Posts Tagged ‘art exhibitions’

Woven Woods: A Journey through the Forest Floor

Thursday, November 2nd, 2017

At long last I can tell you about a major collection I’ve been working on for nearly five years, that just began its cross country tour of Canada. This project has been on my brain since the initial idea found me, and naturally I’m excited, if only to be able to see it at last on gallery walls.

An exhibition is coming! An exhibition is coming!

If you’ve been following my posts, you will know I’ve been working with a number of natural concepts, centered mainly around trees and tree biology. The current research that interests me most is about tree communication, particularly the mechanics of how trees send and receive nutrients and messages through their roots with the help of forest fungi.

Here is a short description of this natural process, which I’ve described in greater detail in earlier posts (including this one):
In the top six inches of the forest floor lies a vast and flourishing communication system as old as photosynthesis itself: an exquisitely balanced symbiotic relationship between mycorrhizal fungi and tree roots which provides a network of channels for resources and messages between individual trees. The resulting plant chatter is as complex and efficient as our own worldwide web. In recent research, biologists have also discovered the existence of Mother trees: larger, older specimens that, with the help of their fungi, serve as system hubs in life, and as nutrient pumps in death. This mycorrhizal network thus connects and stabilizes the forest, and by extension, our entire planet’s biosphere.

Fascinated by this current research, I applied for an Ontario Arts Council Grant to travel to the University of British Columbia and meet Dr Suzanne Simard who is a leader in this field. Together with her and some of her gracious Grad students, I toured her lab on campus and her field facilities through the mountains to Kamloops. It was an eye-opening experience.

Dr Suzanne Simard in her natural element, the forest.

I couldn’t wait to share my reverence for this ancient forest system, not only for its own sake but also because we have so much to learn from nature for our own survival on earth. After visiting Dr Simard I spent three years of sometimes excruciating trial and error, trying to nail down the best way to portray the process, without having it look like some kind of neo-artsy science project. You will not believe the crazy things I drew on paper, the weird thoughts I thought, and the strange clunky semi-formed beings that were born and died. And all the hours of sleep lost over flashes of brilliance, while awakening to yet another non-germinator.

What IS that thing?

But something finally clicked – I kept coming back to it with many of my earlier concepts and realized that the most logical way to show connection was with the CIRCLE. The circle is not only present everywhere in the natural world, including the shape of our planet, but it’s also symbolic of environmental cycles of all types from seasonal to reproductive to regenerative. Not to mention, the circle is inherently spiritual and beautiful.

From there, it was a matter of choosing technique, size, and cohesive elements. How many to make? Which materials? Is my 45-year old Bernina up to the task? Am I? I’d rarely worked with circular designs before – what might be the challenges?

While reading as many research articles I could find for inspiration, I drew and drew and drew dozens of coloured samples… trying out designs, layouts, colours, concepts.

One of many ideas in pencil and pen.

I decided to make quilted wall hangings rather than framed works, because I didn’t want to feel limited to any particular size or standard ‘look’. Each was to have an organic shape of its own, unencumbered by the rigid expectations of a square format. And thus began a new journey for me, working in a larger format and in the round. Once I’d made the first, I was hooked.

Ubuntu- Source 2014 47″
The very first one.

The resulting collection, entitled Woven Woods, is a series of twelve round quilted wall hangings, measuring 36 to 46″ in diameter, each depicting twelve trees of varying types, seasons and stages of growth, and portraying a different aspect of their connection with the mycorrhizal net. I chose the number twelve because in numerology it is the ‘number of completion’, and it is found almost ubiquitously in our measuring and mathematical systems, our measuring of time, and in several key spiritual and astronomical concepts. Each circle encloses the story of a thriving ecosystem, where all individual elements contribute to support the whole. The word Ubuntu, given as a prefix to each title, is an African word which means “I am, because you are.”

Ubuntu – Winter
2015 46″

For materials, I used fabrics of all kinds, mainly dyed and printed cottons, some silks, a variety of synthetics and sheers, and cotton batting. The surface technique is raw edge appliqué enhanced with machine embroidery. In a few of them I also used acrylic paint for shading effect. They are all machine quilted, and hang flat with the help of a ‘brilliant’ (ie, my own secret idea) structural framework on the back.

You can see them all HERE.  If you click on the photos you will see a description of the inspiration for each quilt and a relevant quote or poem.  Or you are so very welcome to see them in person wherever they may be. They really are better in the flesh.

Woven Woods at Art Gallery of Burlington
Dec1 – Jan 28, 2018

This collection was shown for the first time at the Art Gallery of Burlington, Ontario, from Dec 1, 2017 to Jan 28, 2018 as part of ‘Holding by a Thread’, with Line Dufour, Carole Baillargeon and Kelly Jane Bruton. It will tour until 2021 (or as long as I can find venues). My goal is to show them in every province in Canada, and, with some luck, abroad. Please see my Upcoming Events page for locations and dates. The pieces in this collection will be available for purchase at the end of their exhibit run.

Thank you thank you thank you, Ontario Arts Council!


On a Wing and a Prayer

Monday, December 5th, 2016

Earlier this year in mid-May, I received an invitation from Evan Mitchell, the Musical Director of the Kingston Symphony Orchestra, to create a small suite of works inspired by a special performance of classical music compositions, all of which incorporate birdsong. The three pieces to be performed are: Jennifer Butler’s “And Birds do Sing”, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 17, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’.

The concert hall is the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts in Kingston, and the lobby is large, beautiful, open, and enclosed by floor-to-ceiling glass overlooking Lake Ontario. The performance is scheduled for March 5, 2017.

Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts’ lobby

Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts’ lobby

I know NOTHING about classical music (picture inner struggle here), but YES struck me as the more interesting option in this case… a new experience! So much to gain, so little to lose! I love birds! So I said YES.

And the invitation gave me plenty of time – an eternity, it seemed! The director provided links to the music, and programme notes to explain the composers’ creative inspiration for each piece. I listened to them while working on other projects, read the back stories, and then hoped something magical would happen.

Time passed…… and passed…


When all else fails, I think the greatest motivation possible is a deadline. Having lots of time to do something doesn’t necessarily make the result any better – in fact, it can have quite the opposite effect. So, eager to quit procrastinating, I gave myself a two week time window in November 2016 and trusted I would get there somehow.


Leap of faith


How to begin? Obviously, listening (with intent) felt like the best first step. I recorded my main impressions as they progressed: which colours came to mind? how did the music fit the background story? How did I feel along the way? what might all those instrument sounds LOOK like?

I started thinking about the physical form of the pieces. How on earth to capture the various movements and the passage of time? After all, music moves through time but visual imagery needs to encompass everything in one shot. What about this: because a musical piece builds on itself while it plays, and previous sounds lodge in our memory even as we hear the new ones, perhaps the pieces should be tall and vertical, and read from the bottom up!

It didn’t feel right to use representational imagery alone – I wanted to show the feeling and colour of the sounds and didn’t want to limit my visualization. Abstracts they must be! As I began the drawings, I also realized they must be quilted wall panels, as the designs resisted being hemmed in by frames. And technique? It felt most logical to plan for a loose (might we say, imperfect?) form of fabric collage that would allow plenty of freedom of shape and background changes.

It takes hundreds of small decisions like this just to get to first base with any new project. Sometimes I think this is why we tend to procrastinate – it’s hard work and it’s scary! At times, the answers are easy and obvious, but other times we must make a leap of faith, hoping experience and wisdom will serve well.

Mozart Piano Concerto No. 17

I decided to begin with the Mozart which was the most accessible to me: a rich melodic piano piece. It had a charming story to match: Mozart tried to teach the theme to his starling, but the bird couldn’t get it quite right. Mozart was so tickled he wrote the bird’s mistake into his journal.


Click on the starling to hear the Concerto

In the design of this wall panel, the starling became the central motif, with the three movements of the concerto settling around him in swirls and swoops of colour.


The Mozart 2016 42×20” Fabric Wall Panel


Jennifer Butler “And Birds do Sing”

The second, by Canadian composer Jennifer Butler, is a modern piece written in 2010, and is the most abstract of the three compositions. The sounds begin with drums in cool waves, dark and tumbling and pierced with high flutes, eventually resolving into a lullaby composed for the composer’s daughter. What does a drum sound look like? Maybe circles… oblong circles? And flutes…. might rise up in long strands? The overall feel of the piece was cool and spring-like, hence I stayed with blues and cooler tones. The panel begins at the base with the rhythm of the drums, then another layer, upon layer until the clear notes of birdsong and lullaby surface.


The Jen Butler 2016 42×20” Fabric Wall Panel


Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 ‘Pastoral’

The Beethoven piece was the most complex. Although I incorporated elements of the movements, like a walk by a stream, a storm, birds, and a reference to folk art to represent a peasant dance, I was more interested in the smoother cadence and feeling of the performance, the melodic swings and eddies. The sounds were less emotional than the previous two pieces, so I used a more sophisticated colour palette.


The Beethoven 2016 42×20” Fabric Wall Panel


Each of these pieces grew and evolved completely differently. In focusing on and working with them, I learned something intriguing about classical music: that, just like visual art, it begins with a personal story – now I will listen for it. And perhaps when the music lovers at the concert see my interpretations, they might learn something about abstract visual art. My fondest hope is that the music provides an entry point for understanding the abstract imagery, and in return the visual art enriches the appreciation of the music. As with many other occasions when I took the leap, I enjoyed every single minute, and the effects will last a life time!

For purchasing information, please click HERE. All the photography of my work is done by my very talented and dedicated husband, Janusz Wrobel.


European starling from




































Small Works at Taylor’s Tea Room

Sunday, December 2nd, 2012

On Friday morning, early!, my husband and I hung 14 of my small pieces on the lovely lavender walls of Taylor’s Tea Room in Dundas. The owner, Brayden Erlich subsequently emailed me with the following:

“Lorraine! I have to say thank you so much it’s just how I imagined! Amazing feedback all day long. And I love it!!
So pumped! Tomorrow will be great! The place looks fabulous!”

And it WAS great! The opening was slated for Saturday, Dec 1 from 2-4 pm. It was a busy day in Dundas, so the visitors were pleased to have a quiet place to stop over for complimentary tea and scones. And such enthusiasm! I am truly blessed.
If you are in the area, do drop by! Taylor’s Tea Room is at 11 King Street West in Dundas, ON  905 628-3768.

Some photos from the day:

Brayden Erlich and me

                                                   ….. and a beautiful spread for all to enjoy….

Window on the world

Monday, April 30th, 2012

You may know I make a living from my art. Have been now, for a good 20 years, with the odd few years between, working at ‘real jobs’.

It’s not always easy, as you can already imagine. NOT knowing when and where the next cheque is coming from is not for the faint of heart. My husband makes his living from fine art photography, so he’s in the same boat. The period between February to May is particularly slow for art sales.

Stop waiting for nothing - Sopiko Cherkezishvili

So I do other things. I teach, I do some public speaking, and I sit at this computer dreaming up creative ways to make sure I am not forgotten in the huge and competitive art market. It’s a balancing act. How to ‘keep it real’, and not fall into the commercial maelstrom that eventually sucks our creativity and will to live?

In this way I feel very lucky. I happen to love social media. If they could find a way to insert a chip to keep me eternally connected, I would probably go for it. This obsession for connection probably comes from my lifetime of moving around… most of my dearest friends live in other towns, some of them far away, and email and facebook are perfect for keeping in touch. But now it’s gone deeper – I have decided that it will be an extension of my creativity – so now, it’s not only a necessity… it’s actually fun. And it helps me put food on my table and gas in my car.

Outreach in all its forms is very important for a successful art career. I prefer to call it outreach, rather than promotion, because for me, it’s an extension of the communication that begins with my art. If art making was only about making money, I could think of 1,000 better ways to do it. Outreach is a way to make my art communicate to a larger audience. Reaching an audience – moving them, delighting them, helping make their lives more beautiful, more special, more meaningful – is the prime goal. It provides the most important currency for a true artist.

So a few months ago, my husband, after encountering arrogance and misrepresentation by Art Sales and Rental at Art Gallery of Hamilton (resulting in his asking to remove his exhibition from the community gallery), learned about the possibility of renting a large corner window. This enormous space just happens to be right across the driveway from the main AGH entrance. May was the perfect month to rent it, coinciding with the big Spring Art Gallery of Hamilton Sale, to which neither of us was invited this year. We felt this would be the right opportunity to make a statement about the AGH Art Sales and Rental’s current lack of support and respect for local artists.

Window at King St and Sunset in Hamilton, ON

Janusz set it all up… every inch of space was carefully and lovingly planned. Our contact information is there, including QR codes for the Smartphone set.   The photo on Facebook has so far generated nearly 40 likes and a dozen comments. We consider it our ‘outreach gallery’. Let’s see how it all plays out, around the AGH Art Sales and Rental Spring Sale. Our work will be there until the end of May.

So – for us – this is how we are ‘keeping it real’. Trying to accomplish a lot with a little, while not drifting into the dead zone of commercialism. It keeps us engaged and having some fun. And it plays in nicely with my firebrand husband’s political side… in a subtle and quiet way.

So what do YOU think? Sometimes I wonder if anyone reads these posts. Your comments will be much appreciated!

Long Beach, California: Here they come!

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011
SPRING   18X36″

Hello everyone,

As I mentioned in my last post, four of my wall pieces will be on display at the Janome Sewing Machine booth during the International Quilt Festival , in Long Beach, CA from July 29-31, 2011.


The theme for this year’s exhibition is The Four Seasons, which is right up my alley!

AUTUMN  18X36″

So I hope some of you will have a chance to see the show, and drop by at the booth to see my babies. AND – they are for sale, each at $1500.

WINTER   18X36″

So now, you probably think I won’t know what to do with myself. NOT!!!!  In true Roy style, I decided to put all this down time to good use.

So – my husband and I will be part of the Hamilton Open Gardens event at the end of June and start of July. This means our ‘Work in Progress’ gardens will be open for viewing, and our Studio will be open as well. Our dates and hours are Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4, from 10-5 pm each day. Of course, you are welcome any time by appointment too, so please contact me if you are in the area. We have lots of new work to show you! At the same time you can take advantage of the trip to visit other Open Gardens in the Hamilton area, hike to our beautiful Webster’s Falls, drop by the Royal Botanical Gardens, or just mosey along King Street in our quaint village of Dundas, enjoying our many restaurants and shops.
Here’s our Google location: Hillcrest Studio.

We look forward to seeing you!


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