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.

A series of collages was derived from pictures of gardens, ryokans and palaces in hot and humid Kyoto in summer 2010.  Daily objects seen in ryokans, gardens and cemeteries begged to be noticed! After the earthquakes and  tsunamis, the broken pieces needed to be put together. I used my photographs and image transfers in collages to recreate past and present moments of daily life in Japan.

In recent years I have been  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. More recent trips to Tunisia, South Africa, Ethiopia and Namibia have contributed to my increased fascination with the varied landscapes, the Africans and their way of life.