Thursday, June 18, 2009

Christine’s Shed: Day 5

This project came up so fast I haven’t thought to reflect, much less write, on its development until today. I have almost completed the work, from conception to installation. I am waiting for the rain to stop before I swing by the shed to do some final touch-ups on the paint.

The work began on Sunday. I visited Christine at her request to make a work for her home on the occasion of a party she is hosting this Saturday night. Christine is a colleague from the Art Gallery of Ontario, a fellow gallery guide I have known since last fall. At the moment of her offer, she had never even seen my past work, only listened intently as I described to her over a drink what I do. The party's theme is Surrealism, and she thought my work would fit right in. My rule of thumb is to say yes to any artistic opportunity, so I agreed.

I arrive after lunch at Christine's home, the first floor of one of those towering brick semis on Madison Avenue in the Annex. I have left my bicycle on the front lawn, not seeing anywhere nearby to tether it, and stand on the front stoop contemplating the array of doorbell buttons and trying to remember which one to press. The Smiths are playing loudly from the stereo, the sounds of Sunday afternoon spilling out the front windows to greet me on the step. Christine’s teenage son sees me and waves from a window before he opens the front door and lets me inside. Christine is quick to follow, welcoming me as though I have just returned home from a long journey.

The apartment is filled with art. Two large canvases of nymph-like expectant mothers holding their swollen stomachs greet visitors in the entryway, leading to more paintings and prints lining the walls of the living room. I learn that the photograph of a man smiling in a grassy field is a portrait of her late husband. His grand piano, sitting in the light from the living room windows patiently waits to find a new devotee. Beyond the living room is the kitchen, adorned with more art and soaring cupboards that seem to touch ceilings that are easily 11 feet high. Christine takes me through the rest of the apartment, into an office packed with overflowing floor-to-ceiling bookcases, across her tiny bedroom, and a out a door into the backyard.

After worrying how I would insert my work into the space I had just encountered, I am relieved when we stand on the back step. The yard is typically urban: scraggly grass struggling to find sunlight amidst 50 foot maples and four-story apartment blocks. On one side of the lawn, however, rests a garden shed, built against the brick side of the neighbour’s garage. It’s a modest shed, made of beige pre-painted particle board paneling and propped off the ground on cinder blocks. Its corner view, however, is the first sight upon entering her garden. In the scope of my work, it’s an ideal backdrop.

I quickly snap a few photos and assure Christine I had found the spot for my work. I am grateful for her trust, for agreeing to my project without having any idea what I would create. All week, I have been showing up at her place during the day while she is at work, painting shapes on the sides of her shed. I don’t know what she is thinking. Tomorrow, the rain should subside so I can finish the drawing, adding the last remaining details and reassuring myself that I’ve completed what I started. I hope she likes it.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

St. Clair West Transit Improvement Project: Day 16

This project has been dragging on. I am eager to complete the proposals. Here is a thought for the second proposal: two planes that shift in relation to one another. I like how the space compresses and expands from side to side.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

St. Clair West Transit Improvement Project: Day 11

I have been working on these drawings on and off for several days now, my first proposal for the St. Clair West Transit Improvement Project. These are two views, left and right, of one proposal for a transit shelter on the St. Clair West streetcar line. I have been commissioned by the TTC to submit two distinct proposals for the shelter artwork, four printed glass panels that will be mounted above the shelters in a long row. Each panel measures 116 7/8 x 27 7/8 in. (approximately 9.75 x 2.4 ft.).

My challenge is developing two different proposals. Until now, I have considered the final design of any drawing installation to be the essential design, the only true possibility that the architecture has provided. I must now either modify this philosophy or abandon it.

The second proposal is in conflict with the first. It is an opposition. It must distinguish itself somehow from the simplicity of its former.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Stantec Window Gallery: Day 29

The Akimbo listing for the drawing was circulated today. The changes I had requested did not appear in the final text. Here's how I wanted it to read:
How to enter a building continues Peterson's drawing research, her investigation into how we create and perceive space. In her drawing installations, Peterson intersects pictorial space with physical space, creating an experience of space that is both illogical and somatic.

Peterson also publishes her research notes, diagrams, photo-concepts, etc. for each installation in some form: either as pamphlets, newsletters, or online. The accompanying documentation for How to enter a building are available on a companion website,, alongside notes from a previous installation.
Minor changes, but important. Also, the subject heading is a little odd. "Kristen Peterson opens March 15...."

Most people will not notice the difference. Some people will. I once had a boss who would make the most infuriating language jokes. Me: I ran into so-and-so the other day. Boss: Did it hurt? Heh heh heh. He slowed down every single conversation with pedantic interjections. I eventually quit. Now here I am, dodging the spirit of my old boss, wanting to be precise so that someone like him doesn't look at my listing and go: “Ooh! Kristen Peterson is going to open! I hope there's someone there who can close her up again. Should I bring my duct tape? Heh heh heh.”

I am really happy with the work. I can tell from this photograph that the drawing really includes the entire building, inside and out. I love how the recession of the yellow stripes and the right-side vanishing point emphasize the interior of the building. The arrays of florescent ceiling fixtures have a complement.

Sometimes I think of my drawings as arrows pointing to an idea. My friend Yam once said that they are diagrams. I am indicating a space that exists (I think) whether my drawing is there or not.

Photo: Stantec Window Drawing: How to enter a building (or, two planes of yellow stripes drawn in perspective and joined at a right angle), 2008, hand-cut vinyl on glass

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Stantec Window Gallery: Day 22

I have a title for the work, but it's a secret. I need to mull it over before I commit it to the drawing. Perhaps the title I'm thinking of has already committed itself to the drawing, and I am just not listening.

For now, here is the photo caption:

Stantec Window Drawing (As Yet Untitled), 2008

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Stantec Window Gallery: Day 19

I installed the piece today, a week later than I had scheduled (nasty February, month of illness). I also took far longer than I had anticipated to place all of the vinyl. As usual, I made errors. Much to my consternation, I am not perfect. So I spent several extra hours removing and replacing certain pieces.

I'm exhausted. Now is not the time for reflection. Since it was snowing quite fiercely when I left, I could not take a picture of the exterior, so I have two interior shots for display. I will be going back in three days to photograph the work and hopefully to remove a huge air bubble I missed but saw on my way home.

Photo: Stantec Window Gallery Drawing (401 Wellington St. W. Toronto, at Spadina Ave.)

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Stantec Window Gallery: Day 5

I brought some vinyl samples down to the window today to confirm a colour choice for the drawing. I was disappointed that I didn't find the right green colour at the vinyl store (that yellow-green of maple blossoms). Their only yellow-green offering was "lime" green, an insufficient choice. I was excited when I applied the lime vinyl to the inside of the window. It was luminous and bright, just like the maple blossom colour I was hoping for. Sadly, when I viewed the colour from across the street, it had transformed back into lime green and could barely be seen at all due to the tone matching that of the greyish wall behind. It's amazing how different the colour looks on the window than in my hand.

The yellows fared much better. I had been reluctant to use yellow again, not wanting to repeat the colour from a previous installation, but it really works. Yellow radiates, as the saying goes. Yellow seems to go with buildings, especially this one, with its arrays of florescent ceiling fixtures that radiate throughout. I had a choice between "sunflower" and "daffodil". They are so similar, and look quite orange up close. But from across the street, the daffodil is a vibrant yellow, whereas the sunflower is still orange.

I forgot my camera today, so I have made an approximation of the colour choices below. I put them on a grey background to show what they looked like with the grey-white space of the gallery behind and viewed from across the street. The lightest yellow, a lemon yellow up close, looks almost white from across the street. I'm glad the light yellow didn't work. It's a discontinued colour and the store wouldn't have enough to complete the drawing.

So, daffodil it is.

I hate making decisions. I'm terrified that I've overlooked something, that I haven't seen enough colour samples or played with enough designs. I feel a heaviness in my heart. My stomach grabs. Anyone who ever said that minimal and precise work isn't emotional has never experienced making exacting choices. There are limitless possibilities. In the end, I must feel satisfied that the design and colour I've selected are right for the site. Essential. When I look back at the other installations I have done (such as Larkin and Convenience), I wouldn't do them any differently today. Still, the whole process is terrifying. It's exciting too. I'm a daredevil in daffodil.