ARTIST, RANCHER, QUARRY-FIGHTER
“Our area has this way of looking like so many different places. We are so multicultural, everyone comes with their new experience: that’s just what Canada is all about. You’re not anywhere else, you are in Canada. And being able to feel like you are in other places, it just seems really Canadian. Happy 150th, Canada.”
So, today… what’s a February day on the ranch like?
It’s a bit strange, because we’re having such a weird melt right now.
Do the horses know? Are they, like, what’s going on here?
It’s strange for them. It’s harder now when it turns cold again, because they’re getting used to how nice it is. Last year it got really warm in March, which is kind of normal, but then it got super cold in April and that’s tough. So they’ll get through this.
I gave them some hay yesterday and they are just starting to pick through it today, because they’re fat and full, the weather has been so nice, they are laying in the sunshine all day, they can see some of the old grass they’re picking at… everybody’s happy right now.
I wanted to talk to you a bit about some art you made: What inspired you to create a whole piece on the dwindling number of farms?
It was really cool. In the fourth year of OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) we had to do a thesis, come up with a body of work. For the first half of my semester the mega quarry fight was still in full swing, they were doing the meetings and the rallies… then the last half of the year, we won.
We were just so involved: dad was a champion, and we talked about it all the time, so at that point in my artistic career I felt like I wanted to challenge myself, to find a way to talk about how special the land was here and what was happening — but in an artistic way that was beyond making posters.
I went to a local museum archive, and was able to go through the photos that they have of the farming community which connected the history. If you saw those drawings and paintings I did, they’re based on family: that whole connection with history that you just can’t get away from here. I felt like it was really important to start at the museum. I incorporate photos into a lot of my work.
Where are you as an artist now?
I still haven’t found my voice yet… I am still searching for what I want to do. I have a lot of opportunity to experiment which is great. I draw and work everyday. I mostly work with the horses, when the weather is nice I’m outside working the ranch, and at night I’m inside making art.
This area is great because there are so many artists. It doesn’t matter where you go, you meet somebody, and there are opportunities all the time. I was part of the Headwaters Parade of Horses: that was something I’d never done before, and getting to see how all the artists interpreted the statues, being at the Caledon Equestrian Centre, it was amazing. There are opportunities like that in this area all the time.
What is it in this area that draws artists up?
Our area is so beautiful here, because it is so different than any other area in Ontario. And the farther you go north the landscape changes.
For the most part Ontario is pretty flat, but it’s funny: Mulmur especially is kind of a really well-kept secret. A lot of people don’t even know that our Mulmur hills-type of landscape is in Ontario. But we’re here and it’s just so beautiful.
The rolling hills and the views… you can be only an hour and half out of Toronto and there is such natural landscape up here. Once you drive out of the subdivisions you can still go and see the forest, and it’s all so natural. You just don’t see that sort of thing anymore.
You could live anywhere as an artist, but…
I grew up here, I have always lived here. The ranch house is where I grew up. I don’t really want to live anywhere else.
I was always really grounded because I always knew what I was going to be in the future, and I always had a home to go to. Being in Europe was amazing. But I knew home was there and it will be there when I get back. It just keeps you grounded in a different way.
Speaking of grounded: this year, inspired by Canada’s 150th, we’re asking if the notion of Canada strikes you in what you do, or where you are.
It’s always really funny: when we have guests who are riding, we always take them up into the hills, we look at the view and a lot of the times people will say this looks exactly like British Columbia… or when it’s foggy, they’ll say it looks exactly like Ireland.
When you drive up here and see how flat the land is, then you hit where we are and get the rolling hills, the land changes and is different, as everyone else who changes and is different who comes here. Everyone sees their own thing in it, but that just makes Canada what it is.
That is a unique perspective.
We run a cattle ranch, and the size of operation is so strange for southern Ontario, and we do the western horse riding thing… you think you would find this out west… but that’s just what makes Canada so special, you don’t have to be out west… you’re here, in Ontario.