The barge at English Bay shows no end of inspiring Vancouverites.
After three years of secrecy, the Kelowna Art Gallery unveiled its latest project Wednesday morning (Oct. 27) — a public art sculpture standing 25 feet tall outside of the gallery’s entrance.
Canadian artist Jed Lind’s Gold, Silver & Lead art piece is located at the corner of Water Street and Cawston Avenue and consists of seven sculptural vehicles — all modelled after the 1979 Honda Civic — stacked on top of one another.
“Our hope is that it will become a landmark within the downtown public space and that it will stimulate lively conversations about the visual arts in our community,” said Nataley Nagy, the Kelowna Art Gallery’s executive director.
Originally presented at the Toronto Sculpture Garden’s 30th-anniversary exhibit in 2011, the sculpture was donated to the Kelowna Art Gallery in 2019. In the piece, the cars deteriorate and disassemble as they climb up the sculpture.
“Like a stack of stones marking a trail, it represents a fork in the road where humanity could’ve chosen a simpler existence, yet here we are today,” said Lind.
Lind said he got the idea for the sculpture over a decade ago when he stumbled across an old print ad that featured American architect Buckminister Fuller standing in front of a white geodesic dome and a white 1979 Honda Civic, with a tagline that read, “The man who simplified housing bought a Honda Civic. We make it simple.”
“It is a quintessentially American idea that the automobile as the embodiment of freedom, power and escape,” said Lind. “The Honda Civic became popular in America after the 1973 oil crisis when the idea that resources were finite became to take root in the culture.”
He added that he hopes that the sculpture will further conversations about the environment, consumption and collective responsibility.
“Amidst the social and cultural awakening, and the material shortages that we now face, I hope that some viewers see the piece as a reminder that our resources are not infinite, nor are our emotions,” he said.
The barge at English Bay shows no end of inspiring Vancouverites.
One of the memes circulating online is calling the barge — which became grounded at English Bay during a severe storm last month — a public art installation.
On Twitter, Greg @goldenmulletman said Monday after a failed attempt to remove the barge, “Hey @CityofVancouver you should admit defeat and declare this barge an urban art installation.”
Someone who knows about public art is Barrie Mowatt, founder and president of the Vancouver Biennale , the region’s outdoor public art exhibition.
He said the barge isn’t public art, but could be.
“It is in the public and in its current position artful, but it’s not public art in the sense of how we define public art,” he said. “It does certainly draw people’s attention and get them connected with the space. It’s cool in that sense.”
Mowatt said the barge could become public art if it was incorporated into a narrative about the former industrial heritage of False Creek, for example, and how the city has changed since. As well, he suggested it could be painted and turned into a mural, but in a way that didn’t look like graffiti.
“Yes, it could become an interesting piece of public art,” he said from Palm Springs. “As it is now, with good signage, it could create dialogue and engagement about what is public art.”
Not everyone agrees with the idea the barge is or could be public art.
On Wednesday morning, Jo-Ann Heinz cycled from Yaletown to English Bay and Sunset Beach to see the barge because a friend contacted her to say something was happening. Nothing did, even though a high tide and whitecaps on the water all suggested movement.
“I’m just kind of curious to see how they get this monstrosity off the seawall,” she said.
Heinz said while the barge could be turned into a restaurant, she questioned the idea that it was already an example of public art just by its position on the rocks.
Heinz is a sailor who has been around the world and seen similar examples of wrecked vessels abandoned on the shore. She called them eyesores.
“This is an eyesore,” she said. “We’re in Vancouver. We should be able to figure out how to get this off the shore.”
It looks like the barge will be at home on English Bay for a few more days.
The City of Vancouver said Wednesday that Transport Canada has received a plan to move the barge from its owner.
“In the coming days, the barge will be assessed and repaired as needed in preparation for its removal,” the city said by email.
The homophonic link between “Barge on the Beach” and “Bard on the Beach” has inspired a parody of a famous speech from the play Henry V by William Shakespeare.
Christopher Gaze, founder and artistic director of Bard on the Beach , Vancouver’s summer Shakespeare festival, said he thought of the play’s famous St. Crispin’s Day speech given by the king on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. The speech was meant to inspire the outnumbered English forces to overcome the French.
In Gaze’s version, the speech is about the failure to float the barge away on the king tide that would have lifted the barge like “Noah’s flood.”
“This day is called the Barge on the Beach day/We that shall live this day and come safe home/Will stand a tiptoe when this day is named/And rouse us at the sight of the Barge on the rocks./West End residents that shall live this day and see old age will/yearly feast their neighbours/And say, tomorrow is the bedevilled Barge Day …”
Gaze said the timing focuses attention on Bard on the Beach, which returns to Vanier Park/Senakw next summer after being cancelled for two years because of the pandemic.
Carmella Klassen paints a snowman in the window of the Fort St. John Association for Community Living’s Art of Inclusion studio on 100 Avenue.
The art program began earlier this year, and recently moved into a standalone studio down the street from the ACL office, where members show up to sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays to learn how to work with paints and pastels, linocuts and silkscreens, and other mixed-media techniques.
“I love art,” says Klassen, who has been taking part in the program since the beginning. “I make something new every time, and I want to learn how to do different things. Lorna is one of the best teachers I can think of.”
Klassen is referring to Montney artist Lorna Penner, who has been helping out with instruction since August. On Tuesday afternoon, Penner was working with Klassen and others on mixed-media self-evaluations and teaching them how to paint with pastels.
“It’s talking about how they feel when they do art. They’re very determined, they’re unique,” says Penner.
Penner works with about four students per session, which she says is perfect. “We can really get into things very deep,” says Penner.
The studio recently held a printmaking open house for family and friends, and exhibited a COVID-19 show at Peace Gallery North earlier this year.
The program wraps for the holidays next week and will continue in the new year.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org
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