I have had both the pleasure and the dismay of growing up as the daughter of an artist.  While others learned the rules of basketball or how to play the piano, my mother taught me to notice the aesthetic differences between acrylic and oil paint. At the time, I was disappointed — surely, none of the paint fumes helped. But as an adult, I can’t help but be grateful, as my upbringing has provided me the opportunity to see the world as mediated through the eyes of artists. One such experience was The Artist Project held at the Exhibition Place’s Better Living Centre last weekend, February 20–23.

Concluding its seventh year, The Artist Project was a four-day event that featured the artwork of over 250 artists from Canada and abroad. Exhibiting everything from large-scale installations to hand drawn sketches, the show is as much about buying art as it is about enjoying it. Tickets ran from $10-$15 allowing visitors to see a variety of artists for  about less than the price of a regular movie ticket.

This is not the craft show that your grandmother drags you to, nor is it the often disappointing and always cold Nuit Blanche.  The Artist Project strikes the perfect balance of folk and whimsical on one hand, and contemporary and experimental on the other.  While there are a few too many overzealous photographers with images of the Toronto skyline or puddles on Queen Street, most of the art is original and thought provoking.

Perhaps most noteworthy is the work of John Loerchner and Laura Mendes of the Labspace Studio, responsible for the entrance installation.  Entitled I’m Only Human, the piece uses 100 golden letter-shaped balloons to spell out the phrases “I would do anything to change the past, I will forever be sorry” and “I sincerely sincerely sincerely apologize, I know I let you down.” At first glance, the phrases appear to be nothing more than often said and sightly sad apologizes.  Though it may have been obvious to some, it took reading the artists’ explanation of the piece for me to realize that these were quotes taken directly from recent press coverage on Mayor Rob Ford. Read in context, the meaning of these words change.  “The large-scale installation explored our human connection through the universal lens of remorse and through the language of loaded language of regret,” reads the accompanying explanation of the piece.

Less political but equally as creative is the work of Tonya Corkey.  Her collection, titled See You in the Future examines the processes of human memory by combining discarded materials.  Corkey’s collection uses lint (yes, the type that collects in your dryer) to recreate portraits from old and forgotten photographs: “These materials reflect the idea of decaying memory,” says the artist.  The striking portraits, ranging from goofy to serious, are made more interesting when you think about the materials used to create them.

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