Tom Wilson hasn’t been up long, awakened by a knock on the door of his Kirkendall home at the foot of the escarpment, but he’s already working, plying his art at his dining room table, adding tiny yellow dots to a canoe paddle he’s been decorating with bright swaths of colour and intricate drawings.
He looks up occasionally while his visitor asks him questions about his complicated past and artistic future. There’s a lot to talk about.
At 62, Wilson’s life is gathering speed.
A feature-length documentary “Beautiful Scars,” based on his bestselling memoir of the same name, is about to debut at the Toronto Hot Docs film festival; two new albums are ready for release, one with Blackie and the Rodeo Kings, another with fellow Indigenous singer, Iskwē; a new scholarship fund for Indigenous students is about to be launched at McMaster University in the name of Bunny Wilson, the woman who raised him; and, on a more personal note, his third grandchild, Sam, has recently entered the world.
There’s also a second book in the editing stage, a followup to “Beautiful Scars,” and an art installation scheduled for August as part of the Stratford Festival called “Fading Memories of Home,” consisting of nine rebuilt residential school desks.
“Inside each desk we built in photographs of children’s families,” Wilson says about the Stratford installation. “As you move further in the rows, the images disappear representing loss of identities and family and culture and language.”
The depth of Wilson’s creativity is a bit overwhelming and when he’s not actually creating, he doesn’t mind lecturing art students on the creative process, as he did recently at the Dundas Valley School of Art.
“Why do we create?” Wilson asks, looking up from his paddle painting. “It’s because we have to do it. If you don’t have that burning desire to create, then don’t.”