For a little over a year now I have had feelings of anger and bewilderment growing inside of me. The constant information overload of working in an office surrounded by multiple screens updating me of the latest horrors in the world. Anyone with their compassion still in tact knows if we take one swipe though social media there’ll be something horribly disturbing being shared there too. I never would have imagined that it would trigger a need to release this kind of creative energy, but it definitely seems to keep my anger and disappointment with the human race in check.

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This latest piece based on one key image that I will never forget, from a protest where a nazi was being interviewed on the street. As I watched the scene play out I was relieved to see one brave soul tired of hearing hateful messages being spewed from a nazi’s lips throw a blow to this hateful persons face. What a honour it must be to those that lost their lives fighting this very same idea of perpetuating hate. I don’t condone violent actions but sometimes heroes are forced to hurt ill-intending people to prevent them from harming others. Hate speech spoken under the guise of free speech, frees no one, not the person who speaks it for they will always be a target of the oppressed and certainly not the people who are the subject of that hate.

This is not the time be complacent, there really needs to be a larger resistance to the latest rise of hate. Speak out, be visible, be loud and always remember, SILENCE = DEATH.

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There has been no shortage of shitty news and polarizing issues locally or abroad over the last few years. From people trying to flee war-torn countries and how they are treated, to murders of people in the LGBTQ community and how groups condone this behaviour. It’s no secret for those with their eyes open that it’s a cruel world out there for many people in marginalized communities, but it has become clear to me that a lot of people are lacking compassion for fellow human beings. It’s this troubling thought that has inspired my latest piece, (totally out of the ordinary for me to not be working on architecture based art) and this is what decided to come out.
Yes it is me with my back side turned to the world in disapproval of all the gross hate speech, murders of queer, black, and indigenous people, greed, inequality, corruption, I’m sure the list could go on. But we all need to take a step back to figure out what has made us this way?
I doubt that this will be a one-off piece and probably work on a few other pieces since I still feel I have creative energy that wants to explore this direction.

Maple sugaring season is over for us at Owl Ridge Acres and the trees have all been closed up for the year. As the seasons change there have been plenty of projects underway inside and out. I’ve been lucky to have the continued help of family and friends to transform the property into a space that will soon hope to host other creative types seeking refuge to focus on their craft. There have already been a select few that also took on the responsibility of running the place in the coldest months. So I owe a big THANK YOU to James Fowler, Alex Bowron, Karol Orzechowski and Aaron Armstrong, you have all been a huge help.

Now I’m happy to announce its my turn to spend an extended time at a place that has become my home. I’ve been granted a year off from my day job at the CBC and I plan to focus on my art as well as other projects I’ve been excited to make progress on. From the beginning of May until end of April 2016, I’ll be living the life of a hopefully not so starving artist. You can bet I’ll be posting and blogging about my experiences along the way, feel free to keep in touch via facebook, twitter (@joeybruni or @owlridgeacres), instagram (@owlridgeacres) or follow this blog.

Rounding the middle of winter over knee-deep in snow, the classic Canadian scenes around Owl Ridge Acres have been nothing but inspiring. Sure its been bone chillingly cold with the thermometer reaching into the -30’s at times, but there has been no shortage of outdoor time. Those that have an appreciation for nature, winter and being active are rewarded with stunning views, the freshest air and endless solitude.

Of course winter isn’t all romance all the time, it definitely comes with its own unique set of challenges to be prepared for. Keeping on top of the accumulating snow and keeping systems from freezing or having to unfreeze them is all part of life on the southern edge of the Canadian Shield. It’s a good thing I find a lot of this work entertaining, as long as I have a good pair of long johns on, maybe even a one piece snowsuit, I can be warm and entertained. The past weekend being the best yet, stacking wood, plowing the driveway, pulling the tractor out of a snow bank, shovelling 2 feet of snow off the roof and even fitting in a snowshoe to the back of the property with friends.

Before long it will be time to prepare for the sweet end to winter, Maple Syrup season! And some creative projects that will go along with it.

The first 2 sets of images are courtesy of Alex Bowron the current resident at Owl Ridge Acres.

I’m not going to lie 2014 has brought many challenges to deal with and no shortage of highs and lows. Unfortunately the first half of the year despite working on The Cocoon Project and a few other small projects, contained some of the most stressful and disappointing times. But I look at it as wave pulling back from the shore, and I’m now riding the surf and being propelled into the next chapter of my life. I couldn’t be happier with the opportunities that the second half of the year has brought me.

For those of you that know me well, I’m sure you’ve heard me speak the words “Art farm”, “Artist commune”, or becoming a “hermit artist in the woods” over the years. Well my friends those dreams may very well become a reality sooner than I had imagined. After a few months of searching with my eager and understanding real estate agent, I feel fortunate to have found a nearly perfect property to build that dream on. With the help of family and some of my dearest art friends we’ve been transforming an old country home on over 70 acres of land, into a working farm and place to host creative residencies.

On that note I would like to introduce you to Owl Ridge Acres. A creative space that will be open to all disciplines of artists, musicians, writers, and photographers to focus on new or current projects. The residency program will aim to start in early 2015 and hopes to offer affordable options for those that wish to apply. Currently you can follow Owl Ridge Acres on instagram and twitter (@OwlRidgeAcres) if you would like keep in touch with the project, a full website will be coming soon.

Those who have had the chance to visit Owl Ridge Acres have all been inspired by the surroundings and energy the property has to give. The mainly forested property features a beautiful granite ridge with a few view points over the valley, rolling hills, hiking trails, a small spring fed pond, gardens and a few out buildings. The home itself is outfitted with a studio and workroom that has a large wood/metal lathe, drill press and hand tools.

Any friends skilled in home renovations or farm work and are interested in donating their time to help build this community are welcome anytime.

I believe something extraordinary happened this past weekend in Toronto. When a small experimental project gets accepted to a contemporary art event called Nuit Rose as part of the opening weekend to World Pride, MAGIC HAPPENS!

As the evening started, I installed the cocoons in the front yard of Artscape Youngplace and didn’t really know what to expect from the evening. Besides a few people asking if they were part of Nuit Rose no one really seemed to mind, after all I was in front of an arts building so locals are likely used to artsy projects happening there. Feeling comfortable with leaving the cocoons to fend for them selves, I had a chance to explore the events happening inside Artscape. This is where the fun begins, with a few hours to kill before the light parade, some wonderful people in the Paperhouse Studio showed me how to make paper. Who knew just how satisfying and relaxing making a stack of paper could be. Plus, Emily and Flora as well as a few others (that I now call The Paper People) did a beautiful job on creating a pride banner to carry in the light parade.

When it came time to prepare the cocoons with the new LED lights, a friend pointed out a small grey moth that was resting on one of the cocoons. Moths and Butterflies are generally good omens and have been pretty regularly visiting the project as I’ve been working on the various stages. This made me smile, I knew at this point we were going to be in for a special night.

The sun slipped away and a few of us fired up the cocoon lights as the night sky began to darken. A small group of people gathered to watch as one by one the cocoons burst into a warm yellow glow. It wasn’t too long after the last cocoon was lit that people’s faces began to light up with a smile and they wanted to explore the project by taking a closer look. Some took photos from a far, but most came in close for a chance to take a selfie among the light of the cocoons.

Once people had a chance to snap their pictures, a small group of us pulled the cocoons out of the ground and handed them to those that wanted to walk the parade route. Some of us with two or three in each hand we began the enchanting walk down Shaw St., with photographers buzzing around us to catch the beginning of this parade of lights. As we approached and then waited at Shaw and Queen St. to cross the street everywhere you turned people were looking and smiling. Cyclists rang their bells, drivers honked their horns and people stuck on the streetcars waved and gave a thumbs up. Walking west on Queen St. the parade slowly gathered random people who wanted to join. The fact that people who knew nothing about the project were so attracted to lights (like moths to a flame) really warmed my heart.

Halfway through the route we took a pause in the CAMH park to redistribute cocoon lanterns to all the new folks that joined in. With a group of about 30 of us now parading west on Queen St., it was a sight to see the looks on people’s faces in the stores, bars and restaurants we passed along the way. Arriving at the end of the light parade, it was wonderful to see a fair-sized crowd all gathering around in front of The Gladstone Hotel to get a look at all the cocoon lanterns. To those of you reading this that walked or carried a cocoon in the parade, I THANK YOU, I’m touched to have shared this unique experience with you!

At this point I was completely content by the response to The Cocoon Project and I had yet to move on to part two of the installation in the east end. With a little coaxing by a new and old friend, they helped me get the project set up quickly in Barbara Hall Park at The 519 Community Centre. A curious crowd gathered almost immediately that had me talking almost nonstop about The Cocoon Project, its symbolism and the decline of the monarch butterflies. I was very impressed by those that understood the situation and have taken action or are also trying to raise awareness. Everyone I talked to had such kind words to say and I’m so happy the project was able to invoke such positive feelings for them. One woman came to me to tell me she had come to the park for 20 years at pride and this was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen happen in the park. A gentleman also let my friend know that, this is the caliber of work he would expect at events like Nuit Blanche but never see it, and it’s nice to see non corporate public installations with deeper meaning. But what was most amazing to me, was having a chance to step back and watch people interact with the project. So many people being gentle, curious and taking a moment to understand what they were looking at. By far the best reaction of the night was witnessing a man walk up to the cocoons in awe and strip down to a tiny g-string so he could be photographed with them. I let him know I had the same reaction the first time I shot all the cocoons in a forest, except I was buck naked 😉

I don’t think I could be more please with people’s response to The Cocoon Project. Getting to share it with so many of you has definitely filled this artists heart with some much-needed love and joy! I have so much thanks to give to those that have helped out with the project. Thanks to the Throbbing Rose Collective for believing in the project, Artscape Youngplace for the workshop space, Dana Moore for being totally solid help over the last week, Tanja Tiziana for the beautiful parade coverage photos, Catharine MacIntosh and her trusty bike carrier, and all the rest of you that came out to walk in the parade. YOU ALL ROCK, keep being awesome!

 

 

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As an artist that is continuously inspired by my surroundings, they play a huge role in the subject matter that i create. I aim to change the perception an observer may have on those environments by presenting them in way that is  intriguing and unusual. Over the years I have spent documenting rural areas of Canada I have seen the changing landscapes, its effect on wildlife and the surrounding environment. This has inspired me to create The Cocoon Project. The Cocoon Project was started to help reignite a connection with nature and bring attention to the rapidly declining numbers the monarch butterfly population. Since its initial conception the project has taken on a broader meaning of transformation. As people we grow, experience and overcome obstacles in our lives and we deal with these issues in different ways. Kindred to elements of nature like the monarch butterflies which have also reached challenging times. 
 
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All is not completely lost for the monarchs but we need to act quickly, one of the easiest ways to help is to plant milkweed. This is the main source of food for the monarchs and it too has disappeared from rural environments. There are many reasons why milkweed is becoming harder for the monarchs to find, if you are interested it is easily researched online.
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Unaware when I started the project, life was about to present many changes and challenges of my own to deal with. I’ve found a lot of comfort in working on a project that has taken on a deeper personal meaning. The cocoons have been a way of recognizing the challenge, the need for change and accepting the transition to what the resolution may be. Regardless of how personal this project has become, I look forward to sharing it with many of you. I hope its enchanted qualities spark a natural curiosity about the environment around us, our connection to it and the transformations we go through in our lives.
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