Manifesto Festival 8th Annual Art Show features Visual Artists from around the GTA.
I met these two beautiful women, Esie Mensah and Sara Golish, at the Opening Night art exhibit at Manifesto two years ago. Esie was proudly standing in front of the stunning portrait Sara had painted of her. I noted both these women had serious style. But more than that, they had spirit. I have a knack for picking out the good souls in a crowd. They were both vibrant and gracious, two qualities this world needs more of.
Tonight Canadian Art’s amazing documentary film fest, RAFF (Reel Artist Film Fest) launches. Under the direction of the former Executive Director of Canadian Art, Ann Webb, RAFF became the sweet spot in the year for incredible inspiration. The Opening Night has become a big art star event with this year’s guest of honour Kehinde Wiley in attendance. Known for his vibrant portraits of black men that reference the portraiture work of Renaissance painters, Kehinde has (with some trepidation) moved on to paint women. An Economy of Grace is the documentary that follows Kehinde as he searches for the women who will become his new muses.
“Her work interrogates how the toxic postindustrial geography of Braddock, Pennsylvania has shaped multiple generations of her family, acting as a mirror for the complex social problems that beset America today.”Read more…
The second short is Rashid Johnson Makes Things to Put Things On.
“In this film, Rashid Johnson discusses the fluid nature of black identity in America and its escapist tendencies, from the Afrocentric politics of Marcus Garvey to the cosmic philosophy of Sun Ra.”Read more…
Another great art party happens Thursday night with the Opening Soirée for The Artist Project Toronto. Running until Sunday The Artist Project offers three full days to experience beautiful work.
Eric Robitaille’s pieces show his talent as a graphic designer with stories emerging from the many colour washes and textural layers of his work. “During the last few years, the development of several new techniques has allowed for a more spontaneous and raw style, balanced throughout with meticulous detail.”Read more…
The Introduction #5 & #11 by Samara Shuter, The Artist Project Toronto.
Artist Samara Shuter paints crayola coloured canvases of men in suits because the suit “has represented something for decades; power, productivity, strength, economic prosperity, and hard work.” Read more…
Lego City Tower on Hill Elevation by Laird Kay,The Artist Project Toronto.
Laird Kay has studied planning and design so it’s not surprising his photography reaches back to the concepts of city planning via the playful medium of lego as the building blocks.
“Lego City Elevation, Is it Dubai? Is it Hong Kong? New York? Singapore? Toronto? Vancouver? Or all of the above? Cities used to be the result of collective will and a desire to shape – to control – our environments. They were expressions of the things that happened in them. Now they’re about branding and image. Like plastic, like LEGO City, they’re no longer built to last – they can be pulled down when fashions change. LEGO City expresses the modern absence of community in city-shaping. Although stylized, these photographs of LEGO City show us how the line between plastic and uninhabited has become virtually indistinguishable from the “real thing”.” See more…
Tears in the Ice Box by Noah Gano, The Artist Project Toronto.
The technicolour spectrum contained in Laird’s work on how places start to eclipse our human essence with their artificiality is in sharp contrast to the minimalist whiteness of Noah Gano who also makes use of materials the are divorced from the natural. “Navigating through themes of experience and identity, he works conceptually in photography, sculpture, and collage.”See more…
There is much to see at The Artist Project and much to buy with all artists exhibiting work that is for sale and ready to find a new home. Plan on making a purchase!
“This conference consists of both closed working sessions and public events. The conference opens with one and a half days of closed working sessions designed to provide opportunities for artists, educators, curators, scholars, and cultural workers to engage in intensive and critical collaborative discussions about the current state of blackness and the challenges and strategies employed to increase visibility. Emphasis will be placed on developing networks of engagement and knowledge exchange while developing methodologies and practices that inform the future of black Canadian artistic production and teaching.”
Corresponding with the conference is the exhibit Face Value by curator / artist Heidi McKenzie.
“The way people look, and the way they are looked at, has a profound effect on the person being seen. For the bi-racial or mixed-race person, the simple act of being seen by others can be fraught with tension and ambiguity. The familiar unconscious act of identifying and categorizing a person’s race based on their face value slips beyond the concrete into the murkiness of the grey zone.”
Another artist using Lego in his work is Ekow Nimako who uses the toy blocks to produce pieces that are about the less-than-playful issues around identity and racial narratives.
For the month of February his work in the show Building Black is part of Daniels Spectrum’s programming around Black History Month. On the main floor of the Arts Centre, Ekow’s work greets you at the side entrance and lines the hallway outside the theatre spaces. His masks reflect the cultural legacy Ekow inherited from his parents who immigrated to Canada from Ghana. They are each infused with their own personality and speak of the strength and tenacity of culture.
His other figures have darker stories which Ekow, also a writer, provides. Mounted on the walls is the poetry he has written for each piece. A golliwog sits less than comfortably, performing a stiff smile that would make Paula Deen feel nostalgic. The life sized figure of a child dressed like a flower girl is exhausting in its detail but also in the back story. Ekow was researching slave narratives and considering the lost girls who would never be granted the innocence of childhood dreams.
Flower Girl Requiem
Forever innocent they say,
Free from taint or world decay,
Pretty basket filled with blooms
Plucked from the earth none too soon.
Love she for all her hope and youth,
Her pretty gown, the purest truth
Her basket and the whites within,
The blooms of cotton, soft and grim.
The world can never seem so stark,
So bright, so safe, so cold and dark
As when gazed upon through childhood’s eyes,
For which my precious dare not oblige.
Alas, her aisle will not be strewn,
For she who’s ever loved is gone
The child of flowers, picked and praised
Forever innocent, they say.
MANIFESTO Festival 2012 “Love by Every Means Necessary”
There are moments that the impact of art takes your breath away. The deep beauty of Sara Golish’s portraits was the force that hit leaving me temporarily without air or words.
And that was just the start of what turned out to be a well curated show celebrating 20 years of Toronto’s Fresh Arts program. The one-night-only show also included artists-at-work outside on the patio of the beautiful new Regent Park Arts & Cultural centre.
This event was part of the Manifesto Festival, the brainchild of cultural provocateur Che Kothari. The festival is now in its 6th year and has proved a powerful force in mobilizing many of Toronto’s youth by offering programming and events that ignite youth to use art as a tool for personal transformation that can lead to social change.
Manifesto seems to draw into its orbit of raised consciousness an immense talent pool of people that are thoughtful, activated and ready to push positive change forward – the perfect antidote for a world burdened with a lot of pain and in need of some artful healing.