TORONTO OUTDOOR ART Exhibition at Nathan Phillips Square, Friday to Sunday (July 9-11). Free. 416-408-2754. Rating: NNNNN
An encounter with bad art is a painful experience. I'm thinking of the pathetic decorations/paintings I saw while looking for a bargain mattress in a dimly lit corner of the Bay. An only slightly better DIY approach was proposed on Citytv's CityLine by an interior decorator who demonstrated how to produce your own Barnett Newman-style minimalist painting to complement your exposed brick and antique curio cabinet.
Why would you commit such a horrible art crime when there's great original work out there?
Because you can't afford real art? Maybe you can.
This weekend the 43rd annual Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition converts Nathan Phillips Square into an enormous gallery showing the work of more than 500 artists, from students to the well-established.
OK, the show does have a reputation for being conservative. As the TOAE's new executive director, Elke Town , puts it, the work has been largely populist, some would say boring. Many of the city's more contemporary artists have been discouraged by the unadventurous choices made by the juries and have been loath to drop the bucks for the entry fee - this year $300, or $100 for students.
But now Town and coordinator Alison Eagles have breathed new life into the show, which was threatened with extinction just last year. They've insisted on a balance between the populist work and some more pioneering pieces.
Noted Toronto artist Seth Scriver was accepted into this year's festival with his collection of highly expressive sock sculptures. He describes the little armless characters, each made from one sock, as intuitive portraits of past feet that have worn the socks. Scriver will also be showing one "10-footer," a 13-foot sculpture using 10 socks.
Keep an eye out for Katyuska Doleatto 's silver print photographs. The images are so beautiful that it comes as a surprise to discover they're composed with the sculpted remains of dead animals (an octopus, a chicken). The technique has given them a gorgeous, old quality.
Then there's Elvina Rafi . Although her reportage style of photography might not be considered high art, her eye for framing and incredible timing produce some fantastic shots of friends and familiar places. Not bad for a high school student who makes her own black-and-white prints. Discovering a gem like Rafi is one reason the TOAE is so worthwhile.
The sheer volume of work being presented almost guarantees you'll find something of interest. And the exhibition doesn't take a commission on artists' sales, so many artists set their prices low. Good deals abound.
Bring cash, and deck your walls with works of art.