When Debi first emailed me I was shocked, and frankly I still am. She wanted to hang two of my photographs in a Great Lakes art exhibition in the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite. [Pause] Let’s try to let that sink in for a minute, the Lieutenant Governor’s Suite. The Lieutenant Governor is the Queen’s representative here in Ontario. Yes THE Queen. Me? Really? I figured I’d see how this played out, I told her I’d be honoured to have my work included and we got the ball rolling.
Yet somehow I never expected it to end the way it did. The whole process was filled with baby steps in a very short timeline. I had to send in my artist statement, thumbnails for the catalogue, image details, and the photographs themselves. This wasn’t anything I hadn’t done before so nothing seemed all that unusual. And there was still time for them to come to their senses and realize that my work had no business hanging in the same room as Edward Burtynsky‘s.
A few weeks went by and I didn’t hear anything. I figured that yes, maybe they did finally come to their senses. Then I got an official invite to the show opening. So I guess this is happening. I started telling my family and friends who all told me that I should be honoured and that I’d finally made it. But most of those people are related to me so isn’t that what they’re supposed to say? Besides, many of them didn’t know anything about art or business or the business of art so I always take this sort of thing with a healthy grain of salt. It still wasn’t sinking in.
Then, three days ago, on a hot Tuesday afternoon, we drove the two hours to Toronto, changed into our fancy clothes in the bathroom of a Mr Greek Express, and walked through the doors of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario’s Suite in Queen’s Park.
I’d hardly gotten a chance to see my work when I was whisked upstairs with the rest of the artists to the music room where I met Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario.
She was more lovely and elegant than I could have ever imagined. She shook my hand, asked me where I was from, thanked me for lending her my photographs, then disappeared into the crowd, leaving me standing there stunned. I’d barely bumbled my way through the conversation, but on the plus side I hadn’t said anything to make a fool of myself.
Darren and I wove our way through the three rooms of the exhibition in awe of all the magnificent landscapes, the whole time wondering, how did I get here? Over half of these artists had gallery representation and all I have is this ole website. I feel like I skipped some steps. Crucial steps. And at any point that weak foundation is going to give and it’s all going to come tumbling down burying me in a pile of jenga blocks that I need to get out from under.
The staff told me what an honour it was for me to have my work hanging there but I still wasn’t getting it. It just didn’t seem real. I met Trinity Arsenault, the youngest person to ever swim across Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, Tom Campbell who’s paintings made me long for Beausoleil Island, and finally Debi Perna, the woman who made all this happen.
We talked to lots of people about how amazing and undervalued our Great Lakes are, and at one point I found myself in a room with Her Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Edward Burtynsky, and Patrick J Adams. The whole evening was surreal.
There were speeches and finger foods and cocktails and then three hours had passed and it was all over. And I still can’t believe it happened. Why must all the big things in life go by in a flash?
Though I’m still amazed and speechless and almost in disbelief that any part of this story is true, I’m deeply honoured to have my photographs on display at such a regal venue among the very artists that I admire. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you Your Honour Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Debi Perna, Edward Burtynsky, and everyone else that made this possible.