National Art Gallery, Ottawa

When you live somewhere long enough, it’s easy to overlook places you always mean to visit but never have the time to. Mine was the National Gallery of Canada, a beautiful glass and steel building on the Ottawa River.

I called Ottawa home for more than four years. The first time I ever stepped foot inside the gallery, I was covering some charity ball in the stunning grand hall. The second time was for the wedding of my good friends Shawna and Aires in the water court.

But I never had time to really explore until I found myself with a few free hours one morning. It was a perfect lazy day, gloriously sunny but bitterly windy. With the Parliament buildings in the distance, I watched gallery staff put the finishing touches on the gigantic Christmas tree in the grand hall. I love all the light that streams through there.

holgate1.jpgThe current exhibition featured two Quebec artists. One specialized in landscapes which aren’t my thing, but the other was Edwin Holgate, the eighth member of the Group of Seven. Who knew?

I had never heard of Holgate before, but his portraits are utterly captivating. He’s supposed to be most famous for painting female nudes in Canadian landscapes, but I think Holgate’s amazing woodcuts are pretty kickass too.

The gallery is a relaxing place to roam. Off the interior garden is the fully reconstructed interior of a 19th-century chapel.

There is of course a huge Canadian collection but I found the contemporary art pretty fun and eclectic, like this creepy oversized Head of a Baby (2003) by Ron Mueck, made of silicone, fiberglass resin and mixed media.

National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr., Ottawa, Ontario, 1-800-319-2787.
For hours and admission, click here.

National Art Gallery, Ottawa