Wet City: The Sequel

20 February 2017 – The “merde il pleut” attitude (see previous post) …

Main St. at East 11th Av

… is not shared by all.

 

 

Wet City

18 February 2017 – “Wet City.” That’s a clue. Make a guess.

Oh, never mind. The answer is: Vancouver, B.C.

I’m back in Vancouver, and, currently at least, this art gallery in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood has exactly the right name.

art gallery, Main St. nr East 6th

Moments later, in a near-by alley, I see some hot art.

alley s. of East Broadway at Quebec

Though perhaps not exactly what the gallery owners had in mind.

It’s a damp, drizzly sort of Saturday, the moisture so soft & diffuse I mostly don’t notice it & never put up the hood on my jacket. A landscape, & seascape, of gauzey grey.

But… so mild.

Cambie & West Broadway

See? Bare legs. And my jacket is half-open. (I mention all this diffidently. A pet peeve among eastern Canadians is the flood of photos this time of year from BC-coast friends, flaunting their crocuses & snowdrops & lattes out on a café patio.)

On the other hand, pooches must be pampered, even in mild weather.

down near False Creek

I this this warning unnecessary — at least, today. Surely the attraction today would be unguarded expensive umbrellas!

nr Columbia & Broadway

So far, I’ve been looping around East & West Broadway Ave. Now I head on north to the water, to False Creek. Lots of people out & about — with dogs, with kiddies, with their FitBits & serious running gear, with snazzy bicycles — drawn to the parks & the Greenwall (seawall) that define south-east False Creek.

People out on the water as well. Dragon boats skimming in all directions. From ‘way out there somewhere, I can hear a cox barking at his crew, “Just think about what you’re doing!” But that’s the cox’s job, is it not? To bark?

And here’s another dragon boat, just about to set out from Spyglass Place Dock, by the Cambie Bridge. Though that’s not why I’ve stopped. I’ve stopped to enjoy the art.

Spyglass Place Dock, False Creek

Emily Gray is the artist, and if you click, you’ll get an aerial view of this mural.

I like the details all along the edge, including this fat little bumble bee.

detail, mural at Spyglass Place Dock

I walk on east a bit along False Creek, into Hinge Park, admire yet more art. This time on wooden posts out in the water.

just off Hinge Park, looking east along False Creek

But, this time, I can’t tell you the artist. Or anything else about it. I just like it, I like it in combination with the tall towers & the spherical World of Science to the east. I’d like it with the mountains as well — if they were on offer. Which they aren’t.

Because, even though we’re having a moment of watery sunshine, the atmospheric theme du jour is, pervasively, droplets of rain.

pedestrian walkway in Hinge Park

When I reach Olympic Village, I make another stop. This one you can guess…

Of course. For a latte. (Some rituals travel so easily!) Then I walk on east & a bit south, angling to Main Street and my temporary home just beyond.

With a passing glance, on Main near East Broadway, at an editorial comment on life in Wet City.

shop window, Main nr East Broadway

Should I go back & buy it?

 

 

“Be Still My …”

14 February 2017 – “… beating heart!” cries the Tuesday Walking Society, as it takes in the murals at College & Concord.

I know, my Tease promised that my next post would not be from Toronto. But I didn’t know that Phyllis & I would run into a heart-fest, smack on Valentine’s Day, did I?

detail, mural at 860 College St.

Now, that’s a heart.

Toronto-based painter & photographer Johnathan Ball — “neo-futuristic abstract expressionist,” to quote the man himself — opens his website with the entire width of this mural. It’s worth the click. (So are the videos you’ll find if you click on that sub-heading.)

Phyllis & I discuss the dramatic heart. We discuss the ravaged face. (I remember a friend describing the day his toddler grandson patted his wrinkled face & said, “Gwampah! Yoah face is aw cwacked!”

We side-step our way to the left, following this mural, backwards perhaps, to its collision point with the neighbouring mural.

Which is by another artist & at first seems entirely oblivious of its wall-mate. No attempt at stylistic or thematic harmony.

Then we see that Katia Engell‘s work flows into Ball’s.

Definitely co-operative, therefore — but definitely heartless.

mural detail, both Engell& Ball, 860 College

Do not despair.

Another little side-step to the left, and ..

detail, Engell mural, 860 College St.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

The Tease, Revisited

My next post – really! — will not be from Toronto.

 

 

Three Dog Alley

13 February 2017 – Not that I particularly followed Three Dog Night in its heyday, but the name does pop to mind, as my feet lead me into yet another alley.

My friend Chloe & I have just come from the Michael Snow exhibit at the Christopher Cutts Gallery on Morrow St. She is off to work, but me … I have time to follow my feet.

Into this alley, just north of Dundas West before it smacks into Roncesvalles.

Dogs One & Two!

alley e. from Morrow, n. of Dundas

 

I really love this. How silly these woofs are, how ragged the artwork, how raffish the garages; all the elements all floppy & happy together.

And a bit farther down, Dog Three. Different mood.

alley e from Morrow n. of Dundas

Maybe he’s not grumpy, maybe he’s just yowling in happy anticipation of that cup of coffee.

Then again, maybe he really is grumpy. (See that “beware of dog” sign on the fence at the corner?)

I round myself back out onto Dundas, and –bonus — one more dog.

Dundas W nr Howard Park

Except that I, in knee-jerk reaction, true downtowner that I am, I read him as a raccoon. Only later do I see that, no, he is not our wily Urban Bandit with opposable digits, he’s a dawg.

A Tease

Next post will not be from Toronto! I’m off on another adventure … You’ll see.

What the Leopard Spotted

6 February 2017 – Leopard. Spotted. Get it, get it? (Painful nudge in the ribs.) Painful play on words, too, but as seasoned readers know, I am linguistically shameless.

And he is one terrific leopard.

detail of mural, n. side Gerrard just e. of Broadview

I’m walking east on Gerrard, just east of Broadview, mildly surprised to find myself here since I’d meant to get off the streetcar at Danforth but … um … for some dozy reason bailed several stops too soon.

And I am rewarded with this leopard! Detail of a larger mural, the rest of it depicting Chichén Itza, but all I want is the leopard.

So now let’s pretend that he is our guide, our spotter, for the rest of the walk.

A whole flurry of words comes next, as many words as a leopard has spots, you might say.

n. side of Gerrard, e. of Broadview

I confess I still haven’t read every last syllable. So you don’t have to, either. We can still enjoy the conviction, the exuberance, not to mention the steady hand, that transferred all that verbiage from someone’s whirlygig brain to a convenient wall.

And now the leopard & I pad our way softly north to Danforth, and eastward again.

Where we meet more words — but only a chosen few. By a master of words. And curated by an institution devoted to words.

in front of Re:Reading, 548 Danforth

We pause at Greenwood now, leopard & I, just north of Danforth, edge of an alley, and spot another mural. Lots of activity in this one, all of it advertising Lucsculpture School and Studios (“relief through creativity” says the home page).

I like this detail best. Luc himself, I assume.

on alley wall side of Lucsculpture, Greenwood just n. of Danforth

Into the alley.

For a hit of pure alleyscape. A not-very-accomplished red face (or something) on a scruffy doorway, framed by other graffiti scrawls & a chipped black grill locked around a rear staircase. Plus a demure, nicely polished, good-taste, late-model automobile.

alley e. fro Greenwood n. of Danforth

I can’t justify it. I just like it. Sometimes — for me anyway — it’s the juxtaposition of independent elements that creates the art.

Farther down the alley, for a couple of moments of cliché that transcend cliché.

The first cliché is the image, a scrawled face that I have seen on oh-so-many alley walls by now. It’s the gate that rescues it. I dance back & forth, hurriedly adjusting — oops — for the ice beneath my feet, and find the spot that amuses me.

same alley, farther east

Peek-a-boo!

The second cliché is the phrase uttered by a man passing by, who, having called out “Hullo!” then urges me to “Have a nice day.” And he is so cheerful, so meaning the words, that he rescues the phrase. I find myself saying it right back to him.

Then we both smile, and walk on.

 

Cornered

3 February 2017 – These days, my favourite corner in the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario) is, literally, a corner.

This corner — in gallery 229, Canadian permanent collection, 2nd floor.

detail, Gallery 229, AGO

I visit it when I’m walking my beat on shift; I return outside shift hours (e.g. today), just to spend more time with it.

Above all, for me, it’s the wolves.

No. Above all, for me, it’s the electricity between the wolves. Their stance, their gaze, their fierce connection, frames the corner, defines the space.  I cannot, cannot, break that force-field & walk between them. I always go around.

The signage includes a comment by curator Wanda Nanabush, along with the usual artist information.

sign for McEwen wolves, gallery 229

I have my own personal association: my Husky dog Kim, long a cherished memory but still vivid for all that. We’d walk trails and every now & then she’d freeze into exactly that posture, intensely focused on the messages flooding into her brain through nose & ears.

Every time I visit the corner, I drop to my knees behind one wolf or the other, sight down the spine & between the ears as if down a gun barrel, to see as he sees. (I did that once with Kim, walking a trail in Banff National Park. Aligned between her ears, thankfully quite distant, I saw a bear. He, like Kim, was on full alert. We all chose to back up and walk away.)

the McEwen wolves, gallery 229, AGO

One of my favourite paintings in the entire Gallery hangs on the north wall, within the wolves’ triangle of protection.

Aforim, by Rita Letendre

This time the artist herself comments on the work.

signage for Aforim

Here again, I bring my own personal association to the image. I look at this, and I see Lake Ontario from the eastern end of The Beaches, with sky & water married at the horizon in shimmering blue-grey light. I no longer remember if I brought familiarity with Lake Ontario to the painting, or if, one day, I stood at the lake and saw it through the painting.

It doesn’t matter. Each time I visit one, it dances with the other.

The wolves & Rita Letendre are so comfortable with the corner’s third element that I was immediately comfortable as well. Even though I’d never heard of this artist.

Folia #1 and #2, gallery 229

The first time I saw it, I just cocked my head and enjoyed myself. It was maybe my third or forth visit before I got around to reading the signage.

sign for Kubota's Folia Series #1 and #2

Zen Buddhism and wrinkles on the brain. That makes me enjoy the work even more.

My visit today was after my shift, so I could linger as much as I liked. Which I did.

And then I turned to go, with a last look back over my shoulder …

one wolf, with Aforim behind

a last salute to the vigilance of the wolves.

 

 

Magic, Reality, & the Meaning of Life

30 January 2017 – There it is, the meaning of life, aero-sprayed on an alley doorway.

But that comes last, an editorial gloss on my discoveries in this dogleg alley, just south-west of College & Spadina, wandering my way into Kensington Market territory.

I’m in the alley by whim (as I so often am), a momentary detour as I walk home from a Hot Docs presentation of Gabo, an extraordinarily moving & informative documentary about the life & impact of Gabriel García Márquez.

Given the evocative brew of magic & reality in which I have just been immersed, I am perfectly happy to be welcomed into the alley by a pair of very large bunny-rabbits.

Poser bunnies, alley between Oxford & Nassau, S/W of College & Spadina

Poser‘s work, of course.

I notice, too, the neat message (by another hand, I think) in the upper left corner: “Tante Terri, stay strong!” The bunnies are magic, the message is a sliver of someone’s reality.

I barely have time to think about this; I become aware of the growing decibel level of a background voice, clearly drawing closer. I also become aware of a … well … a sound. Hard to define.

Until I look over my shoulder, to see that it is a tire-turned-hoop, rolling merrily in my direction as man-behind-the-hoop yips with delight.

same alley

I yip, too. How could you not?

‘Round the bend in the dogleg, into the public parking segment, & I muse at Lovebot & ANSER, up there with the parking rules & regs.

Muse at the remnants of the artists’ work, perhaps? A very partial little Lovebot, up high, and just the one element of the famous ANSER face below. Did he, or someone else, reduce it to eyes? I think of eyes framed by a veil, with a bindi in-between.

Lovebot & Anser, same alley

Or maybe I’m making far too much of it all. Still, that’s art at its best, right? Art that sets you musing, interacting.

Enough musing; time to laugh.

And what better stimulus than a shocking-pink Poser bunny.

Power-cum-Chagall, same alley

There he is, floating over the city. I think of Marc Chagall’s Over Vitebsk — only a 21-st-c. street artist version, armed with spray-can not knapsack — & I start to giggle.

All this, packed into such a small space!

Everything so unexpected, so engaging, that this final image, as I leave the alley, offers the perfect philosophic framework for it all.

same alley

Meanwhile, Mr. Man With Hoop is still rolling his hoop. We cross paths again as I head out to Spadina. A final shared laugh, a final thumb’s-up, and I’m gone.

 

 

The Fish & the Fox

27 January 2017 – And a mouse, and more fish, and a dragon. With a rooster in mind.

It’s Tuesday, so Phyllis & I are out & about — down east-end trails & parkland by the Lower Don River to Lake Ontario and up again through the Port Lands. To our own surprise, I might add, because the plan had been an assault on west-end city pavement. But sometimes you get distracted, or a streetcar doesn’t arrive,  so you let your feet take you somewhere else.

And it works out just fine, thank you. We’ve walked through Corktown Common & the West Don Lands Park, and here we are on the Lower Don Pan Am Path — legacy of the 2015 Pan Am Games — enjoying not only the expanded bike/walking paths, but the overpass-trestle art work.

pasystem mural, Lower Don Pan Am Path

We’e seen these murals before, but no reason not to admire them again. They are legacy of another event, the 2016 Love Letter to the Great Lakes mural project all over the city.

First up, as you walk south, this glorious fish, the work of a duo with the collective name thepasystem.

There’s the big effect (above), and then there are the tiny details as well. This fish hook, for example, taking cunning advantage of a stray utility wire.

detail, pasystem mural

From fish to fox — a detail in the mural just two trestles along.

detail, EGR mural same project

I love it, I love it; I always love EGR‘s work.  She is a “notorious Toronto visual artist,” says her website, but I think “celebrated” might be the better adjective … And certainly “distinctive.”

Brer Fox is just one detail in her Love Letter mural — here is the rest of it. Complete with mouse.

EGR mural, same Love Letter project

More precisely, the mural on the north face of the trestle. Each face has its own image.

On down the river, into the Port Lands, and a westward stretch on Commissioners St. — where, just possibly, we see more fish.

by a depot on Commissioners St.

Or see the space where the cargo container had been, which might have contained fish.

I like to imagine it was fish — fish from the Arctic waters of Nunavik (northern Quebec), or Nunavut (the adjacent Territory), perhaps. See the syllabics below the English name, KEPA? This company, though based in Val d’Or, Québec, is wholly owned by two Cree communities, the Chisasibi and the Wemindji.

Now south on Cherry St. to Cherry Beach and Lake Ontario.

Whose waters, it is reasonable to assume, teem with yet more fish.

heritage lifeguard station, Cherry Beach

Though that is not why I take this photo. I am fascinated, as I have been all day, by the opacity of the sky, the sun reduced to a faint disc barely glowing through the calm, thick, unbroken grey veil in which it is swaddled.

Never mind! Colour is, almost, to hand.

All we have to do is walk north again on Cherry St., and drop into T&T.

It is more than a huge, Asian-foods supermarket, it is a universe. A place for Asian-Canadian families to find familiar produce and products and — as the T&T website explains — a place for mainstream Canadians to discover the diversity of the Asian food culture. T&T launched in 1993 with two stores in BC; now it has going on 30 or so, in BC, Alberta and Ontario.

And I bet that, right now, every one of those stores features at least one dragon.

Year of the Rooster display inside Cherry St T&T Supermarket

Because Chinese New Year is upon us, ushering in Year of the Rooster.

 

 

 

POP! Go the Chairs

22 January 2017 – It is a totally pissy day (dull, damp, raw, intermittent rain-spittle), & I march out into it anyway.

And I am rewarded.

If waterfront summertime chairs can be this cheerful, if they can go POP! despite the weather, who am I not to join in?

chairs in Harbour Square Park, lakefront & Bay St

I’m in Harbour Square Park, by Lake Ontario just opposite the ferry terminal, starting to walk west along the lake and thinking how my attitude has changed to out-of-season accessories. Such as these Muskoka chairs, for example.

I used to sneer — yes, peaceful broadminded me — when confronted by public facilities designed, so I thought, for one season only. And for summer at that. When we inhabit, in fact, a primarily not-summer environment.

Now I delight in them — the chairs, the huge umbrellas at HTO Park and Sugar Beach, the lot. Why? Because so many others delight in them, and enjoy them year-round. So I am now an old dog with a new attitude. (Woof woof.)

More of those chairs keep popping at me through the drizzle as I walk along.

For example, when I meet Leeward Fleet in Canada Square. Background, but still definitely a presence.

2 of 3 components, Leeward Fleet, Canada Square

I read the signboard, and learn these pivoting structures (by RAW Design) were inspired by iceboat & sailboat technology. “Ancient fleet, blowing in the wind,” says the slogan.

The signboard also excuses me for not having noticed this installation before: it is one of five along Queen’s Quay West that together make up Ice Breakers, an exhibition that only opened yesterday and runs until 26 February.

A little farther west through Harbourfront Park, and my eyes follow my ears, to discover the source of the shrill squeal that fills the air …

marina along Harbourfront Park

Oh, I know, not a Muskoka chair in sight. But we can’t let ourselves be hamstrung by a theme, can we? And the sight does support my “out-of-season” sub-theme. All these little boats in the basin, tucked away for winter, and one man out there anyway — in a T-shirt! — power-drilling his way through an off-season project.

North side of Queen’s Quay, down by the Peter Street Basin, I spot giant hands. And jaywalk to check them out.

Tailored Twins, Queen's Quay W at the Peter Street Basin

Wouldn’t you?

It’s Tailored Twins (Ferris + Associates), another of the Ice Breakers installations, 3-metre-high faceted wooden hands, their golden palms glinting, even on a dark day. “Put your hands where my eyes can see,” says the slogan, and my eyes say thank you.

the west-end of the two hands

Well, that’s fun, and I head back east full of bounce.

Another of the installations, this one Incognito (Curio Art Consultancy and Jaspal Riyait), with — yes — a POP! factor.

Incognito, Queen's Quay W at Rees Street

This time the chairs, highly visible as they are, counter-balance a theme of invisibility. “An invisible city inside a park, can you see it?” The design, the signboard tells me, copies the same camouflaging technique used by World War I warships.

And on east I go, and on, and short winter days mean that by 6 p.m. it is already dark.

I turn north up Jarvis, and at King West see one final chair. This time it is just part of a tableau, and it is the tableau as a whole that goes POP!

through the Second Cup window, Jarvis & King West

I like everything about this scene: a warm, dry refuge glowing into the rainy night; a man ensconced in that refuge, head bent over his acoustic guitar, coffee near to hand.

I pick up the pace, walking on to home. The sooner I am there, the sooner I, too, will have coffee near to hand!

Age & Art, Rocks & Rust

15 January 2017 – We’ll start with the rocks, not that I was particularly looking for them. It’s just that rocks, like glimpses of colour down alleys, attract my attention.

I’m north of Davenport, just east of Christie, in the highly regarded neighbourhood of Wychwood, and I am slightly bored. Everything here is expensively arranged with muted good taste, and I am slightly bored. Then I see this little stack of rocks by someone’s front steps, and I am suddenly very, very happy.

doorstep decoration, Wychwood neighbourhood

I suppose they still fall within the category of “muted good taste” that so far has been annoying me, but now — observing these natural objects, artfully placed to complement each other — I am not at all annoyed. I enjoy their beauty. And their peacefulness. Rocks just are. They quietly, calmly, transcend time.

Around the corner onto Christie Street, and bang! a long stretch of art that must live a more dynamic relationship with the passage of time.

The retaining wall along the east side of the street is covered with a long mural dedicated to Jane Jacobs, the American-born writer & activist who moved to Toronto in 1968. She went on to have profound, lasting influence on our, and the world’s, understanding of urban issues — ethics, governance, culture, the lot.

Her thoughts have stood the test of time; the mural could do with a little help.

JJ mural, Christie St north of Davenport

Though, somehow, I find myself moved by the decrepitude. Can’t explain it, it’s just my response as I walk on south, down the hill.

detail, JJ mural, Christie St.

Each bit battered; each bit still bright, compelling. A survivor.

steps partway down the JJ mural

The mural is interrupted halfway by some side steps, then on & on, down the slope.

detail JJ mural, toward south end

Yet another “face” as I near the southern end …

detail JJ Mural

and finally the face that matters: the impish face of Jane Jacobs herself.

Jane Jacobs, at north end of the quote that anchors south end of the mural

Followed by a short quote, which in very few words manages to demonstrate the many dimensions of her core interest: our cities, and how we live in them.

Cities have the capacity of providing something for everybody,

only because, and only when, they are created by everyone.

This is not an entirely aimless walk, I do have a destination: the mid-afternoon Hot Docs showing near Bathurst & Bloor, so there is a south-east general direction to my meandering. For the moment, it is still south.

On down Christie, now approaching the railway underpass just north of Dupont, where I am again struck by an example of art + age. With the Jane Jacobs mural, age took its toll in what it removed: chips & chunks of the wall itself.

Here at the underpass, age is an addition.

north end, east side, RR underpass at Dupont

Rust.

And again, as with the long mural, I am quite moved by the combination. It is still art … just with the added dimension of time. A commentary.

East on Dupont now, thinking it perhaps time to pick up my pace. Pause briefly at this bit of plywood. Behind it, something has been knocked down, victim of age if you like; something else will be erected in its place. And here on the plywood, a very temporary moment of art.

on south side Dupont between Christie & Bathurst

It will not withstand any test of time. But meanwhile, it’s loopy, and it’s fun.

To the corner, right turn, south on Bathurst. Shop windows now, and various amuse me, none more than this one:

1050 Bathurst, laundromat

There! We have answered George Carlin’s 1985 riff (“Losing Things”) on the ultimate destination of lost socks. As of 2015 at least, they go to the laundromat at 1050 Bathurst St.  Which is also home, so some online chatter later tells me, to various shows & pop-up shops.

 

Then I notice the time, right there on the Lost Sock wall. Going on 3 o’clock! And me due to meet my friends at 3:15!

I hustle on down the street; we meet, slap-bang on time; and settle down to enjoy Bird on a Wire, the re-discovered documentary of Leonard Cohen’s 1972 European tour.

 

 

  • 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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