State of the Arts

Victoria Ward

On the road, Lake Superior edition

This blog begins a new chapter for State of the Arts. I will no longer be publishing a weekly column for the Haliburton Highlander. I am now a blogger and will be posting online with this moniker and in the interim from this WordPress site. You can follow my column through Facebook and Twitter for it will be posted on both sites. In fact following me @hotspurstudio on Twitter is probably the best way to keep up with State of the Arts, I’m on it a lot. And, it will always be on my website hotspurstudio.com.

The good and bad of all this is that I am now totally independent and unfettered by the constraints of an editor and their ‘vision’. But I am not getting paid anymore – not that I was making anything of significance with the paper; still it was nice to get paid to do something you love. I believe in my State of the Arts mandate and will try to publish as often as possible. Now I can also be a little more eclectic with format and add pictures, video – the works! I will also move back and forth between this kind of personal blog and my usual ‘big picture’ blog.

These past two weeks I took a road trip to northern Ontario. Not far north but we did get to New Liskeard and over to Lake Superior. The focus was on making reconnections and new connections with galleries and art interested folks up there. I will be writing more about this trip over the summer as it was pivotal in our approach to how to move forward with our landscape work.

Me hidden in the rocks at Montreal River Harbour. Lake Superior where we always stay, No. 9, Twilight Resort.

Lake Superior has special meaning for me. When I met my partner painter Gary Blundell I was at a cross roads with my theatre work. I was no longer enjoying the experience of collaboration and felt that watching my work picked apart by directors and actors was excruciating. Gary had a mobile paint kit and we spent many a weekend outside Toronto sketching. He took my work to a curator and got me en exhibition. Painting healed me.

Gary had been visiting Lake Superior since 1980 and took me up there to show me a place he felt was mythic in its value to Canadians. The landscape seems similar and that is because much of it was documented by the Group of Seven. I have written about the Group before; they get maligned by overweening hipster-ism in our current art world but I believe that until you actually see the landscape they were inspired by, you will never totally appreciate them. I learned to paint there, and I fell in love with a man and a place. Sorry, I won’t get corny like that again.

In any case, Lake Superior has that end of the world feeling about it. It is a huge inland sea with enormous cliffs, boulders the size of houses, ancient rolling mountains and a sunset that is cosmic. An orangey red ball drops through the horizon like something out of science fiction. You know that movie Melancholia? Well, it’s like that – gorgeous and somewhat distressing. It makes you feel at one with the universe, and very alone.

I think Lake Superior is one of those landscapes that will allow an artist to explore dark and light ideas. It isn’t pastoral. It is also a wilderness that abuts a huge body of water. The trees stop and bleached rocks begin. If you are a non-sun person like me there is no escape from it. Your choice is the woods or the water. The water is what keeps Lake Superior an underused and non-trouristy kind of area. It is freezing. Although this trip it wasn’t as freezing as it usually is and I was able to swim a lot. The water however is pristine, clear and you feel baptized by it. We often refer to it as Mother Lake Superior.

The sunset I will never try to paint. I just don’t see how to capture its eerie beauty.

I will be highlighting some of the work we made there and also the rest of our trip in subsequent blogs. I have always emphasized in my column and now going forward with this blog that no one should underestimate the creativity and imagination of the areas north of Toronto. I love Toronto and am very grateful to have a community there as well but Ontario is vast and more than just cottages and beer commercial type weekends. It is a part of the world that rests on ancient rock beds – it has a connection to our beginnings. We may not have three thousand year old temples but we have shorelines that draw out our movement through time, our tragedies and our joy and our revelations that keep us here.

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2 thoughts on “State of the Arts”

  1. Always love reading your columns Vic. This one made me want to paint. Perhaps it is not too late to start? oo-xx Siobhan

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