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
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.