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Band of brothers - Artist Sam Hester celebrates Rock Central 'family' - FFWD, June 2005

Ian Doig


With the celebration of any group of friends, says artist Sam Hester, there is an undercurrent of sadness. Freezing a group in time highlights the fact that "the gang" is a transient entity. Hester has given herself just such a bittersweet job in creating a series of oil paintings entitled The Brothers: Portraits of the Rock Central Family Band.

Rock Central, a big brick house in Victoria Park, has for years been a music and entertainment incubator. It has been home to a colourful, rotating cast of of characters - most definitively, hip-hop-rock party group The A-Team. Through her real brother, country singer Matt Masters (she also has two other biological brothers), an "unofficial resident" of the house, Hester has found herself on the periphery of the Rock Central team and has come to think of all its members as her brothers.

"It's really a document of a big family of friends," says Hester. "It's been pointed out that these guys do everything together."

Individual portraits, she explains, take on a new context when presented in a group. Knowing what each individual has accomplished and where he stands in the collective is interesting and the contrast is impressive.


For example, portraits include that of a tank-topped Paul Spence, star of FUBAR, who appears in the newly -released It's All Gone Pete Tong; Andy Sparacino, another FUBAR cast member as well as the A-Team lead singer and beloved alt-club bartender; Mike Barrette, co-founder of Hot Shots High School Film and Ad Festival, an event that showcases the movie-making abilities of high-schoolers; and Pat Kelly, former Loose Moose performer, YTV host and star of Intern Academy. Not all group members are entertainment professionals - Greg Neely, for example, is working on an immunology post-doctorate in Vienna. And there is even a female brother - Vanessa Lefebvre is renowned for "holding her own with these guys".

While the individual path of each subject is in itself compelling, together, these portraits form the legend that will forever be Rock Central. As suits this exceptionally talented group of friends, Hester has organized three nights of multimedia entertainment and a tour around her portrait showing. Opening night at Artpoint Gallery & Studios will feature the screening of a working print of Lock Fulton's movie documentary Breakfast at Rock Central, which records the evolution of the infamous Stampede-time pancake breakfast held annually at the house. The movie will be followed with a musical performance by The Dudes. One week later, on Friday, June 24th, Matt Masters and the Gentlemen of the Rodeo will perform, followed the next night by Mastersparacino, featuring Masters and Sparacino. Rock Central photos and paraphenalia will also be on display.

From there, the show will go on a tour that will include stops at Calgary's Broken City and Theatre Ste-Catherine in Montreal, an arts venue run by former Loose Moose Hot Nuts and Popcorn host Eric Amber. As it has with the brothers, life will eventually, one-by-one, take the paintings in different directions. Anticipating the eventual dispersal of her portraits to various buyers, Hester will be selling event posters featuring the entire group of faces. "I don't mind if they get separated," she says, "as long as they get their moment as a group."

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