Art Is a Mirror is, first and foremost, a project intended for those of us who are not connoisseurs of Canadian Art. Its purpose is to spur the viewer to learn more about the life and work of these creative individuals whose artworks have reflected who we are as a people; thus the title "Art is A Mirror". I strongly believe that the visual arts, along with the written and spoken language, are the most important vehicles of a people's identity.
The choice of artists was especially challenging, in that it was purely subjective. Those retained - all whom are deceased - are the ones I felt had either made the greatest contribution to the development of Canadian Art or were the most uncommon, such as Joyce Wieland, Arthur Villeneuve, or Philippe Matteau. My original list contained over 300 names, and paring it down to a more realistic length was not easy.
From 25 names it rapidly grew to double that number. Then 50 names appeared inadequate since other individuals kept haunting me, so I extended the list to 65 names. Meanwhile, the passing away of some key figures meant that they had to be included. The final list ended with 72 names, after the death of Toni Onley on the 29th of February, 2004. The entire project started in the spring of 2001, and took three years to complete.
The finished product will be exhibited and hopefully, will be seen by as many people as possible. The viewers will not be invited to see an Art Exhibition, but instead, an Exhibition About Art! That is how it was meant to be from the very beginning. By painting what I believe recalls an approximate likeness of the artist's work, I'm not infringing the copyright, nor am I plagiarizing since all paintings are signed "as per J/G". The purpose of the whole exercise, is firstly to pay homage to the artist but also, to inspire a rightful sense of pride and stimulate a new or renewed appreciation for this form of expression. I'm not so bold as to claim that I have faithfully represented or done justice to the work of these artists. I have merely tried to present an image that suggests a sort of visual 'signature' of the artist.
I have painted the portraits of the artist in such a way as to give a close resemblance of the artist's physiognomy and in no way should it be seen as a work of art. It should be viewed as an honest attempt to put a face on the names whose work we know best. My most challenging task was to locate, for each artist, a photograph that provided enough detail to paint a reasonable likeness of the person. The arduousness of the search made me realize what little has been done in this country to collect and preserve such material.
The collection had its first public showing in May 2005, at the Market Hall Performing Arts Centre in Peterborough, Ontario. In the 14 hours that the exhibition was open, more than 700 people of all ages and walks of life came in to see it. Their very positive response confirmed my deeply-held belief that Canadians are, in fact, interested in our country's visual art heritage when they are given the opportunity to see and learn about it. I now have the certainty that there will be an ongoing presentation of this collection, and that makes every bit of this adventure worthwhile, and for me, a dream realized.