Screaming heads

It’s hands-down the region’s most unusual art exhibit: hundreds of acres of farmland, dotted with giant cement statues, looking like they’ve risen from the earth.

Screaming Heads – The Midlothian Castle and Gallery is on a farm north of Huntsville belonging to Peter Camani, an artist and teacher (a painter of international reputation, he also taught at the local high school for many years until retiring). He started the project in 1989 and has never stopped.

Although there is a range of sculptures on the property, the site is named after the most dominant – dozens of massive cement discs shaped like heads, their mouths open in a scream. Some have hands sticking up out of the earth beside them. Others are in the form of evergreen trees with distraught faces.

Camani has said the sculptures – which stand up to 16 feet high and weigh 8 tons or more – are intended as statement about our lack of care for the environment. In interviews he has also likened them to people drowning in the ocean, and to ancient druidic sites that emphasize the duality of human nature.

There are around 90 large sculptures on the site and uncounted small ones, and Camani continues to work on more.

He has also transformed his farmhouse, turning it into something that resembles a castle, complete with a dragon on the roof. A massive hear-no-evil head is actually a cave-like structure, Camani’s private meditation space complete with cave paintings on the walls.

While the sculptures may seem to be dotted randomly around the 300-acre site, viewed from above they form patterns. One cluster is clearly an eye, and all together they form the shape of a dragon, clawing at the ground – a representation of what humans are doing to the planet.

Other sculptures change and morph, depending on the angle from which they’re viewed. Individual faces combine to form a heart; the four horsemen emerge from the earth.

The site is still Camani’s home – the castle itself is walled off, as any good castle would be – but the grounds are usually open to visitors. The artist just asks that people be respectful and safe, and refrain from climbing on the giant cement structures. In fact, he opens the grounds to large groups occasionally, including an electronic music festival that has been held there annually for ten years.

There are no set hours and no admission charge. If the gate to the parking lot is locked, the site can still be enjoyed from the road. There is a donation box, with proceeds to the local food bank.

To get to the Screaming Heads, take Hwy 11 to Burk’s Falls (about 40 km north of Huntsville) and exit on Hwy 520. Go west about 7 km, then take Midlothian Road another 2 km to the site. Google Maps and many other GPS systems have Screaming Heads as a recognized destination.



Posted in Around Muskoka, Blog.