By Jennifer Thorpe
“Whether you’re hanging in the McMichael Gallery, or hanging in St. Marys, you can always tell a Canadian artist by the landscape – trees, water, sky – reflected in their art from this amazing country and its most beautiful scenery.
“Peter Rice is right up there with Emily Carr and the Group of Seven with his passionate love of nature and respect for the environment. All that steel, metal, stone and wood in a world of glass – it’s fragile – not unlike the environment we live in. His art shows how much respect he has for the environment.”
These sincere words from curator Cameron Porteous welcomed a lively crowd at the St. Marys Station Gallery on Friday, September 7th for the opening night of, “Peter Allan Rice – Sculptures In Glass And Stone”. This latest exhibit, which showcases thirty-six pieces and represents a creative span of twenty-three years, runs until October 13th.
Friday evening’s guests were the first to enjoy the recent changes at the Gallery: the space has been transformed with a freshly painted interior and refinished hardwood floors.
Shortly before introducing the featured artist, Porteous thanked the hard-working volunteers for putting the Gallery – which had been completely emptied – back together in time for the new exhibit, as well as VIA Rail for all their patience and ongoing support during the renovations.
The volunteers were also given the creative challenge of hanging and displaying each work, a significant task given the varying size, weight and shape of each individual piece. Everything was beautifully composed and arranged, and it was with warm and enthusiastic applause that the crowd welcomed Peter Rice.
Rice thanked his friends and supporters, expressing how honoured he was to tell stories through his art and his poetic writing and how wonderful it was to have a show in St. Marys. This is his first show in St. Marys and the first show in what will be a busy fall season.
Following the opening of the show at the Station Gallery, his work will be featured October 19th to 21st in a showing of fifty artists at the McMicheal Gallery’s Autumn Art Sale Fundraiser. This marks his second appearance at the annual fundraiser; Peter was invited to return to the show this fall after ranking in the top ten sellers at his first showing. It will also be his seventh year at Toronto’s One Of A Kind Show November 22nd to 26th. But Peter’s well-deserved success hasn’t diminished the pleasure of having a show in St. Marys.
People have asked me “where can we see your work?” And I told them about the show in St. Marys, only to have them come back and say, “Why didn’t you mention you were at the McMichael in October?” Well, I’m more excited about the show in St. Marys!”
His work is deeply inspired by a childhood lived mostly in the Canadian Shield and he is renowned for creating the images and using the materials of that landscape in his work. As an artist for whom each new creation is rich with meaning, his choice of material is deliberate and symbolic; the amount of personal research he invests into each piece reveals itself in unparalleled detail.
Over the years Peter’s art has also addressed and honoured subjects as diverse as: climate change; an indigenous leader and poet; the river systems of Algonquin; a man’s experience teaching in Turkey; the first Canadian female astronaut in space; our most iconic painters; stress of the wetlands; a walk on romantic Newfoundland shores; a Georgian Bay hike; and a true Canadian hero.
One of his most stunning pieces, “Inspiration,” celebrates the work of Terry Fox and is graciously on loan from local resident Paul King. Mayor Al Strathdee, who attended opening night, cited “Inspiration” as one of his favourite pieces in the show. “It’s very exciting to see the interest in the Gallery, which started small but through people working hard, is now really bringing people together. The amount of support is incredible.”
Other locally commissioned pieces on loan to the exhibit include John and Marie Stevens’, “Emergence,” a piece featuring rock from the Black Sea, and “Reflection Of Love” commissioned by Andrea and Andrew Hodges for their fifteenth wedding anniversary. Both couples were at the event. “He’s such a great guy,” Andrea smiled. “We just can’t say enough about him.”
Local couple Akshay Kumar and Akshita Malik also attended, bringing family members who were visiting from Brampton, Malaysia and India. Though only in St. Marys for one day, they enjoyed the Gallery and meeting the artist. “We’ve never seen art like this. You can’t find these pieces in stores,” observed Akshita’s mother. “You have to go to the gallery and meet the artist.” The family enjoyed chatting with Peter about technique, materials and some artistic hazards like dropping a hot blob of solder into his shoe.
Fellow artists also showed their support. “It’s very innovative work,” said Don Wells, ceramist and master carpenter. “The misty theme behind the main theme – he’s doing work I’ve never seen before.” That “misty” detail that is so impressive is due to the use of a jewellers saw, a tool suggested to him by artisan and collector Reed Needles.
Web designer Jan Österlund (www.janosterlund.com) also attended the evening with his wife Andrea. Jan created and designed Peter’s innovative website that launched in June. When asked about his inspiration for introducing subtle but enchanting animation and soundscape to the photographs of Peter’s works, notably “Reflections Of Thomson,” Jan said, “A picture didn’t do it justice.” Inspired by the detail and story in Peter’s work, he wanted to enrich the viewer’s online experience.
Peter thanked many people at the start of the evening but he especially thanked his wife Annette for her love and support for his work all these years. “When I’m hiding in the studio all this time I secretly believe she enjoys the peace and quiet,” he later quipped.
Their daughter, Alischa, and son-in-law, Shawn, were also at the event. “I’m so proud. This is something that’s been a dream of his,” she said. Peter has been working at developing his art “my whole life,” she noted, adding that one childhood memory included one of her favourite pieces, “Blue Mystique.” She shared a long car ride to Muskoka, sitting beside two large crates of “Blue Mystique” in the backseat! Alischa carries on the family artistic talent through her successful graphic design career in London.
Visitors can enjoy Peter’s work at the Gallery until October 13th and online at www.peterallanrice.com. Many of his works are listed for purchase, and there are also signed posters and greeting cards available at the Gallery.
Artist demonstrations at the Gallery will be held from 11am to 4pm on September 29th and October 6th. These demonstrations are open to the public and free of charge.