Literary family snapshots told with unflinching candor & wry humour in Pamela Williams’ Evelyn’s Stories

Cover photo of Evelyn by Pamela Williams.

 

I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Pamela Williams’ new book Evelyn’s Stories at a reading to a packed room on Sunday at the Tranzac Club. Known mostly for her beautiful, haunting black and white photographs of cemetery sculpture, Williams has assembled a collection of brief stories, as told to her by her mother Evelyn—and some handed down to Evelyn by her mother—in a series of short vignettes. Evelyn’s Stories are literary snapshots of family across time and space, ranging from 1900s Glasgow, to 1930s Thornbury and into the 1970s and beyond.

Told with unflinching candor, sharp detail and wry humour, Evelyn’s Stories is a window on moments of personal history and experience; inviting us for brief peeks (the stories are postcard-sized or slightly longer) inside the world of Williams’ family, as told to her by her mother, and to her mother by her grandmother.

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Pamela Williams reads at the launch of Evelyn’s Stories

It’s family biography as comedy and drama, with eyebrow-raising tales of marriage and infidelity (“When Hector Married Stella” and “Keep Toby Out, England, 1907”); charming and funny childhood shenanigans and observations (“Bathtub Visitor” and “Divorce”); memories of brutal and sweet elementary school teachers (“Mrs. Pinch” and “Miss Chalk’s Replacement”); tragic loss (“New Spectacles, Glasgow, 1906”); hilarious social interactions (“That’s Why I Asked You” and “At the Cinema”); and harrowing but comical senior driving mishaps (“Two Motorcycles” and “A Ride on the Wild Side”).

As the family tales shift from poignant, to comic, to tragic, to saucy, Evelyn’s Stories captures the heart, lives, loves and experiences of generations of family who crossed the ocean from Glasgow, Scotland to settle in rural/small-town Ontario, Canada.

Check out Williams’ book collection online, including her photography books; order via email.

 

 

Toronto Fringe: Art, friendship & astroturf in the quirky, edgy, hilarious The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome

Adrian Rebucas, Lauren MacKinlay, Anne van Leeuwen, Richard Young & Carson Pinch. Photo by Megan Terris.

 

High Park Productions takes us to The Freedom Factory gallery (22 Dovercourt Road, south of Queen St. East) for a fly-on-the-wall view of the aftermath of an explosive art show opening. The Toronto Fringe production of Michael Ross Albert’s The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome, directed by Robert Motum, is a quirky, edgy, hilarious look at the indie art world and a group of artist friends as they struggle with finding fulfillment in the personal lives and careers.

Photographer Amy (Lauren MacKinlay) manages an art gallery that’s soon shutting down, so she invites her art school friends to hang their work in one final show—one that quickly closes when radical feminist painter pal Caroline (Anne van Leeuwen) goes all rock star in a hotel room on the place. Cleaning up the debris of art work, wine glasses and broken dreams, Amy is assisted by gallery intern/sculptor Pablo (Carson Pinch) and conceptual artist friend Marshall (Adrian Rebucas) while Caroline fumes and smokes outside before rejoining her friends to explain herself and face the music. And just when you thought things couldn’t get more complicated, Caroline’s fiancé John (Richard Young) arrives and the gang discovers that he already knows Marshall.

Remarkable work from the ensemble, who keeps it real and present amidst all the insanity, razor sharp hilarity and satire. Heartfelt, insightful discussions about the art world, the nature of art and creativity, and the artist’s place within it all—and the existential crisis every artist must confront regarding their work, the precarity of their financial status, and their struggle for personal meaning and fulfillment.

The production features dramatic, evocative works by local female artists Shannon Gernon, Christine Miller, Krista Sobocan and Zabrina Szymanski.

The Grass is Greenest at the Houston Astrodome continues every night at 8 p.m. at The Freedom Factory until July 15. It’s sold out for the remainder of the run, but you can always drop by and take your chances on scooping up a spot from a no-show.

Want to check if the show you want to see is sold out? The Toronto Fringe folks have set up a page for sold-out shows, updated daily.

 

 

Interview: Leanne Ferguson

Galaxy Photoz is a new photography service that puts clients in touch with professional, vetted photographers. Featuring nine types of photography, Galaxy Photoz wants to make the photographer search safe, easy and on demand. For photographers, it acts like an agency, promoting their work and connecting them with clients. It’s like Uber for your photography service needs. I interviewed Galaxy Photoz CEO and founder Leanne Ferguson to get the scoop on this new service.

LWMC: Hi Leanne. Thanks for reaching out to chat about Galaxy Photoz. What can you tell us about the genesis of this new photography service?

LF: It’s an app and it saves you time and headaches. Similar to UBER, it’s a middleman that connects customers to photographers within minutes. You can book for same day or future dates.

LWMC: The service covers photographers specializing in nine photography types. What are those types? Do you find that any are in greater demand than others?

LF: The nine types of photography we currently provide are: Maternity, Newborn, Cake Smash, Headshots, Engagements, Weddings, Events, Model Portfolios and Portraits.

The top three are events, last-minute headshots (I don’t know why!) and maternity photo shoots. A lot of midwives and doulas promote us to their clients.

LWMC: One of the things Galaxy Photoz sets out to do is make the photographer search a no-hassle and safe process. What types of issues have you seen people run into with photographers?

LF: Photographers disappearing with deposits. One of my closest friends got married five years ago and still hasn’t received her images. She spent $4,500! I’ve also heard many times about photographers not showing up or just botching the job completely.

LWMC: Galaxy Photoz acts as an agent of sorts for photographers, with a select roster to feature and promote. How does Galaxy Photoz go about vetting and selecting photographers for inclusion on the service?

LF: Good question! There is a two-step process. The photographer has to pass a test, mainly around camera literacy. Then they have to upload images for approval.

LWMC: Can you describe the process for clients who are looking to hire a photographer?

LF: There are five easy Steps to Book:

  1. Select a category
  2. Select a location
  3. View portfolios
  4. Send request
  5. Accept a pro!

LWMC: What are the benefits of the service for photographers? And how do they get in touch to apply to get on your roster?

LF: The photographers are handed pre-paid shoots that pay well. There are no upfront costs for joining and less competition.

LWMC: Although you’re located in Toronto, you’re looking to broaden the scope of your service—and you’re launching an Indiegogo campaign to get Galaxy Photoz on its way. What is your vision to reach out globally?

LF: The vision is to remove the lack of trust from the photography industry worldwide with an easy-to-use platform. We’ll be in multiple cities across North America by year-end. Right now, the waiting list for photographers to join is at www.galaxyphotoz.com/photographers

LWMC: Anything else you’d like to shout out?

LF: You can get a free photo shoot! When you sign up for free, you’ll get a link that you can share. Every time you refer a customer, you both make $5 and you can compound it to pay for an entire photo shoot.

LWMC: Now, for the fun part of the interview. I’d like to finish up with James Lipton’s Pivot questionnaire:

What’s your favourite word?

Seriously…. LOL that’s my favourite word, “Seriously.”

What’s your least favourite word?

“Can’t,” because Yes I can! Wait… Am I only supposed to say one word? #Oops

What turns you on?

Huh?

What turns you off?

Hmmmmmm….

What sound or noise do you love?

I’m in love with Tory Lanez’s recent song called “Luv”… Does that count as a sound? 😉

What sound or noise do you hate?

My next door neighbour’s dog barking.

What is your favourite curse word?

Me? I don’t swear… Just kidding that’s a F*cking lie :–)

What profession other than your own would you like to pursue?

Acting… Growing up I always wanted to be a movie star.

What profession would you not like to do?

I wouldn’t like to be an astronaut; I’d like to stay here on earth.

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?

“Hello my daughter…”

Thanks, Leanne!

You can follow Galaxy Photoz on Twitter and Facebook—and be sure to check them out on Instagram!

Upcoming art & photography exhibits: Nora Camps & Lisa MacIntosh

Wanted to quickly shout out two upcoming art exhibits:

Painter/photographer Nora Camps exhibit CAPRICCIO. Real and Imaginary, with guest artists Marietta Camps, MaryAnn Camps and Pamela Williams @ the Papermill Gallery at Todmorden Mills – from August 28 to September 7.

Photographer Lisa MacIntosh: ASK exhibit @ 3030 Dundas West – from September 4 to October 4. LMP_AskPoster2014

In the meantime, you can check out some previous cowbell posts on a Pamela Williams exhibit, and my photo shoot and interview with Lisa MacIntosh.

Happy holidays!

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My wee Xmas tree, lit up in the dark.

Hi all –

It’s full-on holiday hustle and bustle, with gatherings and errands galore! Wanted to send out a quick note to say that I’m still here, I just needed to take care of a few things, which left me no time to post over the past little while. Hope you’ve been enjoying the reblogging of some other fabulous bloggers in the meantime.

Here’s what I’ve been up to (in addition to the f/t office job as a copy editor, which has been super busy the past couple of weeks, and some fabulous holiday gatherings, and arts and culture):

Rehearsing and reading in Siobhán Dungan’s radio comedy The Receptionist, which featured 8 actors reading 120 characters, and a violinist – we did that on Dec 6 at Innis Town Hall and had a blast!

Auditioning for the Village Players’ upcoming production of Daniel MacIvor’s Marion Bridge (directed by Greg Nowlan, running Feb 28 – Mar 22). I made it to callbacks and didn’t get cast, but really looking forward to seeing this.

I’ve been working as a scenic artist with set designer Ed Rosing on Alumnae Theatre’s upcoming production of Christopher Fry’s The Lady’s Not For Burning (directed by Jane Carnwath, running Jan 24 – Feb 8 on the mainstage).

Seeing amazing arts events like The Gay Heritage Project (Buddies In Bad Times), Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (The Central) and Lizzie Violet’s Poetry Open Mic (Amsterdam Bicycle Club).

Coming up soon:

The great pleasure of a photo shoot with Lisa MacIntosh on Saturday.

I’ll also finally be doing an interview with writer/poet/editor/horror aficionado and cabaret mistress extraordinaire Lizzie Violet.

And, of course, we’re now a week away from Christmas Eve, so the countdown is on!

Happy holidays, all! xo

Energizing & inspiring: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition @ Fran Hill Gallery

It had been a while since I’d been to the Fran Hill Gallery, so I was very happy to get the heads-up from Fran that the gallery was mounting a group exhibition: Eclectic – September Group Exhibition, which opened last night and runs until September 29.

Located at 285 Rushton Road, Toronto near St. Clair/Christie, Fran Hill Gallery is just around the corner from a lively and diverse stretch of St. Clair. The shops range from the Good Will to the vintage shop Gypsy, from pubs like Dave’s to more upscale eateries like The Rushton, and chain coffee Starbucks to the indie Noir and Pain Perdu. There’s a great neighbourhood feel to the gallery, but you don’t have to be a regular to receive a warm welcome. It’s also a clubhouse of sorts for the artists represented there, to hang out with Fran and other artists, and meet art lovers and prospective collectors.

The participating artists are as distinctive as their work, creating art in a variety of media, and coming from various professional and cultural backgrounds. Pieces done in oil on canvas (Alex Wu’s Untitled lady), pencil or watercolour on paper (Blair Sharpe’s watercolour abstracts), wood (Rosalie Lam’s Canada geese and Lynn Cumine’s nude woman); collage (Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation); with digital cameras (Jim Ingram’s NYC photos); sculptures in glass and plaster (Leon Rooke’s “Who’s Your Daddy!); the images ranging from the abstract to portraits and landscapes, to homage to other artists (À la Pablo Picasso’s abstract nudes). “Eclectic” is the perfect title for this exhibition.

The Eclectic – September Group Exhibition artists are, in alphabetical order:

Steve Armstrong

Christopher Arnoldin

Robert Chandler

Tien Chang

Linda Corbett

Lynn Cumine

Michael Warren-Darley

Michael Gerry

Gerald Gladstone

Frederick Hagan

Inez

Jim Ingram

Rosalie Lam

Derek Liddington

Barbara McGivern

Bhashkar Mooljee

Robert Nowacki

À la Pablo Picasso

Leon Rooke

Brian Saby

Robert Schwager

Blair Sharpe

Lanny Shereck (who also has an exhibit opening at loop tomorrow, running September 14 – October 6)

Steve Rockwell

Y.M. Whelan

Alex Wu

Sean Yelland

Standing in the centre of the showroom, immersed in these images, is both an energizing and inspiring experience. And you can feel it too. Eclectic – September Group Exhibition is on at Fran Hill Gallery until September 29. Hours: Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11 – 6 or by appointment. Contact: 416-363-1333 or email: franhillgallery@bellnet.ca

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Fran Hill surveys the gallery & exhibit patrons from the doorway
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The Fran Hill Gallery neon sign glows in the window
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Steve Rockwell’s thumbnail installation
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Alex Wu’s untitled lady gazes at us over her shoulder
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The north room of the gallery
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Lynn Cumine’s nude woman, painted on wood
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Leon Rooke’s plaster sculpture “Who’s Your Daddy!”
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Opening night guests enjoying the patio in front of the gallery

Pamela Williams’ photography brings us In the Midst of Angels

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Paris Nude – photograph by Pamela Williams

I visited another stunning art exhibit last night: photographer Pamela Williams’ In the Midst of Angels at Sunderland Hall (First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto at 175 St. Clair Ave. W. – St. Clair W./Avenue Rd.).

I first became aware of Pamela’s’ work years ago in a newspaper piece – possibly NOW Magazine – about her upcoming appearance at the annual summer outdoor art show in Nathan Phillips Square. The piece included an image of “Siren,” a reclining nude woman. It took my breath away. And it was a cemetery monument.

When I went to that show, I met Pamela and her mum, who often comes out to keep her company at her booth, and had a chance to chat. I purchased one of her photography books – which, as a then struggling actor working part-time, was all I could afford – and vowed that I’d purchase a print of “Siren” one day. Years later, I did – and have since added “Herald” and “Water Nymph” to my collection. And it was through Pamela that I met artist/filmmaker/animator Patrick Jenkins, who also happens to be her life partner.

Pamela has travelled to Europe (Paris, Rome, Pisa, Genoa, Vienna) and Buenos Aires, touring old cemeteries, capturing images of monuments in black and white. The marble sculptures are so detailed and beautifully wrought, the resulting photographs are alarmingly life-like. You can almost see the figures breathe. In “Reflection,” the lace of the woman’s veil is so precisely rendered, you feel that if you touched it, you’d be touching fabric. The rose on the woman’s lap in “Rose,” its petals so delicately carved, you can imagine the soft satin feeling. The fine detailing of angel wing feathers, like in “Herald” from Vienna. “Water Nymph” is one of the few pieces that is not a monument, but a fountain in the cemetery Pamela visited in Buenos Aires. Some of the figures are inviting (the angel cradling the toddler in “Comfort”), grief-stricken (the inconsolable angel in “Grief”) or tormented (the reclined angel in “Genoa Angel”), while some appear to be relaxed, at peace, content. “Paris Nude” is marble, but looks like she’ll get up and walk around. You can find many of these images in the book In the Midst of Angels, one of a few printed volumes of Pamela’s work.

Pamela Williams exhibits regularly at the Terrace Gallery and various outdoor art shows around Toronto, and also give digital photography classes, as well as slide show lectures about her work and travels. Drop by her website, get on her mailing list – and keep an eye out for her.

This is the final week of In the Midst of Angels – up in Sunderland Hall until April 21. Hours: Tues & Wed 5-9 p.m., Thurs 7-9 p.m., Sun 12-3 p.m. The show closes on Sunday with a Meet the Artist from 1:30-3:30 p.m.

If you miss this one, Pamela has another exhibition coming up at Yorkminster Park (1585 Yonge St. – north of St. Clair, at Heath, Toronto), from May 1-29 – opening on May 5 (12:30 – 2 p.m.). Hours: Mon – Fri: 10 – 2, Sat: 12-4 (Pamela will be there on Saturdays 2-4 p.m.).