It must have been when I was 16 or 17 that I bought my first piece of art with an awareness that I was buying art. I’d known my mother’s friend, Nancy, much of my life, first in Europe, then in the U.S. Nancy’s husband was a photographer and she was a painter from upstate New York. I can still hear her strong dialect when I think of her. It makes me think of a photo the family has of Nancy: she’s in the foreground and the Mona Lisa is behind her. Disappointment was all written all over Nancy’s face! So funny… One summer, I bought one of her paintings. I still have it and, to this day, I love it every bit as much as I did when I bought it. Maybe more. No one else seems to like or appreciate it, but I do and that’s what counts. The canvas is 30″ x 24″ and the painting depicts a close-up of part of a conch shell, which takes up the entire canvas, save a part at the top. It’s not cutesy or a scientific study; it’s more impressionistic. White, blue, lavender, yellow, and midnight blue. Like peering deep down into the shell, with a dreamlike quality. Most of the art I own or purchased was created by artists I know whose work I like. I strongly believe it is important to support these friends/artists by purchasing their work. It is also important to support the arts by purchasing works of art by people who aren’t in my circle. Several weeks ago, we did just that when we took a short ferry ride to Bowen Island. While there, we each bought a piece of ceramic art from Jeanne Sarich at her studio/gallery, Cloudflower Clayworks. Then, today, in Port Moody, after Pauline and I had a cuppa, we took in a couple of shops. One, I’d been meaning to go to because it carries Sid Dickens’ Memory Blocks. I had researched and written about them and him but had never actually seen his work in person till today. When I walked into Chartreuse Living, I recognized a collection of them on the wall. Oh, my. Oh, my, oh my. They are gorgeous beyond words. (How to narrow down my choice(s)?) I also saw beautiful renditions of a barn owl, one of which I’d like to get. The proprietress said the artist, Heather Johnston, prints photographs on canvas, then paints over them. In the end, the work resembles an old piece of film. It makes sense that we would bring the work these artisans make into our own homes and, all the more so, because we ourselves create. I’ll never forget going to Sean Thompson’s opening at Dr. Vigari’s one winter night in the city. I fell completely in love with a painting. At the time, Sean painted Canadian hockey players larger than life. (The painting he’s working on at this link is of Tim Horton, a Canadian icon.) The subject was strange to me, a new immigrant. I still didn’t really know how much hockey was an integral part of the Canadian psyche. The paintings in the show were enormous. Canvases were about 8′ tall and 5′ wide and there were diptychs and triptychs. Yet, I was drawn to something much smaller. Rendered in the style of Russian iconography, the painting depicts a poignant historic incident that took place in 1933. In the painting, the fallen player is Toronto Maple Leafs’ Ace Bailey, a favorite throughout the country and leading scorer and goal scorer. Standing over him on the ice, stricken, is fellow Leaf Red Horner, who came to his aid but also feels guilty. Bailey had been brutally hit from behind by the Boston Bruins’ Eddie Shore. Bailey crashed to the ice, fracturing and concussing his skull. The painting shows an angel hovering over Ace and the Leafs. They are painted in the style of Russian iconography and the figures have that static feel. Though star player Ace Bailey recovered, he never played hockey again; the incident ended his career. So, here on the wall between two rooms hangs Thompson’s visual retelling. I’m not a hockey fan, I just love the painting, that Sean recreated a historic incident in such an iconic way. What does it for me is the tenderness and love shown by all the players and the protection of the angel overhead. Do yourself a favor this week. Go out, fall in love with a piece of art and bring it home!
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