Wednesday, September 26, 2007

the loss of a hero

i started my first art degree in 1971 in guelph, ontario. although we didn't see it at the time (because it was all we knew), it was hard being a female art student back then. we didn't know any female artists. in a faculty of 10, the only woman taught art history. in our art history survey course, our huge textbook (janson's history of art) did not mention 1 female artist. the only female artists we knew were known because they were the daughter of or married to a male artist. i had a couple of wonderful instructors, but many were part time and there was often an undercurrent of sexual tension. there were no guidelines to student/teacher conduct and in 1 particular case we all knew if you slept with the teacher you would get an "A". i got a "C".

in my 2nd year i had the priviledge of having ken danby as an instructor. he was already famous and wealthy and taught one course a term only because of his love of teaching and his belief in the importance of learning well. in a period of huge abstract colourfield paintings (it's where i learned colour), his intricate realistic paintings went against the grain. but he was a fine teacher. and he was a gentleman.

yesterday morning, over my breakfast, i read that he had died this past weekend while canoing in algonquin park. he was 67. although much too young, i cannot think of a better way for him to die. he was one of my heroes.

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