Of Heavenly Bodies & Earthly Things, Regina Haggo, The Hamilton Spectator, December 9, 2011

 How do you recycle an angel? Doreen Veri knows.  She’s one of the artists showing work in Glad Tidings, a gorgeous exhibition at the James North Studio Gallery. Veri, a Hamilton artist, uses recycled materials to create her heavenly bodies. She keeps their forms simplified. And that’s as it should be. The earliest angelic beings in art — made more than 1,500 years ago — were always depicted in an abstracted style. They couldn’t resemble humans too closely because they weren’t as lowly as humans. One of Veri’s angels consists merely of a papery gold dress and half a dozen long feathers. Veri crinkles the dress into an elongated and compact form.

The sculpture feels airborne and earthbound at the same time. Two feathery wings rise from the shoulders in an arch, making the dress look as though it might take flight at any moment. But the rings and chains by which the angel hangs on the wall are clearly visible, suggesting that takeoff might be difficult. Veri uses some very ordinary household objects to create a pair of smaller angels without sacrificing the objects’ original shape, creating a tension between the real object and the fanciful being it represents. The angels’ wiry legs morph into arms or wings made from wooden clothes hangers, one pointing downward like a functional hanger, the other inverted. Clothespins clamped on red beads stand in for the heads. Not since American sculptor Alexander Calder used a clothespin to fashion a barking dog in the 1930s has the lowly utensil been so wittily repurposed.

John Kinsella is, by contrast, more down to earth. His striking oils depict southern Ontario landscapes and lakes and are accompanied by poems written by him. “These paintings and poems are personal meditations on the beauty and restorative power found in the natural settings of my home province,” he explains. “Their images linger in my mind’s eye and have become intertwined with who I am.” In Winter Light, Haliburton, a series of lines lead us back and up. Kinsella paints the snowy foreground with undulating verticals, alternating unevenly between dappled white and blue spaces built up with dabs of colour. These receding lines balance the more vertical trunks of the trees, which reach beyond the pictorial space. An inspired flash of white — the low, starlike sun — interrupts the rhythm of the lines, drawing the eye off centre and into the distance.

Sandee Ewasiuk takes us indoors with her small paintings of rooms and stairs enlivened with her trademark rich colours. And Sherelle Wilsack’s small reliquary-type creations and big fridge magnets make for great stocking stuffers. So do many other pieces in this show, which includes work by Barbara Sachs, Gise Trauttmansdorff, Frances Ward, Renate Min-oo, David McLaughlin and others.

Regina Haggo, dhaggo@thespec.com, Fri Dec 09 2011.
Regina Haggo, art historian, public speaker, curator and former professor at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, teaches at the Dundas Valley School of Art

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