The saints whose names adorn many of Guelph’s buildings, churches, and streets are the subject of a new exhibition opening Friday, November 7, at Guelph Museums by local artist, Debbie Thompson Wilson. Saints Preserve Us tells the stories of Guelph’s saints by juxtaposing Thompson Wilson’s own original paintings with historical photographs of buildings in Guelph named after saints.
The inspiration for the show came when Thompson Wilson noticed just how many buildings and organizations in Guelph were named after saints. “One day, I started counting them up, and there was over 30,” says Wilson. “I realized that many people don’t know much, if anything, about the saints that their organizations or buildings are named for, so I thought it would be fun to portray all these saints in a show.”
Thompson Wilson has been interested in saints since she studied fine art at the University of Guelph, with focus on the Medieval and Renaissance period. At the time, she was fascinated by medieval prayer books, which were full of pictures of saints.
Wilson uses the same technique of manuscript illumination that medieval artists used in these prayer books. She paints on calf skin vellum, and gilds with 24 karat gold leaf. “One of my teachers once told me, ‘when in doubt, gild it’ ” says Thompson Wilson. “It’s true. Put gold on anything and all of a sudden people treat it a little more seriously.”
There will be a reception for Saints Preserve Us at Guelph Civic Museum on Friday, November 7, from 7 to 9 pm.
Thompson Wilson will also be running a Paint a Saint Workshop on November 30, in which participants can try their hand at gilding with real gold leaf. The workshop is $50 per person and pre-registration is required. See our website for more information on how to register: guelph.ca/museum.
Guelph Civic Museum is located at 52 Norfolk St. Admission is $4 adults, $3 children, students and seniors, and $10 for a family, including up to two adults and three children.