Friday, 26 November 2010

Static sing

When I attend the monthly meeting of the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa, I make my way into Library and Archives Canada on Wellington street by skirting around Lea Vivot's Secret Bench. It's meant to have a whiff of the Garden of Eden to it, but in the wintertime, it smacks more of The Little Match Girl. I gather there are copies of this bench all over the world: in Montréal, in Prague, in Florida. I wonder if I'm the only one to resist the urge to bring mittens and boots for this young pair (well, maybe not in Florida), who seem decidedly less carefree when the temperature dips below zero. Actually, I wonder how many have been unable to resist...

At the beginning of each day, the #9 bus, the first of ten buses I'll take throughout the day, carries us past the Cancer Survivors Monument just below the train station in Hades. If the morning is blithe and bonny, the dark figures appear to be out for a pleasant stroll. If the sky is grey, the journey looks more depressing, challenging and downright ominous.Throughout the winter they appear to be struggling, first through the snow drifts of December, January and February, then through the filthy slush and ice of March and April.

It occurred to me, after a year of rolling by, that art is never static, not even sculpture, which you might think would be the most stationary of all.

Take this, for example:
This quirky, gigantic watering can appeared at the corner of Albert and Slater in downtown Ottawa about a year ago. I think it's the work of sculptor Vu Nguyen, but I may be wrong about this -- there's surprisingly little information about it. (If I'd really had my wits about me, I'd have looked more closely at the base of the work when I was taking pictures of it, but it was too damn cold to linger.) This is another sculpture I see every day as the Transitway buses take younger daughter and me downtown to transfer to the bus home. Now, on one level, this looks different according to your viewpoint:However, this is just how it looked at 9am yesterday morning. According to the angle of the light, the weather, the season, it changes. It reflects the buildings surrounding it, the traffic lights and construction signs, the vehicles driving by and the passing pedestrians. It shines with the light of the Christmas decorations across the street, it shimmers in the heat. Snow covers some of the side surfaces, or rain drips down and runs in rivulets. In a strong wind, the vegetation on top revolves slowly.

I kinda love it, even when I can't stay still to look at it. It doesn't stand still either.


VioletSky said...

You know those people who do the yarn bombing - wrapping trees and lamp posts with knitted scarves - perhaps you should make some mittens and booties for the pair on the bench? It would be fun to see the reaction of people walking past!

I saw that watering can on my last visit to Ottawa in the spring and I loved it. Your take on street art makes it come alive. I bet so many people walk past without even seeing or thinking about it, which is a crying shame because we could all do with such visual distractions.

Persephone said...

Perhaps it's a case of "ya don't know what you've got 'til it's gone". I'm sure people would miss these street sculptures if they disappeared. I know I would.

Volly said...

What's the prevailing person-on-the-street attitude toward the public art? I ask because down here in east south central US, those who make such decisions have blessed our large town with a delightful variety of statuary and abstract sculpture, but these additions are inevitably followed up by comments from readers of the news that it's a waste of taxpayer money, why should "our" dollars be spent on such junk, why do we need tourists, if you want green space, hire a gardener and spruce up your own property, etc. etc. [Not to mention obnoxious run-on sentences, LOL!] It's wearisome to witness the stubborn reverse comparisons of the US to Canada and Europe: "We have no class, and we're damn proud of it!"

If it weren't for the cold winters, I'd probably consider relocating to Hades.

Persephone said...

I haven't gone around button-holing the people on the street, Volly, Ottawans are way too reserved for that sort of thing! I haven't noticed an outcry against public art. For one thing, we're the capital city of Canada, so we get quite an influx of visitors. They seem to get a kick out of the statues that crop up everywhere. A particular favourite is the monument to The Famous Five (to oversimplify, five women who were instrumental in getting women legally declared persons in Canada). That has to be the most photographed sculpture in Ottawa, with visitors interacting with the figures and getting friends and family to snap them.

Ottawa isn't just physically cold, I'm afraid; the arts are what keep me sane here.