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Earth Bound, Sky High

A prominent feature of the Dyers Bay community is an old quarry which was operational until the mid-20th century.  Abandoned by industry it has been largely left to return to a more 'natural' state.  It is a favourite with local dog walkers. Our terriers love to feast on the raspberries and wild strawberries that grow there each summer. Because it is still mostly rock the flowers, shrubs and trees that inhabit this area are miniature in size.  We regard the quarry as our very own public bonsai garden.  The land itself was subdivided at some point in time; one half belongs to the municipality, the other is private property.  Separating the halves is a line of armour stone, immoveable, immutable and grand in scale.  The boulders that make up the line are all quite different in composition and appearance and as a whole illustrate the entire geological history of the region.  

One hot summer day, we decided to bring our drawing materials down to the quarry intending to do a few sketches of the rocks.  Once we looked more closely we realized that this could be, was  a much larger undertaking and so our modest drawing project  became much more involved.  The sheer size of the boulders meant that we could literally draw on them.  They served as giant tabletops upon which we could work.  After some consideration, we decided that we would document each and every one of the armour stones in a drawing specific to that rock.  Working with pastels, watercolour and pencil we transcribed what we saw in each of these giants.  We soon realized that single sheets of paper were not going to provide the continuity in process that we required so we opted for a single rolled out sheet of medical examination table paper that I had purchased with no thought as to how it could be used.  Its time had come! Because it was semi-translucent we could record all the bumps and irregularities in the various surfaces along with whatever plant and animal materials we encountered along the way.  Moving fairly quickly we sketched from end to end.  Sometimes we incorporated surrounding small rocks in the designs; other times we simply drew images onto the paper that might in some way relate to the environmental and geological stresses and strains we imagined these rocks had been under for millennia.  Colour was our go-to and the resulting drawing came to look like a celebratory banner.  In attempting to roll it up for transport back home one windy day we discovered that the drawing could at any point take off!  It could fly!  So, we began to experiment with sections of it, letting the wind create tornado-like funnel forms as it was lifted off the rock.  We also paraded sections of the drawing around the quarry enjoying the effects wind had on the appearance of the drawings themselves.  All of this was recorded photographically.  

We happened to show a couple of Toronto curators what we were doing and they became very interested in exhibiting our work.  We transported sections of the drawing to the York Quay Gallery, Harbourfront and Gallery 1313 in Toronto as part of the 'Save the Greenbelt' show that was touring at the time.  The rock portraits were key elements of these exhibits since they illustrated the extreme age of the land that underlies many of the key protected agricultural regions of southern Ontario. This project had several facets and pointed up to us how nature can inspire creativity and understanding in ways that cannot first be imagined.  Michael and Delwyn

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