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.

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?

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

“Live, Love, Paint”

There’s Elizabeth Gilbert, American author … and then there’s Spud1, Toronto street artist.

I don’t see his garage mural with this upper-left-corner mantra until later in my walk, but, belated or not, it perfectly sets my theme.

detail, spud1 garage mural nr Danforth & Pape

I’m walking east on Danforth, heading for Main St. or farther, but of course soon find myself wiggling around alleys just north of Danforth. Lively as the street always is, I am endlessly curious about what might be going on behind its store-fronts.

Lots is going on, is the answer. Even in this modest little stretch between Logan & Greenwood.

I’m attracted by this long line of colour blocking. No rambunctious alley art here, just pure hits of colour.

Red. Black. Turquoise. White.

nr Logan & Danforth

I reach the far side of the white building, look left, & start to laugh.

It’s time for rambunctious!

alley off Danforth

The fish in that right-hand garage is particularly splendid.

detail, right-hand garage

Next comes Spud1 — aka Spud, and, especially earlier, Spudbomb, when he was mostly known for his happy-face hand grenades. He’s been branching out in style more recently, and isn’t this a fine example? First I see a curled-up fox; later I see his name.spud1 garage mural

Mantra as promised, upper-left corner.

Some other Big Names in these alleys, including Cruz1art.

I’d like to call this a pink panther, with a bow to Inspector Clouseau, but suspect he’s more likely a tiger. Or something else. (I’m the one who called a baboon a lion in All Along the Milky Way & had to be gently corrected by DJ in a comment, so what do I know?)

Anyway, he’s pink, & he’s pretty certainly a Big Cat, let’s go with that.

cruz1art garage mural

Then there’s haunting lady with mattresses …

artist name covered, if there

Usually alley mattresses are grubby & potentially crawling with life you’d rather not meet. These are pristine, each tidily wrapped, per bed-bug bylaws. Another mystery of alley life.

A whole fence of drip art, over by Donlands.

Look at this, think how ugly the underlying fence really is, and join me in thanking whoever decided to make it, instead, a work of art.

nr Donlands & Danforth

Some sort of Big Cat earlier; three more cats to round out the tour.

I’m practically at Jones when I see The Jazz Cats. This is wonderful! I first saw this cheeky image several winters ago, and here he still is. A little battered — but what true alley cat is anything else?

high on a wall nr Jones

A much sketchier alley cat, but also quite gloriously battered.

guarding an alley intersection...

And, to close, my favourite cat of all.

He is alive-alive-o, sashaying down the alley like he’s channelled Mae West, passing one garage mural & another, and another, and another … and then he makes his choice.

He sits.

the cat that got the canary...

Of course he chooses the canary. (Oh that Uber 5000.)

 

“Happy Tuesday”

9 November 2016 – The sign has no political import, you understand. It’s just doing its sidewalk job, drumming up business for the café inside — and very time-efficiently at that. Why write a whole new sign, when you can just edit one word?

repurposed café sidewalk sign

But the Tuesday Walking Society is out there on November 8. This is Election-Tuesday in the USA, a day that will make a lot of Americans very happy indeed.

Others, not so much.

In fact, enough others are unhappy enough to cause the Canadian Citizenship and Immigration website to crash the following day. More immigration inquiries than it could handle.

But on Tuesday itself, nobody knows any of this. It’s a warm, sunny morning in Toronto, and Phyllis & I are working our way west on Bloor Street to Christie Pits Park, located at — you guessed it — Christie Street.

A few blocks short of the park, we dive into an alley just north of Bloor. Look! Raccoons!

alley to the east of Christie St., n. of Bloor

Two surprises. First, they are painted on a garage door, not live on the ground. And, second, I find them delightful. (Not necessarily my attitude to their marauding live cousins.)

We have no particular reason to visit the park, except we haven’t done so in a while, and it’s as good a starting point as any for further exploration.

Fall colours have been muted this year, we agree, but the golds are still blazing throughout the park.

still brilliat trees, Christie Pits Park

We kick through the leaves underfoot, wrinkle happy noses at the distinctive aroma, cock our ears to the distinctive sound.

We see a big, blue canoe. Phyllis stops, so do I, but I also murmur, “It’s awfully scruffy…”

Community Canoe, in Christie Pits Park

“It’s meant to be,” she replies. (The world’s gentlest reprimand.)

“That’s what native species do, this time of year…” And she then explains Community Canoe, the network of pollinator-friendly canoe gardens, part of the Homegrown National Park Project.

Leaving the park, I turn back for a moment to watch four ladies practise their morning tai chi. Sure, peaceful movements, in a warm, peaceful dip in the ground.

tai chi i Christie Pits Park

Distinct change of mood as we begin exploring neighbouring streets & alleys!

More urban wildlife in an alley off Ossington, once again painted not live.

alley nr Ossington n. of Bloor

Pigeons.

As with the raccoons, I find the painted variety delightful, the live variety somewhat less so. (In fact, when it comes to pigeons, I tend to agree with Tom Lehrer.)

More alleys in the general area, some with very fine murals, others that owe their impact more to Mother Nature than to any local artist.

another Ossington area alley

A bit farther north in the alley, though, some happy murals.

A giddy flower …

Ossington-area alley

and smiling faces in an Elicser mural. (The very first smiles I have seen on any work by this artist.)

same alley, farther north

We walk a lot more — up to Dupont, as far west as Lansdowne, south to Dundas and then head east again.

The loop eventually brings us to Trinity Bellwoods Park. I drag Phyllis to a vaguely remembered stretch of pavement, a place where various pathways intersect near the north-east corner of the park.

I want to know if “Sun slant low…” is still visible on the pavement, or if time has scuffed it away.

It is faint, but still there. I am so pleased.

in the N/E corner of Trinity Bellwoods Park

I had to come home & look up old records to see when I first noticed, first photographed, this extraordinary love poem to the sun’s yearly trajectory.

There! 20 December, 2014. (Click: you’ll be rewarded with the full text.)

And when better to honour the poem, than as we approach the winter solstice?

 

And then I turned the corner …

5 November 2016 – I was trying to find something else.

I found this instead.

nr Pape & Queen East

I think it is by Jarus – it has that look about it, and there is a signed Jarus portrait nearby.

 

 

Towers, Terracotta, & a Joke or Two

19 September 2016 – By now Mary & I are having our first how-about-lunch thoughts, but they’re still just gentle background murmurs, nothing to focus on. (Or even, on which to focus…)

So let’s all focus here instead.

On this otherwise so-what photo of the Lansdowne subway station. Please notice the little wet paint sign.

Bloor line subway station

Now look at it again.

And if you’re still all “????”, read it yet again. Spell it out to yourself, letter by letter.

Joke # 1, as promised above.

All our wandering has dropped us south to Bloor Street, so we head north-ish again, following a very handsome fence along TTC lands north of the subway station. They’re doing something-or-other in there, and the usual chain-link is covered with really attractive, locally relevant, silhouette images.

My attention is first caught by a detail, though, not the big picture. I like the way wild vines just go where they want to, including right through an art installation if it happens to be in their path.

fence north from Bloor between Paton & Wallace

And I really like the local references, though not being local I can’t decipher them all. This one I do recognize, especially since the real thing to which it pays homage, the water tower, is visible in the background.

TTC fence with image & real water tower

Up & around, and soon we’re back on Wallace Av., east of Lansdowne, at the GO train tracks, with a good look at that water tower.

“Symbol of the Junction,” says Mary. Originally part of the Canada General Electric complex, in the Junction’s industrial heyday, it has since declined & again risen with the fortunes of the area itself, now a handsome exclamation mark for a location with renew energy & purpose.

the old, now repurposed, CGE water tower on Wallace at the GO train tracks

We cross the tracks, pay a moment’s attention to Mr. Red Bull …

on Wallace, just west of the GO train tracks

head north to Dupont, and carry on west.

Thoughts of lunch are becoming more insistent. Assorted little cafés on offer, we pick the one promising Ecuadorian cuisine and, with muted Ecuadorian fútbol on the big screen & Ecuadorian love songs on the sound system, we study the Ecuadorian menu. I choose a whole feast of ceviche — it’s been so long! — and we amiably discuss past adventures in Peru while waiting for the food.

It’s good, we eat well, and out the door again.

To have ourselves another Spudbomb moment.

Dupont at Symington

We goggle. We’re both used to his garage & wall murals, this is a whole other thing — and what fun! Otherwise it’s just a sad old vacant corner lot (Dupont & Symington, if you’re curious), how much better to let Spudbomb prance all over it.

Farther west, still on Dupont if memory serves, a palimpsest moment.

faded advertising, on Dupont west of Symington

We cock our heads side to side, as if shaking our eyes will clarify the image. We can half-read it, but wholly don’t care — it’s lovely the way it is, a muted, gently faded murmur from the past.

West & west we go, closing in on the second target of our walk.

Remember Sally the White Elephant, ‘way back on Yarmouth, near Christie St.? Now we’re tracking down 20 Jerome St. — which takes us just over Dundas St. West, and down Indian Rd. a tad, and left on Jerome.

To sneak up on this …

20 Jerome St.

I know. You rub your eyes. You know you’re looking for the Terracotta House, and this sure is terracotta, so you are conceptually prepared for the sight … but you still rub your eyes.

Terracotta House, 20 Jerome

NOW magazine gave the back story. It was built in 1905 by a man named John Turner, who owned a flourishing construction business and thought this a splendid way to use up left-over materials from other projects — and, bonus, to advertise his business in the process.

detail, 20 Jerome St.

We don’t know whether it pulled in new contracts or not. We do know that it has survived to this day, and will continue to do so, now being included in Toronto’s inventory of Heritage Properties.

(That house, depending on your sense of humour, may or may not qualify as a joke. Hence the careful “joke or two” in this post title!)

End of walk, time to drop down to the Dundas West subway station at Bloor — but of course we find an alley to get us there.

With a very cheerful mash-up right at the corner …

alley south fro Abbot, west of Dundas W.

and words to live by, farther south.

alley s. from Abbott, w. of Dundas West

Oh all right, one word to live by.

 

 

  • 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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