Dear Ruth

by Angela Joosse and Shana MacDonald
Mixed media installation
Exhibited October 22 - 31, 2009
The Leona Drive Project
Curated by Janine Marchessault and Michael Prokopow
Willowdale, Ontario, Canada

"Dear Ruth" was one of several artists' projects installed in a series of six vacant bungalows slated for demolition by Hyatt Homes, a developer in Willowdale, Ontario (in the Yonge and Finch area of Greater Toronto). For ten days, prior to their demolition, these houses were filled with artworks. "Dear Ruth" was sited in the kitchen of 9 Leona Drive.

We produced this installation out of a collection of objects left behind by Ruth Gillespie, resident of 9 Leona Drive for over forty years. These objects included two autograph books dating from 1937-1945 with poetic sayings and words of advice addressed to Ruth, a 1945 yearbook from Ruth's year at Stratford Normal School, a collection of recipes, a few letters, glassware, books and magazines.

"There's a gently human sense to the installation as whole, and the most poignant iteration of that is in the kitchen at 9 Leona, where Angela Joosse and Shana MacDonald re-imagine the life of Ruth Gillespie, the last owner to live there before her heart attack. The artists found some of her belongings – pictures, cookbooks – in the basement, and use them to lovingly conjure a tribute in her kitchen, complete with a virtual tuna casserole."
- Murray Whyte. "Leona Project: Requiem for the post-war suburb."The Toronto Star, October 25, 2009.

"Saddest is the kitchen, where Shana MacDonald and Angela Joosse have used artifacts left behind belonging to Ruth Gillespie, who was resident here for 50 years, first with her husband and later as a widow. After she died, the relative who sold the property didn’t bother to clean out all her personal belongings, including diaries and a book of poems to her written by friends and classmates that included the line: Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become."
- Shawn Micallef. Psychogeography: Bungalow's Last Stand. Eye Weekly, October 21, 2009.

In the kitchen, Shana MacDonald and Angela Joosse [. . .] have mined the books of Ruth Gillespie, a long-time resident of 9 Leona Dr. Gillespie lived in the house for 40 years, and the filmmakers uncovered stacks of her quite personal books in the basement: a yearbook, a shorthand exercise book, an autograph book with hearty, enthusiastic greetings to Ruth such as "save a piece of wedding cake for me." It seemed only right to pay homage to a woman's life before the wrecker's ball demolished her home and her handwriting. In the kitchen cupboards, the artists have arranged several back-lit shrines to Ruth, as well as a video of her autograph books projected from the oven.
- Lisa Rochon. "Art invasion: the Leona Drive project." The Globe and Mail, Friday, Oct. 23 2009.

Lecture on the Leona Drive Project
Janine Marchessault - Mourning Suburbs: Art and Development
Presented as part of My CityŐs Still Breathing: A symposium exploring the arts, artists and the city
November 4-7th, 2010
Winnipeg, Manitoba - Cultural Capital of Canada 2010