Everyone who sees these portraits in the basement, says I have to get them out and let people see them. So during the summer of 2010, I packed up the trusty old Subaru Forester and traveling from town to town, that’s what I did. Perhaps we met along the way?
The display consisted of a dozen or so completed portraits, a few unfinished paintings that I took to work on along the way, some original landscape paintings and a series of limited edition prints that were offered for sale.
The exhibit was set up where ever I could find a space, at Farmers’ Markets, art shows, and special events throughout the central and eastern regions of Ontario, mostly concentrating on the tourist areas of cottage country and the Algonquin Park Area. In the course of 10 weeks and 10,000 km, 30 showings of the paintings were put on in towns ranging from as far north as North Bay, east to Pembroke, and as southernly as Port Hope and Markham.
What a remarkable time it has been in every regard. The weather this summer was beautiful. Though often windy, day after day dawned clear and bright, and of all the times the exhibit was set up, it rained only two or three times.
Everywhere, the response to the paintings was overwhelming. Traveling with the portraits gave me the opportunity to meet so many people and on levels deeper than is usually afforded when meeting strangers in passing. Sure, some people passed by with little more than a glance, but for many, there was something that resonated and brought down the barriers that we generally carry around us. Everywhere they were shown, there was something about the portraits that compelled people to open up and share things that they might not generally do so.
From town to town, I met a number of family members, parents, sisters and brothers of the painted soldiers. Relatives, friends and neighbours. Brothers-in-arms, guys that were in the same unit and platoon, that were there and witnessed the horror and tragedy of the moment. I met many people who had suffered a personal loss, the death of a son or daughter, whose own sense of loss gave them a deep connection with the loss portrayed in the paintings. Others who simply paused for a moment, but in an instant of eye contact and with a silent nod, expressed things that words cannot.
Some memorable stops along the way. Pedestrian Day in Markham, where I met a young lady who said she would Twitter the project, and who did! The Northern Ontario Open Country Singing Contest in North Bay, where I enjoyed a great day of performances by some amazingly talented and upcoming singers. Warriors’ Day in Coe Hill, where I was given the honour of firing a round out of the 25lb field artillery piece. The Taste of the Valley in Petawawa where I had the privilege of meeting with a number of family and friends of the fallen.
Perfect weather, the open road, beautiful country, some familiar faces, some I hadn’t seen for many years, and new faces and places along the way. In every regard, simply an amazing time.
A special thank you…
… to Richard Capener of the Art Gallery of Bancroft, Hazel Lambe, Barbara Shaw, the residents of Bancroft and area, friends old and new, for the warm welcome home.
… to Tom and Nancy Newman of the Algonquin Backpackers Hostel in Maynooth, Ontario, for a door that’s always open, a warm welcome and a great place to stay along the way.
… to Bruce McIntyre and the County of Renfrew for the warm valley hospitality and putting me up for the night in the best room in town.
… to Nancy Brookes of the Old Peterson Road Gallery, Maynooth; Cate Ott of the Mix Company and the vendors of the Pembroke Farmers’ Market; Anya Blake, curator of the South of 60 Arts Centre, Barry’s Bay and the vendors of the Barry’s Bay Farmers’ Market; Christine Hass and the vendors of the Maynooth Farmers’ Market, Eva Weyrauch of the Port Hope Arts Festival; Les Olson of the Village Pottery Studio, and Markham Pedestrian Day; Chris Renaud of the Northern Ontario Open Country Singing Contest, North Bay; Dan McCaw, Reeve of Wollaston Twp, and John Irwin of the Coe Hill Warriors’ Day Parade.
…to Lt.(N) Frank Moore and members of the Ontario Regiment Museum and Ferret Club for the honour of firing off the 25 lb. field artillery piece.
… to Janet Griffin-Scott for the exhibiting tips and the little sign you made for my display. Hope you find your stolen artwork.
… to Dave and Joanne Larkman of Digital Wilderness (stunning wildlife photography and native art) for always saving me a spot.
… to Chris, Wondergirl’s father, for a morning cup of coffee and a bottle of cold water on a hot summer day.
… to Jen Balinski of Two Trees Soap Co. for the special shaving, working hands and blackfly soaps.
… to Brian Demers and Jelley Massee for sharing your hospitality and artwork.
… to Glenn and Heather Pearson for the personal tour of the murals of Calvin United Church in Pembroke.
…to many others for your kindness, to friends old and new, to everyone who opened your doors and your hearts along the way.