and how we are time capsules learning and gathering information to pass down to the next generation, just like the last generation did before that.”

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Toronto's outdoor museum for street art is a perfect activity for these pandemic times – blogTO

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Dundas West Open Air Museum, a collection of murals clustered in a Toronto neighbourhood, opened about a year ago, but they’ve been very busy during that time.

Around 20 murals have been painted around the Dundas West area from Shaw to Lansdowne by local artists such as Jieun June Kim, Jose Ortega and Pablo Gomez.

All murals can be explored virtually on the museum’s website, which includes info about the works and artists.

The initiative was spearheaded by the artists along with Little Portugal and Dundas West BIAs, Lula Lounge, Toronto Arts Council and Creativo Arts.

It was inspired by similar public space projects in places like The Bronx and Berlin.

One of the new initiatives from the museum is an app that you can download to your phone and use to make your way among the murals, finding out information about each piece and the artists that created it as you go.

As COVID-19 numbers continue to rise, finding safe, outdoor activities in Toronto is on many people’s to-do list and this outdoor museum might just be one that’s perfectly suited to the times.

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Art as reconciliation: Ymir artist hosting BC Culture Days event – Nelson Star

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It took Damian John decades to realize words weren’t always the best way to connect with people.

When John was in his 20s he became woke to the problems of the world and hoped to make a change. In his 30s, having failed to make that change, he struggled with depression and anxiety.

But four years ago the now 43 year old quit his career as a massage therapist to focus on his art. That choice led to an epiphany.

“I think the dialogue that we have with words is limited. You have this understanding of words, I have an understanding of words. Sometimes they don’t match up,” he says.

“We’re really bad at telling each other what we’re feeling and we’re really bad at understanding what the other person is saying to us in general, even with people we know well. So I thought, but what about having art do that for us and being creative with how we speak to each other.”

John, a Ymir-based artist, hopes to meld words and art into a new type of conversation when he hosts a workshop for BC Culture Days on Sept. 26. Jones was the only West Kootenay artist named ambassador to the annual event, which will run Sept. 25 to Oct. 25.

His livestream is titled Exploring Reconciliation Through Creativity, in which John plans to tell the story of how colonization affected his family and people before having participants create art based on the discussion.

A member of Tl’azt’en First Nation near Prince George, John grew up with a family traumatized by the residential school system. His father attended nearby Lejac Residential School, a Catholic-run facility that operated from 1922 to 1976.

The school is partly remembered now for being the place four boys froze to death while trying to escape from in 1937.

“All of my family on that side is directly impacted by colonization, by residential school,” said John, “and that impacts us as his children, that affects nephews and generations that are coming after us. There’s a heavy, heavy impact mentally, health wise, relationally, all of these various components which would take a long time to talk to or speak to in a real strong way.”

First Nations art has always been a part of John’s life. His father brought pieces home, and John was later influenced by artists Robert Sebastian and Roy Henry Vickers.

John’s own art is vibrant, colourful and distinctly modern. In his work he’s found a place to explore his culture and voice concerns while also being in control of the outcome in a way he never felt he could in conversation.

“If I want to have a life that has any feelings of quality to it, I need to shift things,” he says. “So making things that I think are beautiful, and allowing people to engage in that space as well, felt useful.”

That’s how he hopes the people who take his workshop feel after creating their own work. John wants to inspire new ways of discourse about difficult topics despite personal differences, and he thinks art is the key.

“How do we bridge those spaces to come to a place of community and goodwill and conflict resolution?” he says. “In spite of being devastated by all the information out there I still have hope we can do things differently.”

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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Damian John holds a painting he recently completed of his grandmother. John will be exploring reconciliation through art during an event for BC Culture Days. Photo: Tyler Harper

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Outdoor art in a concrete jungle – Excalibur Online

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Shaughn Clutchey | Arts Editor

Featured Image: Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard.
Photo Credit: Excalibur


Between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building is a set of three stone blocks. Two are made of concrete, and between them is a smaller piece of black cambrian granite. 

Inconspicuous in form and inviting as a spot to lean or sit between classes, these blocks are not remnants of ongoing construction or a sort of chic patio furniture. As a unit, these blocks are titled “Noire Solaire, Basse” and were commissioned by Canadian sculptor Jocelyne Alloucherie in 1993. 

Jocelyne Alloucherie’s “Noire Solaire, Basse” is located between Vari Hall and the Behavioural Sciences building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

“Noire Solaire, Basse” is just one installation in a collection of vibrant outdoor sculptures located across the York campus. 

Although York began collecting sculptures as part of a campus beautification initiative in the early 1970s, new relevance has been given to this outdoor art collection in light of the cultural shift influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Modes of art consumption are changing—galleries, theatres, and other venues that have traditionally allowed for a direct, in-person relationship between art and audience can no longer operate in a traditional manner. 

Allyson Adley is the collection and education assistant at the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU). With much of York’s campus being closed this semester, Adley agrees that the importance of this collection has increased as a reminder of campus community and culture. 

“Engaging with artworks outdoors can be a meditative experience,” Adley explains. It can “provide students with an opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness by observing the artworks and their relationship to the surrounding landscape and architecture.” 

A third-year environmental studies student at York, who wishes to remain anonymous, agrees. “I love the idea of having art exhibits on campus,” they say. “It’s important to have art that can inspire or present the opportunity to admire creativity in normally bland areas.”

Mark Di Suvero’s “Sticky Wicket” is located near the Atkinson building. (Photo Credit: Excalibur)

Adley iterates that completing a self-guided tour is a useful way to explore the collection. It is also an opportunity to acquaint or reacquaint with campus. 

“Following a self guided tour is an excellent way to get to know the campus and explore our outdoor collection,” Adley says. 

Adley adds: “Although the tour can provide information about the artist’s interests and motivations behind the creation of a given work, students are encouraged to consider their own personal responses. What comes to mind when standing next to a work? How does the work make you feel? Instead of relying on prescribed interpretations, can you bring your own perspectives into your process of meaning making and trust your own instincts and insights?”

These interpretations and perspectives can be related to the culture and society COVID-19 has created. 

One piece that stands out in this regard is Liz Magor’s “Keep,” conveying the idea of a natural retreat, particularly as a last resource. “Keep” consists of a bronze cast of a willow tree trunk with a rubber sleeping bag protruding from one end. 

Liz Magor’s “Keep” is located in the Central Square courtyard. (Courtesy of AGYU)

“The piece speaks of the need to escape from densely inhabited urban settings and find refuge in nature,” Adley explains . 

“I think in the current climate and context of the pandemic, social distancing and isolation has not been freely chosen but rather encouraged in communities across the world in an effort to protect people’s health and slow the spread of the virus.”

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