All Mixed Up in Toronto

For people who know me and my work, the following will come as no surprize. I love mixed media. Part of my mind is always “On It”.I have, for example, a current and growing collection of broken scissors, eyeglasses etc., which seem to be working towards a future art piece. I do fight a continuous and loosing battle with discarding ephemera. (Note for example a spontaneous and unintentional collage as I emptied my pockets after my recent trip to Toronto. The photo of the girl was found blowing along a sidewalk by a broken garbage bag. Heartbreaking! How could anyone throw that out!) This particular bent and accompanying skill set is why I was hired for my dream job to work at the second World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 instead of several other more conventional weavers, who no doubt still wonder why I was the weaver chosen! (see the Archived blog post World Summit for details.)

That recent trip to Toronto was a mind expanding and eye opening experience, textiles, artistic visions, textile related exhibits, big city sophistication and the sprawling generosity of urban influences for this particular country mouse, I am still recovering from the stimulation. Mostly, I am grateful for the validation I felt regarding my own creative path.

First stop was the Textile Museum. There are currently 2 exhibits, Tied Dyed and Woven, Ikat Textiles From Latin America and Diligence and Elegance; The Nature of Japanese Textiles. The visuals of both filled my eyes and heart. There even was one crossover, unlikely as that seems, the beauty of the colour of indigo dyes.

Some things stood out especially inspiring, the attention to detail as in the gorgeous hand knotted fringes on some garments from Latin America.

I also loved the cloth woven with weft of spun paper, Shifu, from Japan, once a frugal and warm cloth for basic kimono. It is a lot like linen. The piece on display was black, not a good photo option.

As much as the skills and techniques, the colour combinations and design elements linger in my memory.

Next stop was the ROM, a Saturday morning haunt of my Toronto childhood. There was a fun dress from Christian Dior. Roses! How stunning.

Then The VIKINGS; The Exhibit which I had not seen in Ottawa. I wanted more textile information, but it was, nonetheless, a very interesting and well displayed exhibit. This is the whorl found at L’Anse Aux Meadows and also a bone comb used for beating the weaving and some bone and wooden needles.

There was some information on the Bask fibers used in ropes.

It was a chance sighting that really Blew Me Away. Serendipitous. The ROM had commissioned El Anatsuito create a large tapestry. I seldom spend screen time when I am in a museum, but the accompanying film was very interesting. He prowls “recycling areas” (we would have put all this stuff in a garbage dump, but in many parts of Africa it is sorted and sold). Being aged himself, he likes to give new life to objects that are old, slightly broken, and discarded by much of society. He finds beauty there.

The tapestry is called Straying Continents and is constructed from bottle caps from liquor bottles, cut, flattened or twisted and tied with copper wire. The piece is rippling with crowded intense areas, and airy open areas, patterns, shapes and movement. The weight is causing the piece to slowly shift shape itself. The symbolism is how Africa has historically been impacted by colonialism and the accompanying imported goods. And how Africa stays true to itself somehow. My photos do not do justice to the impact of this work.

One last stop was the Distillery District. Very beautiful setting, I was told Dickens films have been shot here. I enjoyed seeing the weaving at a little shop. Wallhangings! Interesting little buttoned scarves. #Lilithsgarden I was interested in the addition of cloth and the sort of reckless abandon in the finishing details.

Also I loved the multimdia art in the Landry Gallery, a quiet, sprawling gallery with many well displayed pieces. The lighting was spectacular!

Also the painted woven plastic.

And I will end with this atmospheric painting, no multimedia at all but a gorgeous treatment of the cloth. Oh Toronto! A whirlwind trip.