Contemporary Artists, Wild with Passion
Designed & Published by Andrea Hillo
Edited by Leonard Pizzey
Foreword by Roy MacGregor
The Artists of Muskoka
Foreword by Roy Macgregor
He was called “The Great Map-maker,” his carefully measured and detailed work marveled at for nearly two centuries now.
But David Thompson didn’t have much of an eye for beauty.
Truth is, the famous explorer didn’t have much of an eye for anything in 1837 when, 67 years old, half blind and desperately in debt from unwise investments with some of his many children, he took on one final job: to find a route from Lake Huron to the Ottawa River that would pass through Muskoka.
He wasn’t impressed. Lake Muskoka he called “Swamp Ground Lake.” He cursed the “musketoes” and complained there was no fish to be found in the lakes. “Almost every where,” he wrote in his journal, “the lake, etc., is bordered by rude rocks.”
Perhaps if he had been sketching rather than measuring he would have seen Muskoka differently. But David Thompson was hardly alone. Many of the first visitors to the area gave up after clearing their free lands of timber and helplessly watching the rain wash away the thin soil. There was good reason the Canadian poet Al Purdy called the land of the Pre-Cambrian shield “The country of defeat.”
It took decades before the first visitors arrived who saw things through different eyes – just as do the 34 artists presented here in Andrea Hillo’s much-welcomed The Artists of Muskoka.
Muskoka was never really intended as farming country, though many farms survived and some even thrived. It was logging country for a while, though eventually that became a small industry compared to the industry that eventually put Muskoka on David Thompson’s map: tourism.
They came by rail and by steamboat, the various lakes of Muskoka – those who refer to this magnificent place as “The Muskokas” have a special place in hell awaiting them – soon dotted with lodges and, later still, cottages.
Such access brought those who fished, those who hunted, those who were ill and sent by their doctors to breathe the freshest air on earth, and, not surprisingly, those who painted.
Tom Thomson discovered Muskoka around the same time he discovered the place for which he would become known: Algonquin Park. He was attracted by beauty – and not just the landscape but the lure of Miss Winnifred Trainor of Huntsville, who lived just down the street from us and whose sister, Marie, had married into our family.
Tom often painted around Huntsville. Winnie always maintained that perhaps his most famous painting of all, West Wind, was in fact painted after he’d walked out to the shores of Fairy Lake – not, as so often contended, in the wilds of Algonquin Park.
Many of the Group of Seven that followed Thomson’s tragic death in 1917 painted in the area. The last surviving member of the famous group, A.J. Casson, spent his last years painting around North Muskoka, which he came to think of as his own private studio.
These early artists saw the great beauty that appeals to anyone with a paintbrush, a palette or a camera. Or, for that matter, anyone with eyes. “There may be a prettier place than Muskoka in the world,” Pittsburgh astronomer John Brashear wrote in his 1924 memoirs, “but in all my travels I have never come across it.”
Rather than seek it in his travels, Brashear would easily have found it in his work by merely staring through his telescope.
Just as the 34 painters and photographers presented here have found, in Muskoka, their own little bits of heaven.
“It took decades before the first visitors arrived who saw things through different eyes
– just as do the 34 artists presented here in Andrea Hillo’s much-welcomed
The Artists of Muskoka.”
Krysia Bower • Matt Coles
Glenda Davies • Roxanne Driedger Dale Durnan • Marc De Groote
Sue Evans • Judy Geller
Margo Gracey • Erika Harris
R.W. Haviland • Haysam Haytaoglu Jane Jones • Jenny Kirkpatrick Lynda Lynn • Janine Marson
Jeff Miller • Col Mitchell
Wendy Moses • Ron Murdoch
Nancy Ogle Gray • George Popadynec Richard Robinson • Margot Snow
Shannon Stark • Elisabeth Wallace
Susan Irons Ware • Danielle West
Pam Turner-Wong Michael Woodside
“I'm very proud of you for this accomplishment.
It is a handsome, professional publication that fills a need -- and even fills spaces where many readers may not have
known they had a need.”
ROY MACGREGOR - THE GLOBE AND MAIL
The Artists of Muskoka
Introduction by Leonard Pizzey
The impulse to make art is a defining characteristic of humanity. Some 40,000 years ago, Neanderthals applied red stain to a cave wall in Spain and left haunting images of their outstretched hands. At about the same time, other humans drew startlingly beautiful images of animals on the walls of the Chauvet Cave in France. These prehistoric humans almost certainly lacked complex language, yet they were compelled to leave a visual record of themselves and the world they inhabited.
Today, we are surrounded by visual art, whether in graphic design, the soaring lines of architecture, paintings that grace the walls of our homes and offices, sculptures in public places, or the thoughtful design of everyday objects.
But what, exactly, is art, and why are so many humans compelled to make it?
Many writers and critics have attempted to define art, with varying degrees of success. The common theme for all of them is our fundamental need to find meaning in the physical world we share. Visual art is not a replication of the world as it is, but an expression of qualities within it that are universal to our humanity.
Art provokes thought, startles us or stimulates emotions, not the least of which is pleasure. Art elevates us beyond the commonplace to a higher level of perception and understanding.
Muskoka’s painters employ colour and form to express thoughts and perceptions that are unique to them but common to human experience. Its photographers transform aspects of their surroundings into art through the manipulation of composition and light. All find inspiration in the landscape that surrounds them, whether as subject matter or as a place that allows the quiet contemplation out of which their art is born.
Art is inanimate but it comes to life when it is shared. This book is part of that process. The artists whose work is showcased here want you to feel the passion that drives them to create. They invite you to experience it more deeply by visiting their studios, listed on the final pages.
THE LAST WORD
BY MENDELSON JOE
“To be asked to pen the last word is daunting given the variety of media embodied in such a voluminous mix. Art is always in the eye of the beholder.
I’d term The Artists of Muskoka an earthy smorgasbord of imagery some real, some imagined and all pure dedication.
I’m no art critic. I’m always attracted to daring style, even awkwardness in service to obsession. Behold and be assured, there’s a bank of passion amongst these