Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Name that Place!

Over the next few weeks, I will be posting a few older photos from the CLGA's collection. In many cases, the CLGA acquired photographs with little or no contextual information. Our resident archival experts have managed to identify some of the places (and people) in the photos, but we still rely on participation from our friends and allies in the community to help us learn more about the photographs we have and what they mean to the LGBTQ people in Toronto and across Canada.

Let's start with an easy one. We believe this photo was taken in 1982 at Hanlan's Point, Toronto Island, at a Pride Party/Picnic.... do you know anything more about this photo? Were you there? Do you have any interesting stories to tell us about this event or others that took place at Toronto Island? Looks like a fabulous party!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Berenice Abbott

If you enjoy a) photography, b) lesbians, or c) lesbian photographers, listen up: The Ryerson Image Centre (Toronto) and the Jeu de Paume (Paris) have co-organized an exhibition called 'Berenice Abbott: Photographs' and it will be at the Art Gallery of Ontario from May 23 - August 19. For those who aren't familiar with Abbott or her work, here's a bio from the National Museum of Women in the Arts (it doesn't mention Elizabeth McCausland, her partner and collaborator of 30 years, but it does provide a pretty good overview of her career):

Berenice Abbott
American, 1898-1991

"I didn't decide to be a photographer; I just happened to fall into it," Berenice Abbott once recalled. In 1917 Abbott went from her hometown of Springfield, Ohio, to Columbia University, intending to study journalism. Disappointed by her courses, Abbott soon switched to sculpture, which she studied in New York, Berlin, and Paris. It was only in Paris in 1923, when the avant-garde American expatriate Man Ray was looking for a darkroom assistant, that Abbott discovered her love and natural ability for working with the camera. She began taking portrait photographs and in 1926 opened her own studio. Abbott had the first of many one-woman exhibitions that same year.

During the 1920s Abbott became "the semiofficial portraitist of the intelligentsia" in Paris and New York. Her straightforward, detailed, powerful images of such luminaries as James Joyce, André Gide, and Peggy Guggenheim made her famous. In the 1930s, Abbott continued her portrait work while completing a 10-year project commissioned by the Works Progress Administration: documenting the changing landscape of New York City.

Remarkably prolific, Abbott produced numerous books and several other ambitious series, notably images demonstrating various physical laws of nature and a photo essay on U.S. Route 1. When she began her career, photography was not considered a serious art form and women were not regarded as serious artists. Berenice Abbott overcame these and many other obstacles during her illustrious 60-year career. She also invented new photographic equipment and techniques, received several honorary doctorates, and was the subject of many retrospective exhibitions. Abbott died at age 93 in rural Maine, where she had been living since 1965.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Few of My Favourite Things #1 - "The Artist of the Beautiful" CLGA Volunteer Lawrence Bennett on Gerard Brender a Brandis

As the editor of the CLGA's newsletter, I have found myself trying to find ways to add interesting content to our monthly notice that really communicates to the public just what a treasure the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives are. I decided to ask one of my (many lovely) fellow volunteers to write a short piece about some of their favourite things in the archives' holdings. Lawrence Bennett, a volunteer of 13 years, had this to say:

When Jenna Danchuk, editor of this newsletter, asked me to write about my favourite things in the CLGA, I thought immediately of the artist’s books created and donated by Gerard Brender a Brandis. There are 12 of these books; most of them are collaborations with Canadian poets and fiction writers.

Gerard Brender a Brandis, a master wood engraver and bookwright, was a pioneer in crafting and publishing his own limited-edition, hand-made books as art objects in Canada. He lives and works in Stratford, Ontario. The Canadian Encyclopedia cites him as “one of the artists whose books are fine examples of well-balanced, imaginative book design.”

His first edition of handmade books appeared in 1969 and another has been issued almost each year since then. His books have been included in the collections of The National Library, Ottawa, the New York Public Library, The National Library of New Zealand, and many public and university libraries, as well as private collections. His single-leaf engravings are in The National Gallery, Ottawa; The Royal Botanical Gardens, Hamilton; The Hunt Botanical Library, Pittsburgh; and in private collections in Canada, The United States, Europe, Britain and Japan.

He has had solo exhibitions almost every year since 1965, and had work in numerous group shows.

Among his published projects are the flowers mentioned in Shakespeare, musical instruments in Shakespeare, the Grand River in southern Ontario.

Photo by Wil Craddock

A sublime example of Gerard’s artistry, housed in the Archives rare books cabinets, is the 1999 “If Stones Could Speak”. Thirty-three woodcuts accompany Timothy Findley’s four essays of recollections of life at Stone Orchard, the farm where he lived for 30 years with William Whitehead. The pastoral atmosphere on the farm is captured in images of animals, buildings, gardens, of trees, fences, flowers, the pond, of architectural, landscaping, botanical details. Printed on his own press from hand-set type and his woodcuts onto handmade paper, Gerard bound the book into handwoven linen covers made from homespun yarn. Its design communicates an interplay between the visual and written elements that offers a unique reading experience. A masterpiece, to my mind.

Photo by Wil Craddock

Gerard collaborated on four historical novels with his sister, writer Marianne Brandis. According to Marianne’s website “Their collaboration is always more than a mere joining of text and illustrations. Marianne and Gerard plan the whole work together, interweaving the book’s physical form with the subject-matter, the words with the images, so that the final creation produces an exceptionally rich artistic experience. The collaborative process for Marianne and Gerard begins with general ideas and outlines and works toward the details, with the final work coming together like a kind of dance, or “pas de deux” as Gerard calls it.”

Gerard’s website invites the public to visit his combined home and studio in Stratford. “This working artist’s studio offers you an opportunity to observe wood engraving and book production on a ‘cottage industry’ scale. The materials, tools and an 1882 printing press can be seen in the studio. The electronic medium cannot convey the effect of printer’s ink, impressed onto dampened, handmade, rag paper. You must come here to experience the real thing.”

Praise for Gerard Brender a Brandis’s oeuvre:

"The lines are rich and black, and the images...are like pastoral poems...Brender à Brandis' ability to capture mood is unparalleled." The Windsor Star, Windsor

"His sensibility as an artist is reminiscent of the Hawthorne story, 'The Artist of the Beautiful,' in which a watchmaker finds beauty in smallness and abhors the enormity and power of modern industrialism." Books in Canada, Toronto

“In a world where form and content are so often at odds, the still, reflective, unhurried wood engravings of Gerard Brender à Brandis deliver a powerful synthesis of the two. Carving fine white light into the black "canvas" of a wood block is, in itself, a meditative process, and one which lends itself to Brender à Brandis' timeless subjects. He restores, with exacting detail, the small, forgotten wonderments of the world around us: an abandoned barn; an empty room glimpsed through a doorway; a solitary beetle; a single flower…..A celebrated printmaker and illustrator, Brender à Brandis is also an accomplished bookwright. Lyghtesome Gallery, Nova Scotia.

For more images of Gerard Brender a Brandis’s wood engravings, see


The CLGA;,

Gerard’s website;

Marianne Brandis’s Website;

The Art Exchange

quotations from The Windsor Star and Books in Canada came from the Lyghtesome Gallery

I'd like to thank Lawrence for being our first volunteer to write a article for this series, and for doing such a wonderful job with it! If you are a volunteer who has a favourite thing in the archives, and would like to write a short piece about it, please contact the CLGA newsletter editor, Jenna Danchuk, at

Friday, March 2, 2012

Upcoming Exhibit in San Francisco

If I haven't already convinced you to go visit the GLBT Museum in San Francisco, maybe this will:

"Life and Death in Black and White: AIDS Direct Action in San Francisco, 1985-1990," focuses on the work of five queer photographers who documented the emergence of militant AIDS activism in San Francisco through the medium of black-and-white film. With sharp focus and deep compassion, they turned their lenses on their own community, capturing sorrow and outrage, courage and wit, a fierce will to live and a deep commitment to honor the dying and remember the dead. The exhibition features the work of Jane Philomen Cleland, Patrick Clifton, Marc Geller, Rick Gerharter and Daniel Nicoletta. Some of their images of AIDS activism have become iconic; others have never before been publicly displayed. All of them portray civil disobedience as a response to discrimination, indifference and official neglect in the face of a fatal epidemic. All bear forceful witness to a time when San Francisco experienced both some of its darkest hours and one of its most inspiring movements for social justice."