Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Special Feature on Artists Ken Phillips and Marie Cecila Guard by Peri Phillips McQuay

As  producer of 'The Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada', it gives me pride to celebrate the anniversary of our 800th  posting,  by thanking,  author, Peri McQuay who kindly responded to my invitation to , write an article about her late parents,  Ken Phillips and Marie Cecila Guard, who were well respected Canadian painters.  Peri brings to 'The Portrait' her formidable writing skills and unique insights into her parents'  lives.

Peri's  featured article, begins with her biography , and will be  followed by 3 subsequent postings.  /fw

Peri Phillips McQuay first learned to take joy in nature through the inspiration of her Canadian artist parents, Ken Phillips and Marie Cecilia Guard. 

For thirty years McQuay and her conservation educator husband, Barry, were fortunate to live and work at Foley Mountain, an eight-hundred-acre conservation area of forests, ponds, and granite ridges in eastern Ontario, Canada.

Deeply committed to nature, art, and social justice, she has been a professional writer for over thirty years. She is the author of two published books, The View From Foley Mountain, a book of nature meditations, and A Wing in the Door: Life With a Red-tailed Hawk, the story of a human-imprinted hawk, as well as numerous essays, articles, book reviews and a weekly column, published in the Kingston Whig-Standard Magazine. 

Educated at the University of Toronto (Hon. Philosophy and English), and a member of The Writers’ Union of Canada and ASLE, her credits include Country Journal, Harrowsmith, Bird Watcher's Digest, The Snowy Egret, Seasons, The Fiddlehead, Herizons and Brick. 

She has completed two novels: Towards Home, the story of a woman's journey of self-discovery through nature and art and The Famous Flower Garden, featuring reconciliation  in the extraordinary setting of the old mill home of a dying artist, and a ruined garden. 

Peri McQuay is also the author of The Country of Home, the true story of the finding, designing and building of "Singing Meadow", a country property, where simplicity and reverence for nature are key.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Peter Rukivina's Eulogy to Artist David Bierk

David Bierk, 1944-2002
Photo from: Diane Ferris Gallery. Please click here.

I shared the office with an 80 year old sculptor who smoked very pungent cigars and only came in to work once or twice a month. Our shared space was filled with craggy nudes and vats of clay, and at the back of the room was a small washroom, the only one on the floor.
At the front of the building on our floor was a huge open well-lit space that was the studio of painter David Bierk. I knew David by reputation — he was one of the founders of Artspace, an artist-run centre in the city, and several friends of mine had works of his in their homes. David pretty much kept to himself, as did I, and we only really saw each other when he came back to get water from the washroom we shared.
My strongest impression from those times was from David’s stereo: Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat had just come out, and David listened to it. And listened to it. Over and over and over and over. He must have loved it. Oddly, this didn’t bother me, and I love the album myself to this day.
David Bierk died this week of cancer. I heard the news from my friend (and former Peterborough resident) Ann, and only knew that David had been ill at all just this morning from my friend Stephen, who lives in Peterborough and was on the crew that worked on the studio that replaced that floor on George Street for David — another large space just down the street.
May he rest in peace.
Peter Rukivina

To view this article on Peter's website please click here.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Montreal Art Theft


The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts is a pretty quiet place nowadays. It seems that a light fingered Louis, had off with this relief of a 5th century BC Persian Guard.  The museum takes pride in allowing viewers low level security so that they can get up close to observe their collection.

The thief was captured by security video. He is about 5'7". He wore blue jeans and a black jacket, and was a he, of course, and he wore a baseball cap (no doubt backwards).  

If you happen to find this work on a sink in a public washroom, or on a bus seat (not very likely though), give the museum a call. They will welcome you with open arms.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heidi Berger's Contribution to Art in Canada and Barbados

Homemakers: Portrait of a woman – Heidi Berger

By Patricia Thangaraj

Women always play multiple roles, first as daughters and/or sisters then as wives and mothers, so it is nice to capture them when there are in their own space, defining themselves as women first. This is exactly what Heidi Berger captures in her art.

Berger first fell in love with art as a teenager and in order to satisfy her new-found curiosity, her parents sent her to private lessons with Canadian Art Instructor, Karl Kronlachner for four years.

However, in the 1960’s, art was considered something that persons did as a hobby and not something that one pursued a career in and therefore, after graduating from high school, she accepted a scholarship to the University of Waterloo and followed the traditional path of going to university where she completed a Bachelors Degree in French and Spanish. 

Berger, who also holds a Masters Degree and Ph.D. in German and has trotted the globe, returned to her place of birth, Germany, where she, her husband and child lived for a few years. During this time, she opened a gallery which showcased native Canadian art which Europeans were attracted to since they had never seen this kind of art before. She and her husband would also have their second child there.

They then returned to Canada where Heidi worked for the Calgary Olympic Committee (COC) for eight years until the 1988 Winter Olympics held in that city before moving on to Edmonton to work at the University of Alberta in the Department of Extension to work as an administrator in adult education, helping to organize programmes for persons interested in running for office in the Municipal Government, a programme which equipped persons with an understanding of what exactly they were getting into.

Aside from the initial four years of training, Berger is a self-taught artist who has studied art in books, conducted detailed research for the different types of art out there and the various artists and entered competitions where artists and teachers of art that are respected in the business were judges. 

In this way, when she started to gain recognition and praise for her art and won various international art competitions in such places as Colorado, Michigan and Louisiana she knew that she had proven herself in this industry and reached the pinnacle. 

Therefore, she then stopped submitting art for competitions and started focusing her time on teaching art and showcasing her work at galleries, which she has done since she and her family made Barbados their home approximately 20 years ago. Her first showing was in 1988 at the Verandah Gallery of Bridgetown, now known as the Gallery of Caribbean Art. She has also showcased at other galleries such as the one at Tides and other places like Queen’s Park.

Her last award was the Carmichael Award, which is the critics prize for established artists given to her for her piece entitled, “The Silk Weaver’s Daughter,” a portrait she captured from her travels to Cambodia. She also submitted another piece “I Heard Someone Calling My Name” to that show at the Bridgetown Gallery in 2011.

Berger, who likes to paint mostly images of women, particularly Caribbean and Barbadian women in their natural element, and also dabbles in mosaics, said that her next show would be in February 2013. 

Until then, she can be found at Art Splash, teaching classes this month on “Introducing collage into your work” and next month on “Experimenting with Texture” and then in April, these students would showcase what they have learnt in Explorations 3, also to be held at Art Splash.

From: The Barbados Advocate
To view this article online, please click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad, by Paul Collins.

Black History month earns a place in the Canadian cultural milieu because the end point of the underground railroad was in Canada.  Many black families in Ontario, can trace their Canadian roots to the railroad.

Underground Railroad map

Its not often that paintings achieve iconic proportions in a lifetime, as Paul Collin's depiction of the Underground Railroad has.

You will find an worthwhile blog article on the railroad by clicking here.

The artist, Paul Collins is an American, from Michigan. He was born in 1936 and has attained significant status for his craft.  Paul's Painting of the Underground Railroad is one of those cross border stories which illustrates the interconnection of our histories. Please click here to visit Paul's website.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Story Behind the Painting by Peri McQuay

"I was delighted to see the picture of my mother, Marie Cecilia Guard and your interesting contrast of her and Prudence Heward.  This picture actually is a portrait of Marie, painted by her young husband, Ken
Phillips when she was ill.  Hence the flushed cheeks!  Neither of my parents ever moved as close to the angular semi-abstract style as Heward did, but its that differences that make this so interesting.  Projecting
the person's character in portraits was important to both my parents."

I appreciate learning the story behind this striking portrait of your mother, Peri.  Please accept my apologies for my erroneous assumption that your mother painted it.  

Friday, February 17, 2012

Brett Davis and the Story of the Buxton Liberty Bell

The Buxton Liberty Bell

The Buxton Liberty Bell was commissioned by The Buxton Historical Site and Museum to replicate  the existing bell still hanging in a church in south Buxton, from a series of photos taken years earlier. Bryan and Shannon Prince were instrumental in organizing and seeing the bell to completion and are both active in the community and black history. Shannon is the curator of the museum and Bryan has written 3 books on black history. "I Came as a Stranger", "A Shadow on The Household", and his most recent book, "One More River to Cross".

The bronze "Liberty Bell" that was gifted to the town of Buxton by the Black residents of Pittsburgh, PA. in 1850 to honour the Buxton residents and the Revered (William King) for their accomplishments in establishing a self-sufficient settlement, which was for many, the end of the Underground Railroad. It is written that the bell would ring for each person who made it to freedom. The story behind the Buxton Bell is deeply rooted in Black history dating back to 1850 when the slave trade was still in effect in the USA and other parts of Europe. Many Black escapees made it to freedom by crossing over a number of borders from the US into Canada by means of the Underground Railroad, some of them began to settle in the Buxton area, which was one of the gateways.

The Province of Ontario hosted a ceremony and an official bell launch on February 14, 2007 at the Legislative Building at Queen's Park in Toronto, to honour Black History Month.  The bell then travelled to York University in Toronto where a ceremony was held to open The Harriete Tubman Institute for research on the Global Migration of African Peoples.  On that occasion, The Right Honourable Michaelle Jean, now U.N.E.S.C.O's Special Envoy to Haiti and then Governor General of Canada rang the bell in a symbolic gesture to observe the bicentennial of the passage of the British Imperial decree that abolished the Transatlantic Slave Trade.  The Liberty Bell eventually came home to the Buxton National Historic Site and Museum where it is on permanent display in the gardens which are dedicated to the memory of those enslaved people whose dreams were of freedom.

The inscription on the bell reads:
Cast by A. Fulton
Pittsburgh. Pa.
Presented to the Rev. William King by the Coloured Inhabitants of
Pittsburgh, for the Academy at Raleigh, C(anada) WestTo capture the essence of the historical bell, and all the iron components, I chose to approach the bell like a sculpture, and carve it by hand instead of using traditional bell making techniques that require a strickle board and plaster that would have made the bell too rigid and commercial, and felt it would loose its feeling of antiquity. All the details including the lettering were created by hand including the irregular lineage of the insription. The replica bell was sand cast and weighs 570 pounds and is 2 ½ inches thick and about 30 inches high, that was cast in one piece, while the iron work weighs approximately, 500 pounds. In the end, the replica bell sounded identical to the pitch of the original.

More information about the creation process available upon request.
The completed project was a great success and was well received by the committee from the Buxton Historical Site and Museum and from the former Minister of Culture and Immigration, Mike Colles, and was covered by 3 local newspapers including The Toronto Star.

Brett Davis, ARBS, SSC
Age of Bronze Studio
1025 Graham Side Road,
RR#2 Newmarket, Ontario, Canada
L3Y 4V9

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kenneth Lochhead

I was reading Stuart McLean's ,Vinyl Cafe Notebooks yesterday, when I chanced upon his writings about the Gander Airport.  And, to Stuart's credit, he mentioned its amazing mural which was created by Kenneth Lochhead. Stuart writes that Lochhead used 500 dozen eggs to create the mural.

I asked the Google Geni, for information about Kenneth, and was surprised to turn up Stuart's entry with pictures he took, when he was in Gander for a show  I took the above picture from the website, but there are more and besides that I'm sure that  Stuart would love to have you check them out.  Please click here.

I tracked Kenneth down online and sent him an email. It was answered by his wife.  Regretably, Kenneth died a couple of years ago.  Look for another blog entry on this gifted artist.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Two Paintings

The Portrait's Editor, Mo Bayliss, put me onto this painting by Marie Cecilia Guard.  The painting caught me by surprse for it reminded me of a painting by Prudence Heward.  Two paintings, by two different which women have certain noteworthy similarities.

The mysterious lady in this work, looks pensively into space.  She is here in body, but not in mind.
She lies against a pillow. The blanket and her yellow jacket suggest that she is feeling cool, but yet her skin is painted in warm flesh tones and is slightly flushed.

This work was  painted by Prudence Heward.  There are other commonalities, besides both women looking absently into space.  Take a good look at the yellow jacket worn by the lady in the top painting.  Her jacket is almost metallic in appearance. and this presents a visual contrast to what should be the softness of the blanket and pillow.   And, overall there is a certain stylistic economy in her style.

Heward's bottom work has a certain angular hardness in style and an economy of lines.

Marie Cecila Guard lived between 1908 and 2003. Prudence Heward lived between 1896 and 1947.

All that aside, Marie Cecilia Guard's works can be found on her Facebook page, which you will find by clicking here.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Michaelle Jean - Spreading the Magic Within

Art and expression are precious natural — and national — resources, says Michaelle Jean.
During her five years as Canada’s governor-general, Jean’s natural creative impulses were often restricted by the rigours of protocol.

“I really tried to bring that institution where it had never been before,” she says exuberantly over the phone. “People would say, ‘We’ve never done it that way.’ The idea was to push the limits and to dare.”

Now creativity, gloriously protocol-free, is at the heart of a new mission, one that aims to bridge gaps between Canada’s most disadvantaged communities and the institutions that govern and, sometimes, overlook them.

Article written by Denise Ryan of the Vancouver Sun, Feb. 3, 2002.
Photo by Chris Wattie, of Reuters.

Read more:

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Canadian War Artist, Leonard Brooks Dies at age 100

Photo and Article from The Globe And Mail,
Authored by Phillip Fine
January 11, 2012.

"With the couple not able to have children, Reva put most of her time into being her husband's manager. “Reva dedicated her whole life to Leonard,” said fellow artist Sylvia Tait, who with her late husband, poet Eldon Grier, socialized with the Brooks in Mexico. “And wasn't he lucky.”
His artwork, teaching, writing and antics would all help him become a magnet for other artists toying with the idea of coming down to Mexico.
Many of his experiences with fellow artists in San Miguel de Allende, from sketching expeditions to dinners discussing art, were fuelled by alcohol, splashed with wit and occasionally ruined by a raging temper."

Please click here to read the complete article

I will be the first to admit that I had never heard of Leonard Brooks.  Sad to think of,  for I've been the loser for it all.

When I read the Brook's obituary, I couldn't help but feel that somehow, a great artist has fallen through the cracks.  Phillip Fine, tells of Brooks retreating from Canada into the art colony of San Miquel de Allende - which is noted as a colony for Canadian artists.

Fine's article gives us some insight into Brook's torment - feelings of being rejected in his native land and of an occasionally tormented artist.

When I looked at his paintings on his website. Please click here. I found a collection of paintings which at best, puzzled me.

Art is said to be the mirror of the soul.  When I looked a work such as 'Pueblo, Tropical Mexico' 1958, I found myself searching to understand what was happening in his art.  I found myself thinking of Vincent Van Gough, who painted in Provence, and his art illuminate the intensity of colour.  Having visited the Caribbean and Mexico, I found myself wondering what is there that so troubled Leonard Brooks, that the power and vibrancy and colour of Mexico was overshadowed by such a burden of heavy darkness.

Could this be the work of Canada's 'Vincent'?

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Kim Ondaatje: Canadian Art Diva

Kim Ondaatje is one of Canada's foremost artists.  She was born in Verona, Ontario (north east of Kingston), and has made a formidable contribution to Canadian art throughout her lifetime.

Kim, is the senior lady of Canadian art.  She received the Governor Generals Award in March 2009, for her work along with Jack Chambers and Tony Urquhart for founding CARFAC (Canadian Artists Representation/Les Front des Aristes Canadiens), an organization noted for its focus on the rights of Canada's Visual Artists.

Kim's lifetime accomplishments are outlined on Wikipedia, including her biography.  I won't do a cut and paste of the Wikipedia article, but I will mention that she Kim is a renown film maker, and she has authored 3 books, as well as having established a solid reputation for herself as a painter. Her work can be found in the National Gallery of Canada, and in several foremost Galleries and Collections.

Kim was married to Canadian poet D.G. Jones, and yes...she is married, to the internationally recognized Canadian author, Michael Ondaatje.

Since I have been unable to contact Kim, I won't present her art here, not unless of course Kim does chance upon this article, and should send me a note of permission.  Otherwise, you can visit her Facebook page which is pretty brief by clicking here. And, Lora Carney has an interesting biography on Kim, which can be seen by clicking here. Whitney Light has an article on Kim - which has 3 paintings, in Canadian Art Online. Please click here.

Frontenac News (information and photo). Please click here.
Wikipedia. Please click here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Quebec artist F.S. Coburn featured in Sherbrooke museum exhibition

F.S. Coburn is perhaps best known for his rural Quebec scenes, but, Coburn was an eclectic painter and his works covered a variety of subjects of interest.

I found an interesting article on Coburn, which you can read if you click on the bottom link. The nude study which appears above is one of Coburn's collection which is housed in the Sherbrooke museum of fine arts.

If you click on the link you will see a lovely lady is wearing a long green dress and it appears that this is the same woman - but maybe not.

Fredericks-Artworks Blog, copying policy

The Canadian Copyright act, section 29 reports on fairdealing, that it is not an infringement to reproduce someone else's work for research, study, criticism, review or to report. Which pretty much sums up what this site is about. All content sources, be they artists, printed references, and website url's are respectfully identified on this site. http://http//

Mission Statement
A Portrait of the Visual Arts in Canada, is intended to celebrate the richness of Canada's visual arts, and to promote the arts in Canada.

Statement of Intent
I make every effort to credit the sources of information used in this blog and to obtain the permission and cooperation of all the works presented by living artists. I try, as much as possible to use works from public sources eg. national and provincial collections, of deceased artists. If for any reason, any artist disapproves of anything written about them or their work the artist is encouraged to request withdrawal of the content.