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.

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