Joanne Feely DeGraaf
Generations is an illuminated, magnified oak tree branch: a segment that would fit in your hands is now scaled up to stand ten feet high, twelve feet wide and eight feet deep. Meant to echo intergenerational connections, it is inspired by the ancient proverb “From tiny acorns come mighty oaks”. The living force of the tree is represented by electroluminescent wire pulsing in the veins of the leaves and the potential of future generations is seen animated in a three frame animation within the acorns. Most of the media used is upcycled, to reduce waste and environmental impact.
Spring Cardinals depicts three adult northern cardinals, two sitting and one alighting on a pear branch, their bright colours contrasting against a bright blue sky. Pear tree branches span across the surfaces of the box, wrapping and visually connecting all sides. On the branch, flowers are budding while others are bursting forth. Leaves are painted in the bright green of early spring and are in various stages of unfurling in the sunny air. The pear branches and cardinals are depicted in close detail, making the viewer feel like they are at the top of the tree with the birds. A viewer is at eye level with the birds, sharing these beautiful spring blossoms painted on the outside of a Bell Box.
Wondering what all the hands are doing? They relate to the industrial past of the New Toronto neighbourhood. Campbell’s Soup (tomato), Good Year (tire), Anaconda Copper and Brass (pipe) , Continental Can (tin) and others were once cornerstone industries in New Toronto neighbourhood making it an epicentre of industry in the early 20th century. The hands of people that made this possible are depicted contributing and collaborating. The colours of the raw materials, rubber, tin, brass, and copper are reflected in the colour pallet. The water bubbles represent the human element and Lake Ontario.
Marveling at plants and small creatures is a childhood fascination that continues to inspire my artwork today. My mural Pollinator Playground is meant to convey this sense of joy and wonder: giant plants dominate the horizon in a storybook landscape and the air is filled with enlarged pollinating species; life-sized people cohabitate this fantasy garden, inviting visitors to see their place amongst the plants and pollinators. Viewers can pose with a pollinator or giant mural plant, mimicking the poses or just standing alongside the silhouette figures. A wide range of people will see themselves reflected against different types of pollinators and plants encouraging them to move from appreciation towards action, supporting these vulnerable species.