Diane Beard | Walking from the Darkness to the LightOctober 2, 2023
Diane Beard | Walking from the Darkness to the Light
“…life is brief and lovely, not long and foolish, that it is strange and beautiful, yeah as a dream, then so let it be, if it must be tears, if tears alone may serve…”
Diane Beard is a photographer who takes pictures of her immediate community of Welland (usually while walking the streets of the city), often manipulating the images digitally to have a surreal or abstracted quality.
She was one of the featured artists in the Welland Creatives Network’ 13 on the 13th exhibition at the Welland Historical Museum in 2022. We became acquainted during COVID, when the artists’ group I facilitate – the 5 x 2 Visual Conversations – began to ‘meet’ online, and Beard was an enthusiastic and impressive participant.
Diane is the widow of artist Ross Beard (1953 – 2019) who was arguably the most significant visual artist in the history of the city of Welland. Frankly, I prefer to say ‘is’ as a recent exhibition of his work indicated that he lives on in his artwork and the joy many find within it.
His passing was – is – a fracture in her life, and part of her response has been the many images she’s produced and shared, both online and in the Niagara visual arts community.
From a recent exhibition – which was titled Walking from the Darkness to the Light – in St. Catharines : “Having been surrounded by Ross’s awe-inspiring art, sharing the same love of nature and appreciation for the Niagara area, driven by grief combined with a loss of identity after Ross’s passing, yet with no formal training, Diane began taking photographs as means to express her feelings and emotions. Diane’s sense of color and form transcends a simple mundane scene into something abstract and at times unrecognizable mimicking the profound change in her life.”
I’ve been lucky enough to talk with Diane often about her work. The contrast between a scene you recognize and something completely alien is one of the aspects of her work that’s alluring. Beard has an innate sense of colour, composition and a vibrancy in her scenes. This vivacity is an appropriate challenge to the fact that these images are, at their genesis, about loss and mourning and how to move through that….
~ Bart GazzolaRead More
Ron Tucker | Black and White and Silver and PlatinumSeptember 8, 2023
Ron Tucker | Black and White and Silver and Platinum
I’ve overthought this. The downfall of writers in general… arts writers in particular. I got so tied up wanting to write something that would do justice to the work of an amazing photographer who I am absolutely honored to know, that I tied myself in knots and got a serious case of writer’s block. It’s never happened before.
So – I’ll let the work speak for itself, and scribble down a few things I did manage to get out.
Here it goes.Read More
Tangible Stories | Leslie Love exhibition at The Old School HouseSeptember 27, 2023
Tangible Stories | Leslie Love exhibition at The Old School House
I run a medium sized arts institution in a century old building, in the oldest postal code in Canada, in a sleepy town with one set of stoplights, where Leslie Weigand Love presents Tangible Stories, an exhibition that alchemizes grief.
With such a direct and forthright conversation about life, and all the characters that weave in and out of the artists narrative, Tangible Stories bring us a capacity to understand how we can move grief : that cheese-grater heart feeling – the learning of a self anew without that physical presence of one who has passed, by drawing close the echoes of community and intergenerationality. A show created in conjunction with her deceased father, Love shows us a knowing of proximity that moves beyond death while honouring mystical answers, and the work is a multilayer practice in salvaging of family objects, repositioning how we examine daily work, and reclaiming it with a fresh contemporary take on materiality.
The repeated sunflower theme throughout the exhibition, the artist’s sunny disposition, the acknowledgement that life is a circle with petals, not a half moon horizon. A full cycle of raising children as we are raising ourselves, and with the knowledge of family and what came before, using discarded old signs silkscreened by an uncle, as substrate for paintings based on her late fathers photographs.
Ripped up mechanical manuals become petals, paint made with metal fittings from his welding shop, a repurposed welding visor that contains images of his band, an inner/outer life many artists and creatives straddle. The work we do from our hearts welded to the work we do for a paycheck to feed and provide and clothe those we love.
Remnants of her family’s work jeans ripped and braided into a rug. The mythologies we ascribe to as families as we create from our familiar collective memory – what/how we remember as small eyes, looking up to characters and personalities our parents know. A troubled band mate asleep in the coat room after a big party, the first day of moving into a new home that directly echoes the age of Love’s child when she moved back to the property she grew up on- the exhibition unfolds in thematic ripples.
Gifting the viewer with a unique and familiar feeling, how perspective shifts with time and age and the acknowledgment of vulnerability, how the back of a van was used for childhood camping but also was housing a dream of touring with a band, imagery of her parents eyes directly across from a mirror that reflects the viewers own.
I suppose it all comes back to Love, how aptly named, to bring forth so much compassion of self, honour an alchemy of grief, to show us that we can process loss in the context of community and family. That the work of materiality and re-purposing vitality, allows objects to incarnate new meaning and purpose in a cohesive beautiful exhibition of work.
This exhibition runs until October 28th, 2023, and is viewable at The Old School House Arts Center, on the unceeded territories of the Qualicum First Nations.
~ by Guest Curator Illana Hester
Snapshots – Emerging Artists in WaterlooSeptember 25, 2023
This past summer, The COVERT Collective’s Waterloo contingent of curators (Mark Walton and Conan Stark) gathered a group of 3 young artists from Waterloo Region to put on an exhibition of their work. With assistance from The City of Waterloo and The Region of Waterloo Arts Fund, Snapshots was created from the combined works of Raha Rahman, Ernst, Rullmann and Daniel Burton, and hung at the city’s Visitor Information entre through the summer.
On Saturday September 23, 2023, the group’s work was shown in a large format video on the walls of The Clay and Glass Gallery in Uptown Waterloo, during the annual Lumen Festival. Over 40,000 were wandering through the streets that night… and this is what they saw…
Click HERE to see the video!
~ Mark WaltonRead More
Liz Hayden | I dare you | 2022September 24, 2023
Liz Hayden | I dare you | 2022
“…the City’s refusal to support a public art gallery makes it’s endorsement of a heritage award a travesty.”
A decade or so ago, I curated an exhibition from the archives of the now defunct (having merged into paved arts) Photographers Gallery in Saskatoon. On the accompanying panel (with artists Patrick Close, Sandra Semchuck and Doug Townsend, whom all had played seminal roles with the gallery as well as organizations like CARFAC and the Saskatchewan Arts Board) I made the observation that communities will create images of themselves that more accurately reflect the reality of the place, often when confronted with depictions that are not just disconnected from lived experience but in direct opposition to reality.
Liz Hayden’s image has been in my mind since she first shared it on social media some time ago : Hayden has been a vocal ally during the travails here in calling out the lies and self aggrandizing ignorance that has defined Brock University’s ‘demolition through neglect’ (to quote a past Cultural Coordinator for the city of St. Catharines) and sale of Rodman Hall Arts Centre, and the City of St. Catharines’ weathervaning between apathy and self congratulatory dishonesty.
The latest chapter in the travesty that is the City of St. Catharines’ apathy and ignorance – which has, in that manner I should know better by now, become even more egregiously foolish – was brought to my attention earlier this week. You can read more about that here. Essentially, the city council of St. Catharines – which I sometimes less than affectionately refer to as ‘North Welland’, to remind them that the delusion that STC is the ‘jewel’ of Niagara is a transparent lie to many of us in the cultural milieu – is seeking provincial heritage designation for the former gallery site, though it’s nothing more than a boutique hotel now, and all the things that made it an important site are now lost…
This is nothing more than STC Council giving an award to someone who has helped the local political cowards, miscreants, liars and ignorant incompetents NOT have to deal with the fact that the gallery may have been bulldozed and the subsequent critiques that would then expose their absence on the loss of the gallery and the harm this caused to the cultural community.
We used to have a nationally recognized and lauded art gallery, a centre for cultural and community oriented groups and now it’s just a ’boutique hotel’ and this merits recognition? This is an affront, especially considering the lackadaisical disinterest of the previous mayor and the inaction of many supposed ‘stakeholders.’
Did I mention that the city of St. Catharines has made some rumblings about wanting to have a ‘cultural renaissance’ in the city? Some things I cannot make up.
But now that I have set the stage with that intersecting rant, let us consider Liz Hayden’s artwork that speaks to these ideas. When we were speaking about it recently, she made the comment of ‘angry colours, wasted words.’
This work by Liz Hayden is titled I dare you : and I suspect that is a title that dares the viewer, but also those whom might be ‘offended’ by what the work states, to attempt to defend what has been allowed to happen, so their ignorance might be exposed. This is – like much of my writing and advocacy on the subject – perhps tilting at windmills : a recent ‘conversation’ on the Niagara History social media page was rife with people ‘excited’ at the new hotel, ignoring that access to the grounds would be limited, that a community focal point was gone, that citizens were irrelevant next to a few consumers and that this is a superficial facade that is a shoddy cover for what was an award winning artistic space that was deeply important to many.
These are some of the words that Hayden included to accompany another work in this series (which can be seen in the full post), but they are relevant here, as well :
Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are. (Alfred Austin)
He is the gardener.
There at daybreak, he tills and waters: nurturing the plants, the community. Open-handed, he shares hard-gained knowledge and his harvest. Here is a place to heal, to grow. Free, in the air, without fear.
He is the gardener.
He walks the park, picking up.
Greets the old ladies, and their dogs, by name
A smile, the weather.
The garden is his purpose.
He toils there and grows
Himself and all of us
In that earth
This is one of a series of garden portraits I completed in 2022 focusing on gardens and gardeners here in St. Catharines, the Garden City. This acrylic on canvas portrays Richard Pierpont park, (previously known as Centennial Gardens) and Ross Hayden who has gardened there since the inception of those public gardens approximately 10 years ago.
A garden is a fine metaphor for a community : and there are many who are as insulted by the council’s proposal in terms of the loss of the green space as much as the artistic space. I will admit that I am also reminded of Oscar Wilde’s story about The Selfish Giant, but that one, at least, has a happy ending : but the giant had some introspection and that cannot be said for St. Catharine’s political ‘leaders’, on this front….
~ Bart GazzolaRead More
Chris Alic | Transience & MemorySeptember 16, 2023
Chris Alic | Transience & Memory
One need not be a Chamber – to be Haunted –
One need not be a House –
The Brain has Corridors – surpassing
Material Place –
The history of one who came too late
To the rooms of broken babies and their toys
Is all they talk about around here
And rebuke, did you think you’d be left out?
(Peter Straub, from Houses without Doors)
Like Mark Walton – and it’s a defining tenet of curated, I think – I also have a strong presence in my immediate and local visual arts community, with mine being Niagara : several of the artists I’ve featured here (Juliana D’Intino, for example, or Sandy Fairbairn) are ones that I’ve been lucky enough to include in a continuing curatorial project in downtown St. Catharines that began in Fall of 2022 and that is continuing indefinitely, with artists slated into late 2024.
Chris Alic is one of those artists, as her exhibition with Amber Lee Williams is currently on view at Mahtay Café & Lounge. That grew out of a 5 x 2 Visual Conversations evening (a relaxed sharing of art and ideas that I’ve facilitated for over five years, in St. Catharines and Welland). Like any good curator, I offered support to the two artists but primarily stayed out of the way, with some appropriate gentle nagging.
From that immediacy, let’s indulge some of my subjectivity that sparked my interest to consider these two pieces by Alic.
As the artist said when she spoke about the work, these are images from time she spent in Missouri in the United States – and, of late, I’ve fallen down another rabbit hole that centres upon the idea of the aesthetic of the Southern Gothic, whether that be in terms of crime or horror, but usually (and I own this) on the darker side. In light of this, the abandoned and lonely toys of Alic’s images take on a more ominous tone. Further clarification : I’ve been eschewing the ‘standard’ Southern Gothic horror of New Orleans, in my reading and research, but instead have been looking at other sites in the American South – like Charleston, or Alic’s Missouri – as these oft ignored sites have an unexplored richness in their stories that is more diverse than you might think. I also mention this – not just as another subjective indulgence – but because many of the stories I’m encountering in this enjoyable research are defined – or deformed – by the history of those sites (the institutional racism flows into the occult or supernatural horrors of the stories. There’s a story by Alan Moore about a television show that is shot on an old abandoned plantation where the filming somehow invokes the ghosts of the enslaved, and the actors ‘become’ their characters, with new manifestations of hate and racism being merged with old…all horror, they say, comes out of reality….or perhaps even the superficially banal, like Alic’s empty playground and abandoned tricycle….)
The words of the artist :
Memory is a huge part of what makes us human. Every interaction, every step, sight, sound, touch, smell – all these things create memory. But they are fragile. They are guided by perception, they are malleable, layered, are influenced by who we become, and who we become is in part made up of what we remember. Our memories continue to create us, and we create our memories. And we lose them. They fade, disintegrate, become suspect. They are subject to context, transformation and decay, and temporality, just like the spaces we inhabit and the things we use. They become the liminal space between an event and a feeling. Does emotion exist without memory?
I have been using a camera to secure my memories since I was a single-digit kid. I don’t remember ever not having a camera, or access to a camera. It was a part of my childhood, and everyone around me took photos and 8mm film of everyday life. My immediate and extended family were avid documentarians. I am continuing that tradition, but somewhere along the way I made the decision to “crop” those memories – to capture only small portions of context, little bits of an event, inexplicable to anyone but myself because each image is connected to an important moment, an emotion, a piece of who I became because of it. And then I edit. Adjust. Refine. Sometimes intentionally erase, fade, and transform them.
These seven images were made during a two-year period living in Columbia, Missouri. All were taken on a Yashica FX-70 Super 2000 film camera. I learned to use a darkroom and print my own photos with this film, and two of the images were only recently developed using caffenol-c. I had forgotten that I had taken the photos, I had forgotten the existence of the places until I saw them again.
The two person exhibition CHRIS ALIC & AMBER LEE WILLIAMS | TRANSIENCE OF MEMORY is on display at Mahtay Café & Lounge in downtown St. Catharines for the month of September, 2023.
~ Bart GazzolaRead More
Robin Claire Fox | ReflectionsMarch 17, 2023
Robin Claire Fox | Reflections
Photography is inherently nostalgic. Every image taken is essentially the capturing of a moment from the past. That moment no longer exists, just the memory of it and an analogue print or a digital impression trapped on an electronic device. Many modern photographers harbour longings for the saturated or contrasty renderings of images made with processes and media (like Kodachrome) long out of use or no longer in production. Quite a few of them try to recreate the look and feel of these processes digitally, running their captures through filters and algorithms to bring back the visual past. While many are overdone (why keep it at 3 when you can dial it up to 10?), there are a few who have mastered the ability to make us believe that we are viewing an image taken decades ago. The evocation of this photographic past is (I believe) an effort to physically reconnect with it in a way that seems familiar, safe and warm… like sitting with your family watching slides projections of photos from a vacation taken years ago.
Ancaster, Ontario’s Robin Fox started taking photographs around the time of the birth of her most recent child as a conscious attempt to document her family’s childhoods for her future self to enjoy. She is a natural at capturing the uncertainties alongside the joys of growing up. A huge fan of Saul Leiter’s colour work, she has found a method of perfectly capturing the deep saturation and contrast Leiter exhibited in his work with Kodachrome and other slide films in the 1950’s. Her images seem imbued with palettes that exist only in the memory of childhood, where everything was so much bigger and the world was awash with primary colours.Read More
Catherine Mellinger | WhipsMarch 17, 2023
Catherine Mellinger | Whips
Originally from Saskatoon, mixed media collage artist Catherine Mellinger is a valued contributor to the Kitchener-Waterloo Region art scene. A graduate of the CREATE Institute in Toronto, Mellinger states that her work has always centered on her “own personal experience of being a human being.” While stating that she was originally shy and would not “blatantly state things” when it came to her work, Mellinger’s work developed after having children. As her life “exploded and imploded at the same time”, Mellinger explains how her art evolved as she “realized and connected to other feminist artists, other contemporary artists who were not having to hide. They were talking about trauma, mental illness and their personal lives as inspiration.” Today, Mellinger works with the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery and other community organizations and initiatives.
To read more click here.Read More
Shelagh HowardMarch 16, 2023
Shelagh Howard | Paeonia Officinalis alba plena
“Genus/species” is a body of work that explores the invisible, all-encompassing power of names, labels, and language.
In 1735, Carl Linnaeus published “Systema Naturae”; his system for identifying and classifying the natural world, still in use today. Names have power.
To name something is to define it, to acknowledge its existence as unique and separate from any other thing. Language informs people whether they are safe and belong. Or not. Cruel words leave hurts in hidden places, removed from easy healing. Words can stigmatize those who are different, marginalize those who need uplifting, dehumanize populations whose needs are inconvenient to those in power.
In “Genus/species”, in lieu of their names or other descriptors of the model pictured, the images are identified by the taxonomic names of the flowers they hold, harkening back to botanical illustrations and Linnaean classification.
Without the backdrop of easy identifiers or assumptions, this work spotlights the exploration of concepts including, beauty, body image, intimacy, loneliness, vulnerability, isolation, and connection through the expression of human flesh.
Shelagh’s work with the male figure explores the rarely seen perspective of the male nude through a woman’s eyes—one that challenges traditional, toxic masculinity in favour of a viewing experience that is genuine, curious, human and humane.
This deliberate conceit in labeling by the artist forces the viewer to decouple easy assumptions from the earthly flesh on display. There are no quick judgements to be made; only questions that unfold in the liminal space between the seen and the unknown: Should the subjects be named or otherwise identified? Would doing so shift our perceptions? Is it our right and our role to cast their shadows into the light for our own comfort? A picture may be worth a thousand words—or a single name—but who is to say which words are right and true?
~ Rita GodlevskisRead More
Canada Day ’22 | What We Are | What We Are NotJuly 1, 2022
Canada Day 2022 What We Are | What We Are Not Bandoliers Details, 2019 Barry Ace I have always been interested... Read More