There are closet artists and, it turns out, there are artists who man the closets -- as proven by a group show that opened last weekend at Toronto's Hang Man Gallery, featuring work by, among others, Art Gallery of Ontario coat-check operator Colin Campbell.
Called Artists of the Gallery, this exhibition reveals a secret about Toronto's largest art institution: Many of its staff -- and there are 50 represented in the show -- are artists.
"We may be guardians of the gallery, but we're all also interpreters of art," says Gary Bercovitch, who, in addition to running the gallery's membership services desk, curated the show, which closes April 8.
Those interpretations, in media ranging from watercolour and oil to encaustic and Barbie doll vinyl, are wide-ranging.
Mr. Bercovitch, a self-professed "watercolourist by avocation," harnesses a Jewish kabbalistic tradition to create a series of images made up of words from the Hebrew meaning "god" or "power" in his symbolic painting, Im.
Meanwhile, Nancy Ashing, who works in visitor services, has contributed a piece called Bettie, featuring a dominatrix-style doll on a chaise longue.
The work shares exhibition space with a couple of pieces by colleague Sheila Deitrich, a teacher in the gallery school.
One, titled Homage, is a mixed-media piece that cheekily references (in miniature) three works that were exhibited at the AGO in mid-1990s: Claes Oldenburg's Floor Burger (1962), Robert Smithson's Gravel Mirror Corner Piece (1968) and Felix Gonzales-Torres's Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.) (1991).
Despite the diversity of media and styles represented by the show, Mr. Bercovitch believes there is a unifying quality to the work by the gallery's unsung artists.
"There is a Gallery School, no doubt about it," he says. "There's a certain amount of sardonic wit that everyone seems to be bringing to their work.
"And another universal is the shared enthusiasm everyone has for each other's work. As artists, it is important for us to connect with each other on the basis of creativity. This show accomplishes that."
Three pieces in the exhibit have sold so far, and already the Hang Man Gallery has asked that Mr. Bercovitch book another date for a second AGO group show next year.
"The idea has really caught on," he says.
"Now, there's a buzz everywhere in the gallery and, as evinced by the stellar turnout at last Saturday's opening, there's a real celebratory feeling throughout. Next time, I expect we will have 100 participants. As you can imagine at a gallery of this calibre, we have no shortage of artists."
Hang Man Gallery, 756 Queen
St. E., 416-465-0302.