Alton Mill featuring area artists in spring exhibition

March 30, 2023   ·   0 Comments

By Zachary Roman

Local artists were recently tasked with expressing their interpretation of the words wild and free.

This resulted in many interesting pieces on display at Headwaters Arts’ spring exhibition, which is aptly named Wild & Free.

An opening reception for the exhibition was held on March 25 at the Alton Mill Arts Centre, where the non-profit Headwaters Arts maintains a gallery year-round to promote and support local artists.

Iris Ranieri, an artist and photographer who lives just north of Bolton, has a piece on display called “Summer Pools” and it was created with acrylic paint on a canvas.

“I paint a lot from photos,” said Ranieri. “This was based on a photo that I took in Yosemite National Park of the waters… and then it became abstracted.”

Ranieri visited Yosemite National Park, which is in California, in 2019 before the pandemic. She said she often goes through old photographs she has taken for inspiration, and the photo she based her latest painting on caught her eye because of the colour of the water in it.

“The funny thing about this painting is I painted it the opposite way… this is actually upside down,” said Ranieri as she showed her painting to the Citizen. “I flipped it upside down and thought, ‘OK, this works better’.”

Ranieri has been involved in Headwaters Arts for two-and-a-half years. She has a second piece on display at the Wild & Free as well called “Afternoon Light,” a beautiful representation of sunlight shining through a forest.

Ranieri explained she doesn’t like to paint in a truly representational or realistic style, adding with a laugh that she doesn’t have the patience for it.

“I paint intuitively… it’s all in the moment,” she said. Due to this, Ranieri finds painting to be a relaxing and meditative activity where she can block everything else out.

Pat Hertzberg, a fibre artist who’s also from Caledon, has a work of art on display at Wild & Free called “Fast Fashion/After the Party”. Hertzberg was trained in fine art but decided to pursue a career in the fashion industry. She was a fashion designer for a while before she decided she wanted to return to the world of fine art. She had a ton of fabric lying around, and decided to begin creating art with it. 

“I realized… (fabric) has so many more qualities than paint, the texture is something that is huge,” said Hertzberg. “I’ve been doing (this) for about 15 years and what I’ve noticed is people always want to touch (my art).”

Hertzberg said she loves going to art exhibitions because it’s so fun and inspiring to chat with other artists. Creating art with fabric for so many years has led Hertzberg to develop some of her own techniques which she now teaches to others. One such technique is the creation of a “thread web.”

“I take a number of different fabrics and I do some hand-dyeing and sometimes painting… I rip them up, cut them up, fray them, and then put them back together,” said Hertzberg. “But when I put them back together, I always like to leave empty spaces, negative space, so that… it looks fragile. But in fact, [it’s] very sturdy.”

As its name implies, Hertzberg’s piece has two angles to it. The first is an expression of how the fast fashion industry is leading to large quantities of unnecessary waste heading to landfills.

“It’s a problem and the fashion industry is not dealing with it,” said Hertzberg. “I’m not against people having lots of clothes… it’s [a problem when] they’re worn four or five times then thrown out. “

She said people need to think about recycling their clothes, donating them to those in need, giving them to a friend, or selling them to a thrift store instead of throwing them out. Hertzberg often bases her art on topics she feels strongly about; she recently finished a piece which represents her desire to protect the greenbelt.

The second angle to Hertzberg’s piece is “After the Party” which is her unique take on the Wild & Free theme. While many artists chose to represent plants and animals in the beauty of spring, Hertzberg imagined Wild & Free as clothes on the floor at the end of a party.

It takes Hertzberg a very long time to make each of her pieces, and she completes them at her home studio. It’s a big studio, as Hertzberg said a lot of space is needed when creating art with fabric. 

Tanya Fenkell, a Toronto artist who made the trip to Alton to participate in the Wild & Free opening reception, has a watercolour piece on display titled “Sing, Morning.”

Fenkell said she spends a lot of time in northeast Ontario, and she draws inspiration from the beautiful lakes and nature found there. 

A new member with Headwaters Arts, Wild & Free is the first Headwaters exhibition in which Fenkell has had a piece exhibited. She said everyone was very welcoming and nice, and that she enjoyed the beauty of the Alton Mill Arts Centre.

Fenkell said watercolour has always appealed to her because it’s a very portable medium and she can bring her art supplies with her wherever she goes. She also likes that watercolour paints are less toxic. 

As someone who looks to nature for moments of quiet and comfort, Fenkell said she feels so lucky when other people feel that way as a result of her art. She said it’s so important to protect nature because it gives us so much.

Wild & Free features seven Caledon artists and 35 artists in total. Those interested are able to view the Wild & Free exhibition until April 23 by visiting the Headwaters Arts gallery between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Wednesday to Sunday.

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