Had a truly lovely expedition this weekend to the Royal Ontario Museum – with my adventure buddy Nada, and also three new friends, Evelyn, Keith and their smart and charming daughter Isabel – which made the whole day a great deal more fun. I have been for a few special exhibitions, since the giant Michael Lee Chin Crystal renovation a few years ago – but I haven’t really had a good look around the main museum galleries for decades – and thanks to our excellent tour director Isabel, I finally got my chance!

I was delighted to find that she was a young member of the ROM – because four and a half decades ago, I was a ROM kid myself! (somewhere, there is a shoebox diorama with poster-painted flour paste stalactites and plastic dinosaurs, to prove it). They’ve always had excellent programs for kids, and there really is nothing better to be excited about when young, than knowledge and discovery, the world around us and it’s history.

Everyone should go to a museum with a clever and curious kid now and then – just to remember what museums are really for. I did miss several of my favourite exhibits from the old days, but she was fascinated all the way through ancient Egypt, Roman coins and sculpture, Ontario grassland and marshy ecosystem exhibits, the bat-cave, the global animal gallery, then, after a very pleasant snack, we returned to survey early life on earth, followed by the ever wondrous dinosaur gallery. Tons of brainy-fun!

That all may know – (top photo)

This is a shot of the mosaic work above the original grand entrance hall. Truly spectacular stuff, and I like the “all may know” sympathy a lot, despite its antiquated phrasing. Institutional sense of mission is important.

Egyptian realism

This piece was particularly fascinating – the notes pointed out that while there was indeed a highly distorted and designed style of art in Egypt, there was another simultaneous current of extraordinary realist work. We sometimes think of Greek and Roman sculpture as a break with Egyptian art for it’s realism – but the notes suggested the realistic influence was also Egyptian.

Ever so modern

That Egyptian piece was right on the border between the Egyptian gallery and the “Eaton’s Rome gallery.” For a century, the Eaton family dominated Canadian retail with lavish department stores across the nation and catalog delivery for small towns. Their vast empire now imploded and gone, I couldn’t help wondering if somewhere in a corner of Rome, some ironic wag might have set up a small “Rome’s Eatons gallery” with models of dark blue delivery trucks, tales of exotic top-hatted and art deco Ozymandian grandeur, hubris, and cautionary aubergine – Canuck style.

This lovely sculpture struck me as incredibly modern – even reminded me of a particular sculptor – Loring, who I hope to post more about soon. The park for Loring and Wylie, (the two of them lifelong partners in every sense) with a sculpture that each one of them did of the other, regarding each other to this day, is pretty tiny as parks go – but overflowing still with their love.

Middle-aged and a bit exasperated

Catherine was struck by this one instantly, and her observation was spot-on – this sculptor “Well, those passions read” – but these are not heroic certainties portrayed, rather doubts, worries, the care of time and responsibility. No wait, I take it back – heroic still applies, all the more so because of the uncertainties!

If you take one more sculpture of me

Again, I have to give Catherine the credit for recognizing this exact expression – I have several hundred photographic images like this of her, which might fairly be captioned, “If you take one more photograph of me, so help me, I’m going to…”

Could we perhaps call this state Saskiaxasperation? (It ain’t just me, surely)

Yeah, no – he’s Spartacus

I’m being a bit silly here – but I cannot doubt for an instant that this is the expression of a man capable of sarcasm, cynicism, and even duplicity. Don’t mean to cast any aspersions here, but after all, not everyone actually is Spartacus, right?

For all my curious and artistic friends – next time you’re looking for some inspiration, and you’re tired of the local galleries – remember the museum – and bring your sketchbook! Even better, bring along a new friend – curiosity shared is a genuine treat! (Evelyn even sent me home with a bag of Halloween candy – to be sure my little boy at the museum glow was complete – delighted does not even begin to cover it). Thank you, my friends – a truly great day out!

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