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From the archives

Carbon Copy

In equal balance justly weighed

Slouching toward Democracy

Where have all the wise men gone?

By Populist Demand

When urban and rural voters went separate ways

Kelvin Browne

Kelvin Browne, recently left the contemporary art world to sail in Chester, Nova Scotia.

Articles by
Kelvin Browne

The Painter’s Papers

A prairie mystic in his own words June 2024
Imagine you’re a scholarly sleuth researching a biography of the painter Lionel LeMoine FitzGerald and you’re reading his letters to friends and colleagues, his travel diaries, and his teaching notes from the Winnipeg School of Art. FitzGerald’s life and aesthetic ruminations begin to unfold with a 1930 note to his good pal Bertram Brooker and extend to a transcript of a CBC Radio talk from December…

The Mowats

Love in another era December 2023
What started as a casual extramarital affair in the summer of 1960, between Farley Mowat and Claire Wheeler, would last for decades. Theirs wasn’t a lusty cyclone that swept everyone around them into a storm of public drama, akin to the Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton scandal that erupted three years later. It was more stiff upper lip and get on with…

Site Lines

An architectural who’s who May 2023
The Parthenon in Athens makes the cut, as does the Pantheon in Rome. Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and Notre-Dame in Paris get the nod. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim Museum in New York City and Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, do too. They’re among the usual suspects in the latest who’s who of important…

Even the Ashtrays

The finer points of Ron Thom November 2022
As the creator of iconic landmarks, such as Massey College in Toronto and much of Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, and many remarkable houses, Ron Thom endures as one of Canada’s most distinctive architectural talents. He was a high-profile participant in the creative world during the 1960s and ’70s, that vibrant and optimistic period of…

The Creator

If only his walls could talk September 2022
After I first met Jack Diamond, more than forty years ago now, I thought of Howard Roark, the architect protagonist of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. Diamond didn’t look like Gary Cooper, who played Roark in the 1949 adaptation of the novel, but he was charismatic and he believed, like Rand’s character, that architects could help create a better world — that they could be more than mere functionaries…

Camera Obscura

Two people who found each other June 2022
You might think of Leonard Olive Keith and Joseph Austin “Cub” Coates as New Brunswick’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn — but a queer Tom and Huck. That notion will certainly cross your mind when reading Len & Cub, a poignant collection of archival photographs that capture them having Twainesque adventures around Butternut…

Plane and Simple

A new pilot project April 2022
Captain Doug Morris flies the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, “for an airline with a maple leaf emblazoned on its fuselage.” His employer’s name is almost the only detail missing from this compilation of facts and anecdotes about air travel. This Is Your Captain Speaking aspires to be comprehensive and amusing, so it’s more like Aviation for Dummies than like Kitchen Confidential

The Vanguard of What?

Anything you can get away with December 2021
My friend pointed out Marshall McLuhan’s house and said that if we waited long enough, we might see him. It was the early 1970s, and I was visiting Wychwood Park, a bucolic enclave in midtown Toronto. “Who’s he?” I asked, getting an incredulous stare in return. “He’s very famous. You know: the medium is the message.” I couldn’t fathom why this University of Toronto English professor was a…

Art Lovers

A picture of a marriage September 2021
Unhappy couples can be a ­biographer’s jackpot — especially if the partners are ­artists. Their driven personalities, spousal competition, indulged (if not encouraged) licentiousness, and de rigueur substance abuse fuel marriages that are awful to endure but fascinating to read about. Explosive unions have propelled memorable tales about Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, for…

Family Pride

Profiles in gay life June 2021
If you were gay and born in the 1950s, as I was, your teenage years were likely spent ferreting out books that spoke to your suppressed longings. Of course, there were more texts with homosexual undertones and overtones than I ever realized back then. But they didn’t line the shelves of the local library in the small Okanagan Valley town where I grew…

The Bay Street Boys

Tales from the corner office May 2021
They might have started out as autobiographies, but somewhere along the line both Donald K. Johnson’s Lessons Learned on Bay Street and Tony Comper’s Personal Account morphed into a kind of hybrid genre influenced by Peter Drucker–style management thinkers and self-help messiahs like Tony Robbins. Johnson and Comper have lived…

This Lenten Season

Where they were all alone April 2021
It’s almost as if I’ve given up church for Lent, the annual commemoration of Christ’s trials in the wilderness. Before Ontario went back into lockdown, worship had been strange enough. But since Boxing Day, it’s become the spiritual equivalent of curbside pickup: a few are allowed in the building for essential services, for the briefest of…

Her Little Black Book

Barbara Amiel doesn't give a damn January | February 2021
Barbara Amiel and her boyfriend Sam Blyth walked into the stylish Yorkville establishment and every head turned to stare. They were beautiful and tanned — his shirt rakishly unbuttoned and her flamboyant Pucci dress low cut, with a confident display of décolletage. They had a European cool and radiated sexuality seldom seen forty years ago in uptight…

Bank Account

An institution’s history December 2020
Imagine it’s revealed that your staid, quiet grandparents were once wild and crazy. It’s the kind of startling revelation you want to have about grey-haired banks when you open Laurence B. Mussio’s Whom Fortune Favours, a two-volume hist­ory of the Bank of Montreal. Once omnipresent in business and society, Canadian banks were far more distinct from one another than they are…

Farmyard Odyssey

A lofty subject October 2020
If you’ve wondered why so many barns are painted red, David Elias has your answer. Early in The Truth about the Barn, the novelist from Winnipeg tells us, “Red dominates barn colour for the same reason we see it so prominently in the primitive cave paintings of Lascaux, France. As pigments go, it was relatively abundant and easily obtainable to our early ancestors.” Elias doesn’t stop…

Draw a Bath

The architecture of where we wash September 2020
Our earliest and most vivid memories of joy can be watery ones: splashing in a wading pool as a toddler, taking a bath before bedtime, revelling in the surf with hundreds of others on a hot summer afternoon. But the emotions associated with water go back further than childhood: They’re primeval stirrings. They remind us that bathing has been an aquatic occupation of ours for thousands of…

What They Think You Are

Behind Warhol’s blond ambition June 2020
In November 1966, Andy Warhol attended Truman Capote’s legendary Black and White Ball, at the Plaza Hotel in New York. He wore black tie, as the invitation requested, but he neglected an essential item. Though he left home in “some kind of electrified cow’s head,” a nod to his Castelli wallpaper, he arrived at the masquerade without a…