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Alvars; Upper Bruce Peninsula | Michelle Letarte

May 10 – 28, 2023

Gallery Opening: Saturday, May 13, 2 – 5 pm
Hybrid Artist Talks, in Gallery and on Zoom: Sunday, May 21, 2 pm (EDT)
Zoom registration via Eventbrite
Artist present: Saturdays, May 13, 20, 27; Sundays, May 14, 21, 28; 1 – 5:30 pm

The works exhibited in the Alvars exhibition reveal ancient rock formations of the Upper Bruce Peninsula and their rare flora.

Letarte became aware of the Alvars of the Bruce while at a cottage with friends in Dyer’s Bay in the pandemic summer of 2020. She returned a year later, equipped with charcoal collected from fire pits, canvas, and Arches paper, to get imprints of the elemental alvar pavements.  She also took hundreds of photos of these calcareous rock barrens, that present as large and exposed areas devoid of vegetation, or covered with gardens of mosses and herbaceous plants adapted to this unique and harsh alvar environment. Other areas are populated by semi-open coniferous forests, dominated by jack pine. 

Inspiration came mostly from four visited locations, the Bruce Alvar Nature Reserve, on the northwest and northeast corners of Highway 6 and Dyer’s Bay Road, Singing Sands Provincial Park by Dorcas Bay and Lake Marr, near the “Grotto” on Georgian Bay near Cypress Lake. The artist was very mindful of not disturbing the fragile habitats while doing the barren rock rubbings. 

Back in the studio, the rock imprints were enhanced with acrylic paint and/or natural pigments. The largest canvas charcoal imprint was treated minimally, with monochromatic acrylic paint and oil pastels. As the plan for the Alvar exhibition progressed, a series of paper collages emerged from deconstructed alvar imprints and experimental paintings with charcoal and natural pigments, brought back from African markets. Subsequently, photo transfers of moss and plant gardens, as well as unusual convex rock patterns were prepared. Several of them were then highlighted in a pointillistic fashion, to recreate the whimsical nature of the fascinating and unique alvar gardens. 


Michelle Letarte is an experimental scientist and a mixed media artist based in Toronto.
Years of research with cells and molecules give her a distinct and often very focused perspective, trying to unravel the secrets of ancient walls/ caves encountered in her numerous travels, or exploring unusual natural habitats. She is an experimentalist, working in different techniques, and sees every exhibition as a new project to be explored and shared with the viewers. Her artworks are in private collections in many countries. Michelle has been at Propeller Art Gallery since 2009, has served as a board member for several years and is currently the past-Chair. 

Special thanks to our community partners, donors, and supporters. 

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