I won a contest from She Does The City to hop on the Art Bus to go to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in the Village of Kleinburg. The gallery is open late on Thursday nights (until 10 pm) from July 1 to October 31st and this was the first Art Bus. A group of us boarded at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto and we were on our way.
I've been to many art galleries and museums, but somehow, not to this one. Pulling into the long driveway and seeing all of the lush greenery and beautiful grounds was pretty impressive. It was like a peaceful oasis compared to the hectic Toronto streets that we had just left.
2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the gallery. The 85,000 square foot gallery is home to approximately 6,000 artworks. I went on two guided tours and learned about the history of the gallery and looked at art from Group of Seven members A.Y. Jackson and Tom Thomson, as well as abstract and contemporary art from Colleen Heslin, Jack Bush, and Sarah Anne Johnson.
Robert and Signe McMichael were avid collectors of Canadian art. They started their collection with pieces by Lawren Harris and Tom Thomson. The McMichaels donated their collection, their home, and their land to the Province of Ontario. In July of 1966, the “McMichael Conservation Collection of Art” officially opened.
The gallery is very focused on the works of The Group of Seven. In fact, along with the McMichaels, six Group of Seven members are buried on the grounds. I'm about to express an unpopular opinion about The Group of Seven, so if you're going to call the Canadian Art Police, at least let me get a head start. I appreciate the workmanship and the history, but with the exception of a few pieces by Lawren Harris (perhaps because he was the only member that turned to abstraction), I find the group's work to be mostly uninteresting. I know that at the time, what they were doing was considered radical and groundbreaking in the climate of the then conservative art world, but all these years later, I find that the work is just that...conservative.
I enjoyed looking at abstract and contemporary art from Colleen Heslin, Jack Bush, and Sarah Anne Johnson. Our tour guide mentioned that a lot of patrons have not been happy that abstract work has been featured in the gallery and they feel it should only be Group of Seven work. I could tell that she had likely led some tours that had some of these unhappy guests, as she asked us to keep an open mind about the abstracts. I smiled to myself.
Colleen Heslin's Needles and Pins is on display until January 8, 2017. The artist hand-dyes cotton and linen in small batches, and then cuts and sews the pieces together. The exhibit includes nearly a dozen new works created specifically for the McMichael.
We weren't allowed to take photos in the Jack Bush gallery, but his large scale abstracts were really colourful. He was a contemporary of the Group of Seven and started out painting landscapes influenced by them. Jack Bush: In Studio is also on display until January 8, 2017.
As a frequent concert goer and music festival attendee, Sarah Anne's Johnson's Field Trip was of interest to me. This series was inspired by the artist’s fascination with outdoor music festivals. Often elusive, and sometimes surrealist in tone, Johnson creates a sense of mood by reworking the photographic print using image-editing software or paint, glitter, and surface incisions to add layers of meaning. Her work is primarily photo-based, but she also employs a full range of media including painting and sculpture. Field Trip is on display until September 5, 2016.
I didn't get a chance to explore the grounds, so I might have to go back on the Art Bus again. Have you been before? What are your favourite things about the gallery?
All photos by Glodeane Brown