Monthly Archives: July 2017

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NANCY BENNETT TELLS HOW SHE WALKED AWAY FROM THE 9 TO 5 LIFE TO EMBRACE HER INNER ARTIST

When I first came to Toronto in the late 70’s, I fulfilled my parents’ dream of a safe and secure life with an office job (dull…urgh!) which, thankfully, I walked away from in ’79 for a life in showbiz when I landed my first audition, the role of Magenta in the Toronto theatrical production of The Rocky Horror Picture Show! which obviously became my parents’ nightmare…LOL!  I had been doing my 9 to 5 work at a renowned investment house called Wood Gundy, where I first met Nancy Bennett who, unbeknownst to me at the time, was also struggling with her own office vs. arts dilemma.

Skip ahead a few decades and one day I encounter the same Nancy Bennett at an art show exhibiting her fabulous vibrant work – we’ve been playing catch up ever since.

Nancy in her booth @ Toronto's Riverdale Artwalk

Nancy in her booth @ Toronto’s Riverdale Artwalk

I was thrilled to hear of her journey since I last saw her when we used to share office gossip at our favourite after-work cocktail lounge; she has since left her busy career in the financial sector to devote her life to creating art full-time.  After securing her house, buying a dog and having a baby (whew, I’m exhausted even listing those), Nancy turned to her first love, painting, in 2008 when global finances took a very hard knock, impacting her career as well as most of those working on Bay Street.  As Nancy tells it….“I first started collecting works by local artists as an antidote to my work life which had become increasingly toxic…then I began painting again.”

After being laid-off from her day job in 2013, Nancy immediately began painting full-time; her first show “Kiss the Sky” at the Women’s Art Association of Canada, featured paintings of skyscapes using a knife, brush and rollers on canvas and wood, in both large and small formats. It took a couple of years and a deep “Group of Seven” phase for her to cultivate a style that feels natural – layered knife paintings on large wood panels. I recently visited Nancy’s studio and saw this new piece (below) that’s still in the early stages – she showed me how she layers her work… 20170721_105045

“My paintings combine skyscapes, which are universal, and landscapes, which are specific to each location. I’m passionate about sharing the appreciation for my urban home setting and emphasizing that we’re all under the same sky – a commonality that helps us talk and create art together. The sky is a constant in all our lives and is a source of unity, calm and wonder as well a source of endless variety. Through my work I encourage people to look up and know they are not alone.”

Nancy continues….”I paint with oil paints on wood. Through these materials, I feel a connection to the history of my craft. In the current world of social media, the relationships and communication are real but have a fairy-like quality, flitting around the edge of “real life” and fading away completely if not nurtured. All the new media art tools today have evolved through the work of artists over centuries. The textures of different paints are an inspiration for the hundreds of filters available on Instagram. My passion with oil painting is a homage to traditional creation and its interaction in the digital space is my acceptance to our technological evolution.”20170721_105005

In 2015, Nancy co-founded the Four Corners Studio Collective, a Toronto based group of four emerging artists working together, learning from each other’s skills and experiences and supporting growth in their respective careers.  That same year, she curated #TwitterFirstFriday, a monthly art show conducted on the social media platform.  The goals were to encourage networking between artists around the world and promote art through sharing across multiple networks. Throughout 2015, on the first Friday of each month Nancy gathered works posted by artists, evaluated them for suitability and adherence to the show’s rules and shared with an online community.

Nancy is a member of The Artists’ Network, CARFAC and the Akin Collective, and in 2017, she began volunteering at Art Heart, an arts program for vulnerable adults.

“I’m a social artist. I thrive in a community, share studio space and have an active online following on social media. Through my paintings, I bring the extended community into my world and transfer my physical space into their digital one. I share my views, interpretations and feelings as I work through a piece. I encourage my online community to observe their own surroundings with an artist’s eye and get involved in my work. I appreciate when they send me photos of scenes that inspire them or remind them of my work. Through this give-and-take, my audience is with me throughout as an active component of my process in addition to being a passive audience to the final piece.”17634397_1444251605608964_2311017889669336969_nUPCOMING SHOWS
August 2017 – Solo exhibit, Deer Park Library, 40 St. Clair Ave. East, Toronto
August 18- 20 2017 –  ArtWalk in the Square at Shops @ Don Mills, Booth #24.
February 2018 – The Artist Project, Exhibition Place, Toronto

You can follow Nancy on Facebook.com/NancyBennettArts or visit her website: www.nancybennett.ca14390924_1241314049236055_5450160895757346700_nAnd if you see Nancy at any of her upcoming shows, stop in to her booth, say hi and learn more about this multi-talented woman who (finally) got to follow her dreams….

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TORONTO’S SANDRA AINSLEY GALLERY IS AN ART-GLASS LOVERS’ HAVEN!

I was visiting my artist friend Nancy Bennett’s studio this morning and noticed that one of the art gallery’s I’ve been meaning to visit was in the same building. Over the past few years, I’ve developed a passion for colourful contemporary art glass, fueled mainly by the stunning works of Dale Chihuly (you can read my blog about his exhibition at the Royal Ontario Museum last year) but also my love of mid-century modern Scandinavian glass which I collected myself back in the 70’s. But today, I entered art glass heaven when I walked through the door of the SANDRA AINSLEY GALLERY located near Bermondsey and Victoria Park. My jaw literally dropped open as my eyes slowly focused on the massive space displaying some of the most incredible glass sculptures I’d ever seen.20170721_112305 20170721_110847 20170721_111022Where do I start? Well first off, the giant Chihuly sculptures suspended from the 22ft high ceilings were awe-inspiring…20170721_110722 20170721_110823…some of his giant “bowls” were so tactile, it took all my strength of character (and good manners) NOT to reach out and touch ’em!20170721_11074620170721_11113020170721_110756But it was the work of legendary Murano glass master LINO TAGLIAPIETRA that particularly grabbed my eyes and my soul! And here’s why….20170721_110836 20170721_110925 20170721_110949 20170721_112734Charming and knowledgeable gallery assistant, Daniel, kindly gave me Maestro Lino’s background that I’d like to share with you here:

Lino Tagliapietra’s career is defined by a dedication to workmanship, innovation, and collaboration. Born in 1934 on the renowned glass-blowing island of Murano, Italy, Tagliapietra began his apprenticeship at age 11 with Muranese master Archimede Seguso from whom Tagliapietra achieved the status of Maestro Vetraio by the age of 21. For over forty-two years, Lino worked in various for-profit Murano factories including Vetreria Galliano Ferro, Venini & Co., and finally as the Artistic and Technical Director of Effetre International (1976-1989). Tagliapietra has been an independent artist since 1989, exhibiting in museums around the globe, receiving countless honors, openly sharing his far-reaching knowledge of the medium and his skill as one of its finest practitioners, and helping to create a new renaissance in studio glassmaking. As James Yood, adjunct professor of art history at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and regular contributor to GLASS magazine wrote, “there are probably no two words more respected and honored in the history of modern sculpture in glass than ‘Lino Tagliapietra’; he is the living bridge, the crucial link between the august history of Venetian glass and the ceaseless wonders of what today we call the modern Studio Glass Movement”.Lino Tagliapietra Working ImageOf the influences on Lino Tagliapietra glass art work, one of the most profound was his participation in La Scuola Internazionale del Vetro symposia, held in Murano in the 1970s, which brought the finest Muranese masters together with artists from other disciplines around the world. Today, Lino Tagliapietra has established himself as one of the greatest glass artists of all time. Tagliapietra-blown glass works are in the collections of many major glass museums throughout the world and are sought after avidly by collectors of glass art. Some of the public collections which include Lino Tagliapietra blown glass sculpture are the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, the Columbus Museum of Art in Columbus, the Corning Museum in New York, the Hokkaido Museum of Moder Art in Japan; The Museum of Glass in Tacoma, Washington; the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Palm Springs Art Museum in California, The Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C.; the Tokyo National Modern Art Museum and the Victora and Albert Museum in London.

As Daniel told me, although he’s not physically blowing the glass himself anymore, the master oversees all the work done in his studio and continues to create exquisite glass masterworks that should be collected NOW.

Another gorgeous installation is this one (below) by Philip Baldwin & Monica Guggisberg. I really liked their muted colour palette and sensual shapes. Again, I had to force myself to keep my hands by my side!! Being an Aussie, of course I fell in love with this massive cockatoo painting (below). Back home in the outback, cockatoos and budgies fly in huge flocks of thousands of birds so this piece made me a little homesick.20170721_111420I really liked these unusual glass bowls (below + header photo) by Shay Salehi20170721_111949…and also the clay sculptures (below) by current featured exhibitor Susan Collette whose show runs until July 29th. 20170721_110540 20170721_110618 20170721_110632There are so many more astounding pieces that you can look at, walk around, stand in front of and stare in wonder at…..20170721_113032 20170721_112806 20170721_112645 20170721_111141 20170721_111223 20170721_111236…that you’ll need to take a packed lunch as you’ll want to spend a long long time absorbing the colours, the textures, the shapes.

You can learn more about the current exhibitions and the talented artists regularly represented by visiting: www.sandraainsleygallery.com  But of course, visiting the gallery in person is so much better.WhiteSAGLogoAlignedHighQuality20170721_111542 20170721_111716 20170721_111731

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MEET THE ARTISTS @ THIS YEAR’S TORONTO OUTDOOR ART EXHIBITION

Another great turn-out of exciting artists for this year’s Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square; today I made a relatively quick visit – due to the heat and humidity, I had to bail after about 90 minutes. Whew…gasp!

First up, I ran into Mississauga artist Michael Toole (below) who has an upcoming show at Stockyards Gallery. Really liked his work using “window frames” to add texture and dimension to his photographic art.  www.michaeltooleart.com20170715_110015I was next greeted by the always-smiling Rob Croxford….his booth is filled with easily-recognized cityscapes and lots of fun visual puns. Rob has lots of small prints available, too, so feel free to browse in his booth. Keep smiling, Rob.  www.robcroxford.com20170715_110451Brian Harvey is another of my favourite artists who produces the most stunning cityscapes, especially of Toronto’s historic laneways and old neighbourhoods. I could almost hear the birds singing and the leaves rustling in that city lane painting behind Brian.  www.brianharvey.ca20170715_110737 20170715_110818As soon as I spied Kari Serrao‘s antlered wee beasties in ruffles, furs and armour (below), I immediately thought of Game of Thrones. If you’re a fan of  White Walkers, Jon Snow or Brienne of Tarth, you MUST have one of these paintings on your wall…LOL.  www.kariserrao.com20170715_111117 20170715_111148And here’s Kate Taylor (below L) greeting some friends at her booth. Kate is a member of the ColourShift Collective, a group of like-minded artists dedicated to capturing the world around us via abstract painting and photography, and The Artists Network. www.katetaylorstudio.com20170715_111421 20170715_111506Had a giggle with Erin Rothstein who perfectly reflected her artwork with watermelon juice in hand! She was so perfectly attired to compliment her booth but just looking inside her booth made me hungry and thirsty!  www.erinrothstein.com20170715_112546Kingston-based glass artist Alexi Hunter was proud to show off his beautiful art glass (below). These stunning colourful pieces reminded me of my visit to the Dale Chihuly show at the ROM several months ago.  www.kingstonglassgallery.com20170715_11300320170715_113009Another fabulous glass artist I discovered today was Kristian Spreen (below). Like me, Kristian loves blue and I was so impressed with her work, I’ve featured her beautiful aqua-coloured tumblers at the top of this story.   www.kristianspreen.ca20170715_113218Toronto’s current arts “media darling” has to be Morgan Sheardown (below) whose whimsical “Raining Cows” series is all over the news these days, as well as the fact that the Art Gallery of Hamilton has recently awarded Morgan a 3 year exhibition of his works. Bravo, Morgan! I myself am a proud owner of a mini “Raining Cows” painting.  www.morgansheardown.com20170715_11350820170715_11351320170715_113533Joining me today was best friend, Erena, who loves the work of this next artist – she introduced me to his work and has started collecting his paintings herself. Here she is with the charming and talented Olaf  Schneider. Apart from his detailed abstracts and landscapes, his still life work is outstanding – I love the one below with the blue glass and red lantern.  www.olaf.ca20170715_11380820170715_114153I’ve been a long-time fan of Stewart Jones (below) and was pleased to see the Wellington, ON, resident come back to the big city for this weekend’s show. He and his wife moved from Toronto to Wellington (approx 90 minutes east of Toronto) several years ago and set up residence in a beautiful heritage farmhouse across the road from a lovely little beach where I’m told they frequently watch the sunsets with a glass of wine in hand. Aaah, for the simple life! Stew’s gritty urban oil-on-canvas works featuring streetcar tracks, old buildings and warehouses are now joined by his powerful countryside views and winterscapes.  www.stewartjones.ca   Stew has also recently launched another artful endeavour, the Midtown Brewing Co. so I can’t wait to sample those “artworks”, too! Instagram: @midtownbrewingcompany20170715_114410 20170715_114320

There are so many talented artists and craftspeople represented at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition, it was impossible to capture all of them for this blog so I encourage you to check out the show in person tomorrow. Located at Nathan Phillips Square (Bay & Queen Streets) – details at www.torontooutdoor.art  @toaeart  #toae2017

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And THANK YOU for supporting Canadian artists!Print

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URBAN GALLERY CELEBRATES CANADA150 WITH STUNNING GROUP SHOW “O CANADA”

Yesterday, URBAN GALLERY (400 Queen St East, Toronto) opened the doors to officially launch their summer group show O CANADA (runs until July 29), featuring 17 Canadian artists with diverse cultural backgrounds and artistic styles whose individual visions of Canada celebrate the country’s 150th anniversary. Come take a virtual walk with me thru the gallery….

The stunning image by Erik Chong features the lyrics to the Canadian national anthem in all three official languages and Erik posed proudly in front of his painting, “Beautiful Day” (below)20170708_141459Celebrated wildlife photographer Linda Langerak has 3 gorgeous photos of BC creatures in the show (below) – I love the bald eagles…20170708_141140Kirk Sutherland created the frame around his “Terra Nova” painting from found architectural salvage featuring maple leaf designs. How clever is that?20170708_150459Caught this cool shot and realized afterwards that it was all about the stripes….LOL!20170708_150006Pauline Langmaid (below) drove in all the way from Bracebridge to showcase her glorious abstract landscapes…or should I say “lake-scapes”? 20170708_142055Pauline’s two paintings proved very popular with gallery visitors…20170708_160719 20170708_145939Another popular image was celebrity chef & photographer Lyndon Wiebe‘s photo of a windswept view of Port Hope (below). Lyndon brought out an extended print showing more of the scene – located to the west of the town where housing development meets grassland.  20170708_144818(0) 20170708_161500Film industry professional and accomplished photographic artist Karen Silver chose a chilly winter scene of a Toronto park and a lonely bicycle. Now that’s one seat I would not like to sit on…LOL!20170708_142229Kris Bovenizer (below centre) talks with a guest about her two acrylic on canvas works…the sea-faring image on the left is now a label on bottles of a limited edition maple syrup bottled for a Canadian business leader (as Canada150 corporate gifts for his clients). How cool..and congrats to Kris. 20170708_151736And Kris posed with fellow artist Kirk Sutherland and gallery owner Calvin Hambrook (below)20170708_144136Manije Sabet Sarvestani (below) brought two oil-on-canvas works: “Canada Day in Quebec City” (on left) and “Thornhill Festival” (on right). The soft-spoken artist let her work do all the talking and these certainly announced her talent loudly!20170708_145703Kent Bridges was the first artist to score a “red dot” (a sale) for his “Life in a Northern Town”. Here he is (below left in red) with purchaser and fan David Currah of Toronto’s Fife House. Congrats to Kent who was all smiles as he celebrated the sale.20170708_140935 20170708_145308Ronald Regamey uses a technique known as “quilling” to create beautiful 3 dimensional paper & glue artwork. Here’s Ronald being snapped by Calvin in front of his latest piece titled “Alive”.20170708_145416(0) 20170708_145438…Ronald had a number of family and friends congratulating him on his gallery appearance – they were so animated and excited it was hard to get them all to stand still for a photo…LOL20170708_150035Gallery curator Allen Shugar and poet/artist Brenda Clews also met under Ronald’s work….20170708_150050…while Linda Langerak snapped away with Kirk (below)20170708_150521The delicious food was catered by Urban Source Catering and the platters were themselves works of art.20170708_141011 20170708_140959Colin Nun (below left) who recently had his own successful solo show at Urban Gallery, shares his thoughts on his work “Canada” with KJ Mullins (below R) editor of NEWZ4U.ca20170708_152712In fact, a lot of guests remarked on the uniqueness of Colin’s oil-on-canvas typographical and topographical view of the country.20170708_141116Snapd newspaper photographer Gianmarco dropped by to cover the event and got busy snapping the artists…20170708_153729 20170708_153539I managed to grab a quick pic of Joan Andal Romano with her “True North” mixed media on canvas. So many intricate details to view, it must have taken her many hours to create.20170708_15425920170708_140749Several artists were unable to attend, 3 delivered beautiful Canadian landscapes – Stacey Kinder‘s “Light” featuring a stand of trees in the fall, Christine Marin‘s “On Bear Trap Road” (2nd pic) and Grace Dam‘s snowy “Canmore” (3rd pic)….20170708_140802 20170708_145552Dam CANADIAN ICONS -CANMORE ALBERTA 48w x 60h oil on canvas..and Aisha Chiguichon was represented by this provocative acrylic on canvas titled “Stereotypes”CHIGUICHON StereotypesVictoria General attended but the shy artist preferred to let her work take centre stage and declined a photo. Victoria works in charcoal on paper – here are “We Need a Bit More Sand, I Think” (upper) and “I’ll Have to Call You Back” (lower).20170708_151807The reception drew many art lovers and more red dots should be appearing alongside these Canada150 artful tributes. I hope you get a chance to visit in person and support the talented artists at Urban Gallery.20170708_144203 20170708_150135 20170708_150423

Urban Gallery, 400 Queen St East, Toronto  www.urbangallery.ca20170708_155624

Urban Gallery is also available for rental if you wish to host your corporate or private party, reception or even a sit-down dinner with delicious food & refreshments courtesy of Urban Source Catering. Visit the website for details.