Goodbye / Hello

30 April 2017 – And so it is time.

Goodbye, Toronto …

and hello, Vancouver.

“Traveller, there is no path,” says Antonio Machado (1875-1939). “Paths are made by walking.”

 

Eight Virtues of Underpass Art

27 April 2017 – T.E. Lawrence had his Seven Pillars of Wisdom; you & me, we have Eight Virtues of Underpass Art, courtesy of the railway underpass on Dufferin, just north of Dupont.

I am buoyant, as I approach Dupont. I have just spent a happy hour with my friend Sarah in the Sovereign Espresso Bar on Davenport, lingering over our lattes. There is the pain of my imminent departure from Toronto, but it is far outweighed by the warmth of all the friends wishing me well, promising to visit.

Now Sarah is off on her bicycle and I am off on foot. In an hour or so, I’ll be sitting down with other friends in Yorkville — but meanwhile, here I am in the warm, bright sunshine, prowling along, absorbing Toronto streetscape through every pore.

The underpass is shabby, the artwork peeling and visually incoherent: it has no apparent theme.

Until I see the neatly printed word “love,” block-printed red letters tucked around a curve of yellow paint.

Peeling paint; eternal virtue.

I walk even more slowly … and discover “truth.” Bold, as truth should be, despite its uncongenial background.

We have a theme after all.

Virtue by virtue, I work my way south through the underpass.

Sometimes the virtue is printed over a decorative border …

sometimes it is given visual dynamic by workmen one level above …

sometimes it is tucked between swirls of colour …

sometimes it borrows a parrot’s head …

or a human head, for that matter.

And, sometimes, it swells & diminishes, obeying its own secret rhythm.

The day carries on from there, better & better, serving up all the virtues of friendship as it goes.

And it ends, after a brief evening thunderstorm, with a glowing rainbow in the eastern sky.

Snap-Happy on Queen

23 April 2017 – I’m still swooning around Toronto, noticing things with a keener eye now that I shall not be living here & therefore can no longer take them for granted.

During this walk along Queen St. West, for example — nothing capital-S Significant, but all quietly significant to me.

Garage art down Cayley Lane just south of Grange Park, for example …

the garage door bright & probably fairly recently painted, but just one component in a total “urban installation” that also includes a scrawled-upon fence, some older low-level brick attached homes, & a soaring new glass condo tower as well.

Back onto Queen, over to Peter St., and yes! that funny frieze of street art still decorates one top edge of the corner brick building that, at street level, has long housed the Peter Pan Bistro.

Another bit of familiar street art in this neighbourhood, over by Soho: the dead tree stump that Elicser turned into street-sculpture years ago, and still refreshes from time to time.

I always look for the latest version — and this time literally clap my hands in delight.  Construction is underway right next to the sidewalk, and each city tree is carefully boxed, to prevent damage.

So is Elicser’s “tree”!

I love it, I love it.

Eyes up, more high-level artwork, this one new to me.

Low-level now, and why do I show it to you?

It’s vandalized, dirty, & the relic of another technological time.

Well I don’t know, but it snags my attention even so, there’s something about a phone-shape sculpture to encase a phone, even if only the smallest fragments of the physical phone still exist.

Exuberance & jollity a bit farther west, over by Spadina. Not new, but always delightful.

It’s another mad exercise in geometry & spatial relationships, courtesy of Birdo.

I veer left (south, that is) into Rush Lane, aka Graffiti Alley; also aka Rant Alley, since this is where CBC-TV’s Rick Mercer famously films his rants. (South of Queen, parallel to Queen, roughly between Portland & Spadina, if you want to visit it yourself.)

Year over year, the artwork morphs & evolves, coming & going, some images untouched, others repainted, yet others palimpsest. I’ve been here lots, it is slightly different every time. And … or … what I happen to notice is slightly different every time.

I’ve seen this doorway Poser bunny before, of course, but today I take near-curatorial delight in its “installation”: neatly tucked into its own niche, framed all around by other murals, with a final visual/spatial punch from the indigo wheelies.

Queen St. again, and sidewalk signs. This one is out of date, but it startles me into hiccupping giggles, even so.

One more sign.

Not for a café, as you will immediately appreciate. It’s for a denim shop — what’s more, for the best denim shop in the city. Says the website. (Their Vancouver website makes the same claim.)

First, I pick up on the pun.

Then I pick up on the skinny jeans [sic] walking into frame, right on cue.

Art & Art, High & Low

17 April 2017 – I’m not too sure about that “high & low” distinction, but I stand by “art & art.”

And every molecule of it breathes Toronto.

Henry Moore’s Two Forms, for example, an icon of the Art Gallery of Ontario, long resident at the AGO’s N/E corner (and due to be relocated to Grange Park).

Fine art, “high art,” that inside the Gallery would be guarded & untouchable.

Out here on the street corner, it is beloved by all, stroked by all, sat upon & slid through by many, and never vandalized — except by all that love. “It’s worn through to the rivets,” a conservator once told me ruefully. “One of these days, we’ll have to have it repatinated.”

Inside the AGO, I revisit one of my favourite rooms, a quiet little room tucked away in a corner of the 2nd floor, housing only two works by Inuk artist Jacoposie Oopakak.

I love the simplicity of the caribou skull, title Family, its antlers delicately carved with images of people, a family tree.

I love, too, the painted line of caribou slanting down the wall, refracted by the case to dance with the skull as they walk and keep it company.

I’m back outside again, dog-leg into an alley just N/W of McCaul & Dundas — and look at this!

Street art featuring a high-minded quote by a brand-name thinker.

(Ignore her. She is not contemplating the art. She’s on her cell with her boyfriend, comparing their respective holiday weekends.)

I am impressed. I look up the Voltaire quote later on, back home. Many sources agree, it’s by our man Voltaire all right. One disagrees. Nah: Pierre de Beaumarchais said this in 1775, while working on the 2nd scene, 1st act, of Le Barbier de Séville. (Well, strictly speaking, no. What he said was: “Aujourd’hui ce qui ne vaut pas la peine d’être dit, on le chante.”

Really? I have no idea. Click here & decide for yourself.

Or ignore all that, and instead contemplate this next bit of alley-art philosophy, cheek-by-jowl with M. Voltaire/deBeaumarchais. No authorship dispute here: it’s the work of Blaze Wiradharma.

We are spoiled for choice. We can say something, sing something … or just spray it instead.

 

Cat Tales (& Tails)

14 April 2017 – It’s a bright afternoon.

Neighbourhood pussycats are lying in the warming earth of front yard gardens …

stretching their bodies — from toes to belly to ear-tips — to the sun.

I leave the groomed residential street, & tuck myself into a nearby scruffy commercial alley.

Unless something dire has happened, I am about to revisit one of my favourite pussycats.

And there he is.

Symbol City (T.O. Version)

11 April 2017 – I’ve given you one Symbol City already — an array of Vancouver images that, to my delighted visitor’s eye, stood for the Vancouver I was beginning to discover.

Now I’ll offer the Toronto version. A delighted, fresh eye here as well, partly because I am recently back from a 5-week absence — but much more because, in just a few weeks’ time, I shall move from Toronto to Vancouver.

So I am acutely aware of sights that are symbols of my own personal Toronto.

Here are a few.

Riverdale Park, straddling the Don River, with its 1840s Francy Barn attracting hordes of visitors this mild spring day …

William Lishman’s exuberant sculptures, cascading down the river-side face of Bridgepoint Health Care …

a random example of railway underpass street art, this bit on Logan south of Gerrard …

a silly sign!

Jimmy Chiale’s great, pulsing wall mural on Queen St. East, adding energy to the city all around it — from parked cars to streetcar stop, pedestrians, hydro poles trailing wires, vines about to bud on the brick wall …

a whole mural celebrating the city’s distinctive red streetcars …

and a real streetcar, pulled up next to yet another wall mural, this one by Elicser and proclaiming one of the city’s east-end neighbourhoods …

and of course a café!

An attraction in itself, but, really, also just one component of an entire downtown streetscape: patio, traffic sign, bicycle, parked car & all.

I go in, assuming I’ll order a latte. Don’t I always?

Except, this time, no I don’t. I am beguiled instead by an organic hot dog (I always eat a hot-dog in spring, it’s a ritual), smothered in mashed avocado & salsa. Soon my face follows suit, smothered in the generous dressings, ear to ear and nose to chin. The man next to me, knocking back his tortillas, observes the state of my face with some awe. “I’ll try that next time,” he decides.

I loop back west toward home, angle through a scruffy laneway just off Parliament & Queen.

I am here to pay homage to …

Golden Girl!

and to …

Famous Dog!

I don’t know why he is famous — but, come to think of it, he is famous with me.

I’m just happy both murals are still with us, they’ve been around for years & years, and they are part of my Toronto, yes they are.

Here’s lookin’ at you, dawg…

Positive! Negative! (one more time)

8 April 2017 – At the risk of annoying people who got it the first time, I’m going to belabour the point I wanted to make in my previous post.

It was all about the double visuals — the vases, and the not-vases.

I would like everyone to enjoy what artist Greg Payce worked so hard to offer us in this installation at Toronto’s Gardiner Museum of Ceramics.

“Positive/Negative,” I said in the post title. “Play with the spaces,” I urged in the post itself,

Positive space: the intricate — and very deliberate — shape outlined by each vase.

Negative space: the intricate — and very deliberate — shape outlined between each pair of vases.

Refocus.

Look between the vases, not at them.

And there they are.

A little boy, a little girl; a gift of deliberately arranged space.

 

 

Positive / Negative (negative / positive)

6 April 2017 – Oh, go ahead …

Play with the spaces.

I seek out Greg Payce’s Apparently every time I visit Toronto’s Gardiner Museum.

And no, not because these earthenware vessels are examples of “albarelli,” a pharmaceutical shape of the 16th century. (Though that is very good to know, isn’t it?)

Nope. I just want to stand there, playing with the spaces.

And giggling when I succeed.

The Choice

2 April 2017 – I had a choice to make.

(A) Jump on that streetcar.

(B) Ignore that streetcar, & take a photo through the laundromat window instead.

I chose option (B).

I hope you approve.

(There was a young guy inside, carefully folding up his freshly-laundered knickers. He had obviously taken the sign to heart.)

 

Also T.O.

30 March 2017 – Oh yes, street art is so Toronto … but the beaches & parks along Lake Ontario are also Toronto. Phyllis & I take the Tuesday Walking Society (all two of us) out to the Beaches boardwalk, and start stomping around.

After a five-week absence, I am freshly appreciative. A dull day, grey water exchanging pixels with a grey sky, your eye could fall over the horizon.

Well, no it couldn’t.

Because it bumps up against those happily garish Muskoka chairs, and that happily prancing dog, who knows his owner is about to throw the stick. Again! (And she does, and the dog shoots off in full chase, throwing up little spurts of sand with each footfall.)

This year’s Winter Stations has just ended, Phyllis tells me, who visited the art installation, now in its third year, soon after it opened in late February. More than 350 design entries this year, worldwide, with eight winners.

The pieces are already being dismantled. Which somehow makes them even more intriguing. No signboards to tell you what is supposed to be what, just you & your reactions.

I like the reflections. I like the way the luminous silver panels fold into the luminous grey day, reflecting sky and water and each other. (Later I look it up online: This is Aurora, the work of Hunber College students, and, I discover, meant to dissolve visually into its surroundings.)

We’re walking west, close to the water. It brings us to the Leuty Lifeguard Station, one of two vintage ones (the other on Cherry Beach) still in use, and the symbol of the Beach neighbourhood. This is real life, not a winning design for Winter Stations — but it is just as powerful: the tender mother, the entranced child playing with sand, the lapping waves, the grey waters flowing out to meet the grey sky at the horizon.

Phyllis pulls me over to the next Winter Stations design. Collective Memory, says the battered signboard, now propped askew in the sand: the work of Spaniard Mario Garcia and Italian Andrea Govi, it offers two walls shimmering with 6,000 clear bottles, each one inviting visitors to insert a card with the story of how they came to live in Canada.

“The day I was here,” says Phyllis,”people were writing out their comments, and then telling each other their stories as they inserted the slips into the bottles.”

Eventually, we turn back east, farther from the water now, up on the wooden boardwalk.

More wood over there in the mid-distance: the 8-metre Beacon (by Portuguese team of Joao Araujo Sousa & Joanna Correia Silva). Later online reading confirms what my eye assumes at the time — yes, it is inspired by the silhouette of a lighthouse. It was also, when active, a drop-off point for charitable donations of food and clothing.

But my eye is drawn as much by the lake as by the art, by that horizontal line ‘way out there, slicing water from sky — or, perhaps, seaming them together.

And I think again, as I do every time I am here on the Beaches boardwalk, I think about Rita Letendre’s acrylic on canvas, Aforim.

When I stare at it in the Art Gallery of Ontario, I think about this stretch of beach. When I am on the beach, I think about the painting.

You see?

Good news for all admirers of this great Quebec artist: the AGO will mount a retrospective of her work, Rita Letendre: Fire & Light, from 19 June to 17 September.

  • WALKING… & SEEING

    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

    "The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes" -- Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

    "A city is a language, a repository of possibilities, and walking is the act of speaking that language, of selecting from those possibilities" -- Rebecca Solnit, "Wanderlust: A History of Walking"

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