Friday, December 14, 2012

Dania Madera-Lerman

"Group of One"

It is 1971, and at the age of 16, this free spirited and independent adventurer headed West hitchhiking across Canada with little more then a backpack full of art supplies and an open mind. After spending a summer exploring the West Coast, she hitchhiked back home to Toronto, only to return to BC a year later. Dania made Richmond Island her home, studied at the Vancouver School of Art and spent the next few years absorbed in the beautiful landscapes, rich native cultures and the slower paced lifestyle that BC had to offer.

Ready for the next chapter in her life, the Toronto art scene was ‘where it was all happening’ and Dania was on her way. She was accepted at the prestigious Ontario College of Art on a grant. Not one to conform, Dania used the grant money to purchase more art supplies and spent the next 2 years auditing classes of her choice at OCA. It was there that she met Graham Coughtry and Gordon Rayner; these successful artists became mentors who inspired Dania with their unique approach to art.

Her next move forward was to attend George Brown College where she studied commercial art. She started working as a graphic designer and, although talented with this linear style of painting, her heart remained in her own freestyle of art.

It was around this time that Dania met her future husband, Al Lerman, a multi-instrumental musician and vocalist; he is the bandleader of the successful group known as Fathead. This began a decade of travel, live music and the birth of a new series of paintings for Dania. Great blues musicians like Muddy Waters, Lightnin Hopkins and Big Bill Bronzy inspired a collection whereby Dania sketched the artist during the live performance, capturing the energy and the essence of the moment, then at home, while listening to their music, she added watercolour and oil pastels to finish the piece. The success of this group of paintings was displayed during solo art shows, one at the ‘Squeeze Club’ which also led to interviews on CBC’s Sunday Arts and Entertainment and Bravo’s Talkin’ Blues.

Dania was once again ready for a change. She described her need to ‘stretch out, get out of her comfort zone and move forward. Painting the same thing again and again feels repetitive after awhile - change feels exciting. I need to change to be true to myself’. However, life had a different plan. Al and Dania found their aging parents needed help. Her father was suffering from bone cancer and required home care, so Dania was there. After her father died, her mother needed her. ‘When you take care of your parents, you really learn that the most important things in life are love and compassion’.

Dania speaks passionately about her life work, its changes, and challenges and focuses on ‘directing energy into something positive’. In Toronto she led art workshops for Youth Without Shelter, a program offering a safe and supportive environment where kids could come and eat nutritious food and accomplish something positive. She believes in feeding the artist both inside and out, with good food, confidence and the skills they need to find their own way. Although she admits the work can be emotionally exhausting, it is good, healing work. ‘Art saved me. It was there through thick and thin, and has been a positive focus of my energy’.

Her collections are varied, using many different styles and mediums. Her work reflects her inspirations including the Group of Seven, the Impressionists, aboriginal art and many more. Painting for Dania is a dance. ‘It leads a little bit, then you lead – you work at it, then you put it away, it goes back and forth’.

Today, we find Dania and Al living in the country, where the artists are inspired by the beautiful landscapes there. Their home was built by the river and designed for environmentally sustainable living. They are surrounded by wildlife which is inspiring Dania’s next stage in the creative process; ‘the animals are coming’.

See the article published in the Winter Solstice 2012

And see more of Dania at her very own website

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Great Christmas Tree Debate...revisited, merely updated.

I am reposting this, it is from my very early days of blogging... and it is appropriate to this time of year...

This past weekend the girls and I ventured out on our annual search for ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ tree. On our way to a friends Christmas tree farm, we enjoyed the music of Vince Guaraldi in the aforementioned special. We reminisced about watching Charlie Brown and Linus on their pursuit to find the perfect tree only to find a myriad of aluminum, pre-decorated take-it-home-Christmas-will-be-perfect trees. Alas, lo and behold, there was one lonely, sparse pathetic tree just waiting to be loved; now known as the proverbial ‘Charlie Brown Christmas tree’. We have made the search for it our annual adventure.
Upon arriving at the farm, we walked through the trails, found what looked like the best tree top and cut it down. That is, we cut the top down. I like this particular farm as the policy is to cut the top of a tree thus allowing it to re-grow. I am ever aware of the environment and my contribution to its preservation. That being said, I am ever aware that I want a REAL tree. I suppose admitting that prevents me from qualifying for true tree hugging hippie credibility. I do not aspire to that fastidious status – if I did I would likely have a ‘living tree’, but I am getting off tree topic.

Real tree or not to be? - that is the question. Or in terms of consumerism – does one buy a real tree or an artificial tree?

Personally, I believe these artificial plastic mutants are sucking the spirit out of Christmas; further, the list of chemicals and toxins involved pose significant hazards to consumers. Allow yourself a little research time and you will reconsider even touching the thing (side note – assembly is required) let alone inviting your children to help decorate; and then there is the issue of those hungry tree eating pets…

OK, maybe I am a wee bit over the top here, especially considering the hypocrisy involved – yes, I own one of these spirit suckers myself. That being said, it is in the original box, is like new, in excellent shape and listed on kijiji, craigslist and any other free classifieds I could get at. I can’t sell it. But I can try and give it away.  (UPDATE: I should advise all of you readers that I DID donate this tree to a family in need - they wanted it, they asked me for it and they really appreciate it.)

My advice, “get real”. Should you or someone you know choose to go the artificial route and are in need of a 6.5 foot sable fir, let me know. I might be tempted to lecture the ill informed new owner, but then I run the risk of barking up the wrong tree.

“…and on earth peace, good will toward men. That is what Christmas is all about Charlie Brown.” Hummmmm hummmmm hummmmm