Category Archives: Heritage & history

VISITING MY ANCIENT RELATIVES AT THE ROYAL ONTARIO MUSEUM

It’s been a while since I took a spin around the galleries at Toronto’s ROM and as I’d been given a “golden ticket” to view the Treasures of a Desert Kingdom: The Royal Arts of Jodhpur, India (selected photos at end of blog) exhibition, I decided to capitalize on the all-access pass and take in some of my favourite displays, in particular the Etruscans (from whom I believe I am descended), the ancient Romans & Greeks, followed by the European 15th – 20th centuries for good measure. 20190816_131117 20190816_131354There were some exquisite jewellery displays of Etruscan baubles I’d never previously viewed – now I know from where I get my passion for carnelians & garnets…20190816_131723 20190816_132951 20190816_13294120190816_131423 20190816_131510Moving thru the various centuries of ancient civilization, so many great photo opps presented themselves….20190816_131645 20190816_131225 20190816_132135The Athena Parthenos (above) is recreated here with a model worshiper (bottom right) to show the original scale of this magnificent Greek goddess statue. And I loved the Cypriot busts (below) – the laurel crowned fellow on the right looks like he’s just been told an off-colour joke!20190816_132451Through a set of doors and around a corner, I spied the “In the Age of Rembrandt” exhibition so I flashed my VIP pass and in I went…20190816_133126Such beauty and elegance…several Dutch masters painting during the same era as Rembrandt are featured and as you pass thru the exit of this gallery, you’re bade farewell by a pair of Rembrandt’s stunning portraits…20190816_133253 20190816_13335920190816_133827I then proceeded into more recent centuries and viewed the room-scapes set up so visitors can get a taste of furnishings and lifestyles from the Tudors to the mid-20th century.20190816_134136 20190816_134217 20190816_134402 20190816_134507 20190816_135349Don’t you just love these mid-century modern chairs (above)? And haven’t we all had our bums in some of these seats, too?

Now back to the Indian exhibit – it closes Sept. 2nd and it’s well worth the museum entry fee just to see it. Stunning artworks, furnishings, royal jewellery & costumes…so much to admire and wonder at.20190816_123245 20190816_123306 20190816_123625 20190816_123639 20190816_124832 20190816_12514220190816_125426Check out the Royal Ontario Museum’s website for hours & directions: www.rom.on.ca/en

 

 

A SALUTE TO QUEEN VICTORIA

Happy Victoria Day weekend! How many of us really understand the relevance of this national holiday other than marking the time to open the cottage, stock up on beer and gather the family for a giant BBQ? Thanks to Reader’s Digest and OCanada.com, here are a few facts about Her Maj and why we celebrate her.

Despite being dead since 1901, Britain’s second-longest-reigning monarch is more popular than ever with a hit TV series (Victoria) and a recent major film about her life (Victoria & Abdul). The woman who became queen at 18 years of age, and ruled for 63 years, has never really been forgotten. In the 118 years since her death, she has cropped up as a central character in dozens of films and as a minor character in everything from episodes of Monty Python to Dr. Who. The seemingly endless fascination with Victoria may even have planted the seeds for today’s worldwide obsession with the Royal Family.queen-victoria-1-1514485068Canadians are particularly well acquainted with Victoria. We’ve been celebrating her birthday since 1845. The Victoria Day holiday – called everything from May Two-Four Weekend to Firecracker Day – is the unofficial kick-off to summer in Canada. It’s a federal holiday in this country, and a provincial one in six provinces and all three territories. Despite her enduring fame, Victoria’s birthday is not a holiday in Britain. Except for a small part of Scotland, where Victoria Day is often combined with another holiday, Canada is the only country that marks the event on a grand scale.victoria-4-1514486528Schools, parks, counties, roads, everywhere you look in our country, you’ll find variations of her name or royal title. Not one, but two provincial capitals, Regina and Victoria (pictured below), can thank the Queen for their names, and there are hundreds of Queen Streets dotted all around the country. Even her family got in on the name game: the province of Alberta is named after the Queen’s daughter Princess Louise Alberta, and Prince Edward Island was a tribute to Victoria’s late father. thQueen Victoria may have been one of the longest reigning monarchs, but she was also one of the luckiest. On at least eight occasions, most of them while riding in her open carriage, would-be assassins tried to kill her. She also had a stalker. A man by the name of Edward Jones broke into the royal residence at Buckingham Palace several times, and was eventually caught—but not before he sat on her throne and stole her underwear!th (1)So get out there, enjoy whatever sunshine you can find and thank Her Majesty Queen Victoria for the welcome time off…and hang on to your knickers!!th (2)

EXPRESSIONS OF CHINA exhibition marks 48th Anniversary of Canada-China diplomatic relations

Today, October 13th, marks the 48th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and China. Yesterday, I was honoured to attend the opening of a one-week cultural exhibition of contemporary paintings illustrating the famed 300 poems from the Tang Dynasty at the Robarts Library, Uni. of Toronto, thanks to the kind invitation from Justin Poy (The Justin Poy Agency), one of organizers along with the Inst. of Traditional Chinese Painting Creation & Research. 20181012_115950ABOVE LtoR: Jack Leong, Andre Schmid, Consul Jingjing Sai, Larry Alford, Justin Poy, Jerry Shi, Binghuang Shi

Justin, along with local dignitaries and visiting Chinese representatives, introduced the special celebratory installation of stunning traditional watercolour and ink illustrations created by 130 of China’s leading contemporary artists including Xiang Li, Hong Biao Liu, Hui Zhong Ren and Dong Fang Wang.20181012_110916 20181012_110906 20181012_110920The poems of romance, longing & passion were written in an ancient language and are extremely difficult to translate into English, something Justin, along with his Chinese collaborators, is trying to remedy with an upcoming book, perhaps in time for the 49th anniversary next year.  The beauty of the scrolls is undeniable and regardless of my lack of understanding of the language, the subjects exuded the thoughts and feelings behind each poem. 20181012_111101 20181012_111042 20181012_111623 20181012_111344(0)This delicate painting (below) in the softest of pastels and pinks caught my eye and I returned to it over and over again. I would love to know the meaning of the poem it illustrates as it obviously resonated with me on a subliminal level.20181012_111540_001So many beautiful scrolls decorated the Richard Charles Lee Canada-Hong Kong Library on the 8th Floor so I hope you can visit over the next week and see for yourself.20181012_121122 20181012_121132 20181012_111412 20181012_111530EXPRESSIONS OF CHINA runs Oct. 12-19 at the Robarts Library (U of Toronto), 130 St George Street. Supported by the Art Committee of Chinese Artists Association.  For more information contact: 647-821-7050.20181012_111702

 

MEET HANNA KOSTANSKI, URBAN GALLERY’S ARTIST OF THE MONTH!

Last night, Toronto’s coolest indie art venue, URBAN GALLERY, hosted the opening reception for HANNA KOSTANSKI, whose work is inspired by vintage photographs of our city from years gone by, found in the City of Toronto Archives.  With permission from the Archives, Hanna has recreated well-known intersections and streetscapes from the early 1900’s through to the 1980’s, adding colour and movement to the imagery, bringing the scenes to life.  Her show, 20th Century Toronto: Intersections & Interactions, runs until August 26th at Urban Gallery (400 Queen St East, Toronto) and I strongly recommend you visit in person to see if you recognize each of the locations she’s painted. Betcha you’ll be amazed to see how our city has changed!

About the artist:  Hanna was born in Szczecin, Poland, and grew up in Hamilton, Ontario. She obtained her BFA from OCAD University in 2007 and currently resides in Hamilton and works in Toronto. Her work can be found in dozens of private and public collections in both cities.Hanna Kostanski YONGE AND DUNDAS 1978 acrylic on board(Above) Yonge and Dundas, 1978 Acrylic on Wood 30″ x 60″ by Hanna Kostanski
From City of Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 92, Item 49 • Original Photograph by Harvey R. Naylor

Artist Statement:   For nearly a decade my work has been focused on the visible passage of time, experienced through the exploration and documentation of abandoned and decaying buildings in cities like Hamilton and Detroit. I have always been fascinated with historical architecture, specifically how we interact with our buildings and structures, and what happens when that interaction ceases to exist.

My current body of work continues to explore the connection between people and their environment, but with a focus on historical representations of that relationship.  To that end, I have been working on a series of paintings based on photographs found at the City of Toronto Public Archives. These images span several decades and are nostalgic of the city as it used to be. They celebrate the many past incarnations of Toronto, the vibrant intersections of the city and the interactions of its people.  Hanna Kostanski (2017)

The gallery was quickly crowded with fans of Hanna’s work which has recently garnered some exciting media attention – even Toronto Mayor John Tory has weighed in on Twitter about Hanna’s ability to capture a sense of time and place with her large format paintings.20170803_18202620170803_17482220170803_17564020170803_16431220170803_164228Two of Hanna’s BFF’s came to support her and found a familiar sight in this painting (below) of Yonge Street between Queen & Dundas! 20170803_171702 20170803_173123I think this fellow (above) must work on Bay Street – he appears to be looking for the location where his office now sits and explaining the old geography to his lovely companion.20170803_173228 20170803_180704Hanna welcome many of her friends and fans (above), all of whom seemed eager to see her newest paintings.

Fellow artist Nancy Bennett (below) looks like she’s calling a cab from the intersection of Yonge & Dundas…LOL20170803_172148Amidst the hub-bub of the busy gallery, I managed to grab Hanna for a quick chat about her work…

Hanna is also offering fine prints for those who don’t have the space for the original BIG paintings…here’s a happy art-lovin’ family who purchased 2 prints of their favourite paintings….20170803_173528(0)Here’s Wayne Abell of Urban Source Catering (they always present the most deelish treats for gallery openings!!) with KJ Mullins, publisher of NEWZ4U.ca, a Toronto-centric e-newspaper who really liked Hanna’s work.20170803_173304If you would like to come and play “spot the street” with Hanna’s work, please visit www.urbangallery.ca for gallery hours and directions.  You can also follow Hanna on social media via her own website: www.hannakostanski.com

 

th

Thank you for supporting Canadian artists!

THAT CANADIAN GUY, GLEN FOSTER, CELEBRATES CANADA’S 150th ANNIVERSARY @ ABSOLUTE COMEDY CLUB in TORONTO

Guaranteed to deliver at least 150 belly-laughs, GLEN FOSTER (a.k.a. That Canadian Guy) headlines at the Absolute Comedy Club, 2335 Yonge St, Toronto, on Canada Day Saturday July 1st. And with an early 8pm showtime, you’ll still be able to catch the big fireworks displays around the city afterwards.Head_shot_0089Glen (pictured above) has been one of Canada’s top comedians for over thirty years – I’ve known him ever since his first set at Yuk Yuk’s back in the 80’s where I was the comedy agent and business manager.   Since then, Glen’s become a mainstay on the Canadian comedy circuit -he didn’t just work the road, he’s one of the comics who built it! His comedy is clever and intelligent, combining reflections on his own personal experiences with razor sharp commentary on current events and popular culture.

Glen has appeared many times at the world-renowned Just For Laughs festival, had his own TV specials on the Comedy Network and can be heard frequently on CBC Radio’s “The Debaters”. He has also released his own comedy DVDs and is a club favourite across the country.   That Canadian Guy is a reference to Glen’s first network comedy special during which he joked about the fact people could call him “that Canadian guy” if they couldn’t remember his name.  Sure enough, after the show aired, Glen received a flood of e-mails from viewers who said, “I couldn’t remember your name but I remembered “that Canadian guy.”ippGlen headlines at the Absolute Comedy club June 28 through July 2 and you can purchase tickets for all of Glen’s performances and his special Canada Day July 1st show here: https://www.absolutecomedy.ca/toronto

Print

I VISIT MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR – ST PAUL’S on BLOOR STREET FOR “DOORS OPEN TORONTO”

Each year, Toronto hosts a special weekend called “Doors Open” where we can visit beautiful buildings around the city that are normally closed to the public such as offices, law courts, architectural treasures and places of worship. I’m fortunate to live next door to one very special building: St Paul’s Anglican church which is one of the largest parish churches in N. America. When I entered, the organist was practicing – take a listen here…

During today’s special tour, visitors got to see some of the most gorgeous stained glass windows in Canada, many depicting heroic WWI stories and in fact, one of the windows was made from the glass fragments found around some 70 destroyed churches and buildings in Belgium, France and Italy.20170527_112002 20170527_11304620170527_112224Around the walls of the massive interior were many plaques and memorials dedicated to past parishioners who had lost their lives fighting in Europe….20170527_112444 20170527_113244…and the incredible wooden carvings of angels were breathtaking…20170527_112612Not a lot of people ever look up when they visit such venues but I always do (you never know what cool things you can spy up above) and I’m so glad I did…check out these awesome state-of-the-art fans in this video. They look old-school to fit in but are actually brand new….

20170527_111902 20170527_113058 20170527_112542 20170527_112647The marble altar (above) shows the Last Supper – it’s so beautiful and is flanked on either side by historic figures from the first World War. There is just one female depicted in the carvings and statuary…Florence Nightingale!  I found another beautiful window behind the altar screen (below). I could have stood there for an hour enjoying all the intricacies in this little window and the marble carvings in front….20170527_112954Next month marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of St Paul’s and to commemorate the occasion, a special craft lager has been created, the St Paul’s CLXXV, which will be available in 6-packs for a limited time only following their June 11th anniversary service. Considering the church’s reputation for warm hospitality and sharing food and drink, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate!

If you’d like to learn more about this fine church and the wonderful work they do, please visit: www.stpaulsbloor.orgSt Pauls

ST. PAUL’S ANGLICAN CHURCH ON BLOOR ST. EAST UNVEILS “When I Was a Stranger” SCULPTURE BY TIM SCHMALZ

I have really nice next-door neighbours – I overlook St. Paul’s Anglican Church on Bloor St East and today I joined the staff, Board of Trustees and members of the congregation as they unveiled the beautiful bronze sculpture by leading Canadian artist Tim Schmalz, called “When I Was a Stranger”. Here, let Pastor Barry Parker do the honours….

20161013_110700 20161013_105652As Pastor Barry suggested, come visit, sit a spell and take a selfie with Jesus!

Artist Tim Schmalz is an accomplished sculptor and has undertaken many religious commissions which you can see on his website: www.sculpturebytps.com Below, Tim explains more about his work for St. Paul’s

And below, Bishop Peter Fenty (Bishop for York-Simcoe and the Diocese of Toronto) offers up a prayer

Immediately after the speeches, visitors started sharing their selfies, like this lady here…20161013_110740….and there were lots of photos being snapped for the Church newspaper and local media….20161013_111036 20161013_111050 20161013_111341(0) 20161013_111505The gentleman who modelled for the face of Jesus came by to lend support & congratulate Tim (below left)20161013_111257And this is the result…the serene face of Jesus, bowed in humility, full of warmth and love. 20161013_111248Inside the church lobby, there was also a display of paintings by local artists Ruthia Pak Regis and Matt Wood…..nice to pop in and warm up a bit.20161013_110821 20161013_110843 20161013_110855Thank you to Exec. Pastor Joyce Badley for her kind invitation to join the celebration today, and to Assoc. Priest Sandra Seaborn for sharing additional information about the event & other church activities.

www.stpaulsbloor.org20161013_105406

 

ANOTHER GREAT “NOLLYWOOD” FILM FOR THIS YEAR’S TIFF-GOERS TO SEE

For this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (Sept. 8-18), the focus for their City-to-City program is Lagos, Nigeria – home to “Nollywood” filmmaking. One of the films being featured is 76 helmed by the multi award-winning director Izu Ojukwo, and starring Ramsey Nouah, Rita Dominic, Chidi Mokeme, Ibinabo Fiberesima, Memry Savanhu and Daniel Kanayo Daniel.IMG_3500 IMG_351076 is a love story that centers around the challenges women married to men in the armed forces go through when their husbands are captured in war. The 76 story is told using the backdrop of the Nigerian 1976 Dimka’s coup. The movie isn’t about a botched coup attempt but is clearly about the women who are courageous enough to bear a soldier’s last name. It is visually pure, emotionally engaging, intellectually stimulating and humorously therapeutic.

Six years after the Nigerian civil war, Dewa (Ramsey Nouah) a young officer from the middle belt gets entangled in a romantic relationship with Suzy (Rita Dominic) a young lady from the southeastern part of Nigeria. Their budding romance was almost ruptured by the overwhelming strains of tribalism. Now heavily pregnant, her world comes crumbling when news of her husband’s involvement in a botched coup attempt hits the headlines.IMG_3506 IMG_3505 IMG_3514You can check out the official preview trailer here:

Visit the official TIFF website for tickets, screening times and additional information on the City-to-City “Nollywood” programme

www.tiff.net/tiff/

 

 

 

 

 

ARTFEST BRINGS EXCITING ARTISTS AND CRAFTSPEOPLE TO TORONTO’S HISTORIC DISTILLERY DISTRICT

Over the long weekend, my bestie, Erena, and I made a quick visit to the annual ArtFest crafts and fine arts market in the Distillery District of downtown Toronto. We also visited some of the established art galleries located in the enclave of 19th & early 20th century warehouses and cellars. It was so crowded that it was hard just to get in to some of the tents so Erena and I focused on just a few.

Our very first stop was at Joseph Calleja‘s handcrafted silk & cotton scarf display The Toronto-based photographer & artist incorporates many of his own photos into the unique and beautiful prints in multiple colours, shapes and sizes. Some are pure silk, others a cotton/silk blend as well as long wraps in the softest of cotton. Erena purchased 2, one a vibrant pink and the other…the blue one she’s modelling below. www.callejascarves.com20160522_133428 20160522_133236I then noticed a very talented sculptor, Chaka Chikodzi, who hails from Kingston, ON, which has become quite the artists’ colony thanks to the great light quality in that area (about 3hrs east of Toronto, on Lake Ontario). This one charming piece of carved Springstone is a a guinea fowl and it really called to me. Perhaps next time he comes to Toronto, I will have the $s to make it mine!   www.chakachikodzi.com20160522_141408Erena and I wandered around some more trying not to trip over the cobblestones (hint: NEVER wear your Manolo Blahniks to the Distillery District!!) and saw lots of returning exhibitors from last year which I previously covered in my blog, so we sought refuge from the hot sun inside the Thompson Landry Gallery and discovered all sorts of amazing artists we’d never previously seen, for example Tommy Zen from Montreal. He is descended from several generations of Venetian cabinet makers and artisans, eventually discovering his own love for clay and ceramics. The gallery (there are actually 2 amazing Thompson Landry Galleries on-site, opposite each other) proudly displays his giant ceramics, each gilded with sparkling gold and vibrant colours. Below are 2 of my favourite pieces, each well over 6ft tall!!  www.thompsonlandry.com20160522_160806 20160522_161353Many more artists are showcased there including this massive 10′ x 6′ canvas of a raging bull (titled Turbo) by Dominic Besner (below). This was Erena’s fave.20160522_161251I also liked these pieces…what do you think?20160522_16131520160522_160924We then walked over to artagallery where I found some more gorgeous works of art that really resonated with me. I really liked these two: below left is P. Colbert’s “Dream Creek” oil on canvas (36″x48″) and below right is I. Stoyanov’s “Yellow #18″ mixed media on canvas (68″x48”)  You can find out more at www.artagallery.ca20160522_164359I also found these florals engaging…and happy!20160522_164730 20160522_164742….and Erena made a bee-line for the playful pieces featuring wildlife!20160522_164839artagallery offers some unique display settings, too – I really liked this rusted old boiler plating (below)20160522_164702The next Artfest takes place over the labour day long weekend (Sept. 2-5) in the same venue; if you’d like to check out the shopping, dining and sight-seeing opportunities at Toronto’s Distillery District, visit their website for hours & directions: www.thedistillerydistrict.com20160522_164631

 

 

 

A WALK BACK THRU TIME IN TORONTO’S HISTORIC CABBAGETOWN NEIGHBOURHOOD

Yesterday was such a lovely sunny day that I decided to down tools and step away from the ‘puter to enjoy a leisurely stroll thru one of Toronto’s historic old neighbourhoods – Cabbagetown. This was where I lived in the late 70’s when, as a starving actor/waitress, I shared a 3 storey semi at the end of Wellesley Street with 3 other actors & musicians, and next door to the fabulous Carole Pope & Kevin Staples of Rough Trade fame (Canada’s edgiest new wave/punk bands of the era).20160415_133443Above left is #445, my old house – I had the large master bedroom on the 2nd floor front – the dormer that jutted out over the front porch was the cosy alcove where I had my bed. Next door at #443 (above at right), I would watch an amazing procession of fabulous celebrity house guests knock on my neighbour’s front door …all manner of music stars would hang out with Carole when they came to town. I remember watching legendary Dusty Springfield wander up the garden path one afternoon – how exciting!  Cabbagetown was a haven for artists, actors, musicians and hippies back then…it was affordable to share the houses, most of which were run-down shadows of their former grand selves. But at the royal sum of $500 a month all inclusive, we still never quite made rent on time…LOL! But walking east on Wellesley yesterday, heading into this charming little enclave (below) brought back so many memories of innocent (but fun) times….come take a walk with me now.20160415_132759The residents association has been busy over the years, creating walking tours of the streets and gardens and they’ve posted all sorts of plaques designating certain homes as historical landmarks. I never knew a member of this famous Hollywood family once lived on Wellesley Street…did you?20160415_132834A couple of blocks south is a street full of picturesque workers’ cottages, now sympathetically renovated to suit their 21st century owners – this is Amelia Street. I always loved walking along here back in the 70’s as although most of these homes were rundown and scruffy, you could see the great “bones” and 19th or early 20th century design elements. Look at these gorgeous little chocolate box homes….20160415_14432420160415_14440420160415_14441420160415_14473320160415_145018I remember wanting to move into this charming 1920’s/30’s apartment building (above) as it looked so cool, even 40yrs ago when it was rather shabby and unpainted. Rent was about $275 to $350 a month back then…now, probably closer to $1500/mo.
This was once a cute handcrafted furniture store (below) when I lived in the ‘hood but it’s now been made into a private residence. Wouldn’t it make a lovely little antique shop or even a cosy tea room?20160415_144847This (below) has got to be one of the cutest cottages on the street, now the home offices for a design firm…20160415_145413…and opposite that is this modern make-over. I love the back-split balconies and the paint colour.20160415_145127Of course, being a vibrant community there are always notices posted about upcoming events as well as pleas for help finding lost loved ones. On one lamp-post I saw this rather sad flyer…I hope Lefty comes home soon!20160415_145154On a happier note, I took a quick side trip to the Riverdale Farm (below) – back when I lived there it was still called a “zoo” as they had all manner of exotic beasties living there including highland cattle and some bighorn sheep…50 or 60 yrs ago they kept a sad assortment of wild animals including bears and big cats in tiny cruel metal cages -I think the old deserted bear house may still be there down the back near the ravine. But yesterday it was all about the cute baby farmyard critters…20160415_141258 20160415_141351 20160415_142218 20160415_142256 20160415_142059 20160415_141708 20160415_141645 20160415_142415Opposite the park and farm used to stand Jeremiah’s Ice Cream Store which served up frozen treats to generations of families. Now the shop has been made into a private home (below) but at least they still operate an ice cream and snack food bar out of the side window. 20160415_141107In the park stands a noticeboard pointing out all the houses that once were home to various leading lights in Toronto and Canadian history (below). These correspond with the plaques posted on each property (like the Walter Huston one). Sadly, I couldn’t find a plaque for one of Canada’s greatest Olympic ice skaters and fine artists, Toller Cranston, who had a home and studio on Winchester near Parliament Street. I remember walking past, looking up into his studio window and seeing Toller busy painting – he would often wave back at me. I think it’s time to make amends and get the 70’s groundbreaking ice skater and avant garde painter properly acknowledged.20160415_143423As I walked out of this timeless village and back into reality on Parliament Street, I walked past Nettleship’s Hardware – this store has been there for decades and I remember when I worked part-time at Tom Foolery (one of the first vintage clothing stores in the city back in the 70’s), the owners and I used to hang out with Donny, the son who ran the shop. I betcha he’s still there. Must make an effort to go in and say hi next time I’m in the neighbourhood.20160415_145927(0)So I hope you enjoyed this little pictorial stroll thru my Cabbagetown. I definitely recommend visiting, esp the first weekend of May when they host a neighbourhood-wide Forsythia Festival. The trees are just now starting to bud and there are a few early spring flowers popping up…so much to see but make sure you look up as well, then you’ll notice antique weather veins such as this one (below) or you may even spot a couple of pink flamingos still dressed in their winter scarves & toques (bottom).20160415_14403520160415_145048