Apr 11, 2016 5:15PM

Inside Darby Milbrath's 'Blue Hyacinth' Exhibition


Talented self-taught artist Darby Milbrath specialises in diaristic drawings and paintings of women that are both playful and intimate. Darby recently put on a show of her work at the ESP Gallery in Toronto, and a crowd of art babes turned up to help her celebrate, including Anna Collins, Nadia Gohar and Jacqueline Ashton.

Our gal Maya Fuhr was there to take some photos of what went down, and she also stole a few minutes with Darby to chat about the dramatic themes behind the artist's very first solo show...

Maya Fuhr: Hi Darb! Tell me about the theme of your show — where does the title 'Blue Hyacinth' come from?
Darby Milbraith: Blue Hyacinth is the mythical flower of grief and mourning. [In Greek mythology] Hyacinth was a beautiful youth and lover of the god Apollo, though he was also admired jealously by the West Wind, Zephyr. Out of wrath and envy, Zephyrus decapitated Hyacinth in front of his lover Apollo and the blood from the youth was transformed into the blue hyacinth flower. Apollo's tears of grief marked the new flower's petals with the words "ai, ai" ("alas") so that his cry of woe might exist forevermore on earth.

The Latin name for the modern day flower is Hyacinthoides non-scripta meaning "not written on". This was created to differentiate it from the mythical flower, as there are no words of mourning seen on the bluebell today. I love the image of a simple blue and sweetly-smelling flower being transformed out of blood, tragedy and anguish.

Do you personally relate to that story?
Yeah, the whole body of work happened after I ended a tumultuous relationship. I was pretty devastated. It was healing to make these large scale drawings (the largest stuff I've ever made) all of saintly women mourning, fighting and transforming. My work is always diaristic but this show is especially personal.

I can definitely feel the range of emotions in each piece — jealousy, rage, insecurity. There's powerful energy in the room! And it smells pretty good in here — what's your fave smell?
I like rose and oakmoss.

If you had to eat one food for the rest of your life what would it be?
Spaghetti and meatballs. My dad used to call me pasta girl.

This is your first solo show, what's next for you?
I have an upcoming show with my sister Claire at Galerie Pangée in Montreal late June. We've always wanted to show together so we're pretty excited. I'm making oil paintings and ceramics for it.

Blue Hyacinth is showing at ESP until April 23, 2016. For more information, click here

Photos & interview: Maya Fuhr

Nadia Bailey