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Cultivating culture off the farmette


A little late today. A certain tabby with bobbysox insisted on a "love-in" on my lap while sitting at the computer! It's a tad difficult to reach the keys with 15 pounds of furry, murping feline getting in the way. Anyhow.

It's a sunny, though chilly day at the farmette. We actually had a skiff of snow when I was out earlier (yes, it is April 29th).

Every once in a while, the farmette inhabitants need a shot of culture and yesterday, we attended the Durham Art Gallery.

The current show is a really intriguing exploration of the 'visible and invisible'. Toronto artist Charmaine Lurch and Naomi Norquay (who calls herself an accidental archivist) gave an informal talk about the theme, what it means to each of them and how the two women's work intersects.

Lurch's interest in bees - particularly wild bees - prompted a whole series of delicate wire and wool sculptures that capture both the sturdiness and esoteric nature of the wee insects. During her chat, she drew some parallels between the bees and being a black woman.

The bees are mostly invisible (there are 300 species in Ontario and they are everywhere) until they become visible when they get close enough and we actually pay attention.

In her personal experience, she has found that she is both seen and unseen by others and has been misunderstood in different circumstances as has been in case with her race both in the past and in the present.

Norquay, who's an associate professor of education at York University, has taken on the task of researching the history of black pioneers in Grey County - specifically on the old Durham Road, where her family has had a vacation property for decades.

She talked about the 'seen and unseen' structures in the landscape that tell a story about the former black residents of the area, including virtually in her own back yard. She found out that Edward Patterson - a black preacher - and his family lived during the nineteenth century basically in the same place as where her house is now.

While grass and shrubs and moss have overgrown much of the old house foundation and split rail fences, the earth gives up shards of pottery and bits of limestone every year during the spring frost heave.

In the back gallery space, another artist's work is on display that documents the visible yet invisible world of homeless people.

The young (she's only 17!) and talented photographer Leah Denbok's quest is to show homeless people in their stark reality and to trigger compassion in the viewer to see through the poverty to their essential humanity. Amazing art with a powerful message.

The show is on for another couple of weeks - to May 13th. I highly recommend a visit for anyone who'll be in the area!


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