A Tribute to Toller Cranston
By Hannah Jarmain
It was Saturday, January 17, 2015; his intense blue eyes looked at the image on the poster of the auction catalogue that I just brought over to show him. I must say, not because it is my work, but this is a very good poster! I laughed, Toller, you are looking at a masterpiece. Toller couldn’t take his eyes off the white, yellow, and purple poster featuring a gold goddess blown in the cosmic wind. “Cosmic Garden” is a major painting, which he had selected and donated to the Children’s Art Foundation at US$20,000. He said, “If there is not an offer that good, don’t worry Hannah, I am going to buy it back myself and write you a cheque!”
A series of limited edition signed posters of Cosmic Garden had been in production according to Toller´s wish. Over a Russian brunch with Toller and artist Andrew Osta we admired the incredible beauty of “Cosmic Garden.” Toller kept staring at it. That will be the featured piece in this year’s Contemporary Art Auction at Rosewood on February 8, which begins at 12pm.
“Hannah,” he said a couple months ago in one of our frequent Sunday breakfasts at Café Rama, “you worked so hard for this auction, if you trust me I am going to help you raise three times more than what you did last year, if you just let me be your auctioneer.” Then the blue eyes flashed with mischief. “And you know, I am quite good at this!”
Since I came to know Toller and became a close friend in 2013, Toller had done amazing things for the children. He donated paintings every year to help our cause; he invited 40 children from Palo Colorado over to paint ostrich eggs in his studio. He came out to the school and inspired the kids with his free hand drawing on the mural, and generously invited the whole school to come for a Christmas lunch. The principal and teachers at Ignacio Allende in Aurora and the children must have felt like they were in heaven that day, both because of his generous hospitality and with the incredible visual impact of his museum-like, colorful home and studio on Sollano 84.
Toller had a generous heart. His dedication and loyalty to his friends was matched only by the extreme passion for his work. Toller lived alone but never lonely. He was always surrounded by friends in the arts: musicians, painters, writers, stage actors, celebrities, and intellectuals, with whom he enjoyed a good debate over any topic under the sun. He had a large devoted staff that had been with him for years. Toller lived the dream of a child in heaven: candies, jellybeans, jujubes, red, yellow, and blue; ice cream, cakes and desserts in all flavors. Filled jars of goodies were within easy reach and petit four pastries decorated your plate whenever you visited Toller.
In his large mansion, toys, crafts, folk art, flowers, glass structures, wooden chests, painted ceramic, angels, and gnomes seem to hang from the sky. The creative energy of the entire universe was funneled through his head and out of the hand that drew and painted and worked at such precision and speed. Surreal images stumbled onto canvases and turned into incredible work of art.
I will never forget the 2015 New Year dinner celebration hosted by Toller just three weeks ago; it was the most lavish, dream-like party, an all-yellow themed New Year celebration. He said in his New Year speech: “This is the year of change, it is time to make the changes that you had always wanted to do. Be bold and brave and over the top!”
Toller Cranston was ingenious, smart, influential, talented, engaging, and devoted to his friends. We love Toller for his passion, his intellects, his incredible creativity, and even his excesses. A unique genius of this century, Toller Cranston will be missed.
Toller Montague James Cranston, born April 20, 1949 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
Passed away on January 24, 2015 at his home in San Miguel de Allende. Age 65.
“Life is a short, warm moment
And death is a long cold rest.
You get your chance to try in the twinkling of an eye:
Eighty years, with luck or even less…”
⎯ Pink Floyd
El famoso artista, medallista olímpico, patinador campeón del mundo, pintor y amigo, Toller Cranston falleció el sábado 24 de enero en su casa en San Miguel de Allende a sus 65 años.
Toller Cranston fue un gran defensor de la Fundación de Arte de los Niños. El fue a pintar murales con nuestros niños de la clase de arte en Ignacio Allende Col. Guadalupe en diciembre de 2014. Él inspiró a los niños tanto que pintaron 4 murales a lo largo del puente frente a La Fábrica Aurora. El nos invito a nosotros, los niños, los voluntarios, María Concepción Pérez, Directora y los profesores a un el almuerzo en su casa alrededor de Navidad. Fue una experiencia tan agradable que los niños recordarán de por vida.
Toller amaba a los niños y estaba muy entusiasmado por ayudar a la Fundación CAF con nuestra recaudación de fondos en la subasta el 8 de febrero en el que habría sido el maestro de ceremonia. CAF celebra su quinto aniversario este año. Espero que disfruten de las imágenes y gracias por su excelente apoyo para los niños.
Espero verlos y espero que ustedes se encuentren en esta especial subasta de arte en Rosewood, el domingo 8 de febrero a la 12 pm.
“The Board of Directors and Members of Amistad Canada extend deepest condolences to the family and friends of Toller Cranston. Toller Cranston, like thousands of Canadians who spend time in San Miguel de Allende, received the benefits of Mexican hospitality and friendship ⎯ and, in turn, contributed to life and art in Mexico.
Amistad Canada is a Canadian charity working through local San Miguel de Allende civil associations on projects to promote social and educational development in Mexico.”
⎯Jaci Winters President Amistad Canada
Toller Cranston, Margaret Ross Remembers Him
Some years ago, Margaret Ross was selling concert tickets for La Soledad Monastery. She asked her friend Toller if he would buy one. “I don’t buy tickets for church concerts. But I’m selling these jackets I painted and I want you to buy one at a good price and then model it in the gallery opening of my work.” That sounded like a good offer so she bought it.
He had precise ideas about what the models were to do. He immersed himself in all his projects with great interest and discipline. This one was almost like he was choreographing for an ice skating show. Margaret and the other models were to come down the stairs just so, turn several times and then all shake hands. He watched closely, she says; nothing escaped his attention. He even picked out the hat she was to wear. She remembers that the large audience present in the gallery gave them a great deal of applause.
Some people will remember Toller Cranston by the art on their walls. Margaret will remember him fondly each time she opens her closet and dons the beautiful leather jacket with its vivid lively colors.
“With a positive audience there is an electric vibration that does connect with the performer… they are sending out love … love being the strongest emotion on earth and positive appreciation.” Toller Cranston, CBC archives interview with Barbara Frum. 1976.
Toller Cranston was quite pleased when I told him that I had lived in his hometown of Hamilton. He was a talented artist and figure skater who touched many hearts. His passing has left many Canadians saddened and in shock. “A rare human being.” “Devastated.” “A genius” are some of the comments made by members of the Women’s Art Association of Canada, teachers and artists on hearing the news. Often when I mentioned San Miguel de Allende, many would refer to Toller Cranston. It seems that Toller found a sanctuary a haven in SMDA; where he was free to be himself and explore the depths of his artistic vision. Toller, you have left a legacy. Thank you. ⎯Claire Carew Toronto, Canada