Final Debut

you are invited to my first ever fine art show

Final Debut

taking place in my room at The Darling Mansion at 224 Dovercourt Road in Toronto

on December 20 2018 from 3pm – 8pm

It’s time to celebrate the end of my residency at The Darling Mansion. I’ve spent most of the past two years here, and during that time I was reborn as an artist. Let me tell you the story of how I became an artist.

It started with meeting Alex. She was a bald, tall woman with a powerful feminine figure, like the Venus de Milo. I met her dancing at Unsound at The Hearn, which remains the best musical event I’ve ever attended in Toronto. I was taken with her right away, and also her bald, tall male counterpart… and beautifully, they were very taken with each other. I tried to convince them to come model for me but they preferred their own company. I remember walking behind them on Carlton in the early morning and seeing them taking each other’s hand, and I had to take a snapshot for myself because it was all so beautiful and bittersweet to be longing to be between them and yet still blessed to be behind them. Alex has a wonderful way of gently paying attention to everyone’s vibe and guiding the experience of the party. Perhaps this is related to her work supporting kids with special needs. Witnessing her magic, the revelation is that taking care is the dominant form of empathy.

She lives far away, so I didn’t see her again for a long time. I met her again at MUTEK in Montreal in August 2017. I hadn’t brought any of my art materials with me. I was sick of being a fashion illustrator, and I wanted to be on vacation. So when I saw her, once again I thought, I want to paint her, but I kept my mouth shut. I was kind of in awe of her and felt weirdly nervous about asking her for anything. Then when we said goodbye, she said to me “do you still want to paint me?” “Of course,” I stammered. “Okay, I will be in Toronto on Labour Day,” she said. “Yes, wonderful,” I said. “You can come to my room at the mansion and I will paint you.”

Labour Day came and I was reviewing my materials, and realized I needed more paper. The shops were mostly closed so I walked all the way to Daniel’s Art Supplies on Spadina. It’s a funny old basement full of ancient dead stock art materials, and it’s run by an old Chinese man who writes your receipt on a pad of paper with the name of a long-defunct hardware store on the top. He had only a few old sheets of Somerset hot press watercolour paper, slightly discoloured, and I bought them all, paying with cash.

Meeting Alex in Kensington, I bought her a vegan lunch and vegan cupcakes. Whatever she wants, I thought, because she was doing me this favour with no expectation of payment. We spoke about the techno boys in our lives – Alex and I share a similar affection for the music and the young men it attracts, and interestingly, we both seem to play a high priestess role for these solitary souls who come alive in front of the speakers. After lunch, we took a cab back to the mansion and went upstairs. My room was beautiful and light and Alex looked so good in it.

I had some small pieces of paper, the size I usually used for fashion illustration, and I started with those. Alex stripped and stood for me, choosing an Ibiza set by Nastia as the music, and I scratched away in my usual way, but it was all stiff and awkward and I felt as if I was failing, wasting my moment. I asked Alex to lie on the bed, and instead of ripping the paper down to size, I picked up a large piece. It was bigger than my little easel and sort of hung off the edges of it. The next part I totally forget. I have no memory at all of drawing the lines; they just seemed to have materialized. When I finished and I witnessed what I had done, it was so beautiful. It was the best painting I had ever made, and it seemed to have occurred in a trance state. Shocked, I said “oh, this is amazing. This is the best painting I’ve ever done.” “That’s great!” she said. “Should we try another one?” “Of course, yes,” I said, grabbing another large sheet. She rolled over on to her side.

Then it happened again. In moments, without any effort on my part at all, there was a beautiful painting of her. Both of the paintings captured her beautiful face and pointed nose, and the enchanting curves of her body. “It happened again,” I said “I can’t believe it.”

“I’m tired,” she said. God had finished her work.

“It’s okay we’re done,” I said, “we’re more than done.” I lay down on the bed with her – at the time it was a terrible old springy mattress held up by buckets, in ironic contrast with the temple-like structure of the frame. She held me like a baby, and next to her I felt how small and pointy and high-strung I am compared to her vast solidity. I felt like a tiny bird nesting on a great mountain. I was changed, lying there looking at the artwork and realizing that it was the first time I had ever looked at something I had made and thought it was art, that it was infinitely precious, and that if I had this capacity it would surely change my life. Alex seemed less surprised, as if she had simply created the space I needed to give myself the chance to be the best I could be on purpose. It still brings tears to my eyes, I see her as a midwife to my new life, and I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

Once Alex was gone, I realized that I had to protect the work, and so I took it to be framed. It was the first time in my life I had ever paid for my work to be framed professionally. It came back from the framers in time for my birthday party. That’s another story for another day, however at the end of that night Tanya, the mansion’s owner, hammered nails into the walls around the window of my room and I hung up the paintings and it officially became my room.

As I lived with the work since, looking at them every day, the meanings of those two paintings emerged – one is the conscious mind, and the other is the unconscious mind, and I realized that what they are is allegorical nudes. Since then, several other models have offered themselves to me as subjects, each in a very serendipitous way like Alex, and each with their own unique narratives. I’ve become better at consciously entering the unconscious state to do the work. Once the paintings are done, meaning emerges. Now, they fill up every wall in my room and living with them every day is true joy. Is this what it means to do what you love? To fall in love with your own work, to be able to say in a heartbeat that your favourite artist is yourself?

My time in The Darling Mansion has been both fruitful and dramatic, and I’m grateful for all the trials and triumphs, and most of all for the lessons learned. To be reborn as an artist in this bed has given me back the purpose I thought I had lost. I have a lot of work to do now, and once again I feel called to travel. I have subjects in New York and Berlin that are calling for me. I’m also beginning to receive commissions for society portraits – beautiful large likenesses of personalities and art lovers. This is a new life where instead of belonging to any industry, I’m beholden only to those who personally take an interest in my work.

If you are in Toronto and count yourself among that number, I’d love to see you at my farewell event in the mansion. There will be nine numinous works on exhibit, and perhaps some surprises as well… so:

you are invited to my first ever fine art show

Final Debut

taking place in my room at The Darling Mansion at 224 Dovercourt Road in Toronto

on December 20 2018 from 3pm – 8pm

 

2 thoughts on “Final Debut”

  1. I’ll try to be there. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to forget important dates.

    Enjoy Berlin as much as humanly possible. The older I get, the more I want to go there. I would pretend that Bowie, Iggy and Brian Eno are still there, hidden away behind the Iron curtain, feverishly working on new material, and that I could pop in and say hello.

  2. Danielle,

    I will be there. This article was so beautifully written. Thank you for sharing your journey, best of luck on your travels. See you at the farewell event!

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