TORONTO OUTDOOR ART EXHIBITION BEST OF 2005 at First Canadian Place Gallery (100 King West), to February 17. 416-408-2754. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
A stall at the summer Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition can be a great deal for artists, allowing them to pay off debts and buy more supplies. A broad range of judges dole out $30,000 in prizes across many categories, and getting into the winter award show doesn't hurt either.
Best jewellery award winner Andrée Wejsmann's piece, Maybe It's Just Broken, brings on wistful thoughts. Cupped in stainless steel and silver is a broken bowl printed with a bunny family in their cozy kitchen: the ceramic incarnation of a Beatrix Potter childhood. The innocence of one's earliest days endures through careful remembrance.
On the lighter side, Carrie Chisholm rocks the mixed media award. Visually "remixing" four iconic album covers (the Ramones, Blondie, Squeeze and the Jam), Chisholm layers twisted caricatures of the band members over their original images.
Andrea Vander Kooij puts spotless stitches on old fabric to nab the best fibre award. On a piece of denim, faded to a stained grey, the artist stitches with teal thread the outline of a hummingbird, wings outstretched. Making a kind of X-ray, she adds its gossamer skeleton in yellow, and stretches the holey denim over teal cloth with a floral print, perhaps representing the bird's lunch.
For its technical mastery of putting pigment on paper, Olexander Wlasenko's Untitled (diver) is the show's most stunning piece; it won the top drawing award. Shaded and smeared, the large photorealistic black-and-white image of a boy jumping into a pool captures details like the slight blur of the umbrellas in the background and the motion of the boy's arms.
Some winners seem like odd picks to me, but the variety of tastes reflected in the judge's choices captures the sprawling summer exhibition's inclusivity.
The talented Alison Eagles has taken over as executive director, so the 2006 show promises to be another success.