Inside artist Alex McLeod’s private art collection, including a secret backyard studio overflowing with paintings and prints

Inside artist Alex McLeod’s private art collection, including a secret backyard studio overflowing with paintings and prints

A piece by Winnie Truong sits above a monk’s bench passed down by McLeod’s grandparents. “I love its placement above the throne,” he says. “It’s almost like gargoyles at the front entrance.”

Digital artist Alex McLeod and community educator Samantha Viarruel didn’t build their art collection the traditional way. “When I was in art school, I made websites for all my friends and, as payment, they’d give me a painting or a print or something,” says McLeod, who is represented by Division Gallery and is currently working on “the largest digitally printed image in the world” for Metrolinx. “All of a sudden, I was collecting art.” The couple are now running out of space to hang pieces. In their home, just north of St. Clair and Dufferin, they have dozens of works by some of Toronto’s most exciting artists, and some by OCADU alumni who have since moved to New York. We asked them to tell us about some of their favourite pieces.

This dipytch is by Amanda Clyne, who uses digital technology to transform traditional painting. For this work, she took photographs of fashion magazines and printed them onto the wrong side of inkjet paper to make the ink bleed. Then, she painted the vertical strips. “It’s the same woman in both images, and each strip is a different point in time where the image degraded and changed into something new,” says McLeod. “I thought that was really beautiful and accurate reflection of a human’s experience through life”:


“I saw this Tessar Lo piece at Project Gallery and I was overcome with joy,” says Viarruel:


A watercolour by Tristram Lansdowne hangs above their dining room table; he gave it to the couple after staying with them for few months. “I love that this image could be a cloud or a cell or a growth. I see everything in it,” says McLeod. “I always think of broccoli,” says Viarruel. “Maybe because this is where we eat dinner”:


A number of works hang in the kitchen:


Upstairs, there is an abstract photography print by the crime-scene photographer Weegee, which they bought at the annual Buddies in Bad Times auction:


Nearby is a work is by photographer Jah Grey. “His work looks at black masculinity and how it relates to trans identity,” says Viarruel. “He’ll be interesting to watch because he’s so young and so talented,” adds McLeod:


These pieces by Scarborough artist Rajni Perera hang in Viarruel’s dressing room. “Being from Scarborough, we automatically connect to other Scarborough artists,” says McLeod. “When I saw them, I lost my mind. They’re femme but aggressive. We needed to have these paintings. They’re like guardians”:


McLeod has a detached artist studio in their backyard. The large canvas is another piece by Tessar Lo. “I took some of my own work down to put this one up,” says McLeod:


Here’s the other wall of the studio:


This epoxy disc by Callum Schuster is a new addition to their collection. Schuster made it by drying a number of personally important objects, breaking them down into powder and then preserving them in this dome shape. “It contains a cactus from Mexico,” says McLeod. “I thought it was a really wonderful representation of something organic that will probably last forever”:


Another portion of the studio:


And the final wall of the studio: