He was born on Feb. 29, an unusual day for an unusual man.
Philip Stone would grow to become both a gifted visual artist and a flamboyant outcast — known as much for his ability to stand out as for his coveted art.
Stone saw magic in the world. He delighted in birds and butterflies, flaming flowers and swirling clouds. He explored femininity on the pages of drawings, as if femaleness was a side of him that needed to emerge. He found fantasy even in the surreal ways the mixture of colours change their hues. It all came out through paints on his palette, or the inks of the ballpoint pens he used.
“His passion was expression,” a friend recalls. “A sheet of paper, on a canvas, on his person.”
Living in an industrial city of starched collars and blue uniforms, Stone wore feathered caps and French berets, dramatic capes over patterned shirts with peacock blue pants held up by rhinestone studded belts. He was 6’2,” and made taller still by his metallic platform shoes. One pair had goldfish in the heels.
Some knew him as a dramatic, excitable and proud gay man, to others he was timid, quiet and shy. But they all say Stone was like a shooting star; a twinkle in the starry night, delightful in the moment but all too brief.
Stone would be dead at age 24, dying hours after he was beaten by two men in a community that had long made him feel as though he didn’t belong.
Yet even now, if you ask around, it’s not uncommon for someone to remember and ask about whatever happened to Philip Stone.
Hamilton was booming in the 1950s. Manufacturing giants Stelco and Dofasco were pumping out steel and ambitiously growing, while neighbouring operations produced everything from Studebaker cars to Lifesavers. With such growing business, Hamilton was called the “lunch-bucket city,” a place for industry, not art.
“So what? There are quite a few cities in Canada that wish they had what we have,” former mayor Victor Copps once wrote. “A good industrial base means jobs.”
Stone was born in 1952, the first child of Wesley Stone and June Little, a local couple who lived on Hamilton Mountain, a rapidly expanding suburban area atop the escarpment. Four more children — Steve, Marguerite, Marie and James — would follow. Wesley Stone worked for a bread company, while June stayed at home to raise the children.
Their house, situated on Mohawk Road East, was surrounded by expansive fields, giving the Stone children a vast space to play. It was there Philip Stone developed his fascination with nature. While his siblings were off jumping in the nearby creek and getting dirty, Stone would amble back and watch butterflies flutter about, the flowers dance in the wind and the bees gather nectar. He’d quietly consider what he saw and reproduce it all in a sketchbook with wildflowers he collected tucked inside. He did the same thing on family trips to conservation areas and the Canadian National Exhibition.
In the bedroom he shared with his brothers, Stone took up a corner to draw and paint. A crawl space was converted to a spaceship with boxes, tinfoil and paint. He would later paint spaceships and galactic scenes on another wall. Art and the act of creating seemed natural for him with a mother who painted water colours and did pottery. He was gentle and quiet, also like her. His voice was soft and effeminate.
As the boys turned to men, Steve Stone thought his brother Philip could not be more different from him. Steve was outgoing, athletic with a strong rapport. Philip was a loner, shy and docile. The difference was confusing for two so naive to the world.
“I felt my brother was a bit strange,” Stone says of his thinking at the time. “My friends would describe him as a fairy.”
While putting words to his sexual identity took time, Philip Stone was gay. His parents, sisters and younger brother accepted that but Steve did not understand him and he was not kind. In a heteronormative world with narrow social norms, he “didn’t know how to interact” with Philip. The two “disconnected,” he says. They went separate ways “like a fork in the road.”
Philip’s road took him to Hamilton’s downtown core, where there was more diversity and vibrancy than on the Mountain. He commuted daily to Central Secondary School, where he took up an intensive arts program and was thought to be “unassuming … but leagues ahead of (other students) because he already had a defined style.”
Primarily using bright ecoline inks, tempera paint and watercolours, he would craft surrealistic nature scenes and figures on thick stock paper. The scenes were often crammed with recognizable elements, such as birds, flowers, plants and insects, or abstract shapes with emerging humanistic touches. Often a female figure would be incorporated as a figure hiding or emerging from the rich matrix. It was as if he was portraying a female’s reflection on life, or exploring the perceptions of a female person.
As his art emerged and was noticed, Stone signed his work “North Troll.” He never explained the alias, but siblings and friends thought it was a result of a negative self-perception or a wish for discretion.
Still, Stone believed art was his future. There were “not a lot of avenues for an artist to make a living,” friend David Byers remembers, but there was no doubt being an artist was who he was.
Stone didn’t pursue any post-secondary training and instead found himself visiting coffee shops, studio spaces, galleries and even hair salons where creative types were known to hang out. He loved science fiction movies, listened to Led Zeppelin and was a dramatic storyteller. He devoured fashion magazines and went extreme with his personal style. The shirt and pants were colourful, the accessories were glittery and he was known to carry a black portfolio or decorated hat box. Paint was not limited to paper or canvas. He painted his shoes and his belts, designed rings and he stylized hats, once designing one as a gift for entertainer Liberace when he made an appearance at a bookstore.
“Phil was always flamboyant in his dress,” friend Lynne Powell recalls. “He stood out. … We were still a pretty redneck kind of town.”
Hamilton didn’t have much of a gay community scene. You could be “out” in artistic circles, a union hall was known to host gay dances and there were areas for cruising. There were a few discreet gay bars, but attendance could be dangerous. Hamilton was known for gang activity, where two dominant gangs staked turf over much of the city and were noted by law enforcement as “a constant problem.”
Police also were a concern. LGBTQ people largely saw officers as a threat, not allies. Stone and friends noted police seemed to hang out near the gay bars and thought they might accost them.
Among officers was Stone’s brother, Steve. He joined the Hamilton police force in 1972 and it was common for him to see Philip out downtown while he was on patrol. Steve tried to avoid him. The force was unfriendly to gay people, he says now, and he felt vulnerable to be seen as an ally to his outwardly gay and flamboyant sibling in front of ignorant colleagues or the gang members he was tasked with policing.
“Hamilton had a tough and rough side,” he says. “There was no tolerance for people who were different. It’s like there was an unspoken standard and if you were outside that standard, there could be trouble for you.”
Stone did not specify if that trouble came from police. In Toronto, it is well documented police often haunted gay venues where they harassed and intimidated members of the gay community. LGBTQ people were charged with various offences, even though same-sex sexual activity was decriminalized in 1969. Police activity culminated in the 1981 bathhouse raids that kicked off demonstrations in a fight for rights and a place to safely belong.
The conclusion for many was that “anyone who was gay might as well not (have) lived here.”
James Stone says Philip “didn’t care what anyone thought of his sexual identity and style. He didn’t like Hamilton.”
Philip Stone made regular visits to New York, Montreal and Toronto, living briefly in all of them. In Toronto, he hung out in the hippy bars of Yorkville and worked at a bathhouse mere blocks from the busy gay beer halls along Yonge Street.
All the while Stone continued to make his art and he began to sell some of it. Word spread quickly of his talent, including to prominent and powerful Hamilton families such as the Fortinos and the Brockers who all bought prints. A key friendship was with Bill Powell, an artist and entrepreneur who was, as The Hamilton Spectator reported, “a big-talking booster who was convinced that a city known for steel and gridiron also had a heart of artistic gold.” Powell would later co-found the Festival of Friends, a summer event for the arts. It continues to this day.
In the early 1970s, Powell and his wife Lynne ran a coffee house and art gallery on Augusta Street. They wanted a place for artists who, Lynne Powell says, had “a hunger (among artists) for a place to belong.”
The couple took Stone under their wing, framed his prints, displayed his work, hosted his first exhibition and got the word out. Prominent philanthropist and patron of the arts Irving Zucker caught on, bought many prints and championed Stone’s talent.
Powell came to see his creative process, as Stone was almost constantly drawing, painting and creating. She describes his method as intricate, “the most incredible process to watch. … It was almost like birth.”
“By placing a human face centrally, Phil Stone then proceeds to introduce his almost baroque cornucopia of the fertile, almost hothouse environment, where everything is teeming with life, energy and growth,” a 1974 article in The Hamilton Spectator read. “His mannequinlike faces that emerge and recede from painting to painting may indeed present some new, escape world that has a life of its own.”
Another review said his art “may just be considered brilliant, without qualification.”
His prints eventually sold for up to $500. That would equate over $3,000 today.
Spending so much time together, Powell says Stone “had a way about him where everything was bigger than life. He went to Montreal, saw the Notre-Dame (Basilica) and talked of weeping at its beauty. He looked at things with wonder and amazement, almost childlike.”
The Powells also saw his drug addiction. Stone frequently used drugs — “you name it, he took it,” one friend said. On agreement with him, the Powells withheld his payments and divvied it out in rations to keep him from indulgence and excess. His drug use worked into his art. Later creations were increasingly described as fantastical, surrealistic and hallucinogenic, but they still sold like everything else.
Stone seemed more certain of himself. He surrounded himself with artists, including artist Allan Oddly, figure skater and painter Toller Cranston and Byers, a musician and founding member of the bands Simply Saucer and The Shangs. Stone also dropped the name “North Troll” and began signing his work with his real name.
Even with the support he had from figures like Powell and Zucker, Philip Stone and friends in the arts felt opportunities were limited in Hamilton.
Discouraged, Stone briefly abandoned his work and took up working nights at a post office. But the call to create remained and he quit to return to his art. By September 1976, the drawing he was working on was intended as a wedding gift for his brother Steve even though they were still estranged.
“All he ever wanted was to exist for his art,” his father said.
His sexual identity and flashy fashion continued to make him a target for gangs and homophobic people. Someone called him “the strangest bird in town.” It was not uncommon for him to be denied service in stores or restaurants for how he looked and to be called derogatory names walking down the street. He was robbed and beaten up. Stone’s own brother Steve says it must have “been like torture.”
Stone told his sisters he was deeply depressed. He felt like an outcast.
“I can’t live anymore because society won’t accept me,” he told his mother.
It was late at night on a weekend in September when Stone and a friend were walking downtown and encountered two men outside a bar who taunted them and threatened a beating. A chase ensued, and while the friend was able to escape into a nearby hotel, the men caught up with Stone and he found himself at the brunt end of a violent altercation, unable to fight back. The Hamilton Spectator reported that in the scuffle Stone had been pushed into a moving car that didn’t stop to offer help.
Badly hurt, Stone walked the few blocks to the emergency room of a Catholic hospital. It was a fruitless effort. He said he was denied care and surmised it was because of who he was, while a nurse reported the department was busy and he was impatient.
“It was not a priority case,” a hospital spokesperson said at the time.
Stone’s parents visited him the next day and insisted he see a doctor. He said he’d wait it out. Calling police to report the incident did not seem like an option, even if his brother was an officer.
That was the last time anyone saw him alive.
Stone was found dead in his bed by friends late the next day, Sept. 20. The exact cause of death was not clear. It could have been an accidental overdose of pain medication, as the newspaper reported. It could have been suicide after his distress of the situation and years of harassment. But given the violent beating he sustained, Stone’s parents and siblings quietly believed he died as a result of his injuries. His death warranted investigation, but it was not to be.
James Stone remembers police visiting his parents in their Hamilton Mountain home and encouraging them to accept Philip’s death as a suicide. An investigation or autopsy would only prolong their grief and pain, they said. The Stones did not push but quietly kept their own conclusion their son died because of the attack and being who he was.
“He just wanted to be himself but society wouldn’t let him,” Bill Powell told the Hamilton Spectator in tears. “They hassled him, they beat him. And he never did anything to anybody.”
Four decades after Philip Stone was killed, Steve Stone remembers his brother with wonderment and regret. The circumstances around Philip’s death and their disconnected relationship weigh on him.
“That time was not the most compassionate,” he says.
Stone would spend over 40 years as a police officer, and work his way through different rotations, including a long stretch with the vice and drug unit. He was once named officer of the year. One project he headed was 1997’s Project Rosebud, tasked with putting a stop to cruising by gay men in an area of Royal Botanical Gardens.
“It was not something I wanted to do,” Stone says now.
He understood LGBTQ people had few places to go in the city. There were few bars, no community space, minimal social groups and no internet dating. But, police received complaints and he could not turn down the assignment. The project was executed relatively as planned and, out of Stone’s control, a list of those arrested ran in the local newspaper, outing them. Hamilton’s gay community was in uproar and an already tense relationship between the community and the police was increasingly aggravated.
“I’m not proud of (the assignment) now,” Stone says.
Time has a way of allowing people to reconsider. There are things we do in ignorance that are corrected with experience, education and sometimes consequence. Stone looks differently on his brother Philip now. Philip’s life and work is one of Steve’s biggest sources of pride. Framed prints of Philip’s work dominate the walls of Steve’s home.
“He was a walking, talking piece of art,” Stone says, believing their relationship would be different today. “He didn’t fit into our world then.”
With files from Mark McNeil and The Hamilton Spectator
Imaginations, creativity of Mountview students on display at Cariboo Art Beat – Williams Lake Tribune – Williams Lake Tribune
Creative, imaginative artwork of students from Mountview Elementary School will be on public display at the gallery of Cariboo Art Beat until April 9.
“The students of Mountview elementary were all invited to participate in an art contest,” Tiffany Jorgensen said, an artist at Cariboo Art Beat.
Each class was separately judged by three professional artists at Cariboo Art Beat, Jorgensen said, based on the students’ creativity, techniques, use of space and originality.
“It was extremely difficult to select pieces from the abundance of beautiful art presented,” she said. “There is so much talent and fantastic imaginations.”
The artist of each selected piece was given formal invitations to their art show to distribute to whomever they choose, and Jorgensen said anyone is free to view the beautiful artwork throughout until April 9.
Honoured at the show were works from local artists Ryker Hagen, Annika Nilsson, Rylie Trampleasure, Angus Shoults, Izabella Telford, Isabella Buchner, Kai Pare and more.
“Come view their wonderful pieces to get a glimpse into the minds of our creative youth,” Jorgensen said.
“It’s been so fun. The kids have come in and seen their work on display with their grandparents, parents, and they’re all so excited.”
Following up on the success of the Mountview art show, Jorgensen said more elementary schools have been invited to participate.
April will feature the works of Nesika and Big Lake, followed by Marie Sharpe and Chilcotin Road next month.
Cariboo Art Beat is located at 19 First Ave., under Caribou Ski Source for Sports’ entrance on Oliver Street.
Launching the conversation on Newfoundland and Labrador art history
ST. JOHN’S, N.L. —
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is a book that has been a long time coming, Mireille Eagan says.
While working at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Prince Edward Island, Eagan curated an exhibition marking the 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation with Canada.
“As I was researching, I noticed that there was very little that existed in terms of the art history of this province,” she said. “There wasn’t even a Wikipedia article.”
Noticing this large gap, “Future Possible” was a book that needed to exist, she said.
As the 70th anniversary approached in 2019, Eagan, now living in St. John’s and working as curator of contemporary art at The Rooms, envisioned filling that gap.
Over two summers, The Rooms held a two-part exhibition. The first looked at the visual culture and visual narratives before the province joined Confederation and the second focused on 1949 onward, Eagan said.
“At its core, it was asking, what are the stories we tell ourselves as a province? It was looking at iconic artworks, it was looking at texts that have been written about this place, and it put these works in conversation with contemporary artworks,” Eagan said.
In the foreword to the book, chief executive officer of The Rooms Anne Chafe described it as a complement to the exhibition and a project that “does not seek to be the final say. It seeks, instead, to launch the conversation.”
History and identity
One example of that conversation between the past and the present mentioned by Eagan is the work of artist Bushra Junaid, who moved to St. John’s from Montreal as a baby. The daughter of a Jamaican mother and Nigerian father, Junaid said her experience growing up in the province in the 1970s, where she always the only Black child in the room, was not like most.
“All of my formative years, my schooling and everything, took place in St. John’s,” she said. “It’s very much shaped my current preoccupation.”
Her interest in history, identity and representation led her to making “Two Pretty Girls…,” which used an archival photograph of Caribbean sugarcane workers from 1903 with text from advertisements for sugar, molasses and rum from archived copies of The Evening Telegram collaged over the women’s clothing.
In her essay “Of Saltfish and Molasses” published in “Future Possible,” she described the work as “(allowing) me to place these women and their labour within the broader historical context of the international trade in commodities that underpinned Caribbean slavery and its afterlife.”
It’s a direct connection between Newfoundland and people in the Caribbean, a historical line not often drawn through the context of the transatlantic slave trade, but one she knows personally through the stories told by her mother, Adassa, about their ancestor, Sisa, who “as a teenager, survived the horrors of the Middle Passage, enduring the voyage from West Africa to Jamaica in the hold of a slave ship (Junaid).”
A book like “Future Possible” allows people to interpret themselves and their past, present and future, Junaid says.
“I appreciate the ways in which they really worked to make it as broad and diverse as possible,” she said. “It’s also striving to tell the Indigenous history of the place, the European settler history … and then also looking for … non-Western backgrounds such as myself. It’s enriching.”
What shapes us
St. John’s writer Lisa Moore contributed an essay called “Five Specimens from Another Time” that weaves together moments from her own life, the province’s history and current realities and the art that has inspired her over the years.
“It’s really interesting to me to see all this work of people that I’ve written about in the past and whose work influenced me, even in my writing of fiction, and then newer artists,” Moore said. “I just think that the book is a total gift.”
With such a rich cultural history ready to be written, she imagines “Future Possible” is just the first of what could be many books about art in the province now that the “ice is cracked.”
“The writers that (Eagan) has chosen to write here are also really exciting critics from all over the province, talking about all kind of different periods in art history,” she said.
As time passes, the meaning of the works in the book becomes richer, she said.
Mary Pratt’s 1974 “Cod Fillets on Tin Foil” and Scott Goudie’s 1991 “Muskrat Falls,” for instance, are two images with seemingly straightforward and simple subject matter. But any viewer looking now, who is aware of the cod moratorium and the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam, would find it difficult to see and interpret these images outside of those contexts.
“Artists, writers, filmmakers … they’re keen observers of culture and the moment that we live in,” Moore said. “They present things that are intangible like the feeling of a moment, or the culmination of social, political and esthetic powers that come together at a given time and shape us.”
“Future Possible: An Art History of Newfoundland and Labrador” is available online and in stores.
Parrott Art Gallery goes virtual to help flatten the curve – The Kingston Whig-Standard
Feeling stir crazy because of COVID and the latest lock-down? Take a virtual trip to Morocco!
On Wednesday, April 14 at 2:30 p.m., the Parrott Gallery will host Lola Reid Allin’s Armchair Traveler online presentation: “Morocco: Sea, Sand and Summit”. Allin is an accomplished photographer, pilot, writer and speaker. Travel with her through the land of dramatic contrast and hidden jewels, busy markets and medieval cities, and enjoy some virtual sun.
For more information and to register for this free online event, please visit bellevillelibrary.ca/armchair-traveller.php. The Armchair Traveller Morocco photography exhibit is also available to view through the Parrott Gallery website until mid-May.
Even though our gallery is currently closed to the public, our exhibitions are all available to view online. Sam Sakr’s show “The Housing Project” is certain to bring a smile to your face. His collection of mixed media artwork will take you to a playful land of fantastical creatures that inhabit imaginary, stylized cityscapes. If your spirit needs uplifting, you need to see to see this show. I hope that everyone will be able to view Sakr’s work both online and then in our gallery after the lock-down ends in May. Without a doubt, it will be worth the wait to see it again in-person when we re-open.
Another exhibition that you can currently visit on the Parrott Gallery website is the group show “Spring Sentiments: a Reflection of Art in Isolation”. This was a collaborative effort by the 39 artists who submitted their work, our staff who put the show together in the gallery and online, and our guest curator Jessica Turner. We are thrilled that Jessica was able to transcribe her experience with this show into a final paper for her Curatorial Studies BFA degree at OCADU.
The fact that we have had to close our doors just as this show was opening is a sad reflection of the theme as the audience must now reflect on this artwork at home, in isolation. The up-side to viewing this exhibition online is that one can read the artist statements that accompany the work and get a more in depth view of the artists’ perspectives. We encourage viewers to support our artists by sending in their comments and to vote for their favourites in the show by following the appropriate link on the webpage.
When you can’t come in to our building, the Parrott Gallery will bring the artwork to you. And then when the sun and flowers come out in May, and when it is safe to return to our gallery on the third floor of the Belleville Public Library, we hope to see you all again.
For questions about our online talk, our shows, or to purchase any of the artwork please call us at 613-968-6731 x 2040 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wendy Rayson-Kerr is the Acting Curator at the John M. Parrott Art Gallery.
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