Looks like Home Exhibit


Featuring the works of Arlene Laskey and Daniel Cairo. On exhibit from Saturday September 17 to October 27th. Gala Opening on Saturday Sept 24, 2016 – 7 pm


The exhibition “Looks Like Home” brings together the work of long-time Brantford, Ontario-based visual artist Arlene Laskey and painter Daniel Cairo, who moved to Brantford from Montevideo, Uruguay nearly ten years ago. In effect, “Looks like Home” draws attention the idea of home as both an abstract concept, as a feeling, and as a physical site, inviting audiences to reflect upon the myriad ways that we forge connections with place.

Laskey is a keen observer of vernacular life who remains inspired by the city of Brantford and its people, rendering abstract vistas, figurative paintings, and traditional portraiture through a variety of media; she has witnessed first-hand its economic ebbs and flows, its critical events, and its evolving history. A former arts educator—having once held the esteemed position of arts education officer for the province of Ontario—Laskey restructured the arts curriculum for Brantford students since the mid-1960s. Even today, her passion for art and its educational potential drives most if not all of her life decisions. Laskey’s life and work represent a valuable and much-needed survey of life as it is being lived in the city; thus, her contributions to the exhibition, both paintings and illustrations, span decades of artistic production.

Cairo’s move to Brantford nearly ten years ago culminated in the discovery of the city’s rich and complex history of memorials, cenotaphs, monuments, and architectural buildings. Originally photographed over a period of four years as part of a calendar project, the images have since become source material for paintings, and taken on new life as expressionistic documentations of Brantford’s most eminent sites. In recent years, the paintings rest on the walls in a dedicated room / gallery space in Cairo’s home, essentially creating a sense of a home within a home.

The aesthetic philosophy that drives Laskey’s body of work is entrenched in the human condition and its relationship to nature, the land, and our shared environment. More often than not, her paintings are generated organically—they are, as a result, process-based recordings of emotion, of experience, and of deep thought. In her own words, her work is “grounded in process and serves as a means of exploration and discovery – addressing what may be behind or beneath what is apparent – that which could be overlooked, ignored or hidden from the casual observer.” Much of Laskey’s oeuvre is composed of abstract paintings and painting from life, often reconciling the two to produce decades of dynamic and energetic work. For instance, in one of her most recognizable paintings, Arlene at the Age of Eight, Caught between the Ghosts of Her Past and Her Future (1984), the artist creates a veritable self-portrait of the artist as a young girl with a contemporaneous portrait juxtaposed below which haunts the image as a spectre of the then and the present; it’s a moment in time made mysterious through the drumming of the passage of time. Teasing the tones of visual perception, they also attempt to map and define the hidden topographies of vernacular life. Whether abstract of figurative, Laskey’s work is as unpredictable as it is uncompromising; or, she suggests, it is “making special in the midst of the ordinary.”

Cairo was born into an artistic family that sought to nurture expression in all its guises. He credits his mother, Violeta, for much of his interest, inspiring his son to pursue the complexities of illustration, perspective, and the fickleness of impasto oil painting. His work in “Looks Like Home” are unique and fascinating interpretations on such monuments, memorials, and buildings as the former Carnegie Library, Wadsworth Street train station, the Joseph Brant Memorial, a heritage house, the downtown clock tower, Laurier University Campus, the Sanderson Centre Theatre, the Grand River railroad bridge, the Bell Homestead, and, more recently, the Bell Telephone Memorial. Of course, the Glenhyrst Art Gallery is a subject, too. “This collection was designed as a tribute to the city of Brantford,” says Cairo, “This series of paintings serve to make a connection between art and this extraordinary historical legacy. Although I have never painted architecture in the past, I have found inspiration in this city and am humbled to represent it in my artwork.” Here the viewer finds not a photo-realistic picturing of these sites but an Impressionist representation that conjures up the feelings of being there at a particular time in a particular mood. At once idiosyncratic, quirky, and picturesque, Cairo’s contributions to the exhibition rethink what home is, how it looks, and how it continues to form a part of ourselves.

Ultimately, Arlene Laskey casts a long shadow on the state of cultural production in Brantford while Daniel Cairo encounters the city with fresh eyes.