Art Pyre


“Bracing Myself ” performance outside Bank of Montreal 1971.

Protesting the late payment of my student loan, how is an artist suppose to bridge the gap, I look  like a guy in a hurricane of his own making.


Though I spent allot of time in art school,
I never learned to paint till much later.

Coming from a large family, most of my time was helping around the house or helping my dad with his extra jobs. In my first year of art classes I had been banished to the basement because I had started painting in my room and my dad didn’t want me destroying the floors with my black ink drawings. For the first year I slept next to a roaring furnace but finally I was able to scrounge some materials and build myself a small room in one corner of the basement. I shared the room with an large five hundred gallon oil tank. When I started painting, the smell of the heating oil was less prevalent.
I sold a bunch of world war II memorabilia to buy my first acrylic paint set, I remember getting a canvas and within ten minutes I had completely used every drop of paint and had one big ugly mess to show for it. After that I decided to use house paint until I got to the point I could create work without destroying valuable art materials. In that room over a period of three years I produce well over four hundred paintings.

I use to come home from school, do homework, help with diner, do the dishes, go off and clean offices with my dad, come home around ten pm then I would go down to the basement and paint till six am and sleep till eight am then go to school. That was my routine, in the summer I would get some kind of job and still have to do the office cleaning in the evening with my dad. With some of the money I would buy art materials, but I started using my bed sheets and blankets as canvas, so for the last year of high school I never let my mom into my room. I also would go to fabric stores and buy suit lining to paint on.

When I went to art college, I left all my paintings stacked in the basement. After a month of lectures and a whole new outlook on art in general I decided I had to let go of my past work and move on. So, one night I called my dad and told him to dig a big hole in the yard and burn all the work. Two weeks went by and I realized that maybe I had been to hasty with my incineration project so I got on a bus from Toronto and went home to Ottawa to see if I could save the work. When I got home my dad was in a cheery mood and took me out into the yard to show me a large coffin sized depression by the fence. He had dug a huge hole and had burnt every one of the four hundred pieces. At the time I felt purged, and until the late nineties I continued having art destruction moments.

circa 1971

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