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Mood Lighting-Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell Inspires

After recently indulging in some dim sum on Dundas street I took a spring stroll and headed towards the 401 Richmond Building. Located next to the TIFF Bell Lightbox, the refurbished industrial building houses galleries and studios. There I encountered Open Studio, an artist run center dedicated to the making and promotion of contemporary fine art prints. To my surprise, I was unable to resist going in and visiting Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s latest show Mood Lighting, which was exhibited in its gallery space from March 23rd to April 21st.

Like a moth to a flame, the luscious, sparkling colors, beckoned me. There, I found silk-screened and subsequently hand painted prints that have such a lush quality I was immediately drawn into their low-lit world.

As I entered the gallery space, the first thing that caught my attention was a wall entirely covered with a  chocolate brown, honeycomb patterned paper where a large work was hung  Dinan-Mitchell is conscious of the environment where her works are shown,  and often exhibits her single-edition prints as part of installations that include other objects and elaborate decors. Here, in the gallery’s white cube, Dinan-Mitchell broke the dynamic of the clinical gallery space by presenting a central piece, Blinded Falcon (2018)

The dramatic inclusion of a gallery wall covered in a dark tapestry contributes to enhancing the chiaroscuro lighting effect Dinan-Mitchell explores in her prints. Contrary to her previous pieces, I find she has chosen to depict her subjects in high contrasts. Her use of lighting recalls the work of later 18th-century English painter Joseph Wright of Derby.

Like Wright, who depicted technological innovations of the day lighting up their surrounding subjects, Dinan-Mitchell’s light sources are also evidently man-made. In her works,  find a whole slew of varying types of lamps, bulbs and spot lights, that act as luminous origins lighting their surroundings.  When these electrical devices are considered alongside the skulls she includes, such as in Feathers and Flora (2018), these are no longer engines of artificial lighting but instead like signs warning of man’s destruction of nature.

At first the works appear deceptively decorative, due to their ornamental arrangements,  but the amalgams of symbols and art historical references play off each other. I could not escape the allusion to Dutch vanitas paintings. 

Like Golden Age Dutch still life painters, Dinan-Mitchell has a similar visual vocabulary that also includes skulls, fruits, birds, flowers and symbols of time passing, as in Pink Petals (2017). And, like these Dutch masters, Dinan-Mitchell also makes use of symbols to emphasize life’s ephemeral quality. There is a juxtaposition of the objects  that allude to man’s intervention in the natural order of things.

Typically, Dutch still life paintings portray objects arranged on a table in a manner that each is seen and credibly placed.  Dinan-Mitchell similarly brings together elements that intertwine with one another in her artwork in order to compose a new ornamental structure.

An oasis of calm, serenity and quiet awe, I greatly enjoyed my time at Cynthia Dinan-Mitchell’s Mood Lighting at Open Studio. 

 

 

Toronto launches #KissesforBees at city hall

Toronto is buzzing about bees. A new art installation popped up at city hall Friday — a giant pair of red lips with milkweed plants inside of them. The idea is to attract native bee pollinators and promote education around the importance of protecting these buzzing critters.

The City of Toronto, along with Burt’s Bees, Wildlife Preservation Canada, and Live Green Toronto, were at Nathan Philips Square to reveal the art installation and promote bee pollination in the city. “Some people don’t realize how important bees are, but like we heard today, every three mouthfuls of food is pollinated by bees and without them we aren’t eating,” Councillor Mary-Margaret McMahon said. “It is important that we plant pollinator gardens and educate people on the importance of bees.”

Sustainable T.O. executed the design of the art installation on behalf of Burt’s Bees and it took a large team to complete the project. “Burt’s Bees created the conceptual image and I worked with a fabricator to produce what we see here,” Environmental Designer at Sustainable T.O. Joel Anderson said. “There is an internal skeleton that supports the design and there are hundreds of hexagonal tubes that formed the shape. Then holes were carved into the installation to put the plants in.”

Pollinators such as bees need native plants to thrive and the entire plant ecosystem depends on bees to grow food and flowers. “There are 15-20 species of bumblebees that are native to Ontario and are currently endangered. There are many species of bees that are crashing and we are trying to stop it. Pollinators are important so that plants can have sex. This is one of the most critical elements of our ecosystem and a lot of plants rely on bees,” Executive Director of Wildlife Preservation Canada Randal Heide said. “Monarch butterflies will also benefit from the milkweed. Unfortunately, farmers hate milkweed and use pesticides to kill it, but disseminate monarch butterflies. In the cities, we have banned these pesticides and we have green spaces. Cities are probably a safer place for bees and butterflies.”

The art installation is a part of a larger campaign that Burt’s Bees is running to promote pollination in Toronto. They have launched the #kissesforbees campaign and for every lipstick sold, their partner Wildlife Preservation Canada will plant 100 wildflowers. The art installation will be featured until the end of June and will then be a part of the pride parade in July.

After that, the perennial milkweed plants will be donated to the David Suzuki Foundation who will distribute them to locations around Toronto to help further promote bee pollination for years to come.