by Sherry Smither
photography by JEFF TURNER PHOTOS
LORI MIRABELLI is taking live art to another level. Next year, the abstract artist is appearing on stage in a remake of the musical, Sunday in the Park with George.
“I was doing the Riverdale ArtWalk in the spring when I was approached by Evan Tsitsias, Artistic Director of Toronto’s Eclipse Theatre Company. They are doing a revamp of the play,” says Mirabelli. “Instead of having the character paint, who is based on the artist Georges Seurat, Evan wants the painting to be more of an abstract theme and he’s incorporating me into the play.”
Mirabelli will interact with actors to feel their emotions and then translate that onto her canvas.
Sunday in the Park with George runs from March 3 to 8, 2020 at The Jam Factory, (formerly the Sheriff Jam Factory), 2 Matilda Street, Toronto. At the end of each performance, there are plans to cut up Mirabelli’s abstract art and sell pieces to the audience.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning musical by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine was inspired by Seurat’s pointillism painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. The painting took Seurat more than two years to complete as he spent much of his time sketching in the park. The artist was widely known for the Pointillism technique, where tiny dots or strokes of colour blend together when the viewer looks at the artwork.
Tsitsias knew Lori was perfect for the part. When he saw her painting, Oh Those Baby Blues, a 40-inch by 68-inch acrylic painting on canvas, he immediately recognized there was a musical quality to her work.
“I was really pleased that he caught that, because music is really important to me. When I told Evan while I paint, I dance—not that I would ever want to show anyone that. He said, ‘I knew it. I knew it. You’re the one for this and please say yes,’” recalls Mirabelli.
Although this is a first for Mirabelli, she saw it as a unique opportunity for artistic growth.
Since dance is a significant part of her artistic process, she selects the genre of music to echo her mood. It could be Coldplay one day, The Tragically Hip the next or even an upbeat song by the Buggles. Matching the music to her mood, she explores her emotions through art to create works like: I’m still In There, Million Pieces, and Secrets We Keep.
“When the right song is playing, I can sometimes enter a different state of consciousness,” she explains. “Music allows my mind to be still while I paint. When the music plays, it helps me remove myself from the process of painting and keeps my brushstrokes loose, and full of life and energy. When all these things are happening simultaneously, it stops the self-doubt from entering my mind when I’m choosing my palette, applying my brushstrokes, and creating my piece of art.”
To prepare for the play, Mirabelli is doing some practice runs. “Evan is inviting me to rehearsals and I’ll get to meet everybody and then once I know what I’m supposed to do, it’s a matter of executing,” she says. Mirabelli hails from Sault Ste. Marie where she graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology with Fine Arts credits from Laurentian University. From there she moved to Newmarket and then to Toronto to pursue her art career. “I always found Toronto to be really large and overwhelming but my career in child welfare was taking me to Toronto frequently and I had a couple of friends here, there was a connection.”
In 2017, Mirabelli made the move to a downtown Toronto condo that doubles as her studio. There she hosts open house studio days, and through her website potential clients can book showings or conferences to discuss commissioned work.
To focus on her art, she took a year-long sabbatical from her job giving her freedom to explore new mediums. “I started playing with cold wax and oil painting. When I moved to Toronto, I barely drove my vehicle. I really got to know the downtown core. Walking everywhere you see graffiti, you see type and text and all these different kinds of textures, so that’s kind of what, On the Streets, and King and Queen are based on,” she explains. It takes the artist about two weeks to complete each piece using this method, as each thick layer requires about a day to dry.
From February 20 to 23, 2020, Mirabelli will be taking part in the Artist Project, a contemporary art fair held at Toronto’s Better Living Centre. Currently art enthusiasts can see her paintings at: Canvas Gallery, PI Fine Art, Blue Crow Gallery, Paula White Diamond Gallery, Koyman Galleries and 2gallery.
In the summer, she participated in the Rosedale Art Fair, a two-day curated exhibit and sale. “Rose who runs the show has been after me for a number of years to exhibit my work. It was a lovely time and I told her I should have listened to her prior,” she says. “I loved the area and I found the people really friendly and interested in art. For me, it’s not about people buying my art; it’s about having that interaction with people and the dialogue.”
That’s exactly what stood out for Mirabelli at The Toronto Outdoor Art Fair. She found a conversation she had with a woman very moving. “She asked a lot of questions and then said, ‘I want the large painting,’ and I said, oh ok, because it happened so quickly. She shared that she had gotten over cancer and she didn’t think she was going to survive, so she was done with second guessing. She said that art is beautiful, art speaks to me and I want it, if it makes me happy. I thought that was cool that my art is a part of that. It’s something in her home that she finds inspiring and it’s going to give her strength to go on.”