Like many people in their late 20s and early 30s, Heather Payne and her husband, Shawn Konopinsky, are bright, ambitious and successful – but they don’t own the place where they live with their one-year-old baby. Instead, they own a cottage.
For the past five years, they have rented their apartment in the downtown Toronto neighbourhood of Parkdale, joining the 50 per cent of millennials who are still renting their homes by age 30, according to the 2016 census data, compared with the 45 per cent of boomers who hadn’t bought their place by the same age.
Artist Margaret Sutherland claims she was making a satirical political statement with her now-famous painting, Emperor Haute Couture, which depicts Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper completely naked. I have to admit that I’m transfixed by the piece, but I’m not sure what statement it’s making. I can see how the work echoes Manet’s Olympia, which would suggest that Harper is a prostitute. But is that fair? He seems more like an aggressive pimp to me, whoring out Canada’s natural resources and smacking around his bitchescabinet ministers. In my opinion, the painting is best taken at face value: Harper is an exhibitionist with a weight problem, a small penis and a habit for Tim Hortons. None of that may be true, but it’s funny none the less.
Emperor Haute Couture is currently hanging in a library in Kingston, Ontario, and is for sale for $5,000. Who would buy it? I’m guessing a gay guy with a daddy issues and a taste for irony.
Jean-Paul Lemieux's Evening Visitor, 1956, at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa
On Saturday afternoon I took a drive out to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection. The gallery is just outside of Toronto — in Kleinburg, near Canada’s Wonderland — but it’s log-and-stone buildings and treed surrounds makes the place feel like an Algonquin retreat. It’s a refreshing escape so close to the city, and while there I was delighted to discover a great Canadian artist that I hadn’t previously heard about: Jean-Paul Lemieux. I only noticed a couple of the Quebecer’s works among all the pieces by Tom Thomson, Emily Carr and the Group of Seven, but Lemieux’s paintings made an impression with their minimal, graphic quality. I like how he captured the desolate, vast landscape of rural Quebec — in particular the harsh, snowy weather and long grey skies.
Last week Canada’s Federal Government, in its first majority budget, announced that it would cease funding Katimavik. I’m sad for all the future young people who will not be able to participate in this great, 35-year-old program—an invaluable volunteer-leadership initiative that enables Canadians between the ages of 18 and 21 to get hands-on work experience while traveling the country.
I did Katimavik between the winter and summer of 2004. Over seven months, I lived in Tweed, Ontario, St. Stephens, New Brunsick and Lorette, Manitoba. I volunteered at an elderly care facility, a charity second hand store, in a primary school and for a municipality. I learned, among other things, how to bake bread, tend a lawn, grow vegetables and organize a charity fashion show. I even published my first piece of paid writing. It was a short article for a Winnipeg magazine called Swerve (now OutWords), and was about coming out of the closet and marching in my first Pride parade, two of my biggest Katimavik firsts (next to my first piercing—my tongue!). My Katima-group, which consisted of 11 young people from across Canada, had three gay guys and two bisexuals. I couldn’t have come out in any better, more supportive circumstances. I (almost) had my first real sexual encounter too (if drunkenly molesting a housemate counts—sorry Cody).