Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying (2024)
A film by Natalie Baird and Toby Gillies
Produced by Alicia Smith
National Film Board North West Studio
Set to release in Spring 2024
Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying is a short animated film narrated by Edith Almadi, a 90-year-old Hungarian Canadian living in a personal care home in Winnipeg. Through the act of drawing and remembering, Edith connects to her late son in a way that both holds and transcends grief at once.
still images from Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying
For nearly ten years, Natalie and I have led an art program at a personal care home in our neighbourhood.
The program is a way to tell stories and connect with residents while nurturing the development of expressive and personal visual styles. This is where we met Edith Almadi, a Hungarian immigrant in her late eighties. Through the years we have developed a unique friendship with Edith over many art making mornings, art shows, friendly visits and drawings made together.
Our initial motivation for interviewing Edith was to save memories for ourselves – we find the way she speaks fascinating and poetic. When Edith looks at her drawings, she sees her memories and fantasies. She is able to escape her physical circumstance, through entering her marker and watercolour worlds.
In 2020 we were surprised that when we returned to interview her, the drawings had a different meaning. Pushing art up against the window, Edith was seeing her drawings and life through the lens of her son’s recent death. In the film, Edith explores her own vitality in contrast to her age, reflects on her son’s passing, and finds joy in imagining being reunited with her child and family. The animations are an expression of our shared imagination, incorporating imagery from our minds, Edith’s words, and the drawings we made together.
In our time knowing Edith she has always loved sharing her outlook publicly. As we have developed the film we have shown Edith our progress along the way. She says “That’s me” and “That’s all I have to give” proudly. Facilitating art making in this personal care home has allowed us to meaningfully connect with many people in their last stages of life. As directors, this film gives us the opportunity to share this one particular experience of intimacy found through collaborative art making.
Toby and Natalie interviewing Edith outside her window (2020)
SEASONS OF TOGETHERNESS
18 January - 15 February 2019 at Ace Art inc. 2nd Floor, 290 McDermot Ave
Seasons of Togetherness incorporated drawing, collage, and animation in an installation about human interaction and connection. Inspired by fantasies found within thrift-store relationship guidebooks, self-help Internet articles, and step-by-step illustrations, Gillies has made a playful attempt to discover new ways to experience closeness with others and the world around. Source materials have been abstracted through processes of re-creation and interpretation, amplifying both the awkward strangeness and beauty that exist within formalities of expressing.
Created through a practice of working intuitively and experimentally, the exhibition navigates a meandering course across themes of human connection, social convention, and ritual.
With the generous support of the Winnipeg Arts Council with funding from the City of Winnipeg
Thank you to Karen Asher for installation photography.
An essay by Hagere Selam ‘shimby’ Zegeye-Gebrehiwot about Seasons of Togetherness.
A video of me artist talking
Secret Ingredient! was created by Natalie Ferguson and Toby Gillies as Artists-In-Residence at the Art Gallery of Ontario in February and March of 2019.
The event engaged approximately 9000 people over 10 days in Walker Court. Participants created paper sculptures of their favourite home-cooked meals, shared recipes, family cultures, traditions and heritage by way of wacky art making, “food” photography and collaborative installation work.
Our goal was to encourage participants to share meals more often with each other, recognize and appreciate their loved ones and culture and to create an opportunity for sharing family experiences with each other. The secret ingredient is people!
Infinate thanks to the supportive staff and volunteers at the Art Gallery of Ontario, and to all of the amazing, thoughtful visitors who participated.
Link to the project page on the AGO website
Thanks to the generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council and the Canada Council for the Arts
Hallboy - Music Video
Video made for Hallboy by Living Hour from their 2019 album Softer Faces
Video production team: Toby Gillies – director, videographer, animator, editor
Natalie Baird – production assistant, synchronized swimming consultant
Ryan Simmons - videographer
Hannah Doucet – production assistant
Art for Everyone - Misericordia Health Centre
MHC offers short and long-term care to a diverse population of adults, many of whom live with various forms of physical and cognitive disability. Misericordia operates transitional care as well as long-term care. Each week, with the assistance of a team of local artists (Natalie Baird, Francesca Carella Arfinengo, Hannah Doucet, and Toby Gillies ) and Recreation Professionals, the patients gather to make art. Art for Everyone has given patients and residents the opportunity to have meaningful engagement with each other around the art table, and the surrounding community, through collaboration with youth and public art show events. For patients at MHC art making can be a powerful and affirming activity that addresses their need to assert themselves as individuals, connect to community, and exercise their independence. It’s also just a wonderful way to spend a bit of time. The program has been running from 2013 - present.
Thanks to generous support of the Manitoba Arts Council and the Misericordia Health Centre Foundation
Art at Misericordia documentation video (2017)
How to do What You Do to be You (2019-2022)
“How to Do What You Do To Be You” was the theme of a series of art making gatherings where we shared and celebrated our individual skills, desires and life-long experiences. We collected advice, instructions and special tips through drawing and storytelling and then designed the selection of work you see here. This experience helped us connect to each other and to the things we love to do the most - what makes our lives most worth living. We asked one another:
What are you really good at doing? What is your favourite thing to enjoy? Do you have any advice to give for someone who wants to try it? What are the steps needed to do or enjoy the thing you like the most?
An online version of the collection is available here:
A ceramic artwork installed on the Misericordia Health Centre rooftop garden, using botanical illustration as a way to discover and record individual drawing styles of seniors living in care (2016)
documentation of HEIRLOOM process and installaition