Over the September 1st Labour Day weekend in Toronto, the alleys and lanes of the Distillery Historic District were thronged with artists and art lovers and lots of great art. Mixed among the parade of perusing people were professional buyers with keen eyes and ready pocket books. It was an exciting event; the high quality artwork combined with the historic venue gave visitors a sense they were experiencing a truly one-of-a-kind, world-class art exhibition in the heart of the old city.
ArtFest had hundreds of exceptional creations from over four dozen artists, and not all oil paintings, but jewelry, iron sculptures, statues and signs. And there was plenty of recycled materials art.
Above is Catie Raymond standing before a tumultuous assembly of artifacts that comprised the Whimsical Garden Art tent – the disarray is all part of the show, for Catie is a clever woman who makes her living in the Muskoka Lakes selling her work to wealthy Muskoka cottage owners who love buying signs and nicknacks made from old things that have been re purposed.
Scott McKay is one man with many hammers He’s the artist, blacksmith and sculptor behind the Strong Arm Forge in Newbury Ontario. Scott makes metal sculpture, decorative arts, railings and gates. He told me that he can weld Mig, Tig and stick – he works with all varieties of steel including stainless steel, and has bronze art on display as well. One big piece in the back was a compound of wrought iron welded up against mild steel and something even shinier – they looked like different species of plants in his organic, metallic composition.
All around at this unique art festival there are the products of highly imaginative people as manifest in the magnificent art that’s been made from everyday stuff. Here’s art made from scrap metal moldings and bits of furnace pipe and fuses, insulators and old transistor tubes. It works because the recycled materials add powerful messages of ‘what this object used to be’ and that contrast with how we perceive what it has become.
Stephen Hays from Peterborough Ontario fits the pattern perfectly. I recognized beekeeping equipment in his art pieces. The piece on the right is a nuc box which is a mechanism by which a queen bee is introduced into a beehive.
This art movement is part of a wider trend toward upcycling, or reusing the materials better and more efficiently than they were originally designed to be used. Lean manufacturing is about constantly upcycling machinery, an raw materials and improving manufacturing processes – the hope of modern high technology saving our species is present in the art on display.
Ruta Wilson from Westrock Art Metal brought a truckload of early Canadian steel all he way to Toronto from Owen Sound. Many of these artifacts were quite possibly originally manufactured here in Toronto in the early to mid 1900s. Her heavy iron art is compelling – spikes, picks, shafts and hooks have become spiders and more complicated forest creatures. Some of the art looks deadly, but Ruta’s horse statue is wonderfully majestic.Ruta’s horse statue (Kacey?) is made from all manner of early industrial machine parts. Here’s a perfect example of how the components of the statue each tell a different part of the story, which I perceive to be ‘the horse’s final triumph over the machine’. Indeed the legs are heavy industrial wrenches welded into claw feet from a bathtub. The chest is the grill from an old tractor and the ribs are barrel hoops. Two or more tractor seats compose the hind quarters and a mysterious metal mane shimmers on top of the horse’s neck.
Mylene Trepanier makes the cutest street scenes in old wooden picture frames and moldings. Hidden in plain sight behind the houses are vintage galvanized tin ceiling tiles. This artist makes pieces for doctors and lawyers offices and I’ve seen her art in my own Toronto dentist clinic at Sherbourne and Bloor.
Mylene makes and sells these colourful building facades that are bright and cheery – the work on Creations D October presents a utopian vision of suburbia and is therefore a welcome decorative addition to kitchens and sunrooms in hotels and upscale houses. Mylene is an artist from Piedmont Quebec and makes the trip every year to this outdoor festival, which is a highlight of her summer.
Mariclaro is a Toronto based sustainable design company that focuses on fashion and accessories. From bags made of car upholstery to jackets made from exploded airbags, Mariclaro designs are all one of a kind pieces handmade in Toronto from recycled materials. The Workshop & Boutique is located at 457 Roncesvalles Ave, www.mariclaro.ca
Christian Aldo uses denim to make his masterpieces
Most of Christian Aldo’s art is high bas-relief paintings. One look at his work and you know you are gazing on the product of an original mind – its one of a kind.
Christian’s painting and sculpting is visually stimulating to say the least. His topics include alien vacation resorts, tombs, church scenes and gospel singers and visions of early America cotton clubs. He’s heavily influenced and inspired by toys and eroticism, Christian’s approach to his work is honest, bold and uninhibited. You can tell that he has spent more than one thousand hours gluing paint soaked denim strips onto canvas.
The event brought people from all over Ontario into the city to eat local food, go shopping and stay in nearby boutique hotels and accommodations. The annual art Festival was a huge success because you could see that artists were actually selling paintings – some had instant teller machines and were taking credit cards, and that’s because the prices were right and the art was amazing.