Monday, October 24, 2011

A Visit to Ferri Lands: Apples and Paintings for Sale

Can you name a well-known, contemporary female painter, other than popular artists Georgia O'Keeffe or Frida Kahlo?

If you can't, you are probably not alone. 

When it comes to celebrity, artists generally tend to be a more obscure group than many other creative professionals. Their faces are not ones we necessarily recognize like movie actors, writers, politicians and other public figures.

Add to this, the fact that women, as a whole, have not historically faired very well in the visual arts.

Did you know, for instance, that less than 5% of the artworks in the collections of major art museums are by women?* At the Tate Modern, in the years 2000 and 2005, less than 2% of the solo shows were by woman.* 

It is not all grim news. In the United States, the National Museum of Woman in the Arts is dedicated to promoting woman artists who have been over looked or under-acknowledged by other institutions. (There is no similar museum here in Canada. I am not sure about the situation internationally. Feel free to comment on this.)

Still, in the States at entry level female make 90 cents on the dollar for every dollar made by their male peers. The statistic gets even more grim for older female artists.* (I am not sure if there are any similar statistics for incomes in Canada or female artists internationally.)

Why have women artists faired so poorly? I don't think there is an easy answer. (Feel free to speculate on the reasonings on why female artists go unrecognized in the comment section.)

So, who are some of these female artists painting away in the trenches in relative obscurity? 

Today, I am going to introduce you to one little known, local artist who has been painting for decades. She may never be an internationally recognized painter, but she has a dedication to her art that I, for one, cannot help but admire.

Welcome to Ferri lands. There are apples and paintings for sale here. It is an unorthodox combination, I know. Let me explain.

In 1933, Nazzareno and Celia Ferri immigrated to Canada from Italy and purchased a 10 acre farm near Brampton, Ontario. Their son, Mac bought his own 5 acre property down the road from his parent's farm. Here, Mac and his wife, Marie raised their children and established an apple farm. 

Marie Ferri

When her children became older and more independent, Marie acted on her lifelong interest in art and drove into the city of Brampton to take lessons with several local painters. In the following years and even after her husband Mac passed, Marie has continued to paint and help manage the apple farm.

This October, Marie turned 90 years. Her health is good and her mind is still sharp as a tack. She still paints in her little studio whenever she can.

This is Marie's small, sunlit studio. On the left you can see the beginnings of her next painting. Generally, Marie finds inspiration in local scenes, which she photographs herself for reference.

The small village of Huttonville is depicted here. 

Most people imagine that buying art is an expensive proposition, but that's not always true. Marie's paintings are artistic bargains, many of them being under $200.

Winter scene

This is a painting of the homestead of one of Huttonville's founding families

When we stopped in yesterday, Marie was outside, dressed in a warm coat, greeting visitors and selling apples. She always invites anyone interested into her little gallery to see her paintings for sale. 

I have one such painting in my living room.

This past weekend pretty much marks the end of the apple season here. We bought a big bag of Empire apples from Marie. 

Apple crisp and vanilla ice cream topped with toasted pecans and a drizzle of carmel sauce.

When we got home, I made some apple crisp.

The orchard in the late day sun.

If I have the good fortune to live to a ripe old age of 90, I hope that I will still be painting like Marie!

 Please join me in wishing Marie a belated, happy 90th birthday.

*Statistic from the New Britain Museum of Art
* Statistic from an interview with CBC's Jian Ghomeshi, speaking with artist Judy Chicago. Hear the interview by clicking the link. 
* Statistic also from an interview with CBC's Jian Ghomeshi, speaking with artist Judy Chicago. Hear the interview by clicking the link. 

I am also going to link to Lisa Gordon's Creative Exchange. There are always amazing photographs to be found on Lisa's blog, so check them out by clicking the link.
I am also going to link to Tina's Tuesday's Around the World. To take a glimpse into other blogger's Tuesday's, please click the link.


  1. What a remarkable woman Marie Ferri appears to be! I have loved reading this brief synopsis about her life as an artist and enjoyed seeing some examples of her artworks. I happily join you in wishing her continued joy as she pursues her talent and good health to accompany her on this ever unfolding journey of hers. Thank you for introducing us and for yet another delightful post. When will you share some of your own paintings with us, Jennifer? I'd love to see them! A contemporary artist I admire is Jeri Landers. Have you visited her magical blog space? My parents used to live next door to a 90 plus year old South African artist, named Ruby Reeves. She died many years ago now, but her exquisite paintings still live on. She painted using a magnifying glass and produced the most captivatingly beautiful fairyfolk.

    1. Hi, I knew Ruby Reeves, you can find a few pics of her work at

  2. Marie's paintings are lovely. When I look at her winter scenes I imagine how cold my cheeks are and how the air smells. As far as the world not taking woman artists seriously, I'm wondering if it might have something to do with women who are creative, making it the second most important thing they do - never the first. I don't think I've met any man who set out to do something who ever made his goal come second to anything in his life.
    p.s. I'm long overdue to visit the Art Gallery of Ontario, and I think I'll do a little artist census taking when I'm roaming the gallery.....

  3. Thanks for sharing such a lovely story on an amazing woman....... Happy Birthday Marie!
    Marie your art is lovely....
    Yummy looking apples too .....

  4. What an inspiring woman. It's sad that women artists are not more abundant or paid as well. Someday maybe...
    The apple photos are awesome and your crisp sounds delicious. Now that peach season is over, I've been buying apples too. It would be even better to pick them at an orchard but I don't know of any nearby. I love the apples in a basket ~ that could be a gorgeous painting!

  5. Oh wow...her paintings are great! What a lovely lady!

  6. Apple crisp and vanilla ice cream topped with toasted pecans and a drizzle of carmel sauce.

    Cela doit être délicieux
    Happy birthday to Marie

  7. What a beautiful story this is Jennifer, and I thank you so much for sharing it today at The Creative Exchange. It is truly so perfect for it.

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY MARIE! You work is wonderful and you are truly an inspiration to all of us.


  8. Marie's paintings have an Andrew Wyeth appeal. Very nice. I think women have a tougher time with art sales because they do it more out of love than business. I could not sell my work myself and had to place it in galleries. What I would sell it for was well below what they priced it at. Another thing too was all my work was signed with initials so my gender was anonymous. And why less woman artists? I think it has to do with how we interpret an image. Men are much more visual and it comes more easily I think. Men also have more varied emotions and dig deeper into those emotions than women. Women are emotional, but not always productively. Just my thoughts. O'Keeffe was always an inspiration to me. Being in a design field dominated by men (architecture), it was always something I observed about the difference in gender. I found designing between the sexes to work out the best, not leaving an imprint to have being a female designer.

  9. What a story ! Beautiful paintings and lovely apples . Happy birthday Marie !
    Have a nice evening, Jennifer .

  10. Lovely paintings. You have given us a lot to think about.
    Happy Birthday, Marie!

  11. What a lovely story. Also beautiful paintings. I wish a was a little bit more creative but I am not.
    Have a lovely evening

  12. To cudowne,jeżeli ktoś poza codziennymi obowiązkami, znajdzie swoją pasję i daje mu ona satysfakcję. Obrazy tej Pani są bardzo przyjemne. Pozdrawiam

  13. What a wonderful woman! I love her paintings. Your apple photos are lovely.

  14. Her paintings are wonderful! I can see why you chose to visit her. I hadn't thought of how women were represented in the artistic field but I can't say I'm surprised. Sadly we seem to lag behind in every field.

  15. I was thinking the same...If if live till 90, I hope to be happily painting.

    Would love to taste that toasted pecan ice cream.

  16. I love her paintings, they're so full of light. Happy Birthday Marie!

  17. Thank you for touching on this topic. It frustrates me as an artist to see that women are not better represented in the art world. I went to college with many amazing women artists who were just as powerful with a paintbrush as the men in our classes. I like the way Marie uses paint...and her overall style in her compostions. Bravo to Marie!

  18. Happy Birthday Marie! Enjoyed viewing her work. You made me hungry with that wonderful photo of the apple crisp.

  19. Hi Rosemary, em, Kathleen, Marithe & Alain, Lisa, Dani, Giga, Pat, Marguerite, Sweetbay, Garden Diaries, and Linda, Holley, and Marijke,
    Thank you all for your comments and birthday wishes. I will be sure to pass your warm regards on the Marie.

    Desiree, I have visited Jeri Landers blog and think her work is wonderful. I am not familiar with the artwork of Ruby Reeves, but as I have an interest in fairy artwork, I will have to make a point of doing a little research to see if I can find some examples of her work.
    As to my own artwork, I have a series of paintings in my head that I have been carrying around for years. Hopefully someday soon I will have enough time to bring some of it into fruition.

    Barbara, There is a good reason to visit the AGO in the next month or so. A Marc Chagall exhibit opens shortly and I am just dying to see it!

    Donna, I hoped that this post might invite a wide range of opinions. I have to thank you for taking the time to comment from the perspective of an artist and designer. There is so much to think about in what you have written.

  20. I love your fall photos...beautiful! I, too, believe that many female artists have not received the recognition they deserve. Thank you for introducing us to an artist that captures, in such beautiful detail, the places we live and walk. Her paintings are charming and evoke a sense of home.

  21. Awesome post! Interesting statistics! Very much enjoyed being introduced to Marie! Thank you!

  22. I love crisp new apples in the Fall. Your Apple Crisp looks so yummy Jennifer.
    Maire's paintings are so wonderful. I am especially fond of all pictures with snow in them for some strange reason because I really do not like the real stuff. LOL! So these pictures are just the thing I love looking at. Having a snappy mind at 90 is such a blessing. My Mom is 79 and her mind is getting so senile that sometimes it is painful to see. How blessed Marie is.

  23. I did not know all those stats... that is too sad! There are so many amazing female artists. I think it is great that you introduced us to this special one! Marie's paintings are beautiful! :)

  24. What a wonderful post! And, happily belated birthday to Marie. I guess I'm not surprised that our numbers are so low. I wonder if it's because women are more modest? Less self-serving? I suppose that sounds mean and sexist. I don't intend for it to sound that way. But, if you look at stats in every industry... women don't seem to fight as hard for recognition. And, that's not a bad thing at all. We know how to live happier, more well-balanced lives. I should shut up now before everyone gets mad at me for sounding judgmental...

  25. I love this post. I love the portrait you created with your many photos and photographs of the artist's paintings too. My favorite is the actual portrait of the artist.

    I have to admit that I was not aware that there were so few female artists. I feel as though in my life I have met many many more female artists than male artists but I wonder why male artists are going farther so far as having art shows and exhibits. This is something I will probably be thinking about for a while longer.

  26. Thanks for this post with the mixture of great photos and paintings. Particularly loved your first and second capture. I really enjoyed listening to your words about Marie with her history and then about her art - 90 yrs old and with a sharp as a tack mind - what an amazing woman she must be. It's lovely that you've recognised her.

  27. Yumm!! Great time of year and these are awesome images! Haven't gone to pick apples this year. Should stop at an orchard, tons in my area.
    Thanks for visiting my blog.

  28. I love it Jen! A zinger of a question posed for us to ponder while we salivate at the thought of your warm bowl of just-baked apple crisp. I think down through human history there have been just as many female artists born as male artists, but it has been and remains a male-world. The constraints of our gender bind us to many roles (however strong and admirable) and have often required duty to be supportive (whether to children, family, community). We've only been allowed to vote for a hundred years. We need only look at the representation of women in male art, down through the ages, for clues as to why as a gender perhaps we've not been as successful at having the opportunity to pursue the life of an artist or been taken as seriously when expressing our view of life and culture. That we have to create a subcategory of art for "Women Artists" says we've still got a long way to go towards gender equality. Then again, not all great artists are famous, male or female. As the world shrinks and we are exposed to more world art, it's apparent that not all great artists are in the canon of art history we learned about at art school either. Your question makes me want to find an espresso machine, gather some comrades, and have a good lively natter. Pass the vanilla ice cream!'s_suffrage

  29. Again thanks for your comments everyone. I so love it when there are a range of opinions expressed.

    Kate, I don't think you sound judgemental at all.

    Ruth, What a great comment! Good friends, lively conversation, an espresso and some warm-from-the-oven sounds like the recipe for a perfect evening!


I love to hear from you. Thanks for leaving a comment.