At this juncture in my life at the age of 78.6 all I can say is, with sincerest of thoughts – I did the job. I’ve been doing the job in music since 1964 when I wrote my first song. I did my first painting in 1975 and I haven’t stopped, but I have slowed down to painting blue rabbits. You have to look and you have to listen. Please. Look and listen.
If someone wants to listen, they can try one of my thirty albums. I recommend a recent one called “Canuckian”. The book “Alien” (by Nadia Halim) tells my story well. I’ve also written a work of fiction, a novella called “The Family Embolism”. My children’s picture book “Joe vs Beaver” is not yet published. I’ve had several books of my portraiture published by ECW Press (“Working Women”, “Joe’s Politicians”, “Joe’s Toronto”, “Neighbours”) as well as a book of landscapes called “Joe’s Ontario”. One of the more interesting books I’ve written, still unpublished, is “Mendelson Joe; A Man and His Philosophy”. It’s a geography book so to speak – where I’ve been. My most recently published (ECW Press) work “Joetry” covers song lyrics going back to the 1960s.
In the process of writing songs and letters to the editor, I learned how to write. I was driven to write as I believe I exist as a vessel for free speech and that free speech was often published by newspapers. My long-time friend, artist and activist Anne Hansen of Victoria, lives by the quote “democracy is not a spectator sport”. Letter-writing was one of my forms of participating in our democracy.
My vast body of paintings include portraits of Canadians you may have known such as Margaret Laurence, Margaret Atwood, Dr. Robert Bondar to name a few. I thank everyone who sat for portraits throughout the years. But there have also been many portraits for which the people did not sit for me, my political and social commentary paintings. I’ve done Brian Mulroney, Stephen Harper, Justin Trudeau, Doug Ford, Rob Ford, Mike Harris, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, Pierre Poilievre, Conrad Black and many more. Some will know of the numerous depictions of politicians as rectal orifices that I did. It began as a series called “Liars” for which I was the grateful recipient of a Canada Council Senior A Grant. I am indebted to Canada Council for the Arts. My landscape paintings are celebrations of what is possible. Beauty is my healer. You have to look.
I’ve learned my craft the only way I know how. I’m a self-taught writer, painter, musician. It’s the way I learn. I did the job.
Medically speaking, I’m shaking and rattling as it’s been over five years since Parkinson’s Disease surfaced. Parkinson’s is a dead end for me. The Parkinson’s interrupts my creative flow of writing, painting and making music to say the least. I have ended my job as multi-media artist with the provision of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) on February 7, 2023. I see MAID as a sign of a civilized society. To be born Canadian is a great blessing. We have free speech. We have healthcare. We have MAID. Thank you Canada.
Mendelson Joe (Birrell Josef Mendelson) born July 30, 1944 in Toronto, died February 7, 2023 at his home in Emsdale, Ontario, through the provision of MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) with his wife, Karen Robinson by his side.