Light & Shadow

6 December 2017 – You look at this image, and you say to yourself, “Why, that’s a 19th-c. landau carriage rejigged as a camera obscura!

And you are right. Millennial Time Machine, it is called, created by Rodney Graham in 2003. It is just one of the works of art visible on the UBC campus, showcased in an outdoor art tour under the auspices of UBC’s Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery — number 16 in the online tour guide.

The Tuesday Walking Society (Vancouver Division) is enjoying this brilliantly sunny day, the bold shadows it creates,  & the works of art. We don’t take the official tour; we’re hoofing around on our own.

“Look!” I cry, as we wheel ’round a corner and see a dramatic twined sculpture in the mid-distance. “It looks just like a tuning fork!”

I say it as a joke — but, clever-boots me, that really is the title.

Tuning Fork, 1968, by Gerhard Class (number 2 in the Belkin brochure), is located right outside the main entrance to the UBC Music Building. Well, of course it is.

Our extremely wandering path eventually takes us through the UBC Rose Garden. Nary a rose to be seen, in early December, the bushes are all cut neatly back for winter. But there is still some colour, some seasonal substitute plantings …

“Cabbages!” I say, this time not as a joke since — veteran of Toronto’s Cabbagetown — I think I know an autumnal ornamental cabbage when I see one.

“Kale…” says Frances, who is closer to the display than I am, and kale they are. And very handsome too, glowing in the midday sun.

We zigzag into another enclosure, the pond and forecourt of the University Centre.  I start to laugh. What else can you do, faced with a boat balanced on the tip of its nose?

It’s made of Carrera marble, is Glen Lewis’ 1987 Classical Toy Boat (number 12), and, though now in shade, it outshines the sun. I am mesmerized.

Later I read about its travels: first installed outside the Powerpoint Gallery in Toronto’s Harbourfront, later purchased by the Belkin and installed here.

The write-up invites you to think of it as magically defying gravity. I only realize later that one could perhaps view it tragically, as a sinking boat — but, no, somehow that interpretation never occurs. It is so obviously a happy little toy boat, having a good time.

Down the steps, across the road: Frances & I plan a lunch stop in the Museum of Anthropology. But first, a pre-stop stop, to admire Joe Becker’s Transformation sculpture in a small pool right at the MOA  entrance.

I could describe it for you, but Becker’s own words are so much better:

Even with water turned off (presumably for the season), it is still a powerful, sinuous work of art. And how the roe gleams!

Lunch as planned, and then a quick trip around the exterior of the building itself, one of architect Arthur Erickson‘s masterpieces.

As always, the great linear dynamics catch my attention, and my breath. They please from every angle.

Viewed through the trees, here at the entrance …

or along the side toward the back, with tree shadows dancing on the columns.

Erickson’s inspiration, surely, was the traditional lines of the Haida double mortuary pole. There is a magnificent example in the groupings of poles and buildings behind the Museum — this one designed by Bill Reid and then carved by Reid and Douglas Cranmer, 1960-61.

You look from it to the powerful rear façade of the MOA itself.

Yes. They belong together. They belong on this land, and to this land.


3,364 Km Later…

26 September 2016 – No, I am not in Toronto any more. I am walking north across the Cambie St. bridge in Vancouver, hanging over the rail with my friend Louise to admire dragon boats beneath & mist-draped mountains beyond.

Cambie St. bridge, looking east

We are going walkies, Louise & I, not out to do a bucket list of Vancouver sights, though she is indeed taking me on a sort of tour. Along the way we will drink good coffee, surely enjoy some kind of organized art exhibition (she is an artist, as well as an ESL teacher), but, most of all, we will enjoy the quirky sights that amuse her in her own rambles.

I am all for quirky.

Next up, a quirk indeed — revealed if you carefully position yourself just so on Homer at Smythe to view the heritage building diagonally opposite.

The Homer, Homer & Smythe

“See?” she says, gleefully. “It’s  called ‘The Homer,’ but from here, the tree obscures the second word. You can imagine it is known simply as ‘The.'” We giggle, and swap memories of a greasy-spoon icon in Toronto’s Beaches neighbourhood, known locally as ‘The Goof,’ since some burned out letters mutilate the proud neon claim of ‘Good Food.’

Just a little down Homer from The The, we contemplate a sidewalk that makes way for a tree.

Homer, nr Nelson

People & their dogs swerve right & left; the tree continues to stretch ever more majestically into the sky.

Still on Homer, but down in (I think) the Yaletown neighbourhood by now, and a quick detour into one of Louise’s favourite cafés. She loves the coffee, the food, the old building and, most especially, the name.

café on Homer nr Helmcken

Tourists get to ask the obvious question. I learn that the owner believes we should notice & celebrate any small victory that comes our way — including good coffee.

Down at Hamilton & Helmcken now, definitely prowling Yaletown, I shrug past glittering shops to stroke the twist of rusty metal that makes this bench a sculpture.

Hamilton & Helmcken

l laugh when Louise points out the refrigerated units inside Living Produce Aisle. Reflected towers jumble the shot, but focus on those living sprouts, just waiting for your selection. I know similar stores are found else where, but it does seem… so very west coast.

sprouts sprouting, on Hamilton nr Davie

We loop back on ourselves, find ourselves again on Homer with The The in sight. This time approaching from the other direction, with other things to admire.

Nature’s gift of sparkling blue hydrangea blossoms …

shrub on Homer, nr Smythe

and the City’s gift of scattered leaves, pressed into these sidewalk slabs as they were being laid.

sidewalk below the shrub

Quick steps into another café, this time not for the name on the wall but for the chandelier — of coffee cups, what else?

a café nr The The

We lunch at some point, on an outdoors patio ( take advantage while you still can), and then check out this year’s Word on the Street — a festival of tents and vendors and talks celebrating books & literacy.  We visit a whole stretch of tents on the closed street bordering the Vancouver Public Library central branch.

Where, to my delight, I see they have quite literally posted various words on the street.

Word on the Street tents, next to VPL Central Branch

I had to look it up. I means a tambourine or similar instrument.

More tables & displays just inside the library, in we go.

entering the VPL Central Branch

Soaring architecture, as you may notice — the 1995 work of Israeli-Canadian architect Moshe Safdie, who first stamped himself on Canadian (and world) consciousness with his Habitat ’67 complex in Montreal.

We acquire pins & bookmarks & leaflets and even a book apiece, then visit the library itself — eventually up to the Special Collections on the 7th floor, where we also see the maquette for the building as it will appear once the planned 8th & 9th floors (complete with public rooftop park) are added.

maquette showing VPL as planned with additional floors

One art gallery visit only, to the Bill Reid Gallery on Hornby, which honours Haida Gwaii culture, and his personal contribution to that culture — both in greater public profile and respect, and in the jewelry, sculpture, paintings and other artistic works he created imbued with its spirit. If you have a 2004 Canadian $20 bill, you possess an example of his work: it features two of his sculptures, Raven, and Spirit of Haida Gwaii.

portait of Bill Reid, in Gallery stairwell

There are many other images & examples of his work (and other artists) in the Gallery, but I am especially moved by this quiet portrait hanging in the stairwell.

Finally, late afternoon, we head back south. We’ll meet again for dinner, but for now we part, Louise to home, me to my Airbnbn nest in Mount Pleasant.

At Broadway & Main, I look north to the water.

view north from Boradway & Main

The mist has lifted, the mountains dance in the sunlight.


    "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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