Sunday, June 11, 2017

La Balade pour la Paix: An Open Air Art Museum

Musée des Beaux Arts

As part of the celebrations of Montreal's 375th anniversary (I know - that is a random number to celebrate), the Musée des Beaux Arts has mounted an outdoor museum, with sculpture and photographs on Sherbrooke Street stretching several blocks. The totem pole, which I wrote about here is part of this.

Dancing Nana

This sculpture, Dancing Nana, is by Niki de Saint Phalle (1930-2002), and was created in1995 according to the museum site (below). She towers over the fence around the McGill campus.


Lurking not far off is this wolf, a creation of Joe Fafard, a Canadian sculptor. I have featured some of his work before.
The Meeting

Further west on the campus is this circle of men, The Meeting, by Chinese artist Wang Shugang (born in 1960).

Human Structures

This pyramid of people is also located on the campus, somewhat obscured from my vantage point. It is called Human Structures and is by Jonathan Borofsky (born in 1942), It was created in 2010.

Outdoor Photo Gallery

There are also photographs by a variety of photographers, slowing my walk as I stop to admire and, in many cases, reflect on the subject of the image.


This iconic image by Robert Indiana can be found in different colours in different places. I have seen it in Philadelphia and someone who checks out my Flickr photos saw one in Malaysia.


While I love seeing all the art, I am less enamoured with the flags which only seem to clutter the street.  Installing the standards that hold them must have been done at quite a cost - money far better spent on other things - maybe even more money for the arts!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Path to Healing

Totem at the Museum

This totem pole has been installed in front of the museum. It was carved and completed by Charles Joseph, a Kwakiutl artist from British Columbia. It is part of an outdoor exhibit of sculpture in celebration of the 375th anniversary of Montreal's founding and Canada's 150th since confederation. Canada's treatment of the aboriginal people has been fraught with attempts to annihilate them, whether through violence, intentionally spreading diseases, forbidding spiritual practices or through forcing children into residential schools which tried to strip them of their culture

The artist who created this totem pole is a residential school survivor. In school he was met with abuses. His life afterwards, as with many other survivors included substance abuse. Over two decades ago, he turned to his culture for healing and creating this totem pole is a continuing part of the process.

Installing the Totem Pole

The figures are taken from Kwakiutl symbols, but they also tell the story of the residential school experiences. Included are images which represent his family.

Bottom of the Totem

The figures at the bottom represent Charles' family. The red above them represents a cedar rope, a symbol of safety and security. Moving up, you can see the wild woman. She is portrayed with children on her lap  - the children coming home from residential schools. She represents female tradition and culture.

Totem from the Side

Here you can see her welcoming arms.

Moving Up the Pole

Above the woman is the killer whale with seven faces, six for the tribes the government recognizes and the seventh for a disputed tribe. The faces also represent the children who were adopted out, not just from Charles' tribe but from First People's bands across Canada.

Detail of Pole

The raven is a trickster. He represents the collusion between the church and the government in the process to assimilate (and take away the cultural identity) of the native peoples. On one side of the raven there is a nun, on the other a priest.

Further up the pole there is a spirit bear. Again, there are many faces, this time representing the many children who did not make it out of St. Mike's residential school (where Charles spent his childhood) as well as those who died later from the damage caused by their experiences.

Top of the Totem Pole

The arctic fox is the observer. It bears witness to the past. Capping the pole is the kulus figure, its wings outspread. It represents both Charles chief as well as Christianity (it stands in the shape of the cross). Many indigenous people, include members' from Charles' family have adopted Christianity. This is meant to show the good side of it.

The pole represents the anguish of the First Nations and their experiences after the arrival of the Europeans, but it also represents steps to healing as Canada finally begins to address the wrongs that were done. Baby steps on the path to reconciliation.

All information comes from a document from the Musée des Beaux Arts de Montréal as part of the Balade pour la paix in celebration of Montreal's 375th anniversary.