Glass show reflects on fragility and strength

TEMISKAMING SHORES - Carmen Cantin creates a shining view into the world of nature with her glass exhibition titled Fragile Nature.

If you missed the array of delicate pieces that were recently on display at the Temiskaming Art Gallery in Haileybury, you can still see her works at Laura's Art Shoppe in Cobalt and at Open Studio Libre, or by contacting Cantin directly at her Notre-Dame-du-Nord home.

The Quebec artist has been building up her deep experience with glass since 1989, and her knowledge and love of the medium is extensive.

She can discuss the processes of glass art at length, but also acknowledges that at times, when working with the medium, it does things that seem almost magical.

Cantin's images are inspired by nature, and she approaches projects with her vast experience of how materials will respond. Sometimes she is surprised, she admits. Even what she knows will happen, she still regards with wonder.

Silver foil, for example, will appear silver in one piece, but gold in another, all influenced by factors such as the type of glass or the thickness of the pour.

Alchemy glass, when placed in an oven, comes out gold on one side and bronze on the other, she points out.

Cantin has also created a series of waving white wall pieces, each of which depicts an aspect of life around Lake Temiskaming. The white glass waves represent the waves of the lake, she explained.

"I tried to depict everything we can see around the lake, on the Ontario side and the Quebec side: the forest in the fall, the enchanted forest, the regatta, the sailboats from Haileybury, the pine trees, the tepees for the native people, the mines, the canola fields, the moon on the lake, Devil's Rock, the winery on the Quebec side, Fort Temiscamingue, and the bullrushes that are everywhere."

Glass geese stand mounted on metal feet and those are her tribute to the late Indigenous artist Benjamin Chee Chee, she said, because he painted geese that way.

Often her pieces are framed in aluminum or hung on shimmering bars created by her late husband Ghislain Lemire (founder of Temisko), who died in July of this year.

"He's the one who did all the metal work for me. He was a master in the art of soldering and finishing, very professional."

Cantin said that while he fought cancer, he would ask her to envision complex projects for him to work on so that he would not think about his illness.

A beautiful pale blue art work is centred around an agate stone, and is titled Hope.

Cantin explained that when her husband was having chemotherapy there was a young woman that the couple knew who was also having the same kind of treatments. She expressed interest in watching as Cantin worked, so Cantin chose the large agate stone as the centre for the piece she would work on. The young woman again asked to return to watch the soldering process. After the first side was completed, she said she would come back to see the second side completed. She was confident as she left that she would be returning for another day, but she did not. She was full of hope, Cantin said, and she named the piece in memory of the young woman.

Cantin began learning the art in 1989 while living in Florida for the summer months, learning stained glass work and soldering from local studios. In 1992 she attended a glass convention in Florida and in 1993 decided to try fusion.

"Glass is my passion," she said.

"I love fusing because it's kind of magical. You can put some colours together and it turns into another colour. You can mix the powders of enamels and it comes out as something else."

Glass is very fragile, she said.

"I depict nature, and nature is also fragile, but it is a medium that can be so strong."

Everywhere you look you will find glass.

"You can transform it but you cannot destroy it because it is all over the planet."

She continued, "It will be there forever, so it is very strong, and at the same time it is very fragile because you can break it."

Darlene Wroe, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Temiskaming Speaker