ART AND THE CITY - TORONTO, ONTARIO
Earlier this year I received news that my painting; Goalie's Mask: red, white & Dryden was shortlisted for the International Olympic Committee 2014 Trophy honouring Art reflecting Canadian sport. This meant getting my painting out to COC head offices in Toronto for final judging, and the chance to take in some very important art and cultural events while in Toronto.
On landing I was greeted by bitter and wet cold, downpours of rain with the velocity of multiple fire hoses and bitter -4 winds at cross streets between skyscrapers. My first day in town I set out to tour the Hockey Hall of Fame, where the real mask depicted in my painting (the pretzel mask Ken Dryden wore) is on display amongst some of the most iconic pieces of hockey history in the world. As seen below, the painting and the original mask that provided inspiration for the painting.
The Hockey Hall of Fame is a phenomenal collection of all things hockey, and not just Canadian hockey or NHL. Housed in a spectacular heritage building, complete with an iconic McCausland stained glass ceiling in the 'great room' home to Lord Stanley's Cup and all the famous trophies. This photo shows part of the spectacular locker room dedicated to the Montreal Canadiens. A place for fans to sit, take stock and feel even more like they are part of the history of hockey.
Next on the docket was a visit to the Jean-Michel Basquiat show, 'Now's The Time' at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Located near Chinatown in the Grange Park District the museum is a work of art itself, designed by world famous architect, Frank Gehry. The Basquiat show is an important one which asks it's viewers, "Why is NOW, the time for Basquiat?" What I took away from this show? feelings of anger, sadness and brilliance. Someone who embodied the saying, 'never judge a book by it's cover'. Intellectually stimulating, the paintings and drawings vibrate with rythym and ferocity.
While at the AGO I also had the chance to take in the Thomson Collection of Canadian Art - highlights of the private collection of some 700 works which were generously donated to the gallery. Ken Thomson built one of the most important private collections of Canadian art during his lifetime. The collection includes works by Tom Thomson, Group of Seven, AJ Casson, Alex Colville, Charles Gagnon, William Kurelek and David Milne. It is a treasure trove of Canadiana.
The day following found me near the top of the CN Tower, down near the waterfront of Lake Ontario, one of the five great lakes. An engineering feet at 1815.4 ft., it became the world's tallest tower and free-standing structure in 1976, only to be topped by the Burj in Dubai some 34 years later. It offers spectacular 360 degree views of greater Toronto and on a clear day you can see much further.
The CN Tower is on railway land which encompasses the Home of The Blue Jays, Rogers Centre (formally Skydome) as well as Ripley's Believe it or Not Aquarium. Famed Canadian artist Michael Snow was commissioned to create a large art installation at Rogers Centre. A cast of exuberant fans greet you from above the northeast and northwest corners. The Audience is a set of two original sculptural art installations placed on the northeast and northwest corners of the venue designed to extend the fan experience to both inside and outside the venue.
My final day in Toronto I found myself hopping a streetcar to Chinatown, where you literally feel as if you have landed in Hong Kong. It is a vibrant and busy community, especially with added tourists on a Saturday afternoon. Just a few blocks from Chinatown is the Fashion District and the famed Queen Street West, a mecca of food, fashion and street art. I was searching for an alley, one recently made popular by Rick Mercer with his RMR Rant segments. Graffiti Alley is sandwiched between QSW and Richmond Street at 1 Rush Lane. It is close to 1KM of varying degrees of vivid street art, which is re-painted over a few times per year. This alley accurately reflects the energy of the area with it's gothic storefronts and brick walk-ups to it's bolts of fabric lining the streets to the people themselves, where life is art and art is life. Toronto is a cultural melting pot, unlike Vancouver it is not segmented and everyone just seems to mix, like the most beautifully silky and flavorful fondue, you choose your food for dipping and the fondue does the rest. Jazz and tequila, Scotch and beef heart, Toronto is fusion itself. Thank you Toronto, I look forward to visiting again, during warmer weather.