Anniversaries are a time for thinking about where we’ve been and where we’re going. This year has been full of milestones for several Toronto-based arts organizations. First off, the Magenta Foundation celebrates 10 years of supporting the work of emerging photographers from Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., and the magazine officially turns five with this issue. Where has the time gone? When I first agreed to help re-launch Magenta magazine as an online publication, I told myself I’d give it two years and then decide whether I wanted to continue. Well, that deadline has sailed by! Here I am writing another Editor’s Letter, but it feels like it’s taken five years for the magazine to become, as a friend said recently, a “thing”.
Other “things” close to my heart that have anniversaries this year are the artist-run centre Mercer Union, which celebrates 35 years, and Art Metropole, that venerable hub of artist’s book and multiples production and exhibition, which celebrates 40 years. I had the pleasure of being on the event-planning committee for Art Metropole’s 40th anniversary party, and had the opportunity to do a bit of reflecting of my own during the event when I was invited to participate in their second edition of “Show & Tell & Sell” (S&T&S).
In S&T&S, people are invited to talk about something they own that has special meaning to them. It is basically like grade-school show-and-tell, but you have to let the object go by selling it to another guest. When I looked around my apartment for something, the most obvious thing to S&T&S was a drawing by my grandfather. My dad had given me several of my grandfather’s sketchbooks, their pages filled with cartoons, doodles and attempts at life drawing. I chose to show and sell a loose sheet featuring an ink cartoon of a jaunty-looking gentleman on one side and a pencil sketch of a woman in a hat on the other, and tell the story of my grandfather’s life.
My grandfather, William Henry Richard Clarke, was born in 1894 in Newton Abbot, Devon, in England. This year would have marked his 120th birthday. He, his sister and their parents emigrated to Canada in 1906. He fought in World War I, made his living in the 1920s and 30s in Detroit and Chicago playing in travelling swing bands and classical music orchestras. He returned to Canada in 1936, met my grandmother, and my dad was born in 1939. Shortly thereafter, he re-enlisted and also fought in World War II.
I never knew my grandfather. He died before I was even four years old, but my parents tell me that he doted on my sister and I. Everything I know about him as a person is through my father. They were very close, and I know that to this day my dad misses him very much.
They say that we’re doomed to turn into our parents, but it seems to have gone further back than that for me. My dad tells me that my looks, temperament, attitudes about life and my interests are much like my grandfather’s, and that he’d be very interested in, and proud of, what I’ve been doing with my life.
A good friend bought the drawing by my grandfather at the Art Metropole fundraiser. I hope that whenever she looks at it, she is reminded of where she came from and reflects on how the generations of her family who came before contributed to the lovely person she is.
Thank you for reading, and an enormous thank you to everyone who has supported the magazine over the last five years − the writers, the artists who talked to us, the advertisers, our designers at The Office of Gilbert Li, and the rest of the support staff at Magenta, past and present.
I hope you enjoy this 5th Anniversary issue of Magenta. We’ll see you again in Spring 2015.
Bill Clarke was the Executive Editor of Magenta Magazine Online from its inception in September 2009 until May 2017. His writing has been published in Modern Painters, Art Review, Canadian Art, Artnews and several other publications. In January 2017, he assumed the position of associate director at Angell Gallery in Toronto.
The Office of Gilbert Li