Lest anyone think, from the title, that this is a story about a summer of my artistic endeavours, let me relieve you of that notion right away. I may have fantasies that, in my retirement, I will rekindle the artistic talents that led to my 10-year-old self winning a set of pastels in an art contest at the London Public Library, but I think that is unlikely. (I have no recollection of what piece of art won me this prize, and clearly my mother did not see it as important, because it appears nowhere in the scrapbooks of notable childhood events.) Rather, my 2023 summer of art has been one of appreciating the art of others.
In May, I wrote about a textile art exhibit entitled “Woven Woods,” which my partner and I saw in Almonte. I was so moved by Lorraine Roy’s work that I knew I had to see more and wrote to tell her so. This is how, in late July, we found ourselves heading first to Elora and then to Dundas to see two other of her exhibits – an excursion we were able to combine with time with our youngest grandsons (and their father, of course, but we all know it’s really about the grandchildren) who live in Hamilton.
(Travel tip for anyone headed to Hamilton for a few days and looking for accommodation: check out The Laundry Rooms, a great downtown hotel, with comfortable, well-equipped and spacious suites at very reasonable rates. Second travel tip: stay away from The Coop Restaurant. The food is good enough, but the walls are papered with Playboy centrefolds and covers; not good for the digestive system of a feminist grandmother eating with her young grandsons.)
From art to hot dogs
At the Elora Centre for the Arts, we spent a happy afternoon wandering through the “Living-Language-Land” exhibit; 26 fabric pieces representing specially chosen words from a project to capture and preserve words from endangered languages all over the world. That exhibit runs until September 10, so if you have any excuse to be in the Elora area before then, I encourage you to make time to drop in.
Our evening saw us eating hot dogs as we watched our 11-year-old grandson’s baseball game. The final score of 17 – 14 might leave you thinking these kids were on their way to the major leagues, but the truth is most of those runs were the result of walks to first base followed by excellent base stealing, complete with gum chewing and poses that would have made a professional ball player proud. There was very little ball and bat connection.
Late the next morning, we headed to the Carnegie Gallery in Dundas to see “In Other Worlds;” a mixture of beautiful and playful imaginings of safe havens for weary souls. Not yet feeling sated, we sampled (and purchased) some delicious cheeses at Mickey McGuire’s, then made our way to Lorraine’s studio, where we learned more about how she creates these beautiful pieces of art and what she’s planning next.
Back to work I went; my head and heart full of Lorraine Roy’s creations. As well-known street artist Banksy has apparently said:
“Art is the greatest form of hope.”
Established by Fern Fearnley in 2000, ZimArt is a Zimbabwean sculpture gallery spread across Fearnley’s five-acre property on the shore of Rice Lake. My partner and I have talked about making a trip to ZimArt for a few years, but one thing or another has always stopped us. When I noticed that the gallery would be closing permanently this fall (it’s open until Thanksgiving), we made the time to visit a couple of weekends ago. By happenstance, our trip coincided with the opening of an exhibit of the work of this summer’s sculptor in residence, Edious Nyagweta so, in addition to the permanent exhibition, we had the opportunity to see a number of his pieces.
The sculptures, although created in a land far from here with a very different topography and geography, show well under Ontario trees, with a fresh breeze wafting across the meadows from the lake.
We brought along a picnic lunch, which we enjoyed under the trees while debating whether or not we should buy a sculpture. I’m not going to tell you how that debate ended.
There’s no admission fee to ZimArt, although guests are welcome to make a donation, and Fearnley also supports a charity called ZimKids, which has a mission to “enable vulnerable children of Zimbabwe, their caregivers and the communities in which they live to meet their basic needs, increase their ability to produce sustainable food sources and improve their education and living environments.”
It has been a rich summer of losing and finding ourselves in art, and there are still a few weeks left, so who knows what might lie ahead?