July 2, 1917 Ash Can

July 2, 1917

Last night turned out to be quite a celebratory affair. George Rowe showed up later in the evening. He had procured some fireworks and needed a willing audience. Lowrie came too. He had returned from Huntsville (I was not expecting him) and was George’s fireworks assistant (pyrotechnician, I think is the proper term.)

George and Lowrie set up the fireworks a good 300 yards south of the Trainor and Blecher cottages. Far enough away from the cottages but more importantly, away from the chipyard should anything catch fire If anything did catch fire, it would be close to the Canoe Lake dump, which Shannon would set on fire once or twice a year to get rid of the trash.

And sure enough, during the firework performance something did catch fire and we had to rush down the old Gilmour Road to put out a stump that was the unlucky recipient of a malfunctioning firework. Despite the mishap, it was all great fun and the fireworks were a spectacle to behold. I got to practice my Fire Ranging skills once again.

After the fireworks, I didn’t go back to the campsite but stayed in my room at the lodge. I don’t have many belongings there, most of my stuff is at the camp, but I have a few books in my room. Mostly books that have been lent to me or ones that I have picked up after the guest have left. Lawren Harris, the last time we were together, gave me his copy of ‘Art” by Clive Bell. He said it was a good read on art theory and that I should read it. I started it and read a good description on the aesthetics of art. He described art as being a form of lines, colour and a sense of space that invokes emotion in the observer. Bell also said that art has nothing to do with facts or representation – an immaculately produced drawing can have absolutely no artistic merit at all. Being a trained as a commercial artist, I knew exactly what Bell was getting at and I felt vindicated in what I was doing with my spring sketches. So far this is a good book and I’m glad that Lawren encouraged me to read it.

Harris had also mentioned the Ash Can School. It was a group of artists down in Philadelphia. The group had only recently become known as creating “ash can art”. I am not sure what the name actually meant other than they were trying to represent things as they really were – not some muddy or washed out pastoral pastiche scene. What this group of artists was painting in the city sound like what I was trying to paint here in the North. Harris said, that this group would be good to fall in with, if I ever decided to go south of the border

So I started to mull over the idea of going down Philadelphia with Winnie. I’m not sure how long my funds would tide me through (once I got them from Shannon), but I am sure I could get along with the Ash Can artists. Philadelphia could be an initial stopping point before going further south and west. I think that Winnie has some relatives in Pennsylvania. I doubt we would ever consider seeing them, but just the fact of having relatives close by might be a comforting factor for Winnie. I was also considering going to New Haven Connecticut, where my brother George is. He’s the head of the art society there, but unfortunately it’s my sense that the members there are similarly cut in the cloth as the O.S.A. members in Toronto. I am also sure that once I arrived there, George would implore me to ‘do the right thing’, the ‘right thing’ being whatever he tells me to do. When I meet up with Winnie, we can then make up our plans and decide.

When I went out on the front verandah this morning, I noticed that Canoe Lake had a very strange haze on it. It wasn’t fog. It was a smoke haze from a distant forest fire. I had seen this before where the haze would be blown in from hundreds of miles away. I remember the Matheson Fire from the previous year (July 1916) I was a fire ranger at the time, and  although the fire was hundred of miles away, the smoke covered the entire Park and the lakes had the same eerie haze as Canoe Lake does now. I doubt the haze came from George’s misfired fireworks, but maybe George decided to a repeat act at the Highland Inn and started a doozy of a forest fire. By my knowledge, the Highland Inn could be burned down to the ground at this very instant.

So I decided to spend the day at Mowat Lodge. There was about twenty guests. This kept Shannon and Annie busy, especially to settle in the new one. I stayed in one corner and read Bell’s Art for the better part of day while thinking about my plans. Shannon and Annie could see that I didn’t want to be bothered, so they left me alone. The other big piece of business I needed to settle with Shannon was getting the money I loaned him. I wasn’t looking forward to that discussion, but I needed to have it. I needed the money by the end of the week.

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