Street + Art

12 March 2023 – Off-the-street official art triggered this walk. Thank you Canadian Art Junkie for steering me to the Oh Canada exhibit, currently on view at the quirky, stimulating Outsiders and Others Gallery on E. Hastings in Vancouver’s Strathcona neighbourhood. American artist Amy Rice armed herself with vintage envelopes, mailed either to or from Canada, and then added her own embellishments.

Like this.

Read it any way you like. I only later notice the 1937 stamp and franking, both to commemorate the coronation of George VI — initially I am simply charmed by what I interpret as a snow goose flapping his powerful way across a couple of NWT hamlet houses in the “matchbox” style of early, bare-bones settlement architecture.

Back out on the street, I head south on Heatley Ave., tempted by mild weather to walk and walk and explore and explore.

The streets themselves are art, the energy of all those juxtapositions, all those opinions & all that activity, all that colour & line.

Also sassy signs.

I peer through the closed doors of a brew-pub and laugh out loud at what could be the kick-ass theme for post-menopausal women everywhere:

Then, just by that same door, this tender street-RIP for someone lost, and much loved:

You see what I mean about juxtapositions.

An alley, and a whole battalion of H-frame hydro poles! They’re old, outmoded, and iconic. Heritage, even. The art touch here — not that I need one — is that orange construction tarp, thrown like a great trailing scarf about the throat.

One of my favourite house fronts, at Heatley & East Pender; I am delighted that it is still so fresh and bright.

And then, at Keefer, a sharp left turn, to take myself to Hawks St. one block over, and lunch at The Wilder Snail.

Here, a high-flying snail shell…

and there, in the art studio doorway opposite, a low-flying crow.

South on Hawks, tracing my way through Strathcona Linear Park, & a pause at another street-RIP tribute. As tender as the one I saw earlier, as full of love & loss.

A whole trio of discoveries, one block after another, as I alley-walk my way west between Union and Prior streets. First block, a sparkling panel of stained glass, set into an outbuilding…

next block, a giant stuffed dog, adorable, but abandoned…

and, third block, the nostalgia of laundry hung out to dry in the afternoon breeze. Nothing else smells the same as air-dried laundry, and nothing else smells as good.

A hit of honest alley rust, as I near Gore Street…

and a clutch of beautifully restored and cared-for vintage homes. I anthropomorphize the scene, imagine them huddling together as they nervously eye their neighbour to the right. Will it be restoration? Or demolition?

Across the train tracks, and south yet again on Station St., with the imposing fa├žade of Pacific Central Station to my left and a mix of shabby backyards, empty lots and some handsome new housing to my right.

Through a chainlink fence, a graffito I interpret as the loving depiction of two pregnant women…

an interpretation perhaps born of the poster on the balcony next door.

I nip into Pac Central (opened 1919 as the Canadian Northern Railway Station) for a quick eyeful of the restored grandeur of its Neoclassical Revival Style design. The clock surely cannot be of the era, but I think it works well with the calm angularities of that ceiling.

And then I walk the final few blocks uphill to 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"

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