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A work of heart: Michael Golland’s paintings to benefit artists with disabilities

February 9th, 2011 · 3 Comments

Contemporary artist Michael Golland, beginning one of his multi-layered 'Heart' pieces. Tracy Chen/Gleaner News.

By Tracy Chen

This Valentine’s Day, people will have the chance to reach for hearts of a different variety.

Michael Golland, contemporary artist and longtime Liberty Village resident, is creating a wall of 40 heart paintings. These hearts will premiere at the “A Work of Hearts” event in Liberty Village.

A portion from the sale of these paintings will go towards the Laser Eagles Art Guild (LEAG), a charitable organization that supports artists with limited speech and mobility. Heart paintings by the Laser Eagles will also be on display, and LEAG-designed greeting cards will be available for purchase.

Golland wanted each of his heart paintings to be unique, yet also represent his signature style, which is a simple line with a washed over process.

Each heart follows the mathematical principle of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Fibonacci ratio. This proportion runs throughout the universe and has also been used in masterpieces, such as the Mona Lisa. “It gives a very harmonious result,” says Golland.

He has painted each heart a different colour. He says these are “the colours of the last century.” They include his personal favourite—burnt orange—as well as cobalt blue, ultramarine violet, and green-gold. He says each heart takes him “hours and hours” and he paints over each creation “at least a dozen times.”

The paintings will range in size, the largest is 4 feet by 4 feet, while the smaller ones are 2 feet by 2 feet. As each painting is sold, it will be replaced with another painting, replenishing the wall of hearts. The exhibit will remain for six weeks after the launch date.

Liberty Village has been Golland’s home for almost 20 years. He has seen artists leave the area, but has stayed because he says he believes in Liberty Village. “We have an opportunity still to keep it in the creative segment or we are going to lose it,” says Golland. He says that establishing oneself as an artist is “nearly impossible.”

“Whatever I can do to help out artists is very important to me,” says Golland. He met with the Laser Eagles artists last year and started thinking of ways he could help the organization. “When you see some one like the Laser Eagles who often can’t use their hands, I’m interested in finding a way for them to be able to use their creative edge,” says Golland.

LEAG will use the proceeds to finance art supplies, and towards the expansion of the program throughout Ontario.

Courtesy Tracy Chen.

The guild was founded in 2004 by Judith Snow, an advocate of inclusiveness issues for people with disabilities. Snow has lived with a type of muscular atrophy since birth. “Laser Eagles gives people the situation where they can’t help but notice that the artist is doing more and contributing more than the label would suggest they can,” says Snow. “It breaks the sense of disability.”

Laser Eagles is based on the Artistic Realization Technologies (ART) program developed by Tim Lefens. Lasers can be attached to the artist and the beam is then used to indicate their intention on the canvas.

‘Trackers,’ who undergo a three month training process are then matched with an artist. Trackers work with the artists to create the artists’ vision on canvas. The goal is to give the artists as much control as possible. Not all of the artists use the lasers, most prefer to use other forms of communication.

Michael Skubic, the tracker for Snow, has also tracked for artists who cannot speak. When tracking people who do not speak, he says that “it’s getting to know the person a lot closer and how they communicate.”

Skubic has tracked for an artist who didn’t communicate verbally, but kinetically. While going through colour options with her, she will get excited and be “bouncing around and having her head nodding,” when she wants a particular colour. However, when he comes across a colour she isn’t interested in, she will look “very sullen and look like she’s about to go to sleep.”

Skubic says that the Laser Eagles meeting is one of the happiest times for the artists. He describes a “different air” when everybody is there. “If I was going to put any single word to it, I would say inclusion,” says Skubic.

“It’s almost magical; it really feels different, even though it’s just space and people.”

“A Work of Hearts” will be held on February 11, 2011 at 6 p.m. at 15 Atlantic Ave. The wall of hearts will be continually replenished for the next six weeks. For more information, visit

Tags: Arts · People · General

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