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Figures of Sleep: U of T Art Museum

This exhibition is curated by Sarah Robayo Sheridan and she gave a tour yesterday, speaking about a few works by the 19 artists represented.

Sculptures, drawings, a tapestry and even some well-lit pyjama tops benefit from gallery display. Photos and videos could just as well be viewed on devices or in books, but it makes sense to bring them into the same physical space as the other sleep-themed objects.

Old Woman in Bed, Ron Mueck, 2002. On loan from the National Gallery in Ottawa

The figure is tiny, as you can see compared with the blurry figure of a viewer.The detail is Madame Tussauds creepy and the diminutive size makes her seem very frail. It feels voyeuristic to peer at her and visitors hushed, as if not to wake her. A deathbed scene? Odd that the real hair still seems in scale.

A large blanket on the wall is a digitally-sewn tapestry from a photograph of an Indigenous woman asleep on the sidewalk. Real inclusions … pennies, a feather, a hank of hair, have been appliqued onto the surface.

Dream Catcher, Rebecca Belmore, 2014.

A complex and contradictory image, the Dream Catcher blanket is normally displayed on a real bed.

Details showing some the appliqué items.

We do have many easier ways to watch video. Why hike to a darkened room to stand and watch projections? Well, when part of a larger collection of related works, it helps to bring them together. I’ll include one example, about sleep-deprived marathon dancers. The video side was shot in the Hart House gymnasium.

It turns out that sleep is a rich vein for artists to mine. The show touches on insomnia, sleep deprivation, torture (self-induced and otherwise), the Big Sleep, laziness, sleep disrupted by artificial light, privacy rights, and even the right to take a nap in a park without being molested. Figures of Sleep, until March 3rd.

Gerrard Art Space Heart Show

It’s the month of Valentine’s Day when Joanne Filletti puts out the annual call and artists respond with works loosely themed around the concept of heart.

Saturday’s opening reception was a light-hearted, crowded affair. 16 artists exhibiting 42 works. The show offers a lot of variety in media, sizes and interpretations of the theme. It will be up until February 18th. Gerrard Art Space 1475 Gerrard Street East, west of Coxwell.

Better without the tobacco glaze?

This oil sketch of our late Danish grandmother “Mor” dates back to the 1940s. It was done when she was a young wife, travelling with her husband on an assignment in Venezuela. Years of tobacco smoke and grime had dulled it, even more than the photos show, so I cleaned it.

Left: 1/4 of the face cleaned. Centre: Half cleaned. Right: All cleaned.

Obviously, this is not a great painting … akin to those sidewalk charcoal sketches fellows have done of their girlfriends. Oil, so a bit more ambitious, but there’s a lot wrong with it.

In this case, cleaning probably improves our view the painting’s shortcomings. Never mind. We loved Mor, so we like her picture.

Close-up of the 1/4-cleaned face. That dash of rouge looks sore.

Find the factory

You’d never guess that some of the best quality incense made anywhere is manufactured behind a little storefront on the Danforth. I know it’s there and I still miss seeing it, when I am looking for it!

Never mind. That’s the way Nora likes it. She doesn’t really do retail … except by mail order. Everything she can produce goes to her longstanding, loyal retailers.

Package designs by Karen Bell, using old-fashioned 2-colour ink technique.

I had an invitation to visit, so one day I dropped in and took the tour. No one is allowed to be idle. When we sat at a big work table for coffee and a chat, Nora put me to work packaging sticks. Lucky for me I don’t have to depend on piece work for a living. I’d starve … but I’d smell good.

Actually, I was overpaid in free samples. If you want to buy some, Carrot Common is a local source.

Today’s 12,000 steps

As it turned out, I wrote down 11:00 am for my meeting with artist Fred Franzen and he had it as noon, so we missed each other. C’est la vie.

While I was at Fred’s studio building, I took some photos of the Dupont Street neighbourhood, near Dovercourt. Old factory and warehouse places are disappearing as condos go up. That’s a problem for artists and craftspeople who need cheap space in which to work.

The slides start with Fred’s studio building. A defunct factory building at the corner of Dovercourt and Dupont also caught my eye.