Across the ages, artists have documented their likenesses and moods in self portraits. Rembrandt and Van Gogh jump out, among many others. Perhaps these are collectively an investigation of self: a little about aging, vanity, or perhaps another form of communication. It’s been said that it’s difficult to see yourself as others see you – however when I perceive something more than the mirror reflects, I’m always surprised. As an always-available model, I wonder if that might be part of it too. Here are my last 10 years of self portraits:
Children have largely not yet developed our grownup habit of doubt. They have big vision, big optimism and big resilience. Children grow into a system that, with the best of intentions, encourages caution – very often with excellent reason.
But, perhaps we grownups should take another look at the space between a child’s vision and boundless optimism and the caution, skepticism and doubt of adulthood.
Perhaps there exists a creative opportunity in that space where magic can ignite, a space where vision combines with ability, helped along by the skills adults have acquired.
Might be there something we’ve been missing?
During our Space Camp, we adults had the opportunity to view the cosmos through the lens of a child’s mind…..a precious lens of unbound creativity, bordering on magic.
Countdown has begun to the Ottawa School of Art (Shenkman Centre) Space Camp: “To Mars and beyond” for ages 9 to 12! David will be leading the art program and I have a number of cool space projects up my sleeve.
Each “astronaut trainee” will have a Space Suit (painter’s overalls with individual red band I.D. striping so they know which suit belongs to them, name tag and mission patch). At the end of the day, space suits are returned to their hangers in the Space Lab! Our main projects for the week are: “building” the Canadarm and understanding what it does, building a solar array with gold film on panels of foam core (so that they understand where the energy for power on the International Space Station comes from) and learning what life is like in space: what do astronauts eat? Where does the water come from? What happens if they get sick?
The Canadian Space Agency (CSA) very generously sent me a box full of posters (Chris Hadfield, Julie Payette, Robert Thirsk…), mission stickers and instructor’s manuals for helping children understand some of the experiments, like how to grow food, etc.
The format for the week is space-related art in the morning and in the afternoon they also get to work in the Space Lab!
My hope is to help accelerate the formation of Canadian seedlings for the space effort. I’m all in – we need to expand our understanding of our universe. The time frame involved can be difficult to wrap our heads around, but I’m convinced that a healthy portion of human effort wishes and is designed just for this. I spent some time working at the CSA – I miss it all and the amazing people there!
For details of the Ottawa School of Art’s March Break Program visit artottawa.ca
Perhaps more than any artist, Frederic Remington can lay claim to have painted and sculpted the old American west. Today we might see this as a bit of romantic fiction, but there’s a certain affinity with his subjects, whether they be Native American, settlers or of course, horses. Somewhat surprisingly, Remington spent much of his life in upstate New York…just across the border in Ogdensburg. I wrote about visiting the Remington Museum in a past post: “A day trip to Remington’s West”.
On a recent visit, I was struck by some paintings that are perhaps closer to home: studies of the local wilds, canoe expeditions, and cottages – we do all live in the same neck of the woods, after all. This set me thinking about connections with Canadian painting and painters, so I was fascinated to discover that Frederic was an active member of the Pontiac Club: A group of outdoorsy types centered around our Pontiac region in West Quebec. Probably not a lone painter, it’s interesting to speculate as to which of our Canadian painters he knew. In the meantime, here are a few of his “eastern compositions”:
Welcome to 2017 and Canada’s 150th!
Last year, France and I made a proposal for an exhibition at one of the municipal art galleries in 2017. Our premise, “Framed by History”, comprised contemporary paintings mounted in original Confederation-era frames. By juxtaposing the new with the old, we thought to draw a connection between local history and contemporary nature in our region. Artistically and as a contribution to celebrating Canada’s150th, we thought we might have a better than even chance! Alas, this time we were not selected. Nevertheless, we’d like to share a visual celebration of our collective 150 years, exploring the arresting relationship between art, history and framing.
France particularly has a longstanding interest in antique picture frames, their renovation and conservation. “Period frames, by virtue of their nostalgia and tangibility, anchor our collective memories and knowledge of times past” says France, “These special windows provide a unique scope through which we may visually review our modern heritage.”
We’re both surprised by the way in which anachronistic images and eras look so right when placed together, the stunning effect of two sometimes strikingly disparate manifestations of time, both contemporary and classic. These works seem to reach out to each other with the frame space becoming an integral part of the art. In a good painting there is balance, discord, or tension: a particular energy making it sing. This also extends to wider spaces and hanging paintings in frames that “work” together.
Our on-line exhibition, “Framed by History” brings together a selection of my paintings matched with antique frames, many from the time of Confederation – all sourced, selected and renovated by France. By juxtaposing the old with the new, an enduring connection is drawn between our shared history and the contemporary artworks.…the present, borne by the past!
We hope you enjoy our gallery.
David and France