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Turning face masks into art: Chinese artist and activist makes a statement – CTV News

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TORONTO —
Since the novel coronavirus swept across the world, face masks of all shapes, sizes and colours have hit the market to help people protect themselves and others.

But one artist has created a face mask that is not meant to be worn, but to be framed.

Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei is the man behind the concept: a series of medical masks that have been printed with special designs. The masks are intended to raise money for charity and also make a statement about the world.

In an Instagram post on May 28, he wrote that a person’s “small individual act becomes powerful when they are part of the social response.

“An individual wearing a mask makes a gesture; a society wearing masks combats a deadly virus. And a society that wears masks because of the choices of individuals, rather than because of the directive of authorities, can defy and withstand any force,” the post reads.

“No will is too small and no act too helpless.”

Weiwei’s life has been a journey of activism through art. It was no different when he set out to make a COVID-19 mask.

“I printed one mask to show my son and I put it on Instagram,” the artist told CTV News. “Suddenly, a lot of people asked me where to get it.”

An Instagram post from April 28 shows a simple medical mask with a black and white print on it of a defiant middle finger — an Ai Weiwei classic.

A single mask goes for US$50 on eBay, where Weiwei has put them up for sale. The proceeds from the masks sold will be split equally between three charities: Human Rights Watch, Refugees International and Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders. MSF has created a special COVID-19 crisis fund to raise money for their emergency pandemic response across the globe.

Some of the other designs printed on Weiwei’s masks include sunflower seeds, handcuffs, a bird, a crab, and a skeleton hand giving the middle finger, among other images.

Throughout Weiwei’s long career, his work has been meant to challenge and provoke. The artist became an outspoken critic of China after the government censored information about a catastrophic earthquake in Sichuan province in 2008, which killed tens of thousands.

Weiwei’s art installation called “Snake Ceiling,” which came to the Art Gallery of Ontario in 2013, drew inspiration from this tragedy. The piece utilized hundreds of backpacks hung from the ceiling in a twisting pattern to symbolize the more than 5,000 students who died in the earthquake when their schools collapsed. Government officials would not release the official death toll for students until a year after the earthquake, and activists still believe the true death toll is higher.

In 2011, amid a government crackdown on political activists and dissidents, Weiwei was arrested in China for tax evasion and spent 81 days in jail and four years under house arrest. He was allowed to leave the country in 2015, and now lives in the United Kingdom.

In some ways, he believes those difficult years prepared him for living with a pandemic.

“I’m very familiar with this kind of isolation since I was detained in China and also my family was exiled when I was born,” he said. “So, this is nothing new to me, isolation and to have distance with so-called society.”

With museums and galleries under lockdown, creating these masks is another way to connect, he says. In difficult times, art is an essential service.

“I think that [art] should happen when it’s needed, especially in this kind of crisis, where humans are in a desperate situation, trying to use their imagination or they need courage,” Weiwei said. “So, they need art to fill up the gap.”

The middle finger masks are listed as woodcut prints on eBay. This is a technique where an artist shallowly carves an image in relief into a block of wood. Ink is then spread over the design and the paper for the print — in this case, a mask instead of paper — is pressed carefully to the ink to transfer the image.

A similar effect can be achieved by carving soft linoleum as well, called linocut printing, which Weiwei can be seen doing in an Instagram video posted on May 28 that advertises the masks.

Although the original designs were carved in wood or lino, in order to produce more copies of the artwork, the designs have been silk-screened by hand onto the masks. 

Those who buy one of his masks can wear it if they want, Weiwei said, though the eBay listings note that they aren’t meant for medical use. But he expects most people will simply want to collect and preserve it.

A one-of-a-kind pandemic souvenir. 

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Passionate about art and how to frame it – paNOW

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Zelensky recently purchased Christina Thoen’s framing business and the building its situated in.

“The art school is busy and she [Thoen] was looking for help and it just seemed to be a good fit. I love the framing end of it, and I saw a vision of offering space for other artist to sell their art and it just progressed from there. After spending the past seven years as an art student of Christina’s, I definitely feel a connection…it’s comfortable.” Zelensky said.

Various local artists are featured on the walls. At least four of them are students from Thoen’s art school and Zelensky predicts more local artisans will be looking to find good and safe options to display their work in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, when art shows or trade shows can’t take place.

“Taking possession of the business in mid-April allowed me to ease into the business and determine what would be best for the artists and my customers. I am always looking at the precautions and making sure customers and artists feel safe coming in,” she said.

She invites any artists wanting to display and sell their work to visit her in store for available gallery space. Supporting local artisans and what she calls ‘phenomenal talent’ in and around Prince Albert is a win-win for Zelensky. Artists benefit from her customers and she can add life and visual interest to the pieces through her frame work. But, it is not just the local artwork Zelensky helps to enhance….

The right frame, mount and mat forms can add life and visual interest to pictures as well. Zelensky said now is the perfect time to sort out those special moments you have always meant to get framed. Whether it’s beautiful art from your kids or family photos, she can help showcase the treasured pieces through the framing process.

Born and raised in and around Prince Albert, Zelensky believes in supporting local. She and her husband farm northeast of the city where they raised their four children.

“I love this town and the diversity it offers.”

The shop is equipped with proper barriers for safe in-person consultations or customers can leave their prints with Zelensky and choose to do a consult by video call.

Currently, custom frame orders for grad photos are being discounted by 20 per cent.

Sandra’s Framing, Gallery and Gifts is located 625 Brandon Drive. Visit the Facebook page or give Sandra a call at (639) 739-7599.

*This content was created by paNOW’s commercial content division.

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Barrie bylaw demands 10-year-old's Canadian flag art be removed from city property – CTV News

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BARRIE, ONT. —
Erin van Kessel said she was sitting outside her north-end Barrie home Thursday morning when a bylaw officer handed her a warning.

The Barrie resident was told she would have to remove chalk art of a Canadian flag drawn by her 10-year-old daughter to celebrate Canada Day.

“2004-142-2,” recited van Kessel, while looking over the document citing her infraction. The city’s bylaw for that particular code refers to the use of public property.

“No person shall throw, drop, place, or otherwise deposit garbage, paper, paper or plastic products, cans, rubbish, or other debris on any city property unless authorized by the city,” she read.

Van Kessel said large green plastic objects, which may have been children’s items left at the curb near the end of her driveway, did not belong to her.

The issue with the chalk art, however, has left her disappointed.

Van Kessel was told by the bylaw officer someone had complained about the chalk art spray painted on the lawn at the end of her driveway.

The chunk of grass, painted red and white, is city property.

“They couldn’t really say why. I mean, mostly because it is on city property, but really?” said van Kessel in response to the bylaw violation.

Van Kessel was told she had 24 hours to remove her daughter’s chalk painting from the lawn or face a potential fine.

Van Kessel said her daughter is distraught and doesn’t understand why it needs to be removed.

“Not too happy,” said van Kessel. “Because she did put a lot of work into it, and now we have to remove it. It’s a child doing something exciting when she’s been stuck in the house for four months, and no school, no friends, so what more is there to do?”

The City of Barrie confirmed a complaint was made, and a bylaw officer visited the home, providing the following statement to CTV News:

“The city’s enforcement services received and responded to a complaint about individuals painting on city property.

Bylaw officers are obligated to investigate and respond to all complaints received. While the homeowner advised that the paint was washable, the officer was unable to confirm if it was or not, which was why the property owner was warned that they had 24 hours to remove it from the city’s boulevard.

A warning was issued to the property owner, not the child.”

Van Kessel said she does intend to remove the artwork.

“I guess other people don’t appreciate it or look at it the same way we do,” she said.

“What can you do? I guess it’s the way of the world these days.”

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MSS adds three to permanent art collection – Merritt Herald – Merritt Herald

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Janelle Gage.

Three Merritt Secondary students have had their pieces inducted into the MSS permanent art collection.

Kaleb Hall Moses, Janelle Gage, and Sedona Reed all had their art entered into the hallowed hall, a yearly tradition for the MSS art department.

Kaleb Hall Moses.

The collection goes by the name ‘the Margaret Reynoldson Collection.’ The submitted pieces are judged by a jury of art lovers, while the chosen pieces are purchased from the students.

Representatives from the high school said that the current pandemic did not discourage students from submitting their pieces this year, which they originally did digitally.

Each chosen piece is to be professionally framed and given a plaque providing the artist’s name and year of creation.

Sedona Reed.

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