Two shows highlight East End high school art talent

Art lovers check out the work on display at Todmorden Mills for Danforth C&TI’s annual end-of-year art show.
Art lovers check out the work on display at Todmorden Mills for Danforth C&TI’s annual end-of-year art show.
PHOTOS: Andrew Hudson

As the jazz band picked up and more people streamed into the gallery at Todmorden Mills last Wednesday, art student Emilee DeSommer-Denis took a measure of the night’s success.

“People are actually coming to us instead of watching the hockey game,” she said. “The Leafs aren’t going to win anyway, but I’m impressed.”

Students at both the Danforth Collegiate and Malvern Collegiate high schools staged end-of-year art shows last week.

Especially for Grade 12s, getting ready for the final show must have felt like the playoffs.

At Malvern, Liona Bravo and Lillian O’Brien Davis had to start planning the final pieces they showed on May 6 way back in September.

For her installation piece, Bravo chose to explore a looming choice – a career in art or a career in science.

To illustrate that split, she placed a model brain on a tray and detailed all its sense areas with Grey’s Anatomy-style diagrams. Behind it, she mounted a series of whimsical, impressionistic travel snapshots.

Grade 12 student Liona Bravo tells a friend about her piece, "Conveying Chaos," at the Malvern Collegiate art show on May 6.
Grade 12 student Liona Bravo tells a friend about her piece, “Conveying Chaos,” at the Malvern Collegiate art show on May 6.

“I wanted to use the piece to try and sort out my ideas,” she says, adding that she is leaning towards psychology. “I really like order and organization.”

For O’Brien Davis, the standard order is to paint an abstract in monochrome.

But for her final show, she did the exact opposite – a pair of self-portraits in bright colours.

'A dat wid you sistren' and 'Binghi Dawta Girl', paintings  that Grade 12 Malvern student Lillian O'Brien Davis showed in her installation 'Back to Black' at Malvern's end-of-year art show.
‘A dat wid you sistren’ and ‘Binghi Dawta Girl’, paintings that Grade 12 Malvern student Lillian O’Brien Davis showed in her installation ‘Back to Black’ at Malvern’s end-of-year art show.

One confident, one shy, both the paintings reflect her Jamaican roots in sunny, tropical contrasts.

“For the reds and yellows, I just dipped the brush right into a pot and didn’t do any mixing,” she said. “It was fabulous.”

“Fabulous” is a fine word for the only piece at Danforth Collegiate to combine Mozart, battle ships and a beaten pair of Chuck Taylors.

Designed by Leland Lamb, a Danforth grad now at Sheridan College, the piece shows runners that have sprouted real cloth and wood sails and masts like a pair of canonizing battle ships of the 18th century.

“My heart and sole is in them,” he joked.

Showing her four pieces – a woodcut with blue ink on handmade paper, an abstract vertebrae, a fairy bottom and a panel of ravens – DeSommer-Denis was as excited by the place where she had hung them.

“Getting to work in a gallery like this is terrific because it also introduces all of our students to jobs in the arts that aren’t just ‘artist,’ whether it’s curator, gallery director or matting and framing.”

As she heads off to Lakehead University where she hopes to become an art teacher who can one day stage a final show like the one at Danforth, DeSommer-Denis seems to know what she’s in for.

“The staff here are amazing,” she said. “They’ve put in two weeks worth of 10 o’clock nights at school. They work hard.”


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