Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Mowry Baden art opening

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David Winter interacts with scupture

Mowry Baden in Town:

It was a gathering of the clan last evening at Diaz Contemporary Gallery.

First thing you see when you walk into the light-filled space on Niagara Street in downtown Toronto (across the street from the old abattoir– bye bye piggies) is a piece involving mirrors and handles that the viewer uses to move the sculpture. As you roll the piece along the floor and peer down into the mirrors, it feels like you are walking along the ceiling.
Mowry Baden, a sculptor originally from California but living for decades in the Victoria area, makes work not-quite like any you’ve seen. The pieces involve the body and the way the body perceives and sometimes gets fooled. You might feel a trifle off-kilter as you enter the work. It’s interesting to watch how people interact with the pieces – some plunge in fearlessly, while others are more cautious, perhaps afraid of looking silly, of not ‘doing it right.’

When I say ‘gathering of the clan’, I mean it. Mowry has taught generations of artists at University of Victoria (he’s now retired) and a bunch of them/us turn up for his opening. We are a sort of cabal, who tend to see each other only when Mowry comes to town. I first knew him back in the seventies, when he wore bib overalls and his hair in a pony tail. For dress-up occasions he'd don his 'hippie bandleader's suit'; I think it had no collar. At this gallery opening he wears slick artist-gear, black jacket and jeans – though his suspenders allude to a hippie past. Back then he used to cook up ‘tuna fish blasterole’ for supper while singing a song he’d composed – something to do with Albert Schweitzer. I remember how, at his son’s birthday party, he scooped blobs of ice cream directly onto the table in front of each kid. Such gestures impress. Sometimes I fear we've all become less playful with the passage of time – but not Mowry.

Image: David Winter interacts with sculpture.

The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.

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Ann Ireland

Ann Ireland is the author of A Certain Mr. Takahashi, The Instructor and Exile. Her most recent novel is The Blue Guitar. She lives in Toronto.

Go to Ann Ireland’s Author Page