Tag Archives: exhibits

Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition 2012

TOAE via BlogToimage via blogto

It’s that time of year again; the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition is taking over Nathan Phillips Square this Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For those of you who haven’t been to the show before it is one of the largest outdoor art shows in Canada, and the calibre of artists it draws is always impressive. The focus of the show is painting, drawing and photography, but today I’ll be showcasing some of the talented artists working in textiles, ceramics, metal, printmaking and more who will be at the show this year. If you’re not in Toronto, or can’t attend the show, all of the artists featured have websites where you can view more of their work.

Ceramic art by Chihi Tokitaimage via Chiho Tokita

The ceramic artists at the Toronto Art Exhibition are always stellar and this year is no exception. Whether you’re a collector or just looking for decorative or functional pieces for your home there is no shortage of beautiful work on display. Chiho Tokita is one of my favourites; her attention to form and proportion is impeccable.

Oil Can Woodfired by Chiho TokitaOil Can, Woodfired

Chiho Tokita

In her artist statement she says that, “It is about letting form and clay speak for itself. I have always had an appreciation for utilitarian objects and the tradition of craft.  Some of the objects in my work are functional.  Some are reminiscent of functional forms but unmoored from utility.” This wood-fired Oil Can is a perfect example of how her work strives to find the balance between utility and form.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou by Lucky JacksonThe Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou by Lucky Jackson

Lucky Jackson is one dedicated stitcher, she creates a piece of textile art a day, often using vintage textiles and freehand embroidery. Pop culture is her main source of inspiration and in her pieces you will find everyone from Bill Murray to Iggy Pop.

DAy 253 by Lucky JacksonDay 253 by Lucky Jackson

Her eclectic selection of fabrics and the playfulness of her work make her one of my favourites at the show. You can follow her embroidery project on her blog 365 Lucky Days and purchase art and embroidery patterns through her shop.

Landscape by Jesse BrommLandscape by Jesse Bromm

Of the glass artists at the show this year I am most looking forward to stopping by Jesse Bromm’s booth. His glassworks are always throught-provoking and beautiful. His landscapes feature idyllic park scenes but lurking underneath the surface is something much darker.

Landscape III by Jesse BrommLandscape III by Jesse Bromm

I’m excited to see what he will be working on this year. Jesse graduated from Sheridan College’s Craft and Design Program and he is currently an artist-in-residence at Harbourfront Centre.

Chemical Structures by Jacob RolfeChemical Structures by Jacob Rolfe

Jacob Rolfe (aka The Floating World) makes wonderfully imaginative screenprints. Printmaking can sometimes get a bad rap in the fine art world where the one-of-a-kind original is praised above all else, but the fantastic artists at this years show that are working with screenprints, linocuts, lithographs, and woodcuts show true artistry in their mediums.

Death Tale by Jacob RolfeDeath Tale by Jacob Rolfe

In much of Rolfe’s work there is a story hidden somewhere in the cartoon characters and psychedelic environments, and part of the fun is trying to decipher what his prints are about.

You can find all of these (and many other) great artists this weekend at the show. Hope to see you there!

Happy Friday Everyone!


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Guitar Inspirations: No Strumming Needed

Ken Parker Archtop Guitar. Image via Premiere Guitar.

I’ve got a thing for the guitar. Partly because I am fascinated by guitarists — I have had crushes on some. And partly because it’s the only instrument I know how to play, albeit not well. I love that it’s down-to-earth and not snobbish at all, but rather extremely approachable! People from all walks of life can touch it, play it, listen to it.

Inside an acoustic guitar. Image via Graf Guitars.

Mostly I just find it wonderful and magical how this amalgamation of wood and strings can create music.

One of my best memories is waking up one morning in the deck of a my college roommate’s family’s beach house to a beautiful sunrise, cool ocean breeze, and the sound of a friend playing his guitar against the background of waves rippling onto the shore. I just lay there relishing the moment, the experience of sheer contentment.


But even when it’s mute, a guitar’s beauty remains — in the grain of its wood, in the gracefulness of its neck, in the curves of its body, in its strings, knobs, frets. In and by itself a guitar is a sculpture — an enthrallingly engaging kind, one that can be held and touched, one that responds to its player’s embrace with a melody.

Do we wonder then that the guitar is not only a muse to countless musicians, but painters, sculptors, photographers and crafters as well?

"The Old Guitarist" by Pablo Picasso, 1903

Collage by Picasso

"Guitar, Sheet Music, and Glass" by Pablo Picasso, 1912. Image via MoMA.

Guitar, sheetmetal

"Guitar" by Pablo Picasso, sheet metal and wire, 1914. Image via MoMA.

Pablo Picasso was a fan, allowing the guitar to share in the bleakness of his blue period, and in the exuberance of his ground-breaking experimentation a decade later. I was quite enamored of his sheet metal guitar, that I made a version of it (attempted to) in pottery class some years ago.

Image by Nathalie Mariano

By Nathalie Mariano

Here’s another one I’ve made, a product of some musings on how womanly the guitar’s shape is.

Here are other awesome expressions of other artists’ affinity for this amazing stringed instrument.

From Jon Pettyjohn's Guitar Series

Typographic Guitar. Image via Web Design Burn

From Kaki King Guitar Art Project. By Ninja via Ninja vs Penguin.

Cement Guitar Art in Victoria Park Kitchener, Ontario.

Guitar Tattoo. Image via Spoki.

From Pinterest user Margorie Doering

Stuffed plushy guitar

Image via Pour Mes Jolis Momes


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Summer Vacation — Museum Destinations

People milling about at the National Museum of American History

Image from blog.travelpod.com

Every year starting in June, hundreds of tourist make their way to Washington, DC for sightseeing and education. Not only is DC the capital of the United States but for some it also happens to be the capital of museums. Indeed summertime seems to be the museum season, and much like movies schedule their blockbusters for summer, some museums have their blockbuster exhibits schedule during this “busy season” too.

Although I like visiting any sort of museum or exhibition, there are some little-known yet unique and interesting spots that could suit those who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the larger museums. Here is a little destination list for those who might be interested spending a sultry summer day cooling off with some artistic and architectural icons.

Yale Art Galleries

Art Gallery at Yale

By Renee Alfonso

Last Weekend I had the chance to visit the Art Galleries at Yale University for the first time. Among architecture and design buffs, the two galleries are quite famous because of the architect who designed them – iconic architect Louis Kahn. The two galleries are located in downtown New Haven, Connecticut, the home city of Yale University, adjacent from each other on the same street.

Art Gallery at Yale

By Renee Alfonso

The positioning of the two buildings is also something to be noted – as the Yale Art Gallery was the first completed major commission of Kahn’s career, and the Center for British Art, which was the last completed commission for Kahn. He is probably most famous for his unique designs of contemporary spaces that evoke the aesthetic and atmosphere of classical spaces.

Yale Art Gallery

By Renee Alfonso

The buildings themselves were truly marvels, and indeed, could be considered as the largest pieces in the collection. Coupled with an excellent art collection, the gallery experience was filled with awe but was also in a way relaxing.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Image from youngbohemia.blogspot.com

For those who are into more classical art and historic house museums, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston is at the top of my list. Everything about the museum evokes a story – from how Mrs. Gardner acquired her art collection, to the story of the museum’s establishment and its colorful history over the years.

Image from washingtonlife.com

The most striking thing about this place, perhaps even more interesting than the fact that Mrs. Garnder actually lived there – or that she herself built it to house her collection, is that present today are the remnants of an art heist that took place there. Because Mrs. Gardner explicitly stated in her will that the museum should remain as she had left it – the empty frames on the walls that once held Rembrandts and Degas remain as they were.

Donald Judd Foundation / Marfa, Texas

Image from art-documents.tumblr.com

While heading off to a town in the Desert might not be the most appealing summer destination, the town of Marfa, TX is definitely some place I’d like to visit in the future. The small desert town, with a population of just over 1, 900, gained exposure when minimalist artist Donald Judd moved there from New York City.

Image from jumpingartmuseums.blogspot.com

In Marfa, Judd installed his famous minimalist works on a larger scale, with some permanent works marking the landscape. Since then, a community of artists sprang up in Marfa, and it has become a destination for art enthusiasts and practitioners, with some art foundations have residency programs in the town.

Image from minispace.com

Apart from the Judd sculptures and artists’ community, Marfa is also known for its natural wonders – the most famous being what are known as the Marfa lights. The lights resemble the aurora borealis, with the difference that they appear only on the horizon as more shimmering lights instead of large beams.

Apart from relaxing, summer vacation is always a good time to explore exotic or unconventional destinations – and some museums can definitely become destinations in their own right!


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Memorial Day at MoMA


Image via iStopOver Magazine

For many people in the US, the Memorial day holiday weekend marks the official start of summer. This year I ushered in the season with a short trip to New York City with my family, during which we visited the Museum of Modern Art.

The MoMA is one of the most visited attractions in New York, and definitely one of the most influential in the last century. Each season it produces exhibitions that challenge common perceptions of art and redefine methods of artistic expression. It also revisits work already in its collection, giving the pieces contemporary relevance.

Last weekend I was able to see three exhibitions at the MoMA. Each of the exhibits had a different focus, but related to the museum’s dedication to reinventing perceptions of art and bringing complex ideas to the public.

Cindy Sherman exhibit

Original image by Renee Alfonso

Since the 1970’s, Cindy Sherman has been a significant presence in the contemporary art world, challenging both medium and subject matter. A photographer by craft, Sherman uses her medium as a tool as well as a vehicle for her artistic vision. All of Sherman’s work are self-portraits, but none of her photographs of herself are actually her — she uses these constructed scenes to tackle themes of identity, stereotypes, and gender.

Cindy Sherman at the MoMA

Original image by Renee Alfonso

This exhibit chronicled her comprehensive and impressive body of work, including a display of her famous Untitled Film Stills and Centerfolds series, for which she is best known. It also featured a large, site-specific mural at the entrance of the special exhibitions hall that she created for the show.

To me the mural was probably the most impressive work in the exhibit, despite the fact that I hadn’t actually seen the Film Stills or Centerfolds in person. It definitely gave a concise visual example of the nature of Sherman’s work and the themes present in them.

Original image by Renee Alfonso

In contrast to the Cindy Sherman show, which featured work by a single artist on multiple themes, Ecstatic Alphabets / Heaps of Language had the work of twelve artists dealing with a single theme – that of the material qualities of language. The exhibit had plenty of interesting pieces, but I had two particular favorites.

Image via MoMA.org

Tauba Auerbach’s  How to Spell the Alphabet (2005) was a simple yet really effective and witty piece. The letters on the page on their own aren’t really all that special, but they compel you to read them aloud, which creates a dynamic interaction between the piece and the viewer.

Paul Elliman

Paul Elliman. Found Fount: Dead Scissors. 2004–ongoing. Image from MoMA.org

Paul Elliman’s series of found objects was the perfect example of the presence of language in the everyday. I’m a bit of a typography geek so this was something I enjoyed quite a bit. Elliman had cases filled with found objects installed in the center of one of the galleries, with each case’s contents forming letterforms. It was witty and delightfully light at the same time.

"Foreclosed" exhibit at the MoMA

Original image by Renee Alfonso

The third temporary exhibit I caught at the MoMA was Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream. The architectural exhibition showcased the work of a few handpicked design studios to respond to the American housing crisis. The studios spent some time at MoMA’s PS1 contemporary art center, conceptualizing and designing their work.

Original image by Renee Alfonso

Original image by Renee Alfonso

My favorite of the projects that presented an interesting concept as well as creative design was the proposal by Stuido Gang Architects, a Chicago-based practice. I admit however that I’m a little biased to projects that have adaptive reuse of shipping containers, which this project did. Their concept, however, was the one I found to be the most lively and sustainable of the group. All of the projects however presented innovative solutions for urban housing and public spaces.

Cindy Sherman has already closed, but I definitely recommend the other two exhibitions if you have a chance to visit the Big Apple soon!


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ICFF New York 2012

International Contemporary Furniture Fair

Image from Design Milk

The International Contemporary Furniture Fair (ICFF), held yearly in New York City, is North America’s leading showcase for contemporary design, particularly in the field of home and commercial furnishings. Much like the Salone at Milan Design Week, the event allows designers, both established and emerging, to showcase their works, as well as offer a range of programming related to the objects on display.

This year the fair definitely had a sense of brightness to it, which appropriate for season as the region begins to embrace the summer. Here are a few highlights and interesting features in this year’s fair.

Photo from Inhabitat

Virginia Tech presented a blossoming facade system that “blooms” throughout the day to control light levels. It reminded me a little bit of the screen system the school team did a few years ago for their award-winning solar house, LUMENHAUS.

Her Majesty dolls wave in the sun

Image from Kikkerland.com

Similar to VT’s flower facade but definitely more on the quirky side is the Solar Queen designer by Chris Colicott for Kikkerland. When she is placed in sunlight, Her Majesty gives a subtle, graceful wave that follows the direction of the daylight.

Image from Design Milk

I’m a sucker for creative shipping container usage – so it goes without saying that I loved Kohler’s neon-green (or electric yellow, if you will) container booth. Through their hyper but tasteful use of color, the company prominently featured their collaboration with designer Jonathan Adler.

The ICFF also has its Editors’ awards, which are handed out each year by a panel of leading industry editors for design excellence. There are a number of categories, including acheivements in craftsmanship, textiles, deisgn accessories, materials and lighting.

Minimalistic metal containersChazutsu

Images from ICFF.com

The award for craftsmanship this year was given to Kaikado. Kaikado is a Japanese company that has made the same airtight metal containers originally since 1875 in their Kyoto studio. The containers, known as chazutsu, were originally made for storing teas but can be used to store practically anything that needs to be kept fresh. The simplicity and timelessness of this product is a testament to the excellence and practicality of Japanese design.

Although it is labeled as a furniture fair, the ICFF is really more of a contemporary design showcase that pays tribute to design excellence, and how excellent design can enhance our daily lives. I’m looking forward to next year!


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