The 4th annual Grow Op exhibition at The Gladstone Hotel was held April 21 - 24, 2016. Appropriately, it coincided with Earth Day, which fell on April 22 this year. This four-day festival transformed the hotel’s second floor with 30+ immersive installations that focused on urbanism, environmental sustainability, landscape design and contemporary art. It was like Come Up to My Room with a green theme. Exhibitors included artists, farmers, landscape architects, woodworkers and anthropologists.
This show was unlike any garden show you've been to before. First, there's the cheeky name. The closest installation that came close to representing the name was Loop by Design Build Grow Studios. I didn't get any good pictures but click the link to see what it looked liked. Loop is a hydroponic garden that recycles nutrient-rich water through a closed loop system and provides the conditions needed for plants to grow without the traditional use of soil. They had basil plants in there and they smelled really good.
There weren't any celebrity designers there to help you map out your garden based on what this year's hottest trends are. The exhibition was designed to make you think about our environment, how it is changing, how we're changing it and what kind of changes we can make. Most of the artists were there and it was nice to hear about their processes and vision leading up to the finished piece.
The first installation guests saw upon walking in was Persephone, a daffodil flower canopy created by Toronto Flower Market, local growers and flower designers. The installation used 500 daffodil bulbs that were locally grown in St.Catherines by Pioneer Flower Farms.
Some of my favourite installations:
My Chemical Garden by Michaela Macleod
A chemical garden seeded with manganese (II) chloride that grew bright pink "branches and leaves" in suspended clear glass vessels, representing flora. The brightness increased over the course of the show. Michaela is from Moncton, New Brunswick and earned her professional degree in architecture from the University of Waterloo. She was awarded the Ontario’s Architects Association Guild Medal Award and the Prix de Rome in Architecture for Emerging Practitioners for her research work on contaminated landscapes located within the public realm.
Petroleum Distillates by Kelly Morgan of The Dopamine Collective
Kelly Morgan's art practice explores the interaction of humans with the natural world. In her latest work, she uses toxic oil automotive paints to bring awareness to how much we use oil in daily products. To be socially responsible, she is offsetting her oil consumption by planting trees of an equal carbon footprint. I love that The Dopamine Collective call themselves a scientific group of artists. This is frozen Tremclad paint that resembles lichen. The installation included Rachel Carson quotes such as this one :The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction. Rachel Carson was an American marine biologist and conservationist whose writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.
Little Pharm by Kara Stone
The artist collected these anti-depressant bottles over three years. They were prescribed to her and consumed by her and then reused as an experiment to see which plants grow in the small tubes.
Everything Seems Alright, Assemblage #10 by Djuna Day
Djuna is a self-taught wood and metal worker and has spent many years building furniture for private clients in New York City and Toronto. She has recently expanded her practice to include art and sculpture. This work examines the insatiable desire human drive to dismantle our natural environment for its components only to reassemble these components into environments that often feel artificial and disquieting.
Remediate by Anna Bowen & Christina Kingsbury
In 2014-2015 artist Christina Kingsbury sewed a 2,000 sq ft quilt out of handmade paper for the former Eastview Landfill in Guelph, Ontario. The quilt paper is embedded with local native seeds, yielding a pollinator garden as it decomposes. Anna Bowen's poetry documents the quilting labour and the collected stories about the site. This was a video and poetry installation. The videos depicted the process from picking the seeds to the installation. I chatted briefly with Anna about this unique collaboration. I'm in Guelph often and I plan to go and see this soon.
Like Come Up to My Room, it was family friendly event and all the children I saw seemed interested in the installations. A lot of damage has been done to the environment, some of it is probably irreversible, but maybe some seeds of curiosity were planted with the next generation of artists, farmers and landscape architects.
My curiosity was definitely cultivated.
Story and photos by Glodeane Brown