Popping in for a preview

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So I was among the fortunate few at the media preview for the much anticipated Pop Life exhibition at the National Gallery (NGC) on Wednesday morning. The show runs Friday, June 11 to September 19.

I’ll refrain from in-depth critical commentary on the show (the lovely and talented Sanita Fejzic is going to take care of that in Monday’s g-Gallery posting), except to share what I wrote in glow-in-the-dark chalk on the wall of the show’s darkened feedback room: “EXXXPLOSIVE!”

Thanks in part to the the already-controversial adult nature of some of the show’s content, the hype and buzz surrounding Pop Life may in fact be unprecedented in local circles—and for good reason. The internationally touring phenonmenon is big, bold, bawdy and anything but superficial.

But back to the preview. Poor Jonathan Shaughnessy, the NGC’s coordintator of Pop Life who had to lead a horde of 40 or 50 assorted media types through the show’s multiple rooms, a few of them loud with rock music. Jonathan must have felt like he was lecturing to a gaggle of scatterbrained cats. He virtually shouted his commentary at each stopping point and probably two-thirds of the very-distracted media reps weren’t listening much.

The tour revealed that this is the type of show where one saunter through will never be enough. There’s an abundance of eye candy and fodder for intellectual engagement.

Because almost everyone can relate to pop culture (I guest-lectured in a pop culture course at Algonquin College this spring), the Ottawa culture sector is not surprisingly showing signs of pop fever. Both WestFest and Blink Gallery are launching pop-themed art shows of their own in June, and there are probably other examples yet to pop into my head.


Teshigawara alights the stage in Miroku

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Text and tour photos by Leila De Vito

Tonight I was an impostor.

Taking the place of Guerilla’s regular blogger, Mr. Martins, I joined a small army of Ottawa bloggers for a privileged backstage tour of the National Arts Centre (NAC) followed by a meet and greet with the NAC Tech Director Charles Cotton and Cathy Levy, the Dance Producer for the NAC. As if this wasn’t enough, the evening was topped off with an opportunity to see world famous contemporary dancer Saburo Teshigawara’s latest solo show: Miroku.

And a one-man-show it certainly is. Teshigawara is not just the choreographer and performer, but he also designed the lighting, the set, and his costume. He even composed the music sequences.

Needless to say, I was pretty excited about the entire evening and so showed up unfashionably early. I soon found out that this was not the bloggers way. If I wanted to fit in, I was going to have to chill out.

The first stop on the tour was the NAC Theatre in which tonight’s performance was to take place. The room was calm in anticipation of Teshigawara’s storm. The stage was surprisingly decked out in carpet. How was the man going to pop and slide over that? It was also vast, which led me to wonder whether one man could feasibly hold the stage all by himself. Luckily, I kept my mouth firmly shut on the subject.

Next we ventured down into the underbelly, through twisting corridors lined with coloured doors, until we reached a magical place: the Vomitory underneath the stage. (It’s called the Vomitory because in the olden days of theatre people would get so wasted they needed a designated puking area. Nice! I should mention that none of that goes on at the NAC; just a bit of pub quiz trivia for you.)

Time was ticking on so we had a brief chat with Charles Cotton before we emerged from underground, back into the light of the foyer, and prepared to meet the woman who makes it all happen: Cathy Levy.

Levy said that she saw Teshigawara perform Miroku back in 2008 and was blown away: “If one artist can light the fire on stage, it’s an amazing testimony to his artistry.”

And when the curtain finally rose, light a fire he certainly did. Dancing for a full hour, Teshigawara owned that vast space from start to finish. To me, a girl from Essex, UK, where modern dance equals a crowded sports hall booming with teenaged Britney Spears fans wearing too much make-up and not enough Lycra, Teshigawara was something else.

I’ve never seen a human look more alive. Energy just seemed to emanate from his body as he traversed through a pale blue box, manipulating impeccably structured light and shadow sequences to create a spectacle far larger than his slight frame. Liquid movements morphed into staccato jerks, expressing a full range of emotions. If this was contemporary dance, I was hooked. Although I quickly learned that moves such as Teshigawara’s should not be tried at home. Blogging is not easy with a crick in your neck.

Let me spell it out for you: support A-R-T

Friday, April 23, 2010

If you are active in Ottawa cultural circles—and it’s very likely that you are if you are reading this—here’s the scoop on a fundraising event that I’ll be attending that’s as worthy as any I’ve come across.

A-R-T: An Evening for the Ottawa School of Art's Outreach Program is slated for Wednesday, April 28th from 6 to 9:30 p.m. at Métropolitain Brasserie Restaurant (700 Sussex Drive). The $100 ticket packs quite a punch, including live entertainment from Charles Pachter, Megan Jerome, and master of ceremonies Alan Neal.

Cash raised through ticket sales, donations, and live and silent auctions will help the Ottawa School of Art (OSA) hit a fundraising goal of $20,000 earmarked for its outreach program of visual art classes for children and youth who face difficult economic or social circumstances.

This OSA’s goal is enough to provide 160 to 200 children with two terms of classes (once a week) at all eight of the OSA's community partner locations throughout Ottawa. In 2008/09 the OSA Outreach Program reached more than 750 children and youth in ten different communities.

Tickets are available in advance at the OSA's main campus (35 George Street), by fax order form available on the OSA web site, or at the door.

If you can’t make it to the event but want to donate online, go here:


OSA A-R-T event artwork

Rrroad trip! With the king of road trips

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Photo assistant Laurence Butet-Roch rode shotgun.

On Friday, April 16, a Guerilla contingent consisting of me, road-warrior photographer Tony Fouhse, and assistant Laurence Butet-Roch (a superb student from the School of Photographic Arts Ottawa) drove to Montreal for a date with the artists at the William Street Studio.

The trip killed two birds with one shoot: the images will be part of a story we are working on about Montreal culture at ground level for Guerilla #24 (June) and they will also serve as Fouhse’s official entry into the final round of the 10 Best 10 global photo competition.

Earlier this month Fouhse was selected as the Canadian winner in the contest and snagged two SONY cameras and some other stuff as prizes (scroll down for a video of the official prize-giving ceremony). The Montreal photos will now go up against the results from nine other photo shoots assigned to nine other regional winners in nine magazines published around the world. Is that exciting or what?

Stay tuned for updates. And read Tony Fouhse's own blog posting about the trip here.


This SONY Bloggie™ is one of the two prize cameras that Tony Fouhse snagged.

Painter Mirana Zuger, an Ottawa native, was one of six Williams Street artists photographed.



Pitching in to xpose Canadian talent

Monday, April 5, 2010

This week I'm looking forward to serving as a judge in the annual xpose contest run by CAPIC (the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications). The third annual contest is open to CAPIC members only but promises to showcase a huge variety of Canadian talent. I'm very curious to see the quality and nature of the submitted work.

Judged by professionals from the advertising and design community across Canada, the contest selection process will result in 50 winning images printed in a broadly distributed book, placed in a special online gallery on the CAPIC web site, and printed and shown in an exhibition.

For more on the contest, visit http://capic.org/Contests.html.

From the CAPIC web site: "CAPIC was founded in 1978 as a national, not-for-profit association dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the rights and interests of photographers, illustrators and recently, digital artists, working in the communications industry. Starting as a single group in Toronto, CAPIC has grown to six chapters, spanning the country from Halifax to Vancouver, with a membership of over 1030."


Who says life drawing must be deadly boring?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sketches by me

So tonight I dusted off my sketchbook and joined the fun at the Mercury Lounge for this month’s installment of Dr. Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, a contemporary take on life drawing without much nudity but with naughty themes and funky costumes. (Some of my more successful sketches are posted here.)

Mercury Lounge staffers Sara Ainslie, Jennilee Murray and Ricky Alvarez were the models this time, having fun with a Carnal Equinox theme in spacey golden garb and elaborate masks and props made by the crafty Alvarez.

A healthy cross-section of sketchers were on hand, none looking like the over-serious art school type and many showing considerable talent.

Arriving a wee bit late, I picked up my conté stick and tried to let loose. I was quite proficient as a draftsman in my younger years, you see. After several fumbled drawings, I seemed to warm up and overall the results were kinda sorta good.

Hosted by Sharon VanStarkenburg, Dr, Sketchy events are serious enough to be taken seriously but not so serious as to be taken too seriously. In other words, the experience was good. Everybody was relaxed and had fun.

According to the official Facebook page, “Dr. Sketchy's is what happens when cabaret meets art school. Bring pencil and pad and we'll bring you the most beautiful, extraordinary and outrageous models for your sketching delight.”

Along with poses of varying lengths, the event includes games and drawing contests where you can win booze and other prizes. Nothing sketchy about that, folks.