Toronto-based artist Mark Crofton Bell’s latest exhibition in Niagara-on-the-Lake aims to capture moments in time spent with his mother, who resided in a long-term care facility for the last five years of her life.
“I realized that my mother was aging and that she wasn’t going to be with me forever, so I wanted to make a painting that would sort of represent who she is,” Crofton Bell told The Lake Report.
The exhibition, titled The Mom Project, had its opening reception Sunday afternoon at RiverBrink and allowed visitors to follow the chronological order of the portraits and chat with the artist himself.
Crofton Bell explained that his original goal with the series was to explore his ability as a portrait painter, something in which he doesn’t usually specialize.
“That wasn’t really working and I realized that my strength wasn’t going to be in this one painting that I had in my head, but rather was going to be in the process and the journey,” he said.
Crofton Bell said he decided to stick to small format paintings that he could complete in the short time allocated to his visits to his mom, with slightly larger canvases occupying his Sundays when he could stay for more than two hours.
“It was really important to me that the paintings be completed in one sitting in the time that we had together because it was very much about spending time together than it was about making the painting,” he said.
The series concludes with a depiction of his mother’s passing. Showing death in art is a tradition that Crofton Bell says has been lost in recent years.
“The last 100 years it hasn’t been popular, but it’s as much about the living as it is about the dying,” he said.
Cambridge Bell has shown his exhibition at venues including the Cambridge Art Gallery, which he cited as a “beautiful space.” However, he said he finds RiverBrink to be a perfect space for the vibe of the series.
“It’s nice to be able to show in this context, where it’s a little more domestic feeling with the wood, the warmth of the woods,” he said.
“The fact that this is a house seemed to work with the paintings in a way that we wouldn’t get in a conventional art gallery.”
The Mom Project will be on display at RiverBrink until Jan. 27. For more information, visit riverbrink.org/current-exhibitions.html.