HYDROLOGY : Art Reflects Change and Resilience in Toronto’s Gay Village

It’s not far from here, in 2016, that Black Lives Matter took a stand on the gay pride march and the participation of City of Toronto police. Within the same distance the body of a murdered young woman, Tess Richey, was discovered in 2017 in the outdoor stairwell of a Church Street building. More recently, the community has been rocked by the murders of men, all targeted by an alleged serial killer who is now in custody. To say the least, the last few years have been challenging and un-nerving for Toronto’s gay village. Toronto artist Dan Nuttall is creating art that reflects on these trying times. “I wanted to use nature to express the complexity of connection and change as well as resilience and optimism”.

 

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Dan Nuttall “Bruised Cloud”, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 40, diptych, available.

 

The art is on display in “The Window”, a storefront art gallery operated by ONE Properties at 558 Church Street, just a few feet from the Church and Wellesley intersection. The art is on display from August 28 – October 2, 2018.

At first glance the three paintings in Nuttall’s show “Hydrology” seem to bear little relation to the complex issues facing this community. Two of the paintings capture clouds (“Thunder Cloud” and “Bruised Cloud”) and the other a stream (“Broad Stream”). On closer inspection however the metaphoric aspects of the works begin to relate more broadly – to personal and community cultural contexts. How is a cloud like a person? In his artist statement Nuttall says this: “Our celestial selves are made of light stuff – tiny things that come together to make us visible, make us feel solid, make us feel separate and distinct. Floating through life, it seems clear sailing. As much as we are able to see from our unique vantage points, we cannot see the small things rushing toward us nor observe their incorporation into our selves. Over time, small things accumulate and condense, are rendered visible and given form. An outburst allows part of the self to detach and return to the ground from whence it came. Turbulence keeps us aloft. Dialogue is a goddess of small exchanges.”

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Dan Nuttall, “Thunder Cloud”, acrylic on canvas, 39 x 47″, available

For Nuttall, incorporating the perspective of Black Lives Matter in the gay pride parade was a necessary way for the queer community to move forward, a way to change, a way to have turbulence keep the political aspects of queer and black culture alive: “I’m a product of the era of AIDS activism and I vividly remember the need for the political acts of groups like ACT UP in New York City. Who can forget “Silence = Death” and the confrontations that precipitated so much awareness?”

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Dan Nuttall, “Broad Stream”, acrylic on canvas, 16 x 20″ each image, available

The themes of connection, changefulness and resilience are present again in his stream painting which is a quadriptych – the stream has been separated across four separate canvases – and requires the viewer to stitch together the stream in their mind, which Nuttall refers to as “an ecological act”. Again, Nuttall is again echoing the themes found in the cloud paintings but also pointing to something else – seeing nature as a source of peace, of healing and inspiration. “Nature is where we can seek healing and peace and for many it is a source of the mystical. For the queer community the last few years have meant challenging ourselves, re-embracing activism and the political, and dealing with new threats”.

Writing about his “stream” series of paintings, Nuttall states: “The emanations found in the paintings of artists like Emily Carr and Charles Burchfield used calligraphic brushstrokes to symbolize the unseen or unknown. Light, sound and the presence of a greater power float within their scenes of nature. In these paintings of streams the emanations, as crescent-shaped blades of white, draw our attention to nature, to the “in-between” of nature, and then beyond to the unknown and unseen. Life, as subatomic, both light particle and wave, illustrating the engine, the power, the mystery that drives it all.” In this moment, at this time, located at the crossroads of the queer village, these paintings both speak and listen.

You can find more of this artist’s work at: www.dandoesdesign.com

You can read about The Window gallery here: http://thewindow558.com/

Dan Nuttall may be reached at: dandoesdesign@hotmail.com

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Giving Men Flowers: A Pansy for Jocks

In the wake of current events such as the Harvey Weinstein debacle and the #metoo campaign I catch myself thinking about the progress that needs to be made. And as an artist I wonder – what is the role of art? To ensure the equal representation of women and all “others” as administrators and creators of art but also to provide – to guarantee – a setting free from prejudice, threat and harrassment. And what of artworks themselves – what are they saying?

In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 1”, photography and digital manipulation

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 2”, photography and digital manipulation

 

In the male sports world I wonder if misogyny, homophobia, transphobia and the failure of men to accept “feminine” attributes contributes to violence against others and shaming of the self. This art asks men to question their relationships with their “self” and the “feminine” in the arena of sport. This art invites men to comment – but they rarely ever do. This art invites men to consider the constraints they offer to their partners, their children, their communities when they see the world as narrowly defined. This art asks men to accept femininity, to revel in it, to champion it all of the petals that make up this flower. This art invites women to send it to men they know and ask them what they think of it.

How would men respond to a world where art invited them to be more open minded? These pansies are comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps and clips. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed or in your living room where guests might comment. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles. Can anyone have a convincing and comprehensive strength if they cannot accept and appreciate the full spectrum of gender expression, of masculine and feminine, of weak and strong?

A gift of flowers is always appropriate, I offer these pansies to jocks and invite you to offer them too, in any form of your making.

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Dan Nuttall, “Pansy For Jocks 3”, photography and digital manipulation.

I was so very pleased that “Pansy For Jocks 1” was selected by jury to auctioned off on March 30, 2017, in support of the Aids Committee of Toronto. You can read about ACT and the amazing work they do here: http://www.actoronto.org/.

“Pansy for Jocks 3” will be auctioned off on March 22, 2018 for the same amazing ACT-SNAP event! This work was awarded one of 5 prestigious Awards of Merit by the Jury, who reviewed the works anonymously. The prize includes $500 and a ticket to the Gala Auction evening. The jury for 2018 included:

  • Cheryl Powers – Photographic Artist (Chair)
  • Chantal Stepa – Co-Chair
  • Jeannie Baxter – Managing Director, Toronto Image Works
  • Aidan Cowling – Photographic Artist and Head of Communications & Development, Gallery 44
  • Erika DeFreitas – Multidisciplinary Artist
  • Kevin Kelly – Commercial and Art Photographer
  • Patrick Lightheart – Designer and Artist

SNAP! 2018 is a Contemporary Photo Competition. A juried competition for all photographers, there are cash prizes for top entries. Selected images will be included in the SNAP! 2018 silent auction, part of Toronto’s most exciting gala celebrating contemporary art photography. This year’s gala takes place March 22, 2018, at the Bram + Bluma Appel Salon at the Metro Toronto Reference LIbrary, you can read about this venue here: http://salonrentals.torontopubliclibrary.ca/about-the-refe…/

There is a PREVIEW night for the Curatorial Collection of photorgaphs as well as those photorgaphs receivign Awards of Merit. The preview runs March 8, 9, 10, at Robert Birch Gallery in Toronto, more info here: http://birchcontemporary.com/

You can see this year’s winners on the web site for SNAP, here: http://snap-toronto.com/

Please share this post if you have a moment to support this critical agency. ACT provides support services that empower men, women and young people living with HIV to achieve self-determination, informed decision-making, independence, and overall well-being. ACT does this through programs such as counselling, information provision, social support activities and programs that help people with HIV return to work.

You can see my larger body of work here: http://www.dandoesdesign.com/

 

The Black and White Ball

If the title of this post was, “A Black and White Ball” you might think: soccer. You’re not too far off the mark, there IS a sports theme here. But as soon as I utter the next two words, you’ll either remember something, or think something is awry:

Truman Capote.

I have loved him ever since “In Cold Blood” and, of course, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. I wish he’d written more. I walked to 70 Willow Street once, not far from where I lived in Brooklyn, to stare at his house, willing his ghost to come to the window.

At the height of his fame he threw a party for Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. A masquerade ball with the theme of black and white, it was held on November 28th, 1966 – my birthday. I was turning four and definitely NOT invited. Held in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, the party was as famous for its guests as the images that emerged. How often does a single party, serving a single cocktail, enter the American consciousness and remain embedded?

Back to sports.

dan-nuttall-art-jock-pansy-2-web

In sports, many aspects of “maleness” are underpinned by “femaleness”. Some men acknowledge these underpinnings while others eschew them. I find it hard to ignore femininity in a world of spandex, padding, cups, straps, clips and girdles. In and of themselves these design “elements” are “neutral” – materials, shapes, degrees of rigidity, support, protection and wicking. Historically, these neutral design elements have been sexualized when it comes to men thinking about of women. However, it is anathema to most men to think of them as erotic when applied to other males, especially in the locker room. In the gay world all these suspensory elements are celebrated – exploited as “hyper-male”. Many a well-swung gay fantasy has rotated around the fulcrum of a jock strap.

How is it that we fetishize in both positive and negative ways inert elements attached to human bodies? Here, in this piece, the strange attractor of flower, as pansy, draws the inquisitive bee of attraction in, offers its stigma, styles and ovaries. And releases the bee to rejoin its community.

This pansy is comprised of jock strap cups and hockey girdle straps. A pair, in black and white, would look great above your bed. Erotic art that honours the continuum, not just the poles.

“Pansy For Jocks”, 16 x 16″, will be for sale at “The Black and White Ball” at Propeller Gallery, opening Thursday, February 4, 6:30 – 9:30, all works in black and white, and you should be too! A night of masquerade and sports perhaps? Two alternate versions of the piece on sale are shown here:

dan-nuttall-art-jock-pansy-3-16-x-16-web

dan-nuttall-art-pansy-for-jocks-2-web

Nature Via Nurture: What The Painting Saw

I admit to being genetically and socially constructed – though much like author Matthew Ridley, I see “nature” as via “nurture”. By this mean that our environments can affect gene expression and nature and nurture work collaborate to create outcomes.

I grew up in a culture that shaped how I participate. I spent less time in the gym and team sports because I didn’t want to be undressing with the other boys. It was my attraction to them that drove me away – my true nature would not be nurtured in such an environment.

Often, when I am working on art, I am working “automatically”, in what I call stream of consciousnesses. You can see my art HERE and on FB HERE.  To me, the work is proceeding “instinctively” but I know that the pall of previous and present experiences are there as well. I recently visited the Brooklyn Museum and turned a corner to find Monet’s “Vernon In The Sun” (1894), confronting my nature, nurturing my gaze.

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Claude Monet, “Vernon In The Sun”, 1894, Brooklyn Museum

I have conversations with friends and make “pacts” with myself that will challenge me as an artist. While in New York recently, and knowing I would be gallery-hopping, I challenged myself to “re-consider a knee-jerk negative reaction to a piece of art”.

I was set to pass by “Vernon In The Sun” – with its sweet indistinct colours. I murmured some kind of negative reaction and proceeded around the corner to something more to my liking. You could literally hear my shoes squeal when I realized what I was doing. I walked back, prepared to confront the piece. It stared right back.

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Sweet Array of Colours by Dan Nuttall

It was the overall colour scheme, the “sweet colours” in red, pink and baby blue. It was the indistinct-ness of the whole – my eye had to work to delineate shapes and identify objects. It was going to take time and did I not have more important quarry? All set to interpret and tell this painting what it was, I realized that it was reading me. Nurturing me. Being diagnostic. Here’s what the painting saw:  a hurried, dismissive individual who wanted clarity, and bold contrast to help him organize his thoughts so he could “get it” and move on. Yikes, I was being “read” by a painting. The Brooklyn Museum‘s web-site describes the painting, in part, as follows:

          “In this instance, hazy sunshine blurs the Gothic church’s carved details as well as the distinction between architecture and foliage, river and bank. Monet thickly and uniformly brushed undifferentiated strokes of pale purple, pink, blue, and green across his canvas, creating a dry, encrusted surface”.

I thought about the painting on the subway as I returned to Brooklyn for the evening. And I thought about my own censorship and the blushing, candied paintings I had thrown away over the years. Here’s an example:

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And the same again, but more consistent with the art I tend to release:

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I think they make a beautiful pair.

My work will be on display at The Artist Project, February 18-21, 2016, at the Better Living Centre at Exhibition Place. Please drop by Booth 105 and say hello!