Apple Tasting

Busy these days tasting unusual apple varietals, planting a few test trees, and doing the slow research for the public art project ORCHARD, and YOU ARE A GOOD APPLE for the Small Arms Inspection Building and the City of Mississauga and Culture Days next fall...

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MST Foray: Fall 2018

We went to the York Forest foray with the MST (Mycological Society of Toronto) this fall, to brush up on our ID skills, and see what has been fruiting as we anticipate leading the Scarborough Mycological Foray with the Doris McCarthy Gallery, September 23rd. A good spectrum of gilled specimens, arranged according to colour…

Geology Tour in the Rock Shops

During the OUTDOOR SCHOOL artist residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts this summer, I co-ordinated a unique Geology Tour with Jim Olver and Susan Monteith. We led residents across the campus, down the mountain, and into the rock shops - to discuss and handle all manner of stones, gems, minerals, crystals, geodes, fossils, petrified wood and meteorites. We examined glacial erratic boulders in gardens along the way, specimens for sale and on display in the shops, and stone countertops - to learn about the formation and appearance of geological materials.

OUTDOOR SCHOOL was led by Diane Borsato, Amish Morrell and Tania Willard. Among the artists we worked with at the residency were:
Aislinn Thomas, Artur Vidal, D'Arcy Wilson, Holly Ward, Jamie Ross, Kirstie McCallum, Lili Huston- Herterich, Nicole Kelly Westman, Onya Hogan-Finlay, Tor Jonsson, Kelly Andres, Marjan Verstappen, Gesig Isaac, Hannah Rowan, Rita McKeough, Abby Hepner, and Robin Cumming.

Special thanks to Jacqueline Bell, Brandy Darouge, Jim Olver and Susan Monteith from the Banff Centre for the Arts.

Birds of Prey with Emily Rondel

I attended the spring workshop for identifying and learning about Birds of Prey at the High Park Nature Centre with Emily Rondel. Together we examined specimens from the Royal Ontario Museum collection, and ventured into the park to see hawks, owls, and other birds in the trees. As a bonus, we also identified rodent skeletons in samples of owl pellets – including complete skulls.

Lichen Workshop with TRoy McMullin

I attended a lichen workshop at the High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, led by Troy McMullin from the Canadian Museum of Nature. We discussed basic features of lichens in High Park and in eastern Canada, and their role in the environment.

Distinct from fungi, and plants -  lichen are creatures that may consist of alage and fungi together, or fungi and specially adapted cyano-bacteria. They are sometimes known as the “corals” of the forest, and can speak to the quality of the air wherever they are (or aren’t) found.


This new publication edited by Sheilah Wilson was released this month, with contributions by artists including myself, Maria Hupfield, Sigrid Sadstrom, Harushi Hayashi, Liz Atterbury and more. The book was produced in conjunction with an exhibition curated by Wilson at the Angela Meleca Gallery, entitled Repeat Pressure Until.


The image I contributed was from the series Pools. In this series from 2013, I documented the process of teaching my son to swim in Icelandic pools. The selected image shows the first time I submerged my son under the water.   - Diane Borsato


Cape Breton Foray 2017

Every year Amish Morrell and I host an informal mushroom foray in Big Intervale, Cape Breton for people in the nearby community. It works as a means for us to practice mushrooming, to know and learn more about the surrounding landscape, and is a way to bring various kinds of community members - locals and newcomers -  with knowledge of place, of history, of foraging, art, geology, botany, mycology and more - together to share facts, ideas, skills and stories. 



Grafting Practice

For the past two years I've been learning to graft scions onto my old apple tree with Ray, a local arborist and orchardist. Help and scions have also come from Susan Poizner of Orchard People.

Of more than 30 grafted branches, about 5 of them are surviving. We used various techniques including whip and bark grafting - and estimate there are now at least 3 different varietals of apple on my test tree. 

This work is my beginning research on apple grafting, apple tree care and unusual apple varietals - toward a larger project involving the ongoing planting of unusual apple varietals in various locations entitled Orchard. 

Orchard is an ongoing sculpture project I am developing to plant apple trees of rare, unusual or eccentric apple varietals in various locations - creating a dispersed orchard as public art. I have been developing relationships with orchard professionals and researching uncommon apples - including black apples, sheep-nosed apples, apples that have been cultivated since the Roman empire, apples that taste like butterscotch, or have red flesh, and more.

The work requires a special commitment on behalf of a hosting institution, to properly maintain the tree (or multiple trees) on an annual basis and sustain them for their natural lifespan. And as the trees grow - they can create a flexible, programmable site of interest to a wide public outside of the museum.  In contrast to the “white cube” of the gallery, trees that are a part of Orchard could be activated by artists and naturalists in various ways according to season and weather, with grafting workshops in spring, picnic symposia in the summer, cider making and apple tasting/cooking in the fall.

For serious inquiries about obtaining and caring for an apple tree as part of this public artwork, contact me:

Olfactory Mapping

Finally our Olfactory Map of Sterling Road is finished! See the design by JP King, printed by Paper Pusher. It will be exhibited at the Drake Commissary in 2017.

See here for details on the project:

Olfactory Map of Sterling Road


Sogetsu Ikebana Show, Toronto Botanical Gardens

 In my second Ikebana show I presented three pieces made of driftwood, hardware, eavestrough piping, allium, ground cherries, and modern Japanese ceramic containers.

Finally, my Ikebana teacher toured my son around the exhibition, describing the logic of each arrangement in great detail. 

Toronto Botanical Gardens, images from the Sogetsu exhibition, 2017.

ALMANAC: Mushroom Forays by Diane Borsato

Maggie Groat just launched this wonderful publication, and I'm pleased to have this piece in it - about my ongoing practice of leading mushroom forays for artists and students. For the full text see below.

Mushroom Forays, by Diane Borsato, ALMANAC, edited by Maggie Groat, includes contributions from Basil AlZeri, KWAG senior curator Crystal Mowry, Diane Borsato, Dylan Miner, Faith La Rocque, FASTWÜRMS, Jason de Haan, Jesse Harris, Jimmy Limit, Kara Uzelman, Kelly Jazvac, Open Structures, Tanya Busse and Joar Nango, Tanya Lukin Linklater, Walter Scott, Alicia Nauta, Amish Morrell, and Anne Riley.published by the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery, Ontario, 2017.

Outdoor School at the University of Guelph

I have been teaching two courses at the University of Guelph entitled Outdoor School - one introduces advanced studio art students to consider the practices of various other cultural practitioners including naturalists, creative activists, farmers, navigators, and horticulturalists. Students create and participate in Survival Tips workshops, do outdoor reading performances, go on hikes and forays, join a club, and create multi-disciplinary ecologically-themed final projects. 

The other introduces first-year (mostly) biology students to read and analyze critical texts from contemporary art, cultural geography, indigenous ecology, and literary non-fiction. Together we participate in field-based activities, performances and workshops.

For an informal blog of our class activities, ecologically themed contemporary art, and a growing archive of student work click here. 

Banff Stillness Residency: Plant Walk and Forest Tea

In the fall of 2016 I co-led The Art of Stillness Residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts with Christopher House, Pico Iyer and Richard Reed Perry.

As a part of the program, I co-ordinated a walk through the Mike MacDonald Butterfly Garden Artist project at the Walter Phillips Gallery with Katherine Ylitalo. 

Together we walked through the woods to a look-out where I served the group of artists tea smoked over pine needles. 

Wildflower ID at the High Park Nature Centre

I took a workshop with Richard Aaron at the High Park Nature Centre and practiced using the Newcomb's Field Guide to identifying wildflowers.

Among the species identified in early June were: 

Motherwort(Leonurus cardiaca) JapaneseKnotweed (name in Newcomb’s: Polygonum cuspidatum – nowcalled Fallopia japonica) YellowWood Sorrel (Oxalis europaea)  PoisonIvy (name in Newcomb’s: Rhus radicans – now called Toxicodendronradicans) Hairy Beardtongue (Penstemonhirsutus) White Clover (Trifoliumrepens) Black Medick (Medicagolupulina) Shepherd’s Purse (Capsellabursa-pastoris) Pineapple Weed (namein Newcomb's: Matricaria matricarioides – now called Matricariadiscoidea) Yellow Avens (Geumaleppicum) Common Fleabane (akaPhiladelphia Fleabane) (Erigeron philadelphicus) Garlic Mustard (namein Newcomb’s: Alliaria officinalis – now called Alliariapetiolata) Celandine (Chelidoniummajus) (called Greater Celandine is some field guides to distinguishit from Lesser Celandine, which is an unrelated plant) False Solomon's Seal(Smilacina racemosa) Pale Swallowwort (Cynanchumrossicum) – not in Newcomb’s, Wild Geranium (Geraniummaculatum)  Wild Lupine (Lupinusperennis) Wild Sarsaparilla (Aralianudicaulis)

Apiary Project for Greenest City

I'm excited to begin a new partnership - with Greenest City and students from the Parkdale Public Library English as a Second Language program to keep bees in the Milky Way Garden. After an introduction to bees and beekeeping for the ESL class, I met some participants eager to work together to create an apiary in the next year. 

The Milky Way Garden is a piece of land donated by artist Stephen Andrews and filmaker John Greyson set to be a community-owned urban agriculture site for hosting environmental projects that increase access to healthy fresh food, while creating opportunities for environmental learning and community connections.