Creative Spirits & Innovative Cities

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FAÇADE Festival 2017

It was a late night in early September.  The summer warmth lingered, still unwilling to give way to a cooler season. The muted lights of Vancouver’s downtown cafes spilled onto the streets, mingling with laughter, voices and the aroma of fragrant spices.

In the midst of a vibrant night scene, one street commanded a hushed audience fully engaged within a mythological world of light and music.  It was opening night of the FAÇADE Festival 2017 that began at 7:30 p.m. and would end at Midnight.

The FAÇADE  Festival is a week-long public art production presented by the Burrard Arts Foundation in partnership with the Vancouver Art Gallery.

Jane Jacobs once wrote, “Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because and only when they are created by everybody.” Artistic expression is the foundation of bringing communities together.  When we recognize and share our creative spirit we are building innovative cities that will continue to thrive within a vast global world.

 

Three Goddesses & A Garden

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The Bandstand

The Bandstand and Sir William Young’s six urns.

There were once three goddesses who watched over the elegant Halifax Public Gardens, a gift from the estate of chief justice Sir William Young.  Born in the year 1799 in Falkirk, Scotland, a city situated at the junction of the Forth and Clyde Canal in the Scottish Lowlands, Sir William Young immigrated  to Nova Scotia with his family in 1814 and went on to become the Premier of Nova Scotia in 1854.  He lived during the Romantic Period when there was a increasing awareness of ancient Greece and Rome, which was reflected in his private garden.

Flora, goddess of flowers, spring and youth,

Flora, goddess of flowers, spring and youth.

On his passing in 1887, three goddesses and six urns were given to the Halifax Public Gardens.  The three goddesses left Sir William Young’s estate to take their place along the Petit Allée.  First there was Flora, the Sabine-derived goddess of flowers, spring and youth.  Next came Diana, the Roman goddess of the hunt, the moon, nature, woodland and wild animals.  Last came Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, grain crops, and fertility. These statues embodied the quintessential characteristics of the Victorian age.

Ceres

Ceres, goddess of agriculture, grain crops and fertility.

Alas, in March 2012, Diana was the victim of vandalism, knocked to the ground by unknown persons.  An outcry went throughout Halifax for Diana was a 138-year-old Haligonian cultural icon.  Year after year, families would gather around Diana to take wedding and graduation photos.  Memories were built under her gentle gaze.  Now, the garden is in the keep of Ceres and Flora.

Our Memories of Diana 2003

2003 –  Our Memories of Diana, goddess of the hunt, the moon, nature, woodland and wild animals.

All is not lost!  There are whispers that she is merely resting, waiting to be placed inside a public building.  Myths have survived centuries; they do not stay silent for long.  They live in our music, poetry, dance and literature.  And especially in our gardens…

Nike

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Nike stands vigil on the Cordova Street median at Thurlow in downtown Vancouver. Daughter of the Titan Pallas and the goddess Styx, she comes from a distant past. Sister to Kratos (Strength), Bia (Force), and Zelus (Zeal), she represents Victory.  Endowed with speed and agility, she took her place as the divine charioteer, rewarding the victors of battle with glory and fame. Her name has endured over the centuries, along with her companions Zeus and Athena.

Nike

Nike came to Vancouver, a gift from the Greek city of Olympia in honor of the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games hosted by our fair city.  Designed by Pavlos Angelos Kougioumtzis, who lives and works in Athens and Delphi, there is a remarkable strength embodied in Nike’s abstract beauty and elegant lines.  Bronze, four-metre-tall and placed atop a 2.5-metre base, Nike presides over a busy city intersection, a profound reminder that ancient ways are embedded in our modern societies.

We are defined by our mythologies. In turn, our mythologies keep us focused on universal themes that have been embraced and handed down through the generations of human history.

Nike

Frog Constellation: A Love Story

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Frog Constellation: A Love Story

Frog Constellation: A Love Story

“The frog is quite powerful in our thinking. It’s one of the creatures that can go in two worlds, in the water and in the upper world, our world. . . The frog is one of my family crests, but I don’t know the family story, how that came to be one of our crests.”

James Hart, Haida Master Carver

On Sundays, the corridors of Simon Fraser University are quiet, as if at rest before the commotion of student activity that accompanies the coming of Monday mornings.  Within this momentary pause, I take the opportunity to visit the Frog Constellation that is situated in Saywell Hall, by the SFU First Nations Student Centre. I have been there many times over the years since its installation and have come to sense a silent companionship with the sculpture. The Frog Constellation tells a love story that begins when a young man cannot find his love, only to learn that the frog king has whisked her away to his domain.  A wise old man gives him the knowledge of where to dig in the earth.  Millions of frogs come from the young man’s excavation, the last one being the frog king that carries his love back to him.

Within the themes of loss and recovery, it is the search that resonates within me.  It is the wisdom of age combined with the strength of youth that brings about resolution.

Frog Constellation

Frog Constellation: A Love Story

Frog Constellation

Frog Constellation: A Love Story

Frog Constellation

Frog Constellation: A Love Story

 

James Hart is a master carver who apprenticed with the late Bill Reid.  He bears the Haida name, “7idansuu” [ee-dan-soo], as hereditary chief of the Statas Eagle Clan.

 

The Garden by the River

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Giverny 2 2009

 

“My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” 
Claude Monet

The Seine, rising from Source-Seine, 30 kilometres northwest of Dijon in north-eastern France, is one of the most important waterways within the Paris Basin.  It flows 776 kilometres to the English Channel at Le Havre.  The city of Paris boasts 37 bridges that span the Seine, including the celebrated Pont Louis-Philippe and the ancient Pont Neuf. Outside Paris, the Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges, links Le Havre to Honfleur, known for a picturesque port beloved by the Impressionist painters: Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind.

Claude Monet chose the village of Giverny, which is positioned on the right bank of the River Seine where the river Epte meets the Seine, to create his most beautiful masterpiece. The sighting occurred quite by happenstance when Monet looked out a train window on a trip between Vernon and Gasny. It was April 1883, the time of rebirth and transition.  It had been four years since the passing of his young wife, Camille who has succumbed to tuberculosis, September 1879 at the age of thirty-two.  Grief stricken, Monet turned to his art for consolation.  From the vantage point of a train, he knew, at first glance, where he would live and paint for the rest of his life.  He created his dreams and gave us the vision of beauty that came from a garden by the River Seine.

Today marks Claude Monet’s 153rd birthday.

“People discuss my art and pretend to understand as if it were necessary to understand, when it’s simply necessary to love.”
Claude Monet

Creative Courage

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Giverny

A single feat of daring can alter the whole conception of what is possible.”

Graham Greene, The Heart of the Matter

The year was 1874.  The art world would witness the first independent presentation of Impressionist art. If only we had a time machine to take us back, we would be in the presence of Cézanne, Pissarro, Renoir, Degas, Monet, Manet, and his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot.  They were considered lunatics in their day.  Louis Leroy, a French engraver, painter and successful playwright, was a vocal critic.  He wrote,

Impression I was certain of it.  I was just telling myself that, since I was impressed, there had to be some impression in it – and what freedom, what ease of workmanship!  A preliminary drawing for a wall paper pattern is more finished than this seascape….Wallpaper in its embryonic state is more finished.” (Referring to Claude Monet’s painting “Impression: soleil levant.”­)

And that, dear readers, is how the term, Impressionism, was established in the art world.

Creativity and artistic endeavour moves societies into new territory. Artists, musicians, writers, poets, philosophers, and scientists are the trailblazers who establish the structure for growth and knowledge acquisition.   Even today, they are at work.

“Everyone has talent.  What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”

Erica Jong