Local artists reveal other talents

More to Sorensen, Loftus and Safdie than meets the eye

By Byron Toben

I am impressed with the energy and social consciousness of Montreal area artists. Here are three examples. They all involve an Asian aspect as well as Montreal.


Verona Sorensen is well known in the abstract expressionist field. She has several large paintings in corporate headquarter offices and is represented in galleries in London, UK and Toronto. Recently, the Chicago gallery Gallerique added her to their offerings.

Being of mixed Scandinavian and Philippine heritage, she has also exhibited at the biannual Access Asia cultural festival in Montreal, where I chanced to review her joint exhibit with Kakim Goh for Rover Arts in 2013 when she cleverly created a last day “fermissage” to bookend the opening vernissage.

Her style devolves somewhat from her late father, David, who taught art at Bishop’s and commanded fairly high prices for his pieces.

Ms Sorensen has also studied in Mexico and Italy and added new techniques to her painting skills.

verona sorensen westmountmag.ca

“Unlocked”, oil, wax and sand on canvas painting by Verona Sorensen

Abstract Expressionism does not have as large a market as does representative art, but its creators such as Ms. Sorensen refuse to do saucer eyed children or Elvis replicas on velvet. However, I am informed that Roy Surette, director of the Centaur theatre, once hired her to paint some walls in his apartment. Whether they are monochromatic beige or also contain abstract expressionistic stripes I know not.

In addition to her busy schedule, she has established a monthly foray called Food For Thought For The Homeless which benefits homeless people with not only relatively gourmet snacks, but also sketch pads and materials to develop their own artistic impulses, which she feels (and I agree) are inherent in all people, but often blocked by circumstances.

Painter Verona Sorensen’s Food for Thought gives to the homeless from NOMAD Live on Vimeo.


Avy Loftus, an accomplished landscape architect, is originally from Indonesia, the home of Batik dresses and wall hangings, which she also creates. Recent exhibits were held in St. Henri and Ville St. Laurent.

She also paints, specialising in Nature scenes and the blend of subtle colours. Her artworks have been sold in Canada, the USA, Ireland, Indonesia and Bermuda.

In 2013, Ms Loftus received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her artistic and community contribution.

She is the current President of the Asian Canadian Women Artists and the Director of Peace, Love and Hope, an art project for kids.

batik avy loftus westmountmag.ca

“Red Flowers” batik painting by Avy Loftus


Westmounter Gabriel Safdie of the famous Safdie Clan (architect brother Moshe, playwright nephew Oren and visual artist sister Sylvia) is a talented photographer. Having taught literature and creative writing at Dawson college, he also ran until two years ago an imported textile company, largely from China. This allowed him the ability to take photographs around the world. He has published eleven giant annual calendars for his clients containing his shots.

gabriel safdie china westmountmag.ca

Gabriel Safdie in China

I have lugged one home and these are most definitely not desk calendars. The most recent giant calendar features photos in and around Stanstead, Quebec where Mr Safdie has championed a local Art gallery, Ye Olde Blacksmith (Le Vieux Forgeron), as well as being involved with a restaurant, a bar and the Granite Museum.

A collection of his photos called Changing China Through the Eyes of a Canadian Friend have been exhibited in various cities there.

Mr Safdie also served as President of Playwrights Workshop Montreal for ten years during which time it attained a national mandate.

Feature image: Three Dancers batik painting by Avy Loftus

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club

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