More Quotes, Some Keys, a Ferry, & a Dragonfly

28 June 2017 – Isn’t it always the way? You’ve never heard of something, and then you do, and then it jumps on you from all sides.

I’d never heard of John Muir, Scottish-born poet & naturalist (1838-1914), until Sally sent me the quote that opened a recent (Art of Quote-Unquote) post. A couple of days later, I’m entering the VanDusen Botanical Garden with my friend Louise, and there, beautifully incised into the glass doorway, is another Muir quote: “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”

(Checking it later online, I discover another I like a lot: “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” The dirt-path strategy for happiness?)

We’re not in this stunning botanical garden for doorway quotes. We have come to walk the grounds, to enjoy all the collections, all the “rooms,” from the serenely austere Stone Garden to the Meditation Garden, the Sino-Himalayan collections, the Elizabethan Maze and more.

And we do. Oh, we certainly do. But we also admire the works of art in the grounds.

Including a piano.

It’s not much of a functioning piano by now, just look at those keys. But with seagulls like that swooping around (the work of Ilya Viryachev), you don’t mind.

Louise explains that the city has had several years of placing pianos in public — a CityStudio project called “Keys to the Streets” — and I realize I have seen a few about.

With more to come!

The next day I’m walking again — and again in brilliant sunshine, take that soggy Toronto, these two cities seem to have swapped weather patterns. This time in a loop around False Creek. Frances & I head west along the south side, then north across the Burrard St. bridge, its elegant Art Deco lines signalling its 1930s construction.

I stop to admire the view, and pound a few more geographic factoids into my brain.

False Creek flows into English Bay, into Burrard Inlet, into the Strait of Georgia … That’s Bowen Island, beyond that Vancouver Island, beyond that the Pacific Ocean …

We head back east on the north side. At David Lam Park, we hop around the stepping stones that encircle Don Vaughan’s temple-like sculpture, “Marking High Tide and Waiting for Low Tide,” reading the inscription as we go.

Hop, hop …

Hop, hop …

It’s just one of numerous pieces of public art around False Creek, and I like it a lot.

Now for something else I like a lot: a trip on one of the cheerful little ferry boats that shuttle back & forth! I jump aboard at the Yaletown Dock, for a quick crossing to Spyglass Place, back on my side of the Creek.

Spyglass Place Dock is a whole art installation all by itself: comfy bear-chairs for contemplating the view, artwork underfoot and all around … and, look, a piano.

This one is working just fine, thank you, its keys highly responsive, the pianist enthusiastic, and the rest of us charmed.

I contemplate a dragonfly.

I remember another piano in my recent past — this one plain blue, but startling for all that.

It was attached to a bicycle, though nicely stationary at the time in Woodward’s Atrium, part of the Hard Rubber Orchestra‘s open rehearsal for its first summer-time “Spacious Music at the Atrium” concert.

The music was good, the acoustics terrific, I made note of future concert dates.

So, pianos firmly in mind, it’s no wonder I see another as I make my way back south on Cambie. This one is in a much less appealing environment — a shopping mall food court — but it’s also part of the City’s public pianos initiative.

And it is also being played. Where the toddler in Spyglass Place ran to, shall we say, personal random expression, this guy is definitely into stride.

I hum my way home.

Where, via email, I collect one more quote!

Cake-Quotable

Thank you, Phyllis.  She was out Dundas St. West, in Toronto’s Junction area, and came across this bakery sidewalk signboard.

All right, everybody. Eat up.

 

 

The Art of Quote-Unquote

22 June 2017 – It began with an email from my friend Sally, off kickin’ up her cowgirl heels in Alberta, sharing a quote she read on the washroom wall in the Bear Paw Café in Jasper:

Off to the woods I go

To lose my mind

And find my soul

The washroom scribbler helpfully added attribution: Scottish-American naturalist John Muir (1838-1914),  whose poetry is very findable online. As well as on washroom walls.

All of which got me thinking again about quotations, and how we use them, and respond to them, in public space.

A thought process much stimulated by the tail end of a long walk into/through/out of Stanley Park, ending in downtown Vancouver, where walking companion & friend Frances pointed out some landmark buildings, including the soaring Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel.

It was sufficiently intriguing to pull me back downtown the next day, solo, to look more closely.

Enroute, walking north on Hamilton St., I did a head-snap at this line of text on an otherwise unremarkable little building.

Confession. I originally read the text as: “Unlimited Growth Increases the Dividend.

This is richly ironic, given that artist Kathryn Walter’s 1990 installation is meant to decry rampant capitalism, and honour Del Mar Inn owner George Riste, who refused to sell out to BC Hydro and continued to offer clean accommodation at modest prices.

A major contrast, in scale and price point, with the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel, at Cordova & Burrard!

But look. They have something in common.

Text.

This time in two-foot-high letters, Helvetica Bold (I love that detail), the 2010 work of British artist Liam Gillick. Repeated, again and again, between floors 5 & 22, dividing the hotel portion from the 25 additional residential floors above.

A single sentence, wrapping two sides of the structure.

lying on top of a building

the clouds looked no nearer than when I was lying on the street

I really love this, even if the unspaced letters make it hard to read.

Frances & I spent perilous long moments mid-street, puzzling it out. (Changing traffic signals & some vestigial instinct for survival caused us to scurry to the sidewalk in time.) I am more prudent on my return visit.

Safely back home again, I think about another artist who makes brilliant use of text in some of his public pieces — Toronto’s Eldon Garnet. A favourite example: his 1995 Time & A Clock installation on Queen St. East, which includes this adaptation of a Heracleitus quote on the façade of the 1911 bridge over the Don River.

Sometimes, words & images fight it out for supremacy.

Sometimes, though, the fit works perfectly.

 

 

 

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.

  • 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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