February 1, 2018
Step into the world of illusion and mystery. Pause at the fortune teller, see the curling lip on the ventriloquist’s dummy and don’t forget to pick up a glass eyeball.
Welcome to the home of Ron and Gayle Eady at the intersection of dark and light.
“Some people get it and some people don’t,” Ron says.
“It” is a boxy commercial building in the Stinson Neighbourhood the couple bought 10 years ago. They left behind a lovely old farmhouse in Burlington to move downtown. Now, close to the CP main line, “We have a great view of the Christmas train,” near parks and the escarpment they are happily imbedded in the gritty creativity of Hamilton.
“We made the move at the right time,” Gayle says.
House prices were high in Burlington and low in Hamilton. The sale allowed Ron to quit his job at outdoor advertising company Eclipse Imaging of Burlington, to concentrate full time on art. His paintings based on industrial images, were taking off.
The building was a blank slate to showcase his art, and their antiques. They’ve been collecting for 40 years. In the past 15 years the focus has been on ventriloquist dummies. The marvelous and macabre faces appear to follow you through the house. They come from England, France and the US, dating to the 1800’s, beautifully crafted and haunting.
“I like them because they are pieces of art, hand carved, and hand painted,” Ron says.
A display of medical mannequins occupies a special place in the house. Dentists and eye doctors needed to practice their skills, and the mannequins awaited.
“To go to the trouble to make these so beautifully, some have gears so the head can be tilted, the craftsmanship is wonderful,” says Gayle.
Beyond the mannequin display is Ron’s office where a tiger from an original circus wagon looks over the room and more medical curiosities are arranged on the artist’s desk. “Early on I did a series on quack medicine, but these props don’t make their way into my paintings now.”
Their personal collection of dummies, carnival games, eyeballs, hotel signs, even an HSR rotating bus sign remains at home, but they also sell pieces through their business Vintage Stylings. They have stalls at the Hamilton Antique Mall on Ottawa Street and Southworks Antiques in Cambridge.
Though the props aren’t represented in Ron’s paintings, they act as inspiration he says. His big industrial landscapes capture the darkness of smokestacks, blast furnaces, raw metals, and lonely freighters on vast grey lakes. Even when he ventures to paint a natural landscape, a canoe on a pond for instance, you have the sense that something is going to go wrong.
“I like illusive imagery, it makes you ask, ‘What’s going on here.’”
Eady’s (www.roneady.com) paintings in oil and encaustic are in private and public collections in Canada and the US. He is represented by the Abbozzo Gallery in Toronto and Earls Court Gallery in Hamilton where his next solo show is in 2019.
Making a home in a big box allowed space for both a painting and sculpture studio. Using old beams, Eady is sculpting bold figures that seem to pick up cues from both the ventriloquist’s dummies and medical mannequins. “I like to use the character of the wood to let the personality come out.”
All three of the Eady’s daughters are artists, involved in photography, fashion design and collage, and surprising to Gayle they all love antiques.
“I call it dark nostalgia, that’s what I see in my paintings and in our collection,” Ron says.
“We both love coming into Hamilton on Burlington Street and the factory views,” Gayle says, “And then coming in on the beautiful Cootes Paradise side we feel so lucky to be here.”