BEYOND IMAGININGS at Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay West) to June 1, 2011. 416-973-4000. Rating: NNNN
Many Torontonians use summer vacation to visit exotic, faraway places like the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower.
But the public art show Beyond Imaginings does a good job of suggesting the overlooked wonders in our own backyard.
Presented on dozens of all-weather panels around Harbourfront, the show gathers eight photographers' views of the Greenbelt, which curves around our city from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Cobourg and extends north to Tobermory.
While all the artists are quite capable, there are a couple of standouts: Meera Margaret Singh's penetrating portraits of migrants and women in the agriculture sector put overlooked workers front and centre, suggesting toughness as well as vulnerability. They have a haunting, powerful depth.
On a different note, Mark Kasumovic's wide, sprawling views of people at play in the landscape - flying kites in Kleinberg, fishing at Christie Lake or walking the Blue Mountain Caves - reframe our relationship to nature and tourism in a way that seems both intimate and sweeping.
The rest of the photographers present distinctive, if related, perspectives. Becky Comber takes us into the Greenbelt's forests, emphasizing the beautiful textures of rocks and trees. Keesic Douglas paddles waterways by canoe, tracing the path of his First Nations ancestors and questioning territorial legacies.
Garett Walker focuses on areas where suburban and rural blur, while Martie Giefert points out some tone-setting small-town buildings and boats. Erin Riley captures intimate farm life moments - like a farmer clutching some of the 40,000 lettuce seedlings he's planting by hand - while Rob MacInnis continues his poignant portraits of farm animals.
On the downside, the exhibition's installation design - a long L shape sometimes squeezed up against garden walls - is awkward. As a result, the project seems a lot less unified in person than on Harbourfront's website, where you can easily scroll through the images in sequence.
Overall, Beyond Imaginings sparks curiosity about familiar-seeming territories - no easy task. I look forward to the exhibition's evolution in mid-October, when new photos from summer and early fall will be posted.