I am a big believer in the value of a good walk – lucky happenstance has a much easier time finding us when we’re out and about – but moving slowly enough to pay attention. Sights and sounds come at us – and clues for many creative problems (or even life questions) often present from a direction we weren’t expecting them.
That being said – I don’t usually have quite this great a time just making my way home from a day of work. But this one was a memorable enough progress to be worth setting down prettily – though a year and change ago (that was a far warmer february, remember?)
Had a lovely day today. Up on the model stand first thing (8:30), doing my existential philosopher character for Bob Berger’s class, and the two of us were team-goading them (3rd year, after all) to seek character (or caricature) – reach for something beyond a simple likeness.
Several seemed puzzled by the challenge, so I suggested, “Well, first of all – if he’s an existentialist and he’s smiling like this, he’s probably drunk!” A humanizing hello-laugh often helps students probe further in than surface-level – “Oh yeah, our bowl of fruit today is thinking something!” (and yes, the ones who can draw both the likeness and the thought really can find more work – or we wouldn’t so-encourage) ;o)
After an excellent productive studio-session, I decided to take my own good (and constant) advice and imbibe some free art, while enjoying a long rambling walk home – and that was when I first realized I was having one of those magic days, when everywhere you go, you just seem to become instant friends with everyone.
Hilarious chat with the giggly security guard on the way out (I always double-check if I signed-in now, to backstop oldmanitus). Stopped at a tobacconist I didn’t know, to inquire (even though I know it’s always futile, no one will ever import ‘Sullivan and Powells’ again) then I got followed up Baldwin by a daredevil in an electric wheelchair, who grilled me about the obscure tobacco pleasures of my misspent youth.
One small chunk of groovy old Baldwin, still recognizable!
Next I had a chat with a hippy-crone wise-lady on Baldwin about the groovy old scene there and all the cool people who used to hang around in such ready profusion – think she was glad to have her ghostly superimpositions so cheerily validated – I know I always am. Had to agree that the whole area really just ain’t the same, since “John’s Italian” – long a perfect cozy meet-up, closed.
Headed up through U of T campus to grab some snaps of lovely architecture, (best photographic use of grey light I’ve found) and stumbled into a small art-treasure within Henry Sproat’s masterpiece “Hart House” that very few know of (more details on this gem in the companion-post). Inside this very rarely seen war memorial room, I encountered two chatty history-buff students (one awkwardly overly self-aware, and one positively voluptuous with ease and confidence).
Great discussion with them about the destruction of deep western faith in the first world war (the event-horizon past which we in the west almost always misunderstand even our own history), and the sense in which that old quality of belief, still extant within Islam, feels in some way (below normal awareness and discussion) like a rebuke. Smart kids – yay!
From there I dropped in to see the truly splendid and comprehensive show of Kent Monkman paintings at the Hart House gallery (single best ironic critique of Canada-150 I encountered, that whole year) and had a funny chat with a gallery lady who as a rules-person, insisted on taking my bag (with my magic box of a thousand costume props, that are worth almost nothing, but took decades for me to gather).
Funny how disarming it is for genuine art people, when you mention that you sit for artists professionally – still had to leave the bag, but I got such a huge smile from her! (and she knew whose bag that one was, for sure)
The end of time (Jordi Bonet)
Here’s the bonus-art that I stumbled into accidentally, simply by taking a side entrance into the provincial government complex known as “the block” (Ferguson, to be precise) – Wellesley side, across from St Joe’s (my mom’s high-school) while on my way to see Kevin Bae’s excellent contribution to the annual show of master drawings at the Aird gallery (in the Mowatt block).
It is first called untitled, and then, “The end of time.” I like both names – and I can’t tell you how happy I was to see a piece by this fondly remembered artist.
A strikingly beautiful (young Roberta Flack) security guard saw me staring at the work in delighted wonder and came up to me with a big warm smile on her face, so I hastened to explain (lest she toss-me-out as a tripping nutter).
“When I was a kid, right at Yonge and Bloor, there used to be a huge wall-sized sculpture completely surrounding the main floor elevator bank, by this same artist – which among other things, had several GI Joe dolls incorporated into it. I used to sneak through that lobby all the time, just to visit that piece. That was probably the first modern art I ever fell in love with.”
I was actually thinking about writing a post about it called “Bridge across generations” simply to denote the way this artist found a way to strongly appeal to me at age 10, and still does now, when I could easily have a grandkid that old. But ‘the end of time’ does ultimately say the same thing – if viewed from the right angle – annihilation of any one dimension always suggests total unity in a scarily-big way, doesn’t it? (Don’t be hatin’ the monad!) ;o)
We talked for almost half an hour about art and architecture and movements in time and then I went up and got a snap of the plaque, before fishing-out my readers and finally learning why it was that I had never seen any new pieces by this fascinating artist, Jordi Bonet – originally from Spain (friend of Dali) – worked brilliantly and prolifically in Quebec for 20 years then died at 47, just after finishing the piece I knew and loved the most.
Which, I must sadly note, is no longer installed for viewing at Yonge and Bloor. More worrisome still, the friendly guard told me that the building we were standing and chatting in was slated to be closed-down in a couple of years.
Someone clever had better start looking for a really big, really strong (and really really worthy) wall!
Doesn’t look like an acorn (but it was the BMV founders training-ground)
Up along Yonge, I can’t not-stop at a bookstore, where I was just in time to back up the old-timer behind the cash, who was wowing a youthful customer with a “one that got away” comic-book story, before we launched into a discussion on our shared love for incredible Alan Lomax recordings of old folk and blues music from the American South – as he played me a few of his favourite tracks (yes, the ocarina is a virtuoso instrument).
Finally, closing on home, just past the Summerhill bridge and the train station liquor store with a Venetian tower, I see there is a new exhibit of paintings up at the Muse gallery (always wonderful stuff and people, both). These works had a great warmth and energy, and while strongly rooted in Canadian painting tradition, felt vital and respectful, rather than lazily derivative.
I just had to stop in and take my time looking at all of them – and while I was there, also ask about the fate of my all-time favourite Canadian small sculpture, which had graced their window for some time – a Minoan bull, crafted out of a speckled blue enamel tin-teapot, some exquisitely fine extra metalwork and WHEELS! (Never has anything been so mythic, cute and funky – all at once!)
Anyhow – we got into a discussion right away about the artist, who wasn’t producing right now because her child was ill, and she couldn’t shake her depression. So sympathetic, when the humane interferes with our reaching for the ideal – so I shared one of my constant quest-thoughts with him – “I want to know the right thing to say to Diane Arbus the day before she took her life, so she won’t.” He smiled ruefully.
Then I added, “I’m also trying to figure out how to explain to my lovely Christian friends, my humanists, environmentalists, mystic healers and even my incisive Marxist comrades that they (we) are all actually on the same team – insofar as we aren’t being hypocrites.” (yes, me included in all terms, esp. the last).
He tipped his imaginary hat to me, and said, “Admire your nerve.”
And I, for my part, had the good sense not to ask his estimation of my sanity or chances.