John Lander                                       

Image: John Lander in his studio, 1986

By Joan Murray

 Many years ago, when I was first made director of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, John Lander, while still a student at York University in Toronto, showed me his work. I immediately recognized its unique quality. That remained the factor that distinguished his work throughout the years of his life. When he died in 1992, his art was still arresting compared with the art being made around him. Among the many ways in which he differed from his fellow artists in Canada was that where they might paint landscape or somehow echo it in their work, his art concerned mostly one subject, still life.

In other words, his images were of Nature, but remotely. He was a poet of the particular, the recognizable, in a subject he loved, flowers in the domestic realm.

This sense of the beauty of such a fragile subject, so varied and so tender, led Lander into a calculated risk, that of being typed as a flower painter, and therefore somehow secondary. That would have been a false impression for he had searching visual powers that delighted in the unusual shapes of both blossoms and vases. It was true that he loved them, and sought their forms with a deeply sympathetic insight, but he conveyed them with wit and a natural flair for elegance. They inspired his sense of design and very special use of colour.

The power to absorb and to set down images came to him only gradually, through a long process of decision-making and work. Lander initially went about it the following way: first, he bought flowers, then arranged them in a vase, then drew them many times, editing his drawings as he proceeded until he had a master drawing to compose a silkscreen print. In time, instead of drawing, he used slides of the flowers and of suitable vases or containers and edited them into a template for his work. Sometimes, the flowers and vases only met in his prints.

He began with the familiar flowers of daily life – gladioli, day lilies, poppies – and later moved to more exotic anthuriums, agapanthus, and birds of paradise.

The work which most deeply pleased him at this time in his work was his Coloured Dogfish print. It was a bouquet of anthuriums in a long narrow vase with a fish on it. Gentle, it was at the same time, humorous and stylish.


Coloured Dogfish (1978) Silkscreen

Something about the long process involved in making his silkscreen prints reminded Lander of the vanished joys of childhood, of times he and his family shared at their cottage at Lake of Bays, where he could paint paint-by-number pictures and work at his coloring books endlessly.

Born in Oshawa, he knew it well. He had played in Oshawa Creek as a child.

For public school, he had gone to Dr. S.J. Phillips and for high school, O`Neill Collegiate. Then, like many from Oshawa, he went to York University in Toronto. There, from 1970 to 1974, he took art and learned in the studio how to paint and, most important of all, how to make silkscreen prints with David Samila.

As Lander admitted of himself later, he could do art better than he could do anything else. He couldn`t throw a ball to perfection, and had no interest in this sort of competition, but he could do art.

His favorite books as a child had been C.S. Lewis`s Narnia series. Their sense of fantasy meant a lot to him and he always remembered them with pleasure.

He took a long period of time to find his path, working first in a studio in Oshawa, above the Jury & Lovell Drugstore at the Four Corners, then in Toronto, at Open Studio, but by the late 1970s, with the help of his dealer, Nancy Poole`s Gallery, his prints and posters were everywhere.

In 1981, when he moved to New York, his work changed in its medium, but not in its nature. His expanded the subject he loved, flowers, and tied them together with other evocative objects with which he felt they had some sort of relation. Exhausted by the flower-in-vase theme he`d used, he investigated still life.

Now he placed his flowers in window boxes or in their surroundings in a room – on top of a buffet, against a scarf or a kimono, on top of a lace tablecloth. He began to add furniture – a clock on a table, a settee, twin beds. He might introduce a quality of playfulness by adding tiny figurines.

The subjects were almost novelistic; the objects interacted like actors in a play.

He rendered the images in painstaking detail and with delicate precision. He had become more comfortable with realism and the tradition of painting.

The apparently effortless manner in which these works were painted should deceive no one as to the intense care that went into his craftsmanship and his great skill in painting.

By now, he had achieved what some artists hope for all their lives. His work was carried by a major New York gallery, the Fischback Gallery, then on 57th street. Known for showing the first Solo shows of what later became world figures, it had switched its emphasis from avant-garde art to realism in 1980. Fischback bought one of Lander`s paintings for its own collection and placed Lander`s work in group shows, then in 1989, gave him a one-person show.

Some would write of the great development in his work.

My own feeling is that much of his work appears as witty and compelling as it did when it was made and that Oshawa once had a grander future in view, because John Lander was born there.

Tulips and Iris in Antelope Vase (1989) Watercolour and graphite on paper Gift of Ella and Ward Irwin

Tulips and Iris in Antelope Vase (1989)
Watercolour and graphite on paper
Gift of Ella and Ward Irwin

(An Exhibition of John Lander, Luminous John Lander: Landscape, Portrait, Still Life, will be on view at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in Oshawa, September 29 – December 9, 2018)


(Joan was Director of the Gallery 1974-1999. When Lander died, she made a lithograph in his memory, Dead Duck (from the Say Goodbye series), and gave it to the Gallery)



Painters Eleven and Oshawa

By Joan Murray, Director of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (1974-1999)                    

When people fund art galleries, they seek to unite artworks they value under a single roof.

Ewart McLaughlin, who provided the funds for the building of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, played a similar role. He established the Gallery building in 1967 with, as its base, forty-seven works that had been collected by Alexandra Luke, his wife, a member of Painters Eleven, who had died that year. As well as being a member, she had been one of the most ardent supporters of the Group and had supported all the arts life-long.

Her collection reflected her interests. It is eclectic, with handsome examples of Painters Eleven, some of them dazzling like William Ronald`s mysterious Darkness No. 2 with its sense of light shining from depths or Ray Mead`s Bouquet.

In the early 1970s, the question of the Gallery`s guidelines came up. The then director, Paul Bennett, set them. He wisely chose – no surprise – Painters Eleven.

He discussed it with me in 1972 at the Art Gallery of Ontario, where I was the first Curator of Canadian Art.

“It`s a great idea,” I said.

At the time, Painters Eleven, the first abstract painting group in Ontario, was the only group founded in Oshawa. It was officially formed in 1953 in Oshawa, in the studio and summer home of Alexandra Luke at Thickson`s Point, the result of the Abstracts at Home show, held at the Simpson’s department store in Toronto that October. The members included, listing them alphabetically, Jack Bush, Oscar Cahén, Tom Hodgson, Hortense Gordon, Alexandra Luke, Jock Macdonald, Ray Mead, Kazuo Nakamura, William Ronald, Harold Town, and Walter Yarwood.

They seemed at the time, to each other and later, to members of the art community such as myself, to be an exciting, even crucial element in Canadian art.

I had an additional reason for liking them. I had the benefit of seeing their work, and work like it, at the Riverside Museum in New York. The American Abstract Artists invited Painters Eleven to exhibit with them at the museum in 1956.

When I became director of the McLaughlin Gallery in 1974, Charles McFaddin, the Registrar of the Art Gallery of Ontario and my friend, gave me a Nakamura for the collection. Although small, it was important since it had been included in an actual Painters Eleven show (the second, at Roberts Gallery in Toronto.)

Charles said he`d only give it to me if I promised to maintain the guidelines as Painters Eleven.

I promised.

To learn about them, I interviewed the living members, and the widows of those that had died. I accumulated their work for the collection. Some fine things had been bought before my time by Kay Woods, formerly the curator. She bought Harold Town`s major painting The Bridge, but I added where I could and through shows and publications began to bring the work the attention it deserved.

Showing Painters Eleven wasn`t always easy. A man came into the gallery, looked at the exhibit and said, “This guy sure changed his style a lot.” Even the Board of Trustees had their doubtful moments. “I wouldn`t give a dollar for that work,” said one Board member, waving at a Jack Bush.

But, in time, there was more acceptance. By the second half of the 1970s, our guidelines were well known enough that works by the group even were given to the collection. One such work was Hortense Gordon`s happy Colour Study (1960) which Walter Moos of Moos Gallery in Toronto gave in 1979 with the words, “It has no commercial value.” In other words, he couldn`t sell it so he was giving it to the gallery.

Today, with the general admiration felt for the group, many would disagree.

In the future, besides a rising price to the works, I expect new adherents to Painters Eleven. There will be a greater comprehension of their place in Canadian art history, more publications, and more works at auction. In other words, the fate we have seen of the Group of Seven, will be theirs also.

Journey is a title the Group used often. Another was Adventure. In their paintings, they were always seeking, travelling, reaching out for the impossible.

To be on the side of this new faith is an adventure for all that make it.

Joan Murray,

Director of the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Oshawa (1974-1999)

Linda Jansma: Curator Extraordinaire

by Joan Murray

A curator`s task differs from person to person. For some, it means gathering a collection. For others, interpreting what is already there. For all, it means study of a chosen field, say trains if you are the curator of a railway museum. Then you dedicate yourself to preserving the physical legacy, history and experience of rail transportation within a chosen area.

At the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, the chosen field was more amorphous because it was Canadian Art, but only within a specific time frame, say the 1880s till today, and favoring a specific place, Oshawa and the region of Durham. Of course, choosing such a region meant choosing the influences on the art of that region, which could be quite wide and ranged from the Group of Seven and Painters Eleven, the main group founded in Oshawa, to artists of interest, though usually Canadian, everywhere.

A curator at the Gallery had, therefore, wide parameters. They also had limitations. As is usual in a regional gallery, these meant a meagre purchase budget. They also meant persuading the Purchase Committee of the wisdom of your choices.

Linda Jansma was at the Gallery twenty-eight years during which she battled against the boundaries, fighting to maintain professional standards and saving up her modest resources so that the collection was conserved and preserved properly.

She was not alone in her task, but she was essential, first as Registrar, then as Curator.

“Curator” comes from the Latin word curare, to care for. The curator cares for the collection, and that includes enhancing it, whether by gift or the magic of scholarship. Jansma expanded the understanding of the collection by organizing a major retrospective of Rody Kenny Courtice, a wonderful early modernist and friend of an artist important to us, Isabel McLaughlin. She added to our knowledge of another artist, Jock Macdonald, a member of Painters Eleven, by discovering a treasure trove of his early work in Glasgow. She interpreted it in the catalogue of a major show on the artist in 2014 at the Vancouver Art Gallery and was awarded the prize for best curatorial writing that year as a result. She also interpreted the work of several artists today who are of great interest, such as Ed Pien (known for his drawing-based installations), the challenging artist Nell Tenhaaf, and the collaborationists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins, organizing exhibitions of their work. She was on what is called the lead in her selection of these artists, or in the forefront of the realm of curators.

As for purchases – she loved the fact that she was involved in commissioning public sculpture by Mary Anne Barkhouse, Reinhard Reitzenstein, Doug Coupland and Noel Harding, as well as recent purchases of work by Sarindar Dhaliwal and Tazeen Qayyum.

She was as well as a champion of the important and interesting figures in Canadian art today, a person of inexhaustible energy.

Her work called on her enthusiasm and– and her intelligence. So often, if you went in her office, she was effervescent, and you were revived.

Long ago, in 1989, when she was hired, I knew Jansma could weather all difficulties when I heard that she had chosen as cover of our wedding invite, a drawing by Ray Mead that I`d curated into an exhibition. Her choice reflected her faith in art. From the moment I heard about it, I believed that she would be a great choice for a staff member.

In wonderment, these many years later, I realize I was right.

-Joan Murray

Leila Timmins joins the RMG as Curator and Manager, Exhibitions and Collections

The Robert McLaughlin is excited to announce that Leila Timmins will be joining the Gallery as Manager and Curator, Exhibitions and Collections. In this new role, she will be replacing Linda Jansma who is retiring after 28 years at the gallery.

Previously Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programming at Gallery 44 in Toronto, Leila is dedicated to working with community to contribute to important conversations happening around and through art.

At Gallery 44, Timmins produced over 60 exhibitions and public programs with over 100 artists from across the country and abroad while working tirelessly to build the gallery’s audience and increase online engagement.

Accessibility is also an important part of Leila’s curatorial practice. Her work with Workman Arts, CAMH, Tangled Art + Disability, and numerous other groups and collectives has contributed to conversations around reducing barriers and increasing access.

“I am thrilled and honoured to be joining the team at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery. I’ve long admired the way the RMG centres relationship-building at the core of its operation, working closely alongside artists and community. I look forward to continuing the important work the gallery has done to build greater accessibility, equality and inclusiveness into all aspects of its programming.” says Timmins

“We’re very excited to have Leila at the RMG and working in Durham Region. She was selected from a pool of candidates nationally and abroad because her passion for community building is determined, which is demonstrated in her impressive list of experiences and accomplishments. Get ready, Durham.” says Donna Raetsen-Kemp, CEO, of the new arrival.

Her writing has been published in notable publications including FUSE Magazine and C Magazine, and was awarded the Emerging Cultural Leader Award by Artist-Run Centres and Collectives of Ontario (ARCCO) in 2017.

Leila starts at the RMG on June 11.

Q&A with Sonya Jones, Curator of Collections

Sonya Jones, previously Associate Curator, is now taking on a new role at the Gallery as Curator of Collections. In this new role, Sonya will lead the management, care and exhibition of the RMG’s collections, including the Permanent Collection, Thomas Bouckley Collection, and library and archives.

What is it that you love about working with the collections?

I love sharing the collection with the community, whether that’s through exhibitions, tours or our online database. I also love collecting and sharing stories about each work – it gives you a whole different perspective and appreciation. While curating is definitely the highlight of my job, I absolutely love collections management. I’m lucky I get to do both. Also, it never gets old walking into the vault!

In your opinion, what makes our collections special?

While we have a huge variety of artwork, historical, contemporary, mediums, styles etc, the part of the collection that sets it apart from other permanent collections is the large number of Painters Eleven we have, over 1,000 works. We have visitors come specifically to see Painters Eleven, for example just this week we had someone come all the way from Halifax just to see works by Painters Eleven.

In your new role, what do you look to do with the collection exhibitions?

I’m looking forward to connecting with our community through the collection and finding new ways for public engagement.

Do you have a favorite piece in the Permanent Collection? In The Thomas Bouckley Collection? Why?

Joseph Sydney Hallam (Canadian, 1899 - 1953); Rainy Weekend; 1946; oil on masonite; Gift of Paul Hallam, 2002

Joseph Sydney Hallam (Canadian, 1899 – 1953); Rainy Weekend; 1946; oil on masonite; Gift of Paul Hallam, 2002

It’s so hard to choose just one! There are too many amazing works to choose from. I tend to have weekly favourites. One that I recently came across that left an impression was Joseph Sydney Hallam’s Rainy Weekend. This resonated with me because I saw it right after the most recent ice storm, which was a weekend where my family was stuck indoors. Despite grumbling at first, we soon took full advantage of spending quality time together. Like in Rainy Weekend, there’s a comfort and feeling of home just being together even if you are just in the same room doing your own thing. The weather forced us all to slow down, be present and be together. So that was that week’s favourite!

For the Bouckley Collection, I’ve always been drawn to the candid images, the ones that capture a moment rather than posed. For example, one of people walking down King Street during road construction. The majority of the photographs in the collection were taken for documentation purposes, so the candid photographs are extra rare and special.

In Memory of Lotti Thomas

“I first met Lotti Thomas through her work. I was volunteering at the art gallery at the Scarborough campus of the University of Toronto in the later 1980s and installed one of her amazing lithographs in a group exhibition of alumni. I actually ended up buying the work for my own nascent collection.

Lotti would show her work in a solo exhibition in the fall of 1990 at the RMG and that’s where I got to know her as a person. She was passionate about Canada and its histories—histories both real and imagined. Coming from the small country of the Netherlands, the breadth and depth of Canada never ceased to amaze her and she explored many parts of it over the years. We were privileged, most recently, to install her beautiful lithographic construction Canada West, the Last Best West in the Durham Reach project that began the RMG’s 50th anniversary celebrations this past January.

Lotti died on August 3 and leaves a legacy in her artistic practice that combined the historic arts of her home country with her imaginings of the wilds of Canada. She will be missed by all her knew her.”

Linda Jansma

That’s a wrap!

By Christy Chase

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) and AWCCU Financial have cashed in on their partnership and are taking art into the community in an unexpected way.

In late 2016, the two community organizations unveiled ATM machines showcasing three works of abstract art by Painters Eleven (P11), a focus of the RMG’s permanent collection.

Now when the credit union’s members carry out their financial business at one of three ATMs, they do so at machines featuring colourful works of art and a connection to Durham’s rich art history.


It’s a continuation of a partnership in which AWCCU Financial sponsors RMG Fridays, a vibrant, free community event of art, music and fun held the first Friday evening of each month.

Meghyn Cox, AWCCU Financial’s creative marketing manager, said the idea came out of a discussion with a colleague when the credit union was updating its ATM technology and surrounds to complement new branding. The colleague suggested working with the RMG and Cox took it from there.


“I wanted to …  get the ball rolling for more and bigger participation with the gallery,” she said. “It’s about awareness in the community.”

Cox imagined using art on the ATMs as a way to build community. She and the RMG worked closely and came up  with three works from Painters Eleven. Once AWCCU Financial members approved, wraps were produced for ATMs in Oshawa and Bowmanville.

The P11 paintings selected are Encounter by Alexandra Luke, an Oshawa artist, Flowers by Tom Hodgson, and Small Structure by Oscar Cahén. Each ATM carries a small plaque noting the art and the artist.

Cox said the wraps have attracted attention as they were meant to do.

“We’ve had some feedback from the community,” she said.

People have asked why they’ve never seen something like that before and if more ATMs will feature art.

Lucas Cabral, communications and digital marketing lead at the RMG, said the wraps are “a nice way to connect art with the community.”

He said AWCCU Financial understands the value of arts in the community and that the credit union does “a lot of connecting with the community.”

Cabral noted the two organizations have this in common.

Cox said AWCCU Financial is made up of members of the community which makes it part of the community, as is the RMG.

The ATM wraps won’t be coming down anytime soon.

“The craftsmanship means we can leave them up for a long time,” Cox said.

That’s not to say AWCCU Financial and the RMG have put a wrap on this unique partnership.  Cox said she’d like to see it continue, with the original wraps swapped out with different works of art on a regular basis.

You can check out the art on ATMs at AWCCU Financial in Oshawa and Bowmanville, or at the RMG where at least 11 works from its Painters Eleven collection are on display at all times.


Christy Chase is a long-time resident of Oshawa, a writer, and former reporter and editor with local newspapers. She now enjoys exploring her artistic side as a volunteer at the RMG


Art Police: Playing Around

Art Police: Playing Around
Art Lab through end of August

By Christy Chase

Summer is one of the best times to play.

That’s just what four artists are doing this summer in RMG’s Art Lab, a space designed for experimentation and exploration. It’s located on the first floor.

Rebecca Casalino, Caroline Popiel, Claudia Rick and Andrea Aleman-Pastor, all recent graduates of the University of Guelph’s studio art program, make up the art collective Art Police. They will be playing around during their residency in the glass-walled lab through the end of August.

But it won’t be all fun and games. They are planning a look at childhood but with a twist, a tinge of adulthood.

They consider themselves in a good position to take a fun, edgy look at childhood.

“The thing is you graduate, you’re in this limbo” between childhood and adulthood, Popiel said.


Up first is a blanket fort, complete with blankets, sheets and stuffed toys, but with a construction crew twist. This will be followed by a community gym and then a playground, perhaps with an outdoor component.

True to the idea of the Art Lab, the four artists will concentrate on building installations, having fun and exploring.
“We’re planning to be hanging out in here doing things,” said Casalino.



And everyone is welcome to visit. In fact, the artists are hoping to see a row of nose prints smudging the windows, from the children in the summer art camps, and to get inquiries from adults.
“I think it should be a little confusing,” Rick said.

Aleman-Pastor said it’s “really important for people to see the artists at work,” to see what studio work and space means to artists.

People should expect a healthy dose of humour from the Art Police.

“We love over the top here,” said Popiel. “We’re always trying to do something cheesy.”

The four women, who met at university, have been working as a collective for two years, and creating projects for one.
Casalino had applied to the RMG for a show last year but the collective wasn’t accepted. Instead, the artists were offered this residency. They’ve been planning and collecting material (they admit to being hoarders) since last October.

With commutes and part-time jobs, the artists won’t all be at the Art Lab at the same time, but someone should be there at least four days a week.
The artists will document their residency online, through Facebook at ART POLICE and Instagram at art.police.collective and tumblr at .

Christy Chase is a long-time resident of Oshawa and a writer. She enjoys exploring her artistic side as a volunteer at the RMG.

RMG Fridays: Pride

By Stephanie Pollard

Rainbow flags, rainbow stairs, rainbow eyebrows.

Guess what June’s First Fridays at RMG’s theme was.

Durham’s LGBTQ+ community and residents came together at the Robert McLaughlin Gallery on June 2 to hear, see, and celebrate the beauty in difference. In the front foyer, guests got an idea of organizations that work with Durham’s LGBTQ+ residents, namely Pride Durham (@pridedurham), and Durham Region Writing Rainbow (@WritingRainbow), an organization dedicated to providing a fun and supportive space for Durham’s pride community, and a pride youth focused (up to age 29) writing group based in the Petticoat Creek branch of the Pickering library respectively.

“We actually started in 2011, but went on a bit of a hiatus until we got a grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation in 2015,” Executive Director Brendan Tihane, of Durham Region Writing Rainbow explained. Anyone wanting to check out or share their work, can visit them at the Pickering library conference room on Saturdays from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m., or attend their open mic nights where new zine issues are ready for pickup.


In the main gallery, guests were treated to performances by upcoming performers Lauren Dillen, and Scott Auguste, as well as headlining drag queen Bunni Lapin, whose numbers were as glorious as her outfits and personality. Also known as Andrew Pelrine, Bunni’s career blossomed in Halifax’s drag scene, and the move to Toronto seven years ago helped her career flourish with a touch of familiarity.

“I love coming to Durham to perform for you guys because it reminds me so much of home!” Bunni said before performing Lady Gaga’s A Million Reasons in a cream sequinned gown and five-inch heels.

Downstairs, the First Fridays’ Film Feature was Lyra Allard’s His Story, about a young Black transman’s journey to becoming his full identity, which exposes various struggles ranging from isolation, family tension, and homophobia in the Black community.

Across the hallway, guests were invited to take in artwork from established and closet-artists, who created their ideas of ‘Home’ (June 1-18), as June also happens to be Seniors Month, the competition and exhibition featured artists 55 years old and above.

Regardless of age, gender, or how we choose to express ourselves, we’re all in this region together.

Why not enjoy each other’s art and company?

Celebrate with us again at next month’s RMG First Fridays, or drop in another day to admire our work, or say hi.

RMG 50

Memories, shared stories and laughter warmed a cold winter’s night at RMG Rewind, as the Robert McLaughlin Gallery continued to celebrate its 50th birthday.

On Thursday, Feb. 16, a group of gallery friends and present and former staff hit the Rewind button to remember the half-century of history of the RMG.

16837728_10154130359785706_652184353_nThe intimate event was held in the Isabel McLaughlin Gallery, transformed into a cozy living room with comfortable chairs, sofas and ottomans, against a stunning backdrop of works by local artists.

People shared their memories of the RMG in what CEO Donna Raetsen-Kemp described as “a casual evening of sharing stories.” There were laughs, many nods of agreement and even some surprises throughout the evening.

Elizabeth Sweeney, manager of public programs, got things started with a brief history of the RMG. The regional gallery, which contains the largest collection of the Painters 11 in Canada, had humble beginnings in 1967 in a commercial space on Simcoe Street South, the site of an exhibit by local artists organized by Oshawa designer William Caldwell.

Donald Dodds, former member of the gallery board, practised law in the same building as Caldwell’s office.

“I can remember when he decided that something should be done about an art gallery in Oshawa,” he said.

He added Caldwell shut down his office for months in order to work on creating the first gallery.

“It was really, really a dear little gallery.”

The artistic enterprise got the support of artist Alexandra Luke and her husband, Ewart McLaughlin, grandson of Robert McLaughlin, founder of the McLaughlin Carriage Works.

The original gallery was built on the side of the Oshawa Creek, set back between City Hall and the McLaughlin branch of Oshawa Public Libraries, in 1969 and named for Robert McLaughlin.

Local artist and long-time volunteer Jane Dixon said Caldwell had gone into the Art Gallery of Ontario for advice on building a gallery in Oshawa. He was told the best way of doing this was from the top down, not the bottom up as the Oshawa group was doing, she said. They ignored this.

“They were real pioneers and fought for something they believed in,” she said.

Noted Canadian architect, Arthur Erickson, expanded the building in 1987 with a design that “enveloped” the original building, the RMG’s Senior curator, Linda Jansma said.

Sweeney talked about “the two key women” in the RMG’s development, Luke, a member of the Painters Eleven, and Isabel McLaughlin, a modernist artist and daughter of Robert’s son, R.S. “Col. Sam” McLaughlin. Both artists provided support in terms of funds and donations of art from their private collections.

The gallery took its cue from Luke and built its permanent collection around abstract art.

Jansma remembered visiting the gallery when she was an art history student. She was doing a paper on the Painters 11 and wanted to photograph the art. The preparator at the time obliged “and took them out and put them in the backyard so I could photograph them.”

16923984_10154130358405706_18791538_nArtist Sean McQuay, who worked at the gallery as associate installer and evening security guard after high school, remembers a Painters Eleven artist attending to help install his works for a major exhibit but being dissatisfied with the results.

The artist came back the next day with his oil paints and “fixed” his paintings, McQuay said.

“Joan (Murray, director at the time) didn’t know what to do. We were shocked. By the time he left, he had altered them,” McQuay said.

Dedicated volunteers helped the RMG, said Dixon. She spoke of the “many, many schemes” the volunteers came up with to raise funds, including Art Mart, a popular arts and crafts sale, fashion shows, auctions and lunches.

“We all became good friends, the volunteers.”

Volunteers continue to help support the RMG, providing thousands of hours of service and running the Gift Shop.

Those attending RMG Rewind also ventured into the dark side, watching a film about reports of ghosts in the gallery.

“The place is haunted,” McQuay said.

While he worked in the original building, he refrained from using one staircase on his security rounds because “I’m positive there was a spirit in the corner.”

On that note, Gordon Dowsley said a group came to the board about 10 years ago, explaining the feng shui of the gallery “was out of whack.” The group suggested jacking up the building and rotating it 90 degrees, he said.

“They couldn’t understand the directors’ reluctance to jack the building up and rotate it,” he said to laughter.

Over the years, the RMG has grown to include a permanent collection of more than 4,500 works, with changing contemporary and historic exhibits in five galleries, a collection of historic photographs of Oshawa and area, an education program and popular cultural events such as RMG Fridays.

Join us on June 25th as we celebrate the gallery’s 50th birthday at our Strawberry Social Birthday Party. Stay tuned for event details!

Christy Chase is a long-time resident of Oshawa, a writer, and former reporter and editor with local newspapers. She now enjoys exploring her artistic side at the RMG.