My wonderful husband…

December 31, 2008

…took the initiative and gave me a Christmas date, somewhere I’ve been meaning to go for years. Yes, the Art Gallery of Ontario.AGO entrance

Getting to it reminded K of why he doesn’t like driving into Toronto, and me of what I like about the cities I visit…how big cities are all a mish-mash of interesting places. The AGO, for instance, is smack in the middle of Toronto’s Chinatown, which is also mixed up with the Fashion District (I think my favourite similar experience was walking downtown Vancouver, and going from the Public Library to the Terry Fox Memorial to the Cannabis Cafe in the space of a block or two).

Anyway, the Gehry addition is beautiful, and created some really wonderful spaces:

AGO interior

AGO interior

AGO interior

And then there was the art.

We had three hours. And got through the main Canadian section, on the second floor. It was all the time we had, and all my eyes, mind, and heart could take in.

5 rooms of Ken Thomson’s Kreighoff collection – a bit much considering how many of them are alike. I was pleased to see the sister piece to a piece at the local art gallery where I’ve worked: a fall scene of a habitant cabin. The one at RiverBrink, I think, is a bit better balanced, as in the Thomson canvas the mountains in the background are on a side of the painting that’s already quite full, and the right side of the sky is rather empty. The AGO also owns another piece almost identical to one at RiverBrink called “Indian Council”, and while there were lots, we didn’t see that one in particular.

4 or 5 rooms dedicated to the work of David Milne, which I like in some instances and not in others. I am always drawn to the energy and to the printmaking process, though.

One very large gallery of Lawren Harris, where K found his favourites. Pieces of all different sizes, from his Algonquin sketches to his very large canvases. And of all eras, from the earliest and most natural to the most abstract. K and I were both drawn most to the Lake Superior period, as, I think, many people are.

Lots of other Canadian gems, of course. Gallery after gallery of Thomson (Tom) and the Group, with my new favourite being a Lismer snow scene I had never seen before. It showed a bright snowy day, pink and yellow and blue and green, with beautiful waves in the snow.

It was too much; we had to go too fast; I would have liked to study 5 sketches in an afternoon and we walked past 20 on each wall. And other artists, of course: Morrice and Cullen and Gagnon, all some of my Canadian favourites. And a Paul Peel (without a naked bathing child) that was quite lovely, of a young girl collecting flowers on a sunny path. More abstract things, as well, of course: Bourduas and Riopelle. I could spend months.

Right before we finished, we encountered Thomson’s The West Wind, the Canadian icon. The colouring is fantastic – I’m a lover of turquoise and there were some touches that just sang. And it was next to Carr’s Indian Church, with its deep green and serene yet energetic mood. Beautiful.

We were about done, but K went downstairs in the last few minutes to examine another Ken Thomson collection, of ship models.

Then, steaks in a beautiful old house, and then home. Merry, merry Christmas to me!

Mansion Keg

Mansion interior

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Best Laid Plans

December 29, 2008

With some heavy work still on my reading list (finishing the 9/11 Report, Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel, and more books about genocide), it was an incredible pleasure to spend a week of the holiday reading Terry Fallis’ The Best Laid Plans, the Canadian political satire I mentioned earlier. It’s smart and funny and eerily prescient – a hastily-elected minority conservative government tries to use political confusion and economic woes to their advantage. And the book was published last year…and my friend and I heard Fallis in Port Colborne even before our real election took place.

It was exactly the kind of book I needed, too. And a great book for the turn of the year. I spent the fall embroiled in family issues and a frustrating job hunt, and while these things still aren’t entirely resolved, I am more optimistic. Mostly because of a type of attitude described in the book. A character quotes Mackenzie King (I haven’t been able to verify in Bartletts’ or online, but I’ve latched onto the quotation anyway):

“If you’ve really done absolutely everything you can and you still come up short, fate will smile on good people.”

Sure hope so. Thanks to Fallis for a great book, and to friend Sarah for going to the reading and buying my copy.

Merry, merry Christmas!

December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, everyone!

little tree

by E. E. Cummings

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don’t be afraid

look     the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i’ll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won’t be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you’re quite dressed
you’ll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they’ll stare!
oh but you’ll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we’ll dance and sing
“Noel Noel”

“little tree” by ee cummings, from 100 Selected Poems by e. e. cummings. © Grove Weidenfeld, 1959.

Overload Update

December 19, 2008

Oryx and Crake…done.

Vanity Fair…done.

Hobbit and Life of Pi for the Teen Reading Club book group…well, I’ve gone through them again.

Unfortunately, I took time I could have been reading The 9/11 Commission Report, Kay Ryan’s poetry, or anything else, to reread a Harry Potter Book. And now, Philip Gourevitch’s We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families and Edward Said’s On Late Style have arrived. And Plummer still waits in the wings. Well, his autobiography does. Lots of good reading to do…Merry Christmas to me!

(And I might skim the 9/11 Report).

Overload

December 3, 2008

Hard to believe someone who loves to read and whose only obligations at the moment are family- and volunteer-oriented could fall so far behind on her reading list, but here it is.

I’m a few chapters in to the really excellent (as I said) 9/11 Commission Report.

I’m about halfway through my newest Vanity Fair.

I’ve only just started the book of poetry, and haven’t started at all with Christopher Plummer’s autobiography, both of which just arrived for me.

I’m re-reading Life of Pi (not started) and reading Atwood’s Oryx and Crake (not started) for a teen book club / forum I’m involved with.

And of course there’s always still Salinger, Shakespeare’s Roman plays and histories, and Three Musketeers that I’ve promised myself I’ll get to.

Luckily, it all sounds like lots of fun. I’ll try to get through my Vanity Fair and maybe the Kay Ryan poetry today; all that’s going on is Christmas decorating and a concert.