Archive | August 2013

Through My Lens: Sails

Canada Place Sail

Last week, I posted a photo of the giant pillows made from the sails at Canada Place. I took this photo — of those same sails when they were still hanging in their original home — back in 2009.

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Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

MLK Memorial Close-up

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

MLK Memorial Front

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” ― one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope.

MLK Memorial Side

This is the faith that I will go back to the South with.

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

MLK Memorial Back

With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day. — Martin Luther King Jr.

Through My Lens: Lunch Break

Pop Rocks

Last summer, these delightful giant pillows lay on Robson Street, directly in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. This summer, they found a new home in front of UBC’s Koerner Library. They’re called Pop Rocks. Their fabric was recycled from the old sails at Canada Place (which were replaced in 2010), and they were stitched together by a local sail maker.

I wonder how many lunch-time naps they’ve witnessed?

Art Talk: Grand Hotel

Grand Hotel

Yup, it’s another post about hotels, but this time I’m not recommending a place to stay. This post is about yet another art exhibition ― one that I stumbled upon when I was at the Vancouver Art Gallery to see Persuasive Visions.

The exhibition takes its name from the 1932 film Grand Hotel, winner of that year’s Oscar for Best Picture. One of the characters in the film keeps muttering, “Grand Hotel … always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens.”

Huh. Yeah, right.

Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life, seemingly an exhibition more appropriate for a museum than an art gallery, looks at the history of the hotel through the lens of four themes: travel, design, social, and culture. Displays include scale models of some of the world’s most architecturally impressive hotels, such as New York’s Waldorf Astoria and Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands. There are photos and memorabilia about the development of Canada’s tourist industry, thanks to the Canadian Pacific railway hotels (“If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists”), and the development of the same in the United States, courtesy of Highway 66 and motor hotels. Did you know the InterContinental luxury hotel chain was founded by Pan Am? I didn’t.

The exhibition also looks at hotels as agents of change concerning race, class, and gender. The Algonquin Hotel in New York, host to the 1920s writers group known as the Algonquin Round Table, was one of the first hotels to accept solo female guests. Duke Ellington was known to prefer touring overseas because hotels outside of the United States weren’t segregated.

And, finally, hotels are explored as centres of culture: the aforementioned Algonquin Hotel in New York, gathering place of New York’s literati, the Chateau Marmont, home to film stars during Hollywood’s Golden Age, and Hotel Imperial Vienna, focal point of Vienna’s coffeehouse culture.

Grand Hotel: Redesigning Modern Life will appeal to anyone interested in travel, and is on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 15.

Grand Hotel Atrium

Through My Lens: Pride in Davie Village

Davie Village has been adorned the past few weeks with more rainbow flags than usual. They’re in celebration of Pride Week, which culminates every summer on the Sunday of the August long weekend, when Western Canada’s largest Pride Parade takes place.

The most spectacular rainbow flag I’ve seen this summer is this one, at the intersection of Davie and Bute. It’s permanent, and a cheerful addition to the neighbourhood.

Davie and Bute

Sunny July

Beach Volleyball

Only in Vancouver would 34 consecutive days of sunshine make the day’s biggest news story. But that’s what happened yesterday. Vancouver received 411 hours of sunshine in July, and it was the first calendar month ever (since Environment Canada started tracking weather data) where we didn’t get a drop of the wet stuff.

Today, the weather’s back to normal: grey skies and the threat of rain. Despite the cooling temperatures, a campfire ban covering almost the entire province went into effect yesterday. I don’t remember there being campfire bans when I was growing up in (sunny) Alberta, but, ironically, now that I live in a rainforest, they are routine.

Art Talk: Persuasive Visions

Persuasive Visions

When my friend whispered to me that the art show we were viewing at the Seattle Art Museum put the Vancouver Art Gallery to shame, I had no idea I would have the chance to make a fair comparison within just a few weeks.

Persuasive Visions: 17th Century Dutch and Flemish Masterworks and Contemporary Reflections opened in Vancouver in June and I was quick to go see it. What an opportunity, I thought, to compare SAM’s exhibition of Dutch masters with VAG’s exhibition of Dutch masters.

Now, I should explain: I have a love–hate relationship with the Vancouver Art Gallery. I really, really want to support it, but …

For one thing, every time I step inside its doors, I always seem to have a run-in with gallery staff (no photography allowed in the atrium!! put that pen away!!) like I’m some errant school child. It gets really old really fast. When an overzealous security guard chose to skulk after me from room to room (to make sure I behaved, I’m assuming, after he caught me with my camera in the atrium), I felt violated. On that particular visit, I left the gallery only minutes after my arrival, and I didn’t go back for several years.

As for the exhibitions, I always leave the gallery thinking, “That could have been so much more.”

With Persuasive Visions, I was surprised, but also confused. I’ll get to my confusion in a minute.

I was surprised by how much seventeenth century Dutch art the exhibition did contain. When the Vancouver Art Gallery markets their exhibitions with the word “contemporary” in the title, it usually means about 90 percent of the modern stuff and 10 percent of the old (read: good) stuff. At least, this has been the case with many of its previous exhibitions. And so, with this exhibition, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of Dutch masters on display, and also by how many of them belong to the Vancouver Art Gallery.

(An aside: the Vancouver Art Gallery has a massive art collection, but, due to space limitations, can only exhibit about 3 percent of its collection at any one time. When a friend from Brooklyn, USA, visited me and I sent her off to the gallery, her first comment upon returning to my place was, “Don’t they show any of their own art? Or is it all only temporary exhibitions?” I explained to her the difficulty about the space limitations. The Vancouver Art Gallery has recently been granted a 99-year lease from the City of Vancouver and, if the fund-raising campaign goes well, will break ground sometime this century on a new building that will massively increase its exhibition space.)

Back to Persuasive Visions. Who knew the Vancouver Art Gallery had so much seventeenth century Dutch artwork? What a treat it would be to see these paintings on permanent display.

Now, on to my confusion. I was confused by the contemporary works the art gallery chose to display alongside the seventeenth century art. I’m a big fan of Jeff Wall’s photographs, but I didn’t see the connection to Dutch landscapes. I also appreciate contemporary portraits like those of Thomas Russ, but felt the juxtaposition of them alongside the portraits of Dutch sea captains and their wives a bit jarring.

So I called a friend. An artist friend, that is. “Help,” I said. “I don’t understand how this show was curated.”

My friend tells me the Art Gallery of Ontario is doing the same with its exhibitions, this mixing of old and new. “Then and Now,” she calls it. Jeff Wall is known for his use of light, as are the Dutch landscape artists, although she could understand my confusion. And the deadpan photography of Thomas Ruff is characteristic of the current school of German and Dutch photographers, so the Vancouver Art Gallery made a deliberate choice to compare seventeenth century Dutch portraiture to contemporary Dutch portraiture.

My friend’s explanation helped, and I decided to go see the show a second time and ponder her comments. The exhibition made more sense to me upon re-viewing, but, to be honest, I prefer the Seattle Art Museum’s curation to what the Vancouver Art Gallery is doing.

Persuasive Visions fills four gallery rooms, with each room focused on one type of painting: seascapes, still lifes, portraits, and landscapes. Many of the paintings from the Vancouver collection are covered in dark varnish, which requires you to step quite close to examine them in any detail. The Jeff Wall light boxes placed in the same room as the landscapes only makes the varnish-covered landscapes look even darker.

The last time the Vancouver Art Gallery showed an exhibition of Dutch Masters was back in 2009, when one Vermeer and a handful of Rembrandts on loan from the Rijksmuseum (then under renovation) went on a North American tour. That may have been the time I got chased out of the gallery by the overzealous security guard. This time? People were taking photos left, right, and centre with their iPhones, and nary a peep to be heard from any of the security guards.

Persuasive Visions: 17th Century Dutch and Flemish Masterworks and Contemporary Reflections is on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery until September 15.