The Gladstone Hotel's Grow Op 2015 Exhibition

By: Alison Silveira

I am a city girl at heart, but there are days when I long to run free in the backyard of my childhood home, which overlooked serene Lake Ontario. I also recall peering out through the window in the living room to watch my parents beautify the front yard with their gardening skills. I never quite picked up their knack for gardening, but they have imbued in me a great appreciation for nature.

Earth Day provides the perfect opportunity to take in the natural beauty that surrougnds us. To celebrate, I attended a preview of The Gladstone Hotel's Grow Op exhibition of landscape, urbanism and contemporary art. Spanning four days, the culture of landscape themed exhibition showcases 17 garden and art installations. Curators Victoria Taylor and Graham Teeple both spoke about the importance of engaging in dialogue regarding contemporary urban spaces, sustainability and functionality. I enjoyed viewing the unique art installations and talking to the artists about their work.

Claire Kurtin, Nadia Pulez and Ramin Yamin are students from the University of Toronto’s Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design. Their visually stunning, labour intensive work, Flore Synthetica is made up of artificial mylar flowers and juxtaposed with a sweet, floral scent. I spoke with Yamin, who told me that the installation aims to evoke a memory in the viewer, as the scent of smell is most closely linked with memory, more so than any other sense. 

I was deeply affected by a conversation about life and death that I had with artist, Rebecca Jane Houston. Her kinetic building blocks made from reclaimed wood celebrates creativity from what was once discarded debris. In her work, Cut Twice, she painstakingly carved each and every block by hand, linking them together and breathing new life into them.

One of the most innovative installations is the cleverly named Herbal Teable. Imagine a coffee (or tea) table that grows its own herbs! Paul Chartrand designed and built a hydroponic garden table that can be used indoors. He draws inspiration from tea drinking and plant growth. Forget coffee table books; the Herbal Teable is a conversation piece in and of itself. 

Adrienne Hall's immersive installation entitled In Place of a Forest brings an unseen forest to the city. I experienced the earthy smell of the forest and could feel the pine needles as they gently grazed my cheek. I could also hear the sounds of the forest in complete darkness. 

The Emerald Ash Forest exhibit creates awareness of the threat of the emerald ash borer, a beetle that attacks and kills ash trees. Here we see amputated trees that have been affected by the pests. Architects Sandrina Dumitrascu and Clara Romero seek to start a conversation surrounding threats to urban forests. 

In Julie Bogdanowicz's piece, Mounds At Work, what looks like a seemingly ordinary, grassy mound is anything but. In some rural areas with impenetrable soil, every house sits atop a mound, which acts as a septic system that functions above ground. 

As a downtown dweller, finding green spaces are few and far between. The Grow Op exhibit aims to connect viewers with nature and art and also fosters important discourse regarding novel ideas for our urban environment.

To learn more about Grop Op 2015, visit: http://www.gladstonehotel.com/spaces/gladstone-grow-op/
Dates: Thursday, April 23 - Sunday, April 26, 2015
Hours: Thurs. 11 am - 8 pm, Friday 11 am - 10 pm, Saturday & Sunday 11 am - 5 pm
Venue: 2nd Floor Gallery and Public Spaces Throughout Hotel
Admission: $10