Every year, the Gladstone Hotel holds an event they call Come Up To My Room, where artists take over empty rooms on the building’s second floor and redecorate them to suit their own particular sensibilities. Being there is kind of like attending a party at the home of a rich and crazy interior designer, and snooping through all his bedchambers.
Eleven rooms—twelve, counting the downstairs ballroom—were transformed as part of this year’s show (part of the Toronto International Design Festival).
An installation in Room 202 by Jana Macalik, John Peterson, and Diana Watters takes the prize for most heart-wrenching use of thrift-store furniture: the room has been remade into a representation of a bedroom-for-one in a Parkdale rooming house. The whole thing is boxed in by glass, like an exhibit in some museum of modern solitude. They’ve attended to every detail, including the stack of old newspapers under the bed, the half-consumed single-serving bottle of apple juice, and the dirty indoor/outdoor carpeting. Old sports trophies and strategically placed postcards suffuse the space with nostalgia. All it’s missing are bedbugs. Hopefully.
Dennis Lin, in room 214, says he recently had to move out of a studio he’d worked in for seven years. His installation, which seems at first like a tribute to the idea of a craftsperson’s cluttered workspace, is actually made from the contents of that studio, and so it isn’t a tribute—it’s the real thing. Everything is stacked on custom shelving and surrounded by Saran Wrap, to form a transparent cube of meticulously arranged bric-a-brac.
Lin singles out various points of interest. “We have in our basement two thousand knives,” he says. “And we needed some filler so we put those in there.” (Not all two thousand, but some.)
He says he’d ultimately like to design public art, but a lot of his work to date has been for hotels and lobbies. Some of the most interesting inclusions in his CUTMR piece are models of sculptural proposals to various hotels. Now they’re part of an installation in a design show that takes place in a hotel. But not in a lobby.
In the hallway is Mark McLean’s Dollar Store Triptych, a trio of wall-hangings made from dollar-store items. One, a giant picture of a hand making a peace sign, looks from a distance like it’s rendered in extremely thick layers of oil paint. Up close, one realizes that the whole thing is composed of nothing but plastic army men, painted blue and white.
McLean has no artistic training and has never exhibited before. He’s the manager of a boutique real estate agency on Queen Street West. “This has just always been a hobby, I guess,” he says.
Come Up to My Room continues through Sunday January 30. Admission is $10.
Photos by Michael Chrisman/Torontoist.