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Why (Not) Portraits of Poets?

April 16 – June 15, 2014
Poetry readings: Wednesday, April 16, 2014
7 pm

Poet Laureate of Toronto, George Elliott Clarke, invited us to renew the practice of portraiture, with a focus on poets as subjects. As a result, the AGO offered an adult studio course entitled “Portraits of Poets,” led by artist-instructor Aleks Bartosik. The sitting model for each class was a Toronto poet. Each of the sketches, drawings and paintings in this installation was completed over a three-hour period by the following students: Guy Andrea, Marco Cera, Thomas Cho, Lianne Cote, Beth Fanjoy, Sally Joyce, Anna Kosichenko, Jennifer Maus, Alan Roe, Dominika Sedlak, Diana Tabak and Mary Jane Varro.

Participating Poets are:

Bill Bissett
George Elliott Clarke
Adam Sol
Rudyard Fearon
Ayeesha Chatterjee
Sachiko Murakami
Olive Senior
Myna Wallin
Dionne Brand

A century ago, the titular question (absent “Not”) would have seemed impertinent nonsense, at least up to the outbreak of The Great War, a conflagration that incinerated notions of “the Sublime” or “Art for Art's Sake.” Until the advent of Modernism, it was commonplace for artists to depict poets. But the coming of cubism and abstraction to visual arts, and the recourse of poets to ivory towers, entailed both a loss of status for the poet and for the relevance of portraiture (excepting moneyed representation). Warhol exacerbated this situation by fetishizing images of persons famous for their images, affirming that, in the Mass Media Age, only celebrities merit portraiture. So “Portraits of Poets” is a retro project, a revisiting of the notion that poets and painters, as two constituencies of the Muses, share fellowship and sisterhood.

George Elliott Clarke
Poet Laureate of Toronto (2012–2015)
William Lyon Mackenzie King Visiting Professor of Canadian Studies, Harvard University (2013–2014)

Presented in collaboration with the League of Canadian Poets
The Poet Laureate of Toronto is supported by

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