Mosaic York Region Art Magazine Fall 2013
Artist On the Move… by Sue Iaboni
Gaia Orion’s artistic journey began when she enrolled at École des Beaux-Arts to study architecture in Paris. When she was not memorizing the rigorous rules of architectural design, she found herself hanging out in cafés, smoking cigarettes and eating chocolate. Today, meeting at a café in small town Ontario, she sips herbal tea, describes her healthy lifestyle, and talks about how the freedom to express herself artistically now grounds her life.
This transformation began when Orion gave up her student lifestyle in Paris to backpack in Morocco. Here she met the man who convinced her to marry him and move to Toronto. She says ”he had it all: the car, the house, the job, the canoe and the dog.” After a few years of living a traditional high-stress lifestyle, the couple stopped one day at the side of the highway to breastfeed a newborn, and decided it was time to slow down and look for a “life that fed our spirits.” Together, with their three young children, they moved to Schomberg.
Wondering about how they would make a living, the creative couple decided to follow their hearts. The result was two new business ventures: Sprouts for Life began when Orion’s abundant crop of sprouts, grown to feed her family at first, soon were given to friends and relatives, and then sold at local farmers’ markets (on Highway 9 near the 400, and in Snowball). The Funky Clothesline started as an attempt to create bright comfortable clothes that were 100% made in Canada, and sell them at outdoor craft shows and festivals. Both businesses took off. Orion and husband, Dolphin, could barely keep up with the demand for their shoots and shirts. Between looking after their three children and their two businesses, they found themselves once again caught up in a stressful lifestyle, with not a lot of time for artistic expression.
On the move again, the couple sold off their sprout business to two sisters in Cookstown (who later sold it to a couple living in the Holland Marsh), and bought a small cabin in the woods. There, Orion says, they reconnected with nature, and explored their inner selves. While continuing to create and sell their funky clothing, Orion got out her easel, set it up and began to paint in ernest.
Concerned about possible toxins in oil paints, she started with watercolours and sketches. She soon found an alternative way to use oils that was non-toxic, and she was on her way. She drifted towards spiritual themes, and Mother Earth, painting the images that came to her mind. The 2013 Schomberg Village Street Gallery banners express her outlook on life. Titled Meaningful Life, the painting shows the experience of walking life’s path through the quiet of nature, and away from human petty concerns. Orion says: “Trees don`t worry about anything.”
The cover of our September issue of King MOSAiC, titled Our Journey, is a piece from another series; one of circles which Orion calls Wholeness.The circle, she points out, is used in all cultures as a symbol of unity, a drawing in towards the centre and away from the outside, day-to-day life. There is no beginning or ending to our Journey of Life, only growth and change.
Orion has produced several other series of paintings: Silhouettes, In the Wild, Saints, In the Nude. She paints what she feels, and may be working on several themes at once. She uses her art to create jewellery too: she shows off a bracelet made of recycled leather with a non-toxic eco resin medallion attached. She makes necklaces out of similar medallions which she has painted. She does art cards as well, and uses them as an introduction to her other work, sending or taking them to different parts of North America and Europe.
At this stage in her life, Orion finds she has more time to concentrate on her art. Each painting takes her an average of 50 hours of work to complete. Now that her children are older, they have become independent and, even though they all love to paint, they don’t need supervision. She and the family have recently moved to downtown Orillia so she spends less time in the car as their chauffeur. She has set up her easel in the living room, with a view out the window that provides the tranquility she needs to freely express herself on canvas.
Orion was recently written up in a book published in 2010, Un Nouveau Monde En Marche: Towards A New World. She is one of the featured “artists”, along with other well-know personalities from the fields of sociology, philosophy, economics, the arts and science, in France. She just returned from her first international art show in Spain, has been invited to participate in upcoming group shows in France, Mexico, and possibly Norway, and is preparing for a solo show in Paris in 2015. She continues to market her Funky Clothesline outfits, the organic material for which is milled in nearby Bolton. She finds the clothing business is often her entry into the art world and access to customers who are interested in her creative clothing line. She also gives workshops on The Healing Power of Art.
As she finishes her herbal tea and prepares to walk back to her home studio, she turns with a smile and says: “My life is really good.” It seems Orion’s artistic journey is taking her to all the right places.
Reprinted with permission, from the Fall 2013 issue of King MOSAIC