A Love Letter to the Great Lakes

Lush Handmade Cosmetics, the company I work for, has been supporting the Pangea Seed Foundation for several years and last week they allowed a few of us workers to volunteer on their street art project that was taking place in Toronto.

Many will write far more extensively and eloquently than I about the whole project so I’ll leave that to them, and say that if you want to know more about the project, please click this link - https://www.pangeaseed.foundation/sea-walls/a-love-letter-to-the-great-lakes/

I’ll just note down a couple of observations.

I had my preconceptions going into the project. They were all good ones. But as usual – and you’d have thought I’d learn by now not to build up a picture of that which I am about to do, but I never learn – I got far more from the project than I could have imagined.

Firstly, the sheer quality of the people involved set me back. Rarely have a met a group that were so uniformly kind, open hearted, talented and wise beyond their years as I did last week when I mixed with the artists and facilitators. They’re the sort of people I’d be proud to call friends and have in my life as a constant, and leaving them on Friday I felt more than a little regret that I probably wouldn’t see many of them for a long time. Although that of course is partly up to me. Do I want to make the effort? Yes, and I hope I shall.

Then there was the quality of the artwork. Not just the individual pieces, which were beautiful (as I hope my photos go some way to illustrate), but the body of work as a whole. The organisers had done an incredible job of pulling together locations as well as artists who’s styles and thought patterns were varied but complemented each others and as I toured the sites one after the other it was as though I were in the Vatican or the Vasari Corridor, such was the quality on offer and sense of wonder I felt as I looked at it. I’m not hyping it up there either, I genuinely did feel the same thrill as I have done in any of the world’s great art museums.

The artists knew what they were doing, and they knew where to stop. That’s such a vital skill, to know when to put the paintbrush down and be satisfied. It’s kind of like life, so many of us never recognise when we reach our own high point, the point where we should just say ‘yeah, this is it, this is how life should be, now I just have to maintain.’ Like, we’re mentally at peace, we have a decent standard of living, we have a good partner, and then we say, ‘hey, why don’t I screw all this up by looking over there, because the grass is greener, right?’ Wrong.

So yeah, the artists knew when to stop, and I appreciated that. Good art is like anything, it’s distinguished as much by what is left out as it is by what is included. In fact, I often thought of Michelangelo’s ‘Prisoners’ as I viewed some of the artist’s work. I thought of that un-finished stone, and the figures moving out of it, showing us that there is, waiting inside every rock, some beauty that exists unseen and will continue to do so until some genius has the eyes to see and chisel it out. Such was the case down on Ossington and Queen last week. All those empty walls had beauty hidden and the artists bought it to our attention. Magic.

Finally, I must mention the great ballet I witnessed time and time again as the artists applied their paints. A certain joyful extravagence burst out with each unconsious choreographed arcing of the spray can, ending always in a backlit wisp of paint. The artists were aware of this flamboyance, I’m sure, it was all part of the act, the wheeling of the arm, the flick of the head as they moved back to view the new lines. It sounds like I’m being a ponce for the sake of it here, but really, it was so good to watch, people in complete control of their movements, and acting with such grace. If you get the chance to watch artists work up close, do so, it’ll add so much to your enjoyment of what they create.

So, thanks to Lush for being far sighted and generous enough to support such a project, and for allowing us to volunteer for it, and of course to the Pangea Seed Foundation for initiating it all. Great work. Here are some snaps.

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