Al Green Studio Artist; Mary Ann Grainger creates sculpture for 2017 Brain Project

Al Green Studio artist creates sculpture for the 2017 Brain Project

The Telus Brain Project ( is a large-scale outdoor exhibit that brought brain health, art and imagination to the streets of Toronto to start a public conversation about brain health and to bring awareness to diseases like Alzheimer’s. 100 artists from around the world transformed blank brain sculptures into beautiful, energetic and though-provoking pieces of art. Funds raised through the project are donated to Baycrest Health Sciences, a global leader in brain health and aging.

Sculptor Mary Ann Grainger wanted to create a lace brain that would seem to magically float in the air. “Life and lace are both exquisitely fragile” says Grainger. “Life is the space between one breath and the next. Lace is the space between one knot and the next. When tied together into permanent knots, string becomes lace. When tied together through electrical charges, experiences become memories.” Grainger created this sculpture in honour of philanthropist and artist Al Green who recently passed away from Alzheimer’s.

But how to create such a brain? Mary Ann knew of Powertex and planned to use it to stiffen sewn-together doilies over the supplied brain sculpture form and mount it on a plexiglass pole. Simple, right? Unfortunately, there is no product that can stiffen fabric and withstand the 170-180 degree temperatures that the sculpture would be subjected to outdoors inside the display case. Faced with a great idea that would literally melt under the sun, she had to find a solution. She needed to build an “invisible armature” – an oxymoron if ever there was one!

After much experimentation, Mary Ann decided to create a plexiglass brain as an armature, even though she’d never worked with the material before. Learning by doing, she thermocast and trimmed plexiglass pieces with a multi-piece plaster cast of the brain sculpture form. Affixing the plexiglass pieces to each other was a challenge. Grainger ended up choosing 3M VHB tape which was used to adhere stainless steel to the outside of Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. It worked. The armature itself was a unique sculpture, but its job was to never be seen.

Now it was time to make the lace brain.

Mary Ann sourced vintage doilies from local Toronto stores, hand-made doilies through etsy and ebay, and even antique doilies from a fabric shop on a trip to London, UK. She laid them out to create a pleasing visual pattern, then sewed them together into 3 larger sections. Each of these sections was then placed onto the brain sculpture form and impregnated with Powertex. The Powertex worked its magic and the final 3 large stiffened pieces were assembled over the plexiglass brain and, voila! A floating lace brain!

Mary Ann’s brain was purchased by Visionary Sponsors David & Stacey Cynamon raising $25,000 for Baycrest brain research.

You can see the full step-by-step process on Mary Ann’s instagram feed @MaryAnnGraingerArt or her website

Al Green Studio Artist; Mary Ann Grainger creates sculpture for 2017 Brain Project

A gift that leaves a legacy

A gift that leaves a legacy

September 12th, 2017

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Al Green was an inspiring philanthropist, city builder and a longstanding friend and advocate of the AGO. A Trustee of the AGO Board of Directors for over 14 years, Al’s contributions to the Gallery were extraordinary, from his support of several major exhibitions to his leadership gifts to major initiatives such as Transformation AGO. An accomplished sculptor, collector and lover of art, Al integrated public sculpture into his many building projects throughout the city. He established the Al Green Sculpture Studio and School in Toronto, creating an open, accessible, not-for-profit space for artists to create sculpture. In 2002, Al was honoured with the Order of Canada for his devotion to community service.

It is fitting that through a recent donation from his daughter Lindy Green, through The Lindy Green Family Charitable Foundation, we have named one of our newest gallery spaces in Al’s honour. The Al Green Gallery, which is located on Level 2 of the AGO, is adjacent to the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre.

You might think this space has simply been renamed. But the Al Green Gallery is actually a brand new gallery created last summer through an ingenious design. A construction team lifted and levelled an old ramp that had been closed for many years, crisscrossing from the east side of the AGO’s building up into the Henry Moore Sculpture Centre’s general area. After removing the wall that enclosed the former ramp, the space was transformed into a 1,200 square foot gallery with high ceilings and natural light.

The Al Green Gallery will present sculptural works either made by or in dialogue with those of British sculptor Henry Moore. Currently on display in the gallery are a number of bronze sculptures by Auguste Rodin, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, among others. According to the AGO’s assistant curator of modern art Kenneth Brummel, “it’s a quiet, contemplative space where visitors can enjoy sculpture as three dimensional objects.”

In addition to naming this new gallery in honour of Al, the Lindy Green Family Charitable Foundation has created the Al Green Fund, an endowment that will support the presentation, conservation and acquisition of sculpture at the AGO. Funds have also been established to further our mission to support art, access and learning, especially where it concerns decreasing barriers and increasing access to the Gallery and its programs.

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View of the Al Green Gallery. Photo: AGO

The memory of Al Green will forever live on here at the Gallery and in the hearts and minds of community members that benefitted so much from his remarkable spirit. Next time you are at the AGO, please come by and visit this new and special gallery!

The current installation in the Al Green Gallery is included in general admission, and AGO Members see it free.

A gift that leaves a legacy