Friday, April 06, 2007

Tony Calzetta & Gabrielle de Montmollin

I spent much of today -- alas! under the weather -- in the company of friends and artists Gabrielle de Montmollin and Tony Calzetta. Tony brought as a housewarming present two small hand-coloured drawings, one which bears a fair resemblance, and was likely an early sketch for, the painting above. For my kids, he said, but damned if they're going to get them. In my will perhaps!

I love Tony's work: its playfulness, the whimsy of his line, the colour. His work is vibrant, and when seen at close range (many of his canvases are very large) impossible to ignore. I own two prints, an artist's book, and have been nickeling and diming and trading my way for over a year now for a painting. I'm getting close, and hope to have one, finally, finally, by the time I make it up to his Toronto studio in June.

I'm also hoping to publish a book of his illustrations some day. John Metcalf has been planning to write a book on Cazetta for a while now; perhaps after he finishes Shut Up He Explained.

Tony's a Windsor boy, born and bred, graduated from the University of Windsor Art Program in the mid 70's, after an aborted career in Detroit as an accountant. He's proof that a few decent people have come out of this city.

Gabrielle I met through Tony. I own one of her photographs, from the Bird Women series. It's an image I've grown to love. It's metamorphic: a woman becoming a bird. I keep it on a wall in my office because it frightens my eldest son. There is something very dark about a lot of her images, though I don't see it in this one as much: I think it is quite beautiful, engaging, unforgettable. But you can't argue with a four year old.

I hosted a small art exhibit of Gabrielle's work as part of a reading series I was trying to get off of the ground, seven or eight of the Bird Women images. The owner of the cafe was so bothered by them that he had me take them down immediately, as he did not think them appropriate for a downtown establishment. (Gabrielle uses naked barbie dolls in this series). This from a man who's businesses are within spitting distances of illicit massage parlours and strip clubs.

The bird woman above is an example of her work. Alas, I could not get a copy of one of the images I own, though you can see it on her and Tony's website,, the Bird Women Series, image number 7.

Incidentally, Tony is working with Leon Rooke on a new artist book, involving prints, stories, and pop-ups. He dropped off the 19 Rooke pieces, with attendant drawings, today. It promises to be a hell of a book. I'll keep you posted as it develops.

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