by Tom Shoebridge

Brilliant sunshine greeted the nearly 100 people who attended the outdoor art show at the MERA Schoolhouse in McDonald’s Corners on Saturday, November 14th. COVID protocols were in place.

Entitled “Unusual Art for Unusual Times”, the show attracted the work of local artists, ranging from 12 to 88 years of age, all presenting an image of the natural world or using natural materials. The idea was Ankaret Dean’s, a co-founder of MERA, who was inspired by a recent visit to Canada’s National Gallery. “I was reminded of how important it is to experience real art, not through the internet, and to offer that experience locally.”

The 75 paintings, sculptures, weavings and installations on display included the creative use of stones, grapevines, rocks, birch bark, slab wood and reused wood for paintings.

One of the highlights of the show was a spectacular 16-foot compass, created on the front lawn of MERA by Almonte artist Jennifer Noxon, with the help of Pakenham artist Amelia Ah You. Entitled COMPASS: Seeking Direction in Uncertain Times, the piece is comprised of over 1800 pine and spruce cones.

“‘I’d been craving a project that was laborious, detailed – something that would reflect the slow passing of time that I’ve been experiencing these last six months. I wanted it to involve a meditative action, one in which the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Collecting the cones and being in nature gave me the feeling of being grounded, a sense of the earth beneath my feet. The fresh fall air, the quiet, and the stillness of the forest was consoling and therapeutic. As I became more familiar with the cones, I realized that, depending on the direction they faced, light was reflected or absorbed, and that the white pine cones had white sap on the tips. I did not have time to do a practice run and had to trust in the process. We spent four hours blocking out and creating the piece. In the end, we were quite pleased with ourselves and the piece that lay before us,” says Noxon. “It was magical.”

The majority of more than 1800 cones came from the white pines on the floor of Amelia’s forest. The norway spruce cones came from the trees on the George Birchall and Gillian White’s front lawn in Almonte.

Though snow cover may make it difficult to view on some days, COMPASS will remain in place for viewing until the squirrels take it away or lawn mowing season returns, whichever comes first.