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…

So T.O.

25 March 2017 – As you all know by now, many things in Vancouver make me wriggle with delight. Moss, mountains, ocean, rain, signs about rain, images of rain … you name it, I’m wriggling.

But I have to say: when it comes to wandering down a lane to see what you can see, Toronto is usually more fun.

Starting with the name.

Which of course sends me online, searching. Thanks to number 10 in the list, I learn why this little lane just S/E of Queen E. & Jarvis is called Bootlegger.

At first it looks disappointingly tidy & polite.

But then … aha …

Love the context? Traffic sign & recycling wheelie & fire escapes & all?  Me too.

I also love the flower-power mural.

So I am satisfied.

Bootlegger Lane has rewarded my detour, and I spin on my heel to walk back out.

And laugh.

One more reward!

Oh, oh, oh, I wriggle with delight … this is so T.O.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But Wait! There’s More!

18 March 2017 – At the risk of sounding entirely like an infomercial, there really is more.

More reigning to the rain than I’d noticed in my previous post.

So … stop!

And walk around the corner with me to see the rest of the parade.

There’s someone with a big purse hung straight down …

and someone with a potted plant (I think) balanced forward …

and someone with assorted gear slung backward.

Each also with a coffee cup, you’ll notice.

And an umbrella!

 

The Rain Reigns

16 March 2017 – You will have noticed my preoccupation — visitor that I am — with Vancouver rain. I’m in good company. Vancouverites obsess about it themselves. Even on hoardings.

Even on hoardings that you’d expect to be all perky green-&-white — in keeping with that coffee chain’s perky green-&-white siren/mermaid/??? logo. (Fierce online debate about what she really is.)

But no. The hoardings around this soon-to-open location are not at all perky, or green-&-white.

Perhaps because said chain got its start in rain-drenched Seattle, just south of the border, these hoardings celebrate ….

rain.

It may not be raining at this very moment, as you can see — but it did! And it will!

At first I’m just amused, but then I decide I like the artwork a lot. It conveys a great sense of curtains of rain, blurring each figure, dancing it in & out of focus.

I also like the fact that these pedestrians are not the least bit trendy. They are just head-down anonymous folk, dealin’ with the rain as best they can.

With the exception of the third figure!

Yes, there is a trio. And Number Three, she is not the least bit head-down.

Distinctly head-up, in fact. And so very pleased with herself.

As am I with myself, an hour or so later.

I have lingered by the fire in JJ Bean with my latte & my paperback, toasting happily in the warmth, and then returned to my temporary nest where I step out onto the balcony …

and go all “Wow-wow” at the dramatic post-rain sky.

 

 

 

 

Symbol City

3 March 2017 — Just a selection of symbols from my own list-to-date, you understand. Images that snag my Toronto eyes; make me exclaim, with delight, “Ohhh, that is so Vancouver!”

Vancouver is trees.

Moss on tree trunks, in the rain …

typical tree trunk, on a residential Mount Pleasant street

palm trees, out there alive-alive-0 in mid-winter …

W. Broadway near Granville

fir trees on industrial wall murals …

detail, an Industrial Flats mural

and tree stump art.

one of two, in front of Telus World of Science, Main St.

Vancouver is people.

First Nations …

Main St., just north of Terminal Av.

Asian …

a shop nr E 15th & Fraser

and everyone.

"Human Structure," by Jonathan Borofsky, Southeast False Creek

Vancouver is pop-up community gardens, in boxes that can move on to the next site …

close to the Cambie Bridge

and clouds on mountains …

North Van, from the Industrial Flats nr Main St.

and clouds all over the sky.

top, with solar panels, of the Solar Bike Tree outside Telus World of Science

Vancouver is Cloud City …

a mural in Industrial Flats

and Rain City …

W. Broadway between Granville & Cambie

and Every Weather City.

truck in Main St. parking lot

With a scoop of ice cream!

 

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?

 

 

  • 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)

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