X-Power

22 October 2018 – I’m not sure how to pronounce it, but I for-sure like the results when womxn street artists are invited to paint up a storm in a particular city alley.

I’m here thanks to a tip-off from Chloe, another onetime AGO colleague who has turned into a continuing good friend. She’d have cause to know about this 2018 project: apart from anything else, it’s virtually across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario — in the alley on the north side of Dundas, between McCaul & D’Arcy streets.

So right after Anthropocene, I cross the street and left-turn into the alley from McCaul. First up, a big black blank canvas — probably not part of the project, but something Chloe told me to check, since it is regularly repainted with another quote. Current version is:

One other person is prowling the alley, camera in hand. I mean, a real camera, with attachments and everything. Backpack Guy and I dance around each other very agreeably all the way down the block.

And there’s lots to see.

Down at the end of that long shot, you’ll see the multi-coloured suggestion of this (I think) leopard, who leaps right at me once I reach that particular garage door.

He’s in high contrast with an image more often associated with women …

I particularly like the jaunty angle of the needle.

There are eyes, twice over …

and dancing cranes …

and dancing water-babies. A splashy great mix of diving styles, complete with a couple of exuberant cannonballs.

As I head back to Dundas West, one final message.

Life philosophy all wrapped up in a tongue-twister. I twist my tongue around it a time or two, as I wait for my streetcar.

Time With Grit & Grime

15 September 2018 – Grab it all, drink it all in, right? Revel in eco-sculptures one day, but go prowl alleys & street corners the next …

And so here I am, back in Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, back on Main Street. Where I discover another click-clack-fall-is-back:

This street piano is still on the street, but locked up tight. (Only later, looking at my photos, do I see that piano keys are painted on the padlock.)

A silenced piano, but fair enough. There are not many people still patio-lingering to enjoy it, even had it been open for use.

I’ve been pretty sketchy about discovering this year’s Mural Festival contributions to the neighbourhood, so I double back onto Watson — looks like an alley, but it’s a legit street with its very own name — to go see what might be there.

If there is a new mural nearby, I don’t see it. I’m struck instead by this hopeful message — I interpret it as hopeful — on a dumpster.

Bit farther north, and I get to pay tribute to one of my all-time favourite Mural Festival offerings, this one a veteran from 2016.

Oh, I love this wolf. (And the companion wolf, out of frame.) It’s more than aesthetic appreciation, I realize: I stumbled on the 2016 crop of murals by accident, while visiting that year, not even knowing that a Mural Festival took place. So there’s a whole serendipity-lucky-charm current of warmth I feel, every time I see him again.

More wandering, and eventually I’m on E. Broadway (aka 9th Ave.), just west of Main. I side-slip into the alley & bend myself back-back-back, peering up-up-up, to pay proper attention to this glorious fire escape, with its entirely improbable cross-stitch of artwork, top to bottom.

All that, and one of those big boxy Vancouver hydro poles to complete the image.

I straighten up, and discover a Millennial right next to me, busy taking the same shot. “I saw you & wondered what you were looking at,” she confesses once she too is again vertical. “It’s cool.”

Farther west on Broadway, and a tattered poster I don’t understand, but the devil-baby graphics suck me in. Then I decide I like the larger composition even better: Manhattan Project + devil-baby + “Faro” +  the battered, barricaded windows + assorted scribbles.

The city — any city — just keeps throwing up these random art installations, the elements assembled by chance and disparate hands & intentions. Some cohere, some don’t. (Oooo, aren’t I playing the Deep Thinker! I’ll stop now.)

I don’t have any of these Deep thoughts at the time. I am immediately distracted by a bright red poster next to the devil-baby ensemble, and move in to read the fine print.

Later I find Expressions of Belonging online, and discover these events are being organized by a local Master’s student, not as part of her studies, just as a way to encourage human connections within the urban web. Coming up 23 September, so you still have time to mark your calendar if you’re local– but note the venue has moved to the Kitsilano Community Centre.

One last citizen of the urban web who demands our attention — a creature of many roles but, at this exact moment, playing parking vigilante.

There is always a crow.

 

Another Day, Another Alley

18 August 2018 – An alley was not the plan. The Tuesday Walking Society (Vancouver Division) was out in full twosome force, and the plan was to improve our minds with a hit of heritage architecture.

Specifically, a tour of the interior of this theatre, the largest in Canada when it opened in 1927 …

and once again a sparkling major theatrical presence in the city, following its restoration in the mid-1970s.

Scheduled tours all summer long, arrange ahead or just drop in; all fine.

Except when there is a film shoot that same day. As a polite little notice in the window informs us.

Never mind. We can adapt. If the theatre’s heritage interior is not available, we will console ourselves with its heritage alley right next door.

Welcome to Ackery’s Alley, nick-named for Ivan Ackery, who ran the Orpheum 1935-69 and helped visiting celebrities slip out a side door into the alley when they wanted to avoid adoring fans. Like the theatre itself, the alley deteriorated over time, and stayed scruffy a lot longer.

Until this very summer, in fact, when it became the second of the City’s downtown paint-the-alley projects. It may still be a service alley, but it’s now snazzy as all-get-out.

Good information, yes? Though perhaps you didn’t really need to have that last bit spelled out.

Great waves of colour undulate their way right up the walls …

and all over the recycling bins.

Anti-pigeon spikes are firmly attached to every horizontal surface.

Which, as Mama Pigeon discovers, makes them the perfect fence to support her nest and keep the babies from tumbling out.

I am not sympathetic to pigeons — the sight of them has me humming Tom Lehrer’s ditty, Poisoning Pigeons in the Park — but I catch myself applauding Mama P. for her ingenuity.

We repeatedly have to stop gawking at the alley’s paint job and leap out of the way of delivery trucks, threading their way through the narrow space, guided by Useful Guy working the film shoot.

He gets a moment to breathe between vehicles; that gives us a moment to admire his arms. He’s as snazzy as the rest of the alley!

And then finally away we go, Frances & I, walking on north through town, vaguely planning to reach Burrard Inlet somewhere around Canada Place, where we will then — probably — follow the seawall west for a bit.

An hour or so later, the time accounted for not by kilometres walked but diversions enroute, we reach Canada Place. The cranes on the Port of Vancouver’s Centennial Pier punch a dramatic orange through the haze, but the Coast Range Mountains, just across the Inlet, are almost totally obscured.

It is not a romantic mist, it is not Rain City about to have a rainy moment. It is wild fire smoke.

More than 500 fires are burning province-wide as I write this. We pause a moment, think about all the displaced people, all the exhausted fire fighters, all the terrified wild life, all the trees … all the loss.

We are sombre as we walk on.

Our mood doesn’t lighten until we pass this notice on a blocked staircase.

Oh! Sorry! is that one image too many? Am I boring you?

I apologize…

Murals! and a Festival To Go With ‘Em

14 August 2018 – It’s been wicked hot around here, but politely cooled of to low 20s for the big Mural Festival weekend. It also politely didn’t rain, so we are all happy.

Murals are everywhere, well everywhere in the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, the Festival’s traditional home, radiating all around its Main Street spine.

Big new richly complex murals, covering three walls …

sassy cartoon-image monkeys, bright-eyeing you over some alley wheelies …

even the whole side wall of a house on a residential street.

But a mural festival is more than murals, it is also a festival. With people! and dogs! and food! and games!

Start with a dog. Waiting so patiently while his owners linger over coffee in the pop-up café painted into place on E 14th at Main. Once you’ve sufficiently adored the dog, run your eye up the left side of the photo, and locate the tiny little head immediately below the grey car, last in line parked there on the right hand side of the street.

Got it? Good.

 

That’s the head of this pianist at the far end of the pop-up café. Undoubtedly another reason Fido will have to wait a while for his owners to tear themselves away and start exploring again.

 

Never mind, I’m exploring. Including food options, for later.

There is some good food on offer, including Venezuelan arepas that tempt me mightily. Then there’s  day-glo cotton candy. I gag slightly, at the sight — but I remember lapping it up as a kid.

Which is what this toddler is about to do. She has turquoise smeared across her face in no time flat.

Farther down Main, a young girl is totally absorbed in an artist at work …

while, elsewhere, a besotted couple are totally absorbed in each other and ignoring an artist at work.

One girl stops in an alley to take a photo of the bright hanging streamers …

another stops on Main Street to make some art of her own …

and everybody stops to chalk up some creative time on this E 8th wall & sidewalk at Main.

Trim white tents line 3-4 blocks of Main (car-free for the event), with some very fine displays of artists’ crafts.

There’s the other kind of retail stuff, too. What would a festival be, without it?

Nifty cats or not, there are better things to do with your legs.

Bald-guy-with-beard, for example, has just leapt high to drive a power shot that sent his opponent  scrambling to retrieve the ping-pong ball. With everyone watching & smirking like hell as he scrambles.

Even better use for your legs: hop onto the Sínulhkay & Ladders board, and sharpen your ability to decolonize your actions. The work of Squamish artist Michelle Nahanee, it invites players to notice the post-colonial thinking rewarded by a ladder boost, and old-era colonial thinking that slides you down a sínulhkay.

I’m heading for home, walking west along yet another alley, over by Quebec St. near E 7th.

Liz & Phil! How nice of them to turn up.

I spend a moment wondering how many people who understand hash tags & selfie references will also recognize the very young Liz & Phil. A quite splendidly cross-generational challenge, I decide.

A few more steps down the alley, and … no challenge here. Everyone will get this. (And jump in for a selfie.)

This is Rain City, after all.

 

 

 

Wide-Eyed

31 July 2018 – I’m on Helmcken, almost at Granville, minding my own business. I see Very Feminine eyes on the wall. She is staring, wide-eyed.

Next to her, Very Masculine eyes. Also staring, and also wide-eyed (in a Very Masculine sort of way).

Chef Guy, however, is looking down.

 

But then, he is part of what the other two are staring at: the entrance to the alley smack opposite their wall, immediately west of Granville.

The least I can do is go take a look for myself. With my real, live human eyes. Wide open.

The first thing that catches my attention is the scruffy wall. The scurfy wall. All rust streaks and bubbling, peeling paint. Rust speaks of many ugly things — but it is a beautiful colour, is it not?

I don’t pay a lot of attention to Chef Guy. I’m more taken with the protruding edge of that fire escape to his right, yet another example of one of my favourite (imaginary) mathematical concepts: Geometry at Work.

On down the alley. Admire that fire escape.

I’d rather admire it, than have to use it.

And on down past that, to the mural.

I stand back far enough to see it as an urban art installation, framed by hydro poles and a delivery truck. Signed AA Crew (street artists Virus, Tar and Dedos), an important presence, I discover, at the city’s 2017 Muralfest. It’s a timely discovery, with Muralfest 2018 coming up August 6-11.

And then I’m out the other end of the block, back to Granville, on south to Drake.

My eye is still in for street art, planned or found, and I decide the repaint job for Wildlife Thrift Shop qualifies.

And I catch my bus for home.

 

 

“This Is Toronto”

9 March 2018 – I borrow the title and, in a bit, will show you the source.

What a good time I am having, in this visit to my old home town! Above all, for beloved friends. But also for the sheer pleasure of once again prowling the city’s alleys & streetscapes.

Enjoyment comes naturally. I don’t need this command to STOP and enjoy.

I enjoy …

Mural cat, with balloons …

and porch cat, with Jesus and a pair of cardinals …

and a pair of dogs …

a pair of caterpillars …

and a whole birdo animal fantasia.

I enjoy the long-view impact of one exuberant garage …

and the up-close impact of a love letter to Pete …

and a tribute to Baxter.

There is life guidance on offer.

Lower-right, tucked into this alley-corner mural, for example:

Here I must stop shooting photos at you and add a few more words.

The quote is beautifully lettered, and attributed to Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris. I carefully say “attributed,” because I cannot find it online. Which doesn’t disprove the attribution and, either way, I am charmed. Charmed to see the loving reference to Lawren Harris on a downtown alley corner.

Also charmed by the quote itself, which includes the lines: “It is blasphemy / to be merely moral … / to succumb to second-hand living”

Let us never succumb to second-hand living.

Less elegant, just as urgent, the guidance offered in the upper-right corner of this cinder block wall, over there in black, above the black grill and the black car.

I see a doorway tribute by someone who follows that advice, who explicitly promises never to give up on love …

and an implicit, and unexpected, message of respect.

Yes! Respect. The mural covers the wall and touches upon the parking sign, but — deliberately and carefully — does not obliterate it.

I usually curl my lip at stencil work. I make an exception for this statement, and I am delighted to run into it twice, in two days.

Later, I stand mesmerized on a street-corner, dancing my eyes around this big, bright, multi-coloured, multi-imaged proclamation of joy.

Can you read the inscription? Small letters, above the artwork, just to the left of the wooden hydro pole.

It says: “This is Toronto.”

And so it is.

Now Playing!

25 February 2018 – And then … it snowed again. A big old wet-sloppy storm whumping in off the Pacific.

Media weatherpersons put on serious faces.

Black Dog Video chalked up a signboard.

“Bad drivers” and “slush puddles” are universal phenomena. “Translink” = public transit.

Not my problem, that day. I didn’t have to go out, so I didn’t. Instead, I could take a disinterested view of the storm, and admire frosted trees from the warmth of my own living room.

But today I was out. Out there in the slush puddles. My reward was this canoe & bedsprings arrangement in an alley just off Quebec St.

The bedsprings, I assume, are for the toss. But surely the canoe is a keeper?

Why else would you plant tulips in it?

Street Sights

1 December 2017 – Well, there’s the pavement, of course.

But the pavement has plenty of companions, to keep it from feeling all lonely & dull.

Ground-hugging toadstools (genus Ventilationii), for example ..

and up-thrust daisies (same genus) …

crows on wires (real & faux) …

and leapin’ lemurs …

a kaleidoscope moose …

and a high-flying toro …

a beating heart …

a cryptic message from the heavens …

and the gentle protection, we hope …

of a guiding spirit right here in the neighbourhood.

 

Not-Toronto Alley

31 August 2017 – No, no! You do not go looking for one city in another, judging the latter by how much it does, or doesn’t, resemble the former.

So I am slightly embarrassed to confess that this alley immediately reminds me of Toronto alleys that I have walked & loved.

But it is not Toronto.

It is Vancouver. Lower east side Vancouver (between W. Cordova & W. Hastings, and Richards & Homer).

Still, it is very reminiscent, is it not?

I am a tad nostalgic, as I watch this old fellow pause to light his cigarette and then slowly wander on his way.

A whole lotta paint on this walls. No wonder this aerosol can is lying flat, exhausted.

(The cat, of course, would not dream of slumping in exhaustion.)

Even a bare pole isn’t quite bare.

I haven’t seen this little red Angry-Mask before, but suspect it has been pinned to many other surfaces as well.

On the pavement beneath my feet, more art work.

 

Then there’s Peek-a-Boo, with Dumpster. (Vincent Van Gogh Division.)

And Peek-a-Boo, with Truck.

And Peek-a-Boo, with Shoulder.

I emerge.

And pretty soon, on the edge of Gastown, I’m enjoying a different vista entirely.

On the right, the 1910 Dominion Building, Vancouver’s first steel-framed high-rise (once the British Empire’s tallest building); on the left, and wonderfully sympathetic in its architecture, a market-price residential tower in the redeveloped Woodward’s complex.

Definitely not Toronto! Definitely Vancouver.

 

Gallery Lane

18 August 2017 – Not named on any City-issued map of Vancouver, but right there on the Muralfest map: “Gallery Lane.” I’m back, the day after the big party, to explore what I missed the first time around. Judging by all the bright red dots on the map, I missed a whole lot, up and down the Lane.

So in I slide, dropping north from East Broadway into the alley between Quebec Street & Main. Right away I love it, it’s all grungy and eye-popping at the same time. A poster for the Mural Festival, its backdrop a tired old fire escape on the corner building…

Two more steps into the alley, and paff! A dumpster. A dumpster as set upon by Oksana Gaidasheva and Emily Gray, leaping with colour and life.

I practically fall into that corner owl, as mesmerized as any unlucky field mouse by those glaring eyes.

This starts well! I am happy.

On down the alley I go, prowling, pausing, cocking a head & a hip, again  & again.

Side trip just north of East 8th, to the Wrkless face at the end of a short cul-de-sac.

Look how it’s framed! Every element just right, stairs & security lights & wheelies & litter & windows & walls. The perfect streetscape art installation.

And now, just for the next few images, I want you to flip between this post and its predecessor, Main-ly Murals. ‘Cause we’re now in the East 7th & Main parking lot — bounded on the west by Gallery Lane — where, on Saturday, I showed you all those parking slots being turned into works of art.

Yes, cars are back in the lot, but the art still dances.

And yes, the women I photographed lifting the stencil off their car-slot left behind something terrific.

And yes! It turns out those kids creating the text mural knew all about apostrophes after all.

I fussed away, in the previous post, at their initial “Its” instead of “It’s.”

Well.

I am happy to show the world that I misjudged them.

A short conversation with a woman who carefully parks in a non-decorated slot & wields her own camera, and then on I go, north again in Gallery Lane.

I stand at East 4th, look back south, and have to stretch wide my eyes.

Behind the parking lot on the right, Andy Dixon’s big mural. Wrapped all around the building on the left, mural work by a team: Bronwyn Schuster, Lani Imre, Tia Rambaran, Amanda Smart.

One of the things I like best is that all this art becomes part of the working city. The alley is purely functional: vehicles block your view, mural segments painted across doorways disappear every time a truck has to drive into the garage.

And, all around, City workers are collecting trash, and pruning trees — here at the Main St. corner of that blue mural-wrapped building shown above.

I spin on my heel, head north again, bounded on my left by Jane Cheng’s blue-&-white fence work.

Across East 3rd, and I’m in Bunny & Bear territory.Thank you Carson Ting.

Also — did you notice? — another ripped T-shirt hanging on a utility pole.

I’ve noticed 4 or 5 by now, so it wasn’t the one-off that I thought on Saturday when I saw, literally, only one.

And the T-shirts are not all pure white, the art limited to careful rips & tears.

Which reminds me: I am hungry.

I head home.

  • 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"

  • Recent Posts

  • Walk, Talk, Rock… B.C.-style

  • Post Categories

  • Archives

  • Blog Stats

    • 88,443 hits
  • Since 14 August 2014

    Flag Counter
  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 1,633 other followers

%d bloggers like this: