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Artists bring window art to life

Mehreen Shahid

By Mehreen Shahid, Special to the Packet & Times

Cynthia Young is pictured next to her piece being presented at the Somniatis: Stained Glass Interpreted, being performed at St. Paul's Centre on June 2 and 3. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Cynthia Young is pictured next to her piece being presented at the Somniatis: Stained Glass Interpreted, being performed at St. Paul's Centre on June 2 and 3. MEHREEN SHAHID/THE PACKET & TIMES

Where's the Prince of Peace when you need him?

That is the question local artist Peter Stranks hopes to strike in the minds and hearts of people as he unveils his piece at Somniatis: Stained Glass Interpreted.

"This has been a challenging year for me on a lot of levels," he said, talking about the inspiration for his piece that will be on display at 2 p.m. at St. Paul's Centre June 2 and 3. "Emotionally, I'm really distressed what's happening down south of the border and especially the treatment of women. I'm distressed about how Muslim people are being attacked and vilified, and what's happening in the gay community. To this day, they're being vilified for gender and sexual choices."

Over the past two years, Somniatis has earned name as a fundraiser for the Orillia Museum of Art and History (OMAH). This year, the project will raise money for St. Paul's Centre. Artists will present a personal interpretation of one of the stained glass windows that adorn the walls of the centre.

"To me, Christ is almost a metaphor for all those spiritual beings, whether it be Buddha or Muhammad or anyone; most of what they spoke about was love and peace," Stranks said. "Where is that leader now, when we need them more than ever? Why are we suddenly going to all these ultra-right-wing attitudes for the answers?"

For his piece, the photographer and videographer hopes to recreate, on main street, the scene of crucifixion.

He hopes to close Mississaga Street to traffic and shoot from the east end, looking west, photographing a giant crucifix silhouetted at the top of the street with a Jesus figure on the cross. He will invite residents to be part of this tableau.

Ruth Germain, founder of Somniatis: A Wearable Art Show, a fundraiser for OMAH held last year at Casino Rama, said Stranks's piece is one of 40 that will be presented at the two-day event.

"Michael Gordon, at the St. Paul's Centre, approached me before the last Somniatis to do it at the centre, but I'd already booked the casino," she said, explaining the shift of focus for this year's Somniatis, adding the wearable-art show will return next June. "Once the show was over, I had a chance to go see the centre and I was blown away. When I went in, the windows talked to me and I could just see an exhibit on them."

The pieces will be emotionally stirring, said Germain.

"It's becoming very personal," she said. "The artists kind of bared their souls with this."

A personal element has certainly crept into the piece being prepared by local artist Cynthia Young.

"I have always enjoyed the sanctuary of churches when travelling. It's a refuge of cool, darkened interiors punctuated by colour of stained glass windows," she said. "As I thought about it, I was drawn by the memories of these moments of refuge."

Young will present her piece, an interpretation of Eliza Doolittle's dress from My Fair Lady, herself dressed as the character and talk to visitors about equity and helping give people a hand up.

The dozen-or-so windows on the walls of St. Paul's Centre, were offered as dedications by families or groups within the church between 1940 and 1960, interpret an aspect of the Christian faith, said Eric Sayle, project manager for St. Paul's Centre.

"There are pictures of the nativity or the story of Easter or the story of Jesus with the little children," he said. "It was very representative of the way Christian life was interpreted during that time. And people purchased these windows as a dedication to their families."

Tickets, at $50 each, will include refreshments and wine. They are now on sale at Alleycats Music and Art, 95 Mississaga St. E.

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