Kathleen Munn – artist

from the Art Gallery of Ontario publicity

I went to work this morning and discovered I was locked out. Seems the XXX is taking a long, long weekend but someone forgot to tell me.

I work in their office once in a while, when my wonderful employer, Our Times labour magazine, hires me for a day of subscription renewal and envelope stuffing.

They share space with the XXX. But today the space was under wraps so I left disgruntled and–thinking about art. So I boarded the Eglinton bus and headed towards the Art Gallery of Ontario instead.

It was there that I stumbled upon the passion of Kathleen Munn, a Toronto modernist artist who lived and died in obscurity. She was a rival, they said (such an adversarial term) of Emily Carr and David Milne. She exhibited with the Group of Seven in 1928.

Munn also read art theory hungrily and filled scads of notebooks with her thoughts. These she tucked away out of sight, sort of like Emily Dickinson with her hundreds of be-ribboned poems.

Here are a few of Munn’s words stencilled on the wall of the exhibit: “Art is an adventure not a habit.” Her adventure ended with her death in 1974.

A particularly enticing part of her story was that she stopped making art when she was 52 due to family obligations and “an unresponsive art public in Toronto.” She ran her family’s jewellery store instead. She was rediscovered only after her death.

Here’s one of the ways Munn’s life, even more than her art, affected me during my brief visit to the gallery this morning, my quiet trip away from the toils of labour and nasty little paper cuts: Kathleen Munn quit making art at 52, the same age I am now. Instead, she took a “real” job.

I left a “real” job a few hours ago because the doors were locked. Instead I stepped toward art, toward this obscure Toronto woman’s art, and so my little day was punctuated by both frustration and significant beauty.

If possible, check out the exhibit and bring Kathleen back to her art.

http://www.ago.net/the-passion-of-kathleen-munn

http://www.ourtimes.ca/

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About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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