Last of the Mohawks Artist Statement

 

The works in this show are a result of The Squeegee Project, begun informally about two years ago. During this time, I have been painting in my studio with the street youth who work as “Squeegee Kids” around my studio (at Spadina and Queen). The project began from a chance encounter on a cold winter morning. Some of the “Kids” had used the studio building’s entrance as a shelter for the night. I offered them some food. The next day I received a letter from the landlord demanding that tenants NOT feed or help the “vagrants” – an edict I found particularly cruel considering the harshness of the weather. Thus began my interaction with “the Kids”. Over the next while, this expanded to kids using the studio as a resource for art-making. We have collaborated in a number of ways – sometimes working on the same piece, sometimes painting portraits of each other and sometimes, merely painting in each others’ presence. There was, at the beginning, no “plan” for a show or anything else. For the kids – it provided some shelter as well as some income (the “kids” were paid an honorarium to participate), and a window onto another world (the art world). For myself, it was a chance to get to know people in very different circumstances from my own. The project has had a marked influence on my own work, informing my choice of subject matter – as the “kids” have begun to populate the urban scenes of my paintings.

Howard Podeswa
August 1998