The next few window gallery installations are perhaps not as well defined by their "curator" owners, and as a result may suffer a bit more in the experimentation, consistency and success of the artists using the space. They are, however, important incubating and experimenting grounds for local artists and perform as Fly Gallery mandate states "not quite the main stage but a vital and worthy function".

The Fly Gallery - 1172 Queen St. West
Scott Carruthers and Tanya Read, both active and talented artists themselves, had been toying with the idea of turning the Bay window of their living room into a gallery space. Their friends were urging them and when the successful Mercer Gallery moved into their new lodgings down the street, they decided the time was right. Their intention was to create a free space, to keep art accessible (they're never closed) and to contribute to the cultural life of the street. "Not quite the main stage" it reflects their own nature of unpretentious generosity and accessibility.

In little over a year, they've not only filled the space with friend's work that they knew, but as Tanya laments, they are overwhelmed with the response and proposal calls. She's already booked until September. She had to stop there so they could figure out their bearings "maybe shorter showing intervals". Tanya says "I don't want to wear this as a badge 'gallery owner'; it's not about Scott and I but about the artwork, the walk-by experience. Sometimes it's isolating and hard to avoid burnout when you're working full time to pay the rent. This gallery is a low maintenance way to keep us in touch and get to know new artists. Everything is left up to the artist-if we know and like their work, they are free to do what ever they like with the space. One thing about using your living room, it gives instant feedback to the artists and it's great for people watching. People passing by don't realize its your home and you can hear their comments and surprise from outside. Sometimes people just walked into our home, looking for more. I guess they think we're a full gallery!"

The setting of the Fly gallery is a quaint mix of newly renovated galleries, neighbourhood retail stores, their wares spilling on to the sidewalk, and vestiges of the life cycle of a city's architecture- buildings aging at various states of grace, replaced gradually by newer renovations. A next door restaurant reveals its former youth with a few remnants of colourful stones, a view to an optimistic 60's mosaic of bright oranges and green, crusted now with cement brown.

Isabelle Mignault, known for her printmaking, recently chose to show two large photo collages reflective of the street scene surrounding the gallery. Isabelle admitted she hadn't designed the pieces for the space, but as part of a series previously shown. Yet they did work and not too badly. Superimposed on a photo of a nude were images of 19th century brick buildings (albeit of Montreal), viewed from both the interior of window views and outside reflections. A collage of heart anatomy, mechanical drawings and anatomy texts, was inserted beside images of decaying, deconstructed or fallen building structures. On the surface, the visual references of home and body as womanly self would make this to be a young feminist viewpoint, especially fitting for Valentine's Day. Its layered subtext comments on the erosion of time, our self view and the structure of our forms and intentions reflected in the urban decay that surrounds us and this particular Window Gallery street scape.

The canvas- like photography pieces easily filled the Fly's window space, but perhaps a bit too sublimely for my tastes. The blowup black and white photographs of a moving almost ghostly nude young woman have a very painterly quality to them. What does seem to be missing, however, is a textural quality or a tension of elements, an energy that generates audience interaction or street action, which was a little more evident in the previously described exhibitions. Perhaps the muted feel of the show resonated with the grayness of the day and like the calm before the storm, heightened my sense of the winter blahs. Then again, maybe that was the point.


Natural Light Window - 506 Adelaide West
The epitome of drive-by sightings, the Natural Light Window looks out onto one of Toronto's oldest streets. At the turn of the century it was hit by a devastating fire that allowed the City fathers to rebuild it into a model of town planning. It is a grand wide boulevard, which helps to keep downtown traffic flowing. On a quiet day, you can look several miles down its alley from the City's core financial district clear to the sentinel of the gothic-spiraled church nearby the gallery that marks the street's termination. The neighbourhood seems a bit remote, a paved wilderness of parking lots, and utilitarian manufacturing and business lofts. The gallery, which is part of Rupen's home, is an old storefront. It is one of only a handful of Victorian homes left standing on the block, a small comma, in the line of larger or more modern complexes.

The window's main audience is the hundreds of cars that pass by everyday, often snarled in rush hour traffic. The window also engages people on foot who are going to lunch or on their way to work in the offices and sweat factories of the nearby needle trade district. The weekend brings the suburban crowd, attracted to the nightlife. Rupen sometimes hears them commenting on the exhibits as they make their way down to some local hot spot. To ensure human contact and feedback for the artists, Rupen has fixed a note pad and pencil to his front door frame which separates the two opposing window boxes of the gallery.

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Above: Isabelle Mignault: 'Biologie Emotive' (top) and 'Cameleon'
photo with collage - Fly Gallery
Below: Stefan Schmuhl, window installation at Natural Light Gallery