Touch Wood - No Bark Mulch At VanDusenFriday, June 21, 2013
|Shattered Spheres in Western Red Cedar by Brent Comber |
on site at the Duthie Gallery
Salt Spring Island
Through the years I have observed how our Vancouver Art Gallery does not look like one with no apology needed for either Francis Mawson Rattenbury or Arthur Erickson. A gallery does not have to have soaring paraboloid roofs to be an art gallery. An art gallery has to have art within and (very important) without.
The normally correct, unflappable man that Arthur Erickson was could lose it on occasion. There was a button which I liked to press. “Arthur,” I would say to him, “what do you think of that rock fountain in front of the Art Gallery on Georgia Street?” His usual answer was always a most uncharacteristic, “Fuck!”
When Brooks Joyner was the director of our Vancouver Art Gallery I often visited him and we would have lunch. I once asked him why it was that the outside of the gallery had flower beds with New Guinea Impatiens. His answer was that very soon he would install outdoor sculpture. Brooks Joyner left and his plan was cancelled. The New Guinea Impatiens were removed and the rock fountain “sculpture” is now surrounded by a lawn of bark mulch. The obvious purpose is that bark mulch is low maintenance and the frequent demonstrations at the gallery will not result in trampled grass.
For a while during the Hollywood North craze that our city enjoyed/suffered a frequent sight if you happened to pass near the gallery were movie lights by the windows. The gallery was a popular location for courtroom dramas. The lights might have damaged the outdoor sculptures and the gallery’s gravy train of movie cash might have been curtailed.
Without having to check this out on Google I am sure that Calgary has more outdoor sculpture than Vancouver and Texas, a world famous seat of high class culture has lots of sculpture in Dallas and in Houston.
Mexico City, on its very beautiful Paseo de la Reforma has installed sculpture on the wide sidewalks that is both beautiful and useful. They all accommodate people as seats.
In Vancouver we have some sculpture at English Bay and on route to it on Pacific Avenue. I believe that few locals are aware of Henry Moore’s Knife Edge at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park.
Kudos then to Celia Duthie, Nick Hunt (her husband) , VanDusen Botanical Garden, the at least 15 artist/sculptors, and the government agencies that helped fund Touch Wood, an exhibition that runs from June 20 to September 30, 2013.
In the opening yesterday I was lucky to be part of a tour led by Nick Hunt that was also accompanied by some of the artists. I talked to two of them, Brent Comber and Michael Dennis. While most of us might look at the sculptures with seriousness, I was instantly made aware that there is lots of humor in the beauty of the sculptures (more than 24 including the smaller ones in the Discovery Room, Martha Varcoe Sturdy’s Reflections at the Arrival Hall and Michael Dennis’s Sentinel at the entrance). The latter you can spy if you drive or walk up Oak going south.
I asked Dennis why his Council of Elders consisted exactly of 11 of them. His answer (with no hint of exterior smile) was, “There were originally 13 but I didn’t like 2 of them.” I observed how often Brent Comber smiled as we gazed on his sculptures and those of the others.
It is my hope that a few wealthy patrons of the arts might buy the sculptures and then donate them as permanent attractions to our lovely botanical garden. It is my hope that the Duthie vision might be observed in other parts of our city and that our Vancouver Art Gallery might spend less time on the future of soaring roofs and more on removing the bark mulch and invigorating our city’s awareness that outdoor sculpture is good for the soul.