Meet Michelle

Biography

Toronto Artist Michelle LetarteI was born in Quebec City and am proud of my French heritage. Toronto has been my home since 1975. I have devoted a large part of my life to Science and Research. I obtained my BSc in Biochemistry at l’Université Laval, Quebec, and my PhD in the same discipline at the University of Ottawa. I then completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Oxford, England, and obtained my first position as a research scientist at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Toronto. Five years later, I moved to Sickkids, where I am a Senior Scientist and a Professor of Immunology at the University of Toronto.

Soon after moving to Toronto, I began attending OCAD. Ceramics was the first discipline that I studied including free slab techniques, mold making and glaze chemistry. Over the years, my interest shifted to Sculpture and I took all possible part time courses. I started painting in 1991 and my training has been mostly through workshops.

I express my creativity in both scientific research and the visual arts. Painting allows my mind to wander beyond the rigid boundaries and rules of science. My art is very experimental and abstract work with textures soon became my mode of expression. I use mostly acrylics, pastels, inks, collages of papers, small found objects and image transfers of my photographs. Bursts of colors and large shapes, in energetic motions, lead to enthusiastic, bold and simple abstract statements. I relish in painting on location and the more exotic, the better.

I lived in Oxford, England for 4 years and in Lausanne, Switzerland for one year. I travel the world for scientific and educational meetings and often take holidays around those trips. The varied people and landscapes encountered provide endless inspiration. I love painting on location and also take lots of photographs for subsequent studio work.

In recent years I was under the spell of Africa. From Senegal and Mali came a series of paintings entitled the Animists, evoking these Bushmen, their sorcery and musical artifacts. A fascination with Egypt and Morocco has also led to several paintings and collages.

The most recent series is of Collages derived from pictures taken in hot and humid Kyoto in summer 2010. Gardens, ryokans and palaces yielded lots of interesting images! Fabulous painted washi paper closet doors in palaces depicting samurais hunting tigers! Daily objects in ryokans such as platters of lemons and brooms! Trees, plants, pots, bells, sculptures and gravestones in gardens and cemeteries were simply begging to be noticed! And then came the earthquake and the tsunami and the images took on a new meaning. Broken objects were now seen as pieces of life that needed to be put together. I therefore used my photographs in collages to recreate the moments lived in Japan. I also transferred some images onto canvases to generate a series of gardens. The works were completed and unified by incorporating Japanese papers of various kinds. The red lacquer color is also an integral part of the paintings and of daily life in Japan.