When viewing the works of Monica O’Halloran-Schut the connection between participant and artwork is powerful – so much so that the desire to touch the pieces often becomes irresistible. Their universal appeal has garnered the attention of both private and corporate collectors across North America, and even Canadian television. In fact, their depth, naturally-inspired geological beauty and Monica’s use of indigenous rock and mineral materials are what drew FNX Mining Inc. to commission her to create a custom collection for their Toronto-based head office. Monica was recently interviewed by HG-TV’s “The Creative Spirit” which features leading Canadian visual artists with their work.
Artist makes Sudbury rock beautiful
PHOTO BY KEVIN VAN PAASSEN/NATIONAL POST:
photo: Kevin Van Paassen / National Post
Sculptor Monica O’Halloran’Schut fashioned a frieze for FNX Mining Co.’s new head office using Sudbury Basin rock, the same ore FNX hopes will yield copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and gold.
Sudbury Basin, carved in stone
by Drew Hasselback
A sculptor drawn to rocks because of their colours and textures hit upon their economic potential after a mining company CEO saw her work and commissioned a trio of pieces for head office.
FNX Mining Co. Inc. supplied artist Monica O’Halloran-Schut with ore from its Sudbury properties to incorporate in the piece she created for the miner’s Toronto offices.
Monica O’Halloran-Schut, an Ontario sculptor, was showing her work in Toronto last December when she noticed a man “nose-to-nose” with one of her stone pieces.
The man, it turned out, was Terry MacGibbon, chief executive of FNX Mining Co. Inc. It wasn’t just the design and colour that captured his attention. Ms. O’Halloran-Schut creates friezes using volcanic rocks and minerals. Mr. MacGibbon, a geologist, was mentally noting the scientific names for the rocks in the piece. He was also hatching a plan.
“He was intrigued, staring nose-to-nose at the piece. I thought, this man must really like rock,” Ms. O’Halloran-Schut recalls.
She introduced herself and he told her he was a geologist. “Then he asked if I would be able to do a piece for his company’s new head office in downtown Toronto.”
The meeting between Ms. O’Halloran-Schut and Mr. MacGibbon has resulted in an eight-foot-by-four-foot frieze hanging in the lobby of the mining company’s Toronto head office.
The piece consists of the “FNX” letters on background shaped like the Sudbury Basin, the mineral-rich remnant of an ancient meteor crater that over the past century has provided Ontario companies with about $300 million worth of mining revenue.
FNX and joint venture partner Dynatec Corp., have teamed up to mine for copper, nickel, platinum, palladium and gold at properties in the Sudbury Basin. Operations at the first mine started last month.
FNX provided Ms. O’Halloran-Schut with ore from the Sudbury properties so she could incorporate them in the piece.
“It just arrests people when they see the Sudbury Basin done up in the right colours,” says Dave Constable, a vice-president with FNX.
The contract for the FNX logo was followed by commissions for two other pieces that now hang in the head office.
Ms. O’Halloran-Schut produced the works at Croi go Lamh (Gaelic for “Heart to Hand”), a studio she owns with her husband, David Schut, in Erin Township, Ont.
Mr. Schut, a mechanical engineer, applies his technical skills to her work. For example, Mr. Schut designed the hanging device that allows the weighty FNX frieze to stay on the wall.
“Trying to get a piece that size up an elevator and installed in an office was close to impossible,” Ms. O’Halloran-Schut says.
Ms. O’Halloran-Schut was originally interested in working with rocks because of their colours and textures. Now she also sees them for their economic potential.
While the work for FNX has not resulted in a proverbial gold mine of fees – she says she was paid between $3,000 and $4,000 for her work on the three FNX works – she hopes to build on her success with that work by targeting other mining and metal companies for future business.
“We’re always looking for something to stretch ourselves,” she says. “This is certainly a different market.”
In the meantime, Ms. O’Halloran-Schut says her working relationship with FNX has resulted in access to a wonderful array of materials. Previously, she had to content herself by using rocks and powders provided by an architectural services company. Now Mr. MacGibbon is helping her acquire custom-cut slices of rock from the company’s mine sites. “I never thought I’d actually be able to work with the actual ore that comes out of mines, that is this immediate.”
Artist inspired by ‘the rock’
By Michael James
Northern Life, Monday, July 21, 2003
Monica O’Halloran-Schut is a sculptor with the soul of a poet.
For the past three or four years she has been working with stone, transforming inanimate rock into friezes that are beautiful and alive. (A frieze is a broad, horizontal band of sculptured, painted or other decoration, especially along a wall near the ceiling.)
Yet it wasn’t until a chance encounter with FNX Mining Co. Inc. chief executive officer Terry MacGibbon at one of her exhibitions in Toronto that she discovered the joy of working with ore mined from the Sudbury Basin.
As the story goes, MacGibbon, a geologist, was so impressed with O’Halloran-Schut’s work, he commissioned her to create three pieces for the FNX head office in Toronto.
MacGibbon’s sole condition was that she use rock the company had mined from the Sudbury Basin. Locally, FNX operates the McCreedy West Mine.
The centre-piece of the trio – an eight-by-four foot frieze which hangs on the wall – consists of the “FNX” logo etched into a background shaped like the mineral-rich Sudbury Basin.
As the theory goes, the basin was created millions of years ago when a giant meteorite crashed into the region.
It wasn’t, however, made of solid rock as the National Post erroneously reported a couple of weeks ago in an article about O’Halloran-Schut.
Rather, as with her earlier work, she used variations of powdered stone, only, instead of containing granite or mica, the crushed, Sudbury Basin rock was rich in minerals and ore.
“Because the base is a man-made substrate (the underlying foundation), I’m able to bring stone into people’s homes or corporate offices that ordinarily wouldn’t be physically possible,” she said.
The first time she incorporated the ore into her work, it was like an epiphany, she said.
“When I added the ore to it (the substrate or underlying layer), it was like I’d struck gold,” she said. “It was just amazing. The sparkle and richness of colour it adds to the piece is truly lovely . . . it’s warm and it draws people into the piece.”
For O’Halloran-Schut, it was one of those magic moments when an artist discovers a new medium with which to work.
“It is a new medium . . . a new way of working, both with stone, and with ore,” she said.
Naturally, there’s a strong element of trial and error involved, she said, as is the case with any new process.
“What I’m going for is a three-dimensional process,” she said.
O’Halloran-Schut’s passion for colour and texture exploration inspired her to create her own unique mixture of mediums for paintings and sculpture.
One of the most arresting examples of her mixed media, 3-D process is a work called River of Life. The globular-shaped piece is 42 inches in diameter, three inches thick, flat-backed with a raised surface made out of crushed stone, and is set off with 22-carat gold leaf. The gold leaf bisects the stone plaster-like surface, its irregular shape resembling the southern tip of the South American continent.
O’Halloran-Schut said she has been pleasantly surprised by people’s response to her exhibit at the One of a Kind Show at the National Trade Show in Toronto.
“I was observing these people when they came in and they just wanted to rest their hands on the stone . . . and run their hands down it,” she said. “There’s something they connect with, I suppose.”
O’Halloran-Schut recounts the story of a woman who stopped by her booth to check out her work.
“She was standing there looking at my work and her eyes filled up with tears,” she said, “and I thought, ‘Golly, is the work that bad?’
And my friend went over to her and asked if there was anything she could explain about the work, and the woman said, ‘No. I don’t know what’s come over me, but there’s something in this that is just so beautiful. It speaks to me.’
“It was a very humbling experience to be a part of . . . It’s a real privilege to know that the work of one’s hands can impact people in some way.”
The sculptor is now hard at work in her studio, adding to her body of work in preparation for her next three exhibitions.
O’Halloran-Schut’s work can be viewed online at www.hearttohand.ca.