Monday, June 21, 2010

Roughing it in the Bush

Cover image from the exhibition catalogue from Roughing it in the Bush
A 100th Birthday Retrospective of the work of Doris McCarthy

Roughing it in the Bush is the title of an exhibition which celebrates Canadian artist's Doris McCarthy's 100th birthday. Curated by Nancy Campbell, the show highlights work that remains relatively unknown, including her hard-edged abstraction series from the 1960s.  In these paintings, Doris played with movement and form, rendering land, water and sky in simplified abstracted forms. In the words of the curator, "these rarely seen paintings provide a departure point to view the masterful landscapes of Canada for which McCarthy is so well known."

At the packed opening on Saturday at the Doris McCarthy Gallery at University of Toronto's Scarborough Campus, the crowds in attendance spoke to the enormous affection people feel for this gifted painter, teacher and mentor. Besides creating a wide and unparalleled body of work, Doris McCarthy was the first woman President of the Ontario Society of Artists and was a prominent figure in the Canadian art scene for many decades. Although Doris wasn't at the opening, there was a live video feed to allow the birthday girl to hear the remarks, cake cutting ceremony and curator's talk. Happy Birthday Doris!!

To my regular readers, it might seem odd that I am writing about an artist who is known for her abstracted landscape images of Canada. What does this have to do with fashion? And the answer would be very little, but my huge admiration for Doris McCarthy as a person and as an artist is making me step outside my box. 

About ten years ago, I met Doris McCarthy during a Scarborough Arts Week open house. We chatted about painting in the living room of Fool's Paradise, her home and studio since 1932. She autographed her memoir A Fool in Paradise, An Artist's Early Life as follows: "To Ingrid, with good wishes from the fool herself, Doris McCarthy". 

And this week, instead of working in the fashion milieu, I will be taking a painting workshop with her neighbour and painting companion, Barbara Sutherland.  We'll be roughing it in the bush in the beautiful Rouge Valley ravines and I'll be painting landscapes, something that I've never done before. I'm not sure why I am drawn to it now, perhaps it is because I've recently been spending a lot of time in Toronto's ravines using nature as the backdrops for my fashion photographs. The beauty of nature is calling to me. 

From the series My Mother/Myself by Ingrid Mida 2010

I'm going to take a page from Doris McCarthy's life. "I want to be the kind of person who says yes." (A Fool in Paradise, page 234).  

June 19 to July 24, 2010

Doris McCarthy Gallery
University of Toronto Scarborough
1262 Military Trail
Toronto, Ontario Canada