Paint Ontario is set to open on Wed., Sept. 2 with COVID-19 precautions and adjustments in place to ensure physical distancing and the full safety of visitors, volunteers and staff at all times,
Show hours at the Lambton Heritage Museum south of Grand Bend are Wednesday to Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, with evening extensions to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
The judges assure Grand Bend Art Centre organizers that artists’ work in the 2020 show will delight and inspire visitors, and art collectors will enjoy a wide variety of subjects and styles from which to choose.
Artists’ demonstrations and workshops have been pre-recorded and will be played on a rotating basis during the run of the show as well as being available online. Additionally, look out for live outdoor demonstrations that will add a new element to the Paint Ontario visitor experience this year.
Thursday evenings promise to be a special time for viewers and purchasers who have busy weekday schedules, with a bonus of outdoor performances by popular local musician Tom Taylor. Organizers ask you to bring a deck chair.
While there’s no opening gala this year, everything else that the public expect at Paint Ontario will be there, and more.
Paint Ontario, including its show-within-a-show “Faces of Ontario,” continues to be Ontario’s largest Show and Sale of original artwork, a unique opportunity for emerging artists to showcase their work and an unmatched opportunity for buyers to view and acquire it.
Information about how to purchase your timed entry ticket is availableat www.heritagemuseum.ca . You can also call 519-243-2600 for information on buying tickets to the event.
Jennifer Irving on Paris Crew’s front steps (Credit: Kelly Lawson)
The opening of local photographer Jennifer Irving’s Uptown art gallery, Paris Crew, is another step in a lifelong entrepreneurial journey.
“I feel like it was something I’ve had since I was young, starting little businesses,” said Irving. “I’ve had a buckwheat pillow business, I’ve had a falafel business with my brother in the City Market, I had a nail polish business when I was 12. I just always loved business for some reason.”
She pursued the idea of operating a bricks-and-mortar gallery after she held a pop-up once at the Moonlight Bazaar two years ago.
“I was just so energized about talking to people about my work. Instead of doing an online interaction, I was able to talk to people and tell them about the photos,” she explained. “That launched me into a whole idea of working with galleries or starting my own so I could showcase my work.”
Paris Crew logo close up (Credit: Kelly Lawson)
After a tip from her framer, she purchased 62 Water Street, the former souvenir shop Distant Waters and a historic property built in 1885 in the wake of the Saint John fire.
Paris Crew, named after the Saint John area rowers who won the World Rowing Championship in Paris in 1867, showcases the work of artists like Cliff Turner, Timothy “Bjorn” Jones, Melanie Koteff, Shannon Gates, Leigh Donovan, as well as Irving’s own photography.
COVID-19 threw a wrench into Paris Crew’s plans to benefit from the summer cruise ship and tourist season, as well as causing renovation delays, but Irving believes the gallery will help further develop the increasingly busy Water Street.
“It’s always boggled my mind that our waterfront isn’t more developed,” she said. “I’ve fallen in love with this little block, this little area which felt a little bit empty just a few years ago. It’s coming alive and I’m happy to be a part of that.”
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Cliff Turner’s paintings (Image: Elizabeth MacLeod)
Timothy Bjorn Jones’ carvings (Image: Elizabeth MacLeod)
Melanie Koteff paintings (Image: Elizabeth MacLeod)
Irving wants the Paris Crew to be another gallery and creative space for Saint John artists. It’s going to be a multi-functional venue where visual and musical artists could hold concerts and pop-ups, even though the pandemic has changed the shape of those original plans.
Livestreamed events and bubble concerts are some examples of potential events.
“We’re so excited to explore new ideas and different ways of doing things,” she said.
“We want to bring the arts community together, whether it’s people interested in photography, painting, or music. I’d like to see the community come together [here] and be able to celebrate the art scene here in Saint John.”
Thanks to a very generous donation from an art gallery in Montreal, Grace Village is giving out thousands of dollars-worth of art this week as a way of saying thank you to its staff members for their hard work over the last six months. “They are dedicated, committed, and have really sacrificed a lot,” said Andrea Eastman, the home’s interim executive director, explaining that the donation was arranged through a board member following a discussion about how the community could recognize the work of the staff during the pandemic. “The board had been trying to come up with a way to thank the employees and do something that is a little bit different.” The artworks have been put on display for the residents to enjoy, and workers are being invited to come and select a work of their choice over the course of the week, based on their seniority. Looking back on the last few months, Eastman said that the word “challenging” only scratches the surface of the realities that people working in retirement communities and long-term care homes have been facing. “Our focus has been on keeping our residents safe and healthy,” she said. “That has guided every decision about what we needed to do.” Eastman underlined the importance of clear communication and trust as key pillars to the success of the Grace Village community since the start of the pandemic “It’s a shared responsibility with employees, residents, their families and other people in the community; You have to have trust in each other,” she said. “The more you communicate about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, the clearer it is that we’re all in this together.” Asked whether the home has faced the same sorts of difficulties with people failing to respect rules and guidelines that have been reported at other care homes in the region, the interim director said that there have certainly been cases where people needed to be reminded of the reasons why things are the way they are. “We’ve remained quite strict, but we’re trying to be as sensitive as possible,” she said. In matters ranging from employee scheduling during a time when multiple days off in a row might be needed for a test, to figuring out how to offer residents enrichment when gathering together is largely off limits, Eastman said that her key word has been optimism. “I try to focus on what we are able to do, rather than what we are not able to do,” she said, adding that the support and commitment of the whole team plays an important role in making a challenging situation more feasible. “What they are doing goes above and beyond what their employer is asking of them.”
Shaya Ishaq’s work moves fluidly between mediums—words, ceramics, fibres, jewellery—while maintaining a central locus of honouring Black lineages and sparking light toward liberated Black futures. Tenacious and ever-evolving, Ishaq walked away from journalism school and signed up for a hand-building course at a pottery studio in her hometown of Ottawa. “I really fell in love that winter,” she says. “It was pretty magical to come into the studio first thing in the morning to see my work come out of the kiln or even just how the clay would change when the pieces would air dry before firing. I was totally enraptured by the many stages of the medium of clay.”
Now, Ishaq masterfully combines ceramics and fibres to create ornate and intricate wearable art pieces. On the origin stories of these designs, she says, “At their core, [these materials] come from the earth (before mass production and industrialization, before creating synthetic versions) and I am very dedicated to working with them to see what connections arise. Both invite a meditative process that has saved me time and again.” She started bridging relationships between ceramics and textiles when she began art school in Halifax, going on to continue her studies in Montreal. “It’s only been in recent years that some kind of visual vocabulary has emerged.”
Ishaq’s wearable art possesses a distinct aesthetic that plays with the juxtaposition of hardness and softness, gloss and matte, the whimsy of tassels and sharp curves of ceramic. That aesthetic is visible in her Holy Wata collection, showcased on her online portfolio, and her most recent solo show Mirror Mirror, exhibited at the Anne Dahl Concept Studio in Ottawa.
“Some of my stylistic choices are definitely informed by Black and Afro-diasporic futurist and Indigenous aesthetics,” she says. “More and more, I am trying to find inspiration from my own cultural background in East Africa … which requires a lot of digging, but is ultimately worth it because it brings me closer to myself in a way, by allowing me to reconnect with an em bodied sense of self.” Ishaq is also inspired by people who express a certain kind of “unfuckwithable energy,” including characters like Lauren Olamina from Octavia E. Butler’sParable series or Ketara from Avatar, and performers like Moor Mother, Debby Friday, Backxwash, and Kelsey Lu.
Themes of Blackness in regards to identity, craft, culture, and liberation are integrally woven into Ishaq’s spatial design, as well. During a month-long residency at Halifax’s Khyber Centre for the Arts, she created Black Libraries Matter, for which she reimagined the gallery space by creating a Black library by inviting community members to donate books by Black authors.
Soon after, she had a collaborative exhibit, Reconcile/Overcome,at the Ottawa Art Gallery. It consisted of a handwoven sculptural textile piece and written work reflecting on the consequences of the transatlantic slave trade and labour of enslaved Black people on the foundation of Canada and the United States. Her written work from the exhibit includes this excerpt:“Made by my Black hands in celebration of Black spiritual resilience in all corners of the world. Not all our struggles are alike yet we are gold. We are nuanced and yet are gold. We are resilient and we are gold.”
In reflecting on the intersections of Blackness, fashion, beauty, and culture, Ishaq understands that Blackness and popular material culture are also deeply entwined. “I believe this includes Afro-diasporic cultural production as well. I really believe that materiality is political and omnipresent.” Black culture, she says,“is celebrated yet the people who create it are oftentimes disregarded, treated as disposable, only celebrated when they are dead or in moments like this where the world has to recognize the deep systemic patterns at play. There are so many case studies of appropriation that intersect Blackness, fashion, and beauty.”
In its variety of mediums, Ishaq’s practice seeks to centre Blackness and move closer toward creative sovereignty, despite continued appropriation of Black art and culture. “Ultimately, the more we are able to lean into our own creative sovereignty, the more authentic our creations can be. That sovereignty can look like not fighting for ‘a seat at the table,’ detaching ourselves from Eurocentric symbols of success but really doing things for us and by us.”
TOP: Photo by Cheryl Hann; Models: Francesca Ekwuyasi and Portia Karegeya LEFT: Photo by Mallory Lowe; Model: Jada BOTTOM: Photo by Brandon Brookbank; Model: Candy Contrera
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