28 January — There was more to the walk than that, including an unplanned and surprisingly strong animal sub-theme, but yes, my focus on Saturday was snow, especially snow on sculptures.
Remember the school of fish swimming in snow, in my previous post (“Clouds in the Garden”)? And the other sculptures and cityscapes, where fresh snow defined angles and planes, made contrasting colours pop, and forced the amazed eye to see anew? “More of that,” I decided, and away I went. A boring old Saturday chore (eyeglass frames, yawn) made central downtown my starting point, and I stayed more or less in the area.
First stop is another of those themed mini-parkettes that both stimulate and soothe pedestrians.
This one — like last week’s Cloud Gardens — is connected to the construction trades. Larry Sefton Park, Bay St. at Hagerman (just south of Dundas West), honours the long-time director of District 6 of the United Steelworkers of America and appropriately features great thrusting I-beams as the sculpture.
I like the park’s summer face, but this one seems more powerful: snow highlights all the other strong lines as well, and punches up the play of deep green against brick red in the background.
This stop puts me just north of New City Hall, so I cut down past the skating rink again, and take another look at the life-size statue on the west side. Is it…? Oh, look at that pugnacious stance. Who else could it be?
Of course it’s Winston Churchill, caught in WWII defiance by sculptor Oscar Nemon, with the most famous section from his post-Dunkirk “We shall never surrender” speech inscribed around the base. The mantle of snow could be an ermine cape… (Alas, no romantic allusion leaps to mind for the snow beanie atop his head.)
That clock tower in the background, so nicely set off by the office building behind it, belongs to Old City Hall.
I zip across the street, wondering if the doors here on the Bay St. side will offer anything that’s as much fun as the gargoyles (“Faces, Laces…”) on the Queen St. side. They do! No snow, but my first animal spotting of the day.
Now… maybe that’s some heraldic animal, up there in the corner. But perhaps it’s just a plain old pig? Do you suppose “pigs at the trough” was already an insult for greedy officials, by the late 19th century? I may be quilty of a whopping anachronism here (not to mention a cynical turn of mind), but I’d really like to believe that this cheerful creature, like the gargoyle caricatures around the corner, is some sort of commentary.
If my semi-quest is snow on sculptures, then it’s worth exploring the office towers clustered in the Yonge-Bay area, south of Queen. They do have statuary, especially in the plazas and courtyards tucked away behind the buildings.
But my first hit is right out on King West, just east of York. Bronze statue and animal and snow.
I brush snow off the inscription. Megaptera (Great Wings), it says; George Schmerholz, 1993. (My chilly fingers and even more chilled pen make a hash of writing down this information. I am saved later on, at home, with a wonderful website discovery that I’ll share with you in Click! below.)
Behind the whale, the sober black elegance of the Toronto-Dominion Centre towers, design by Mies van der Rohe.
Now I do walk in among the T-D towers, and find myself on a stretch of grass covered with snow… and with cows. Lots of them. Also covered with snow.
Thank you, Joe Fafard, for The Pasture.
I’m admiring their properly bovine placidity in all this snow, when I hear a muffled thunk! and look around in time to see a young man regain footing after a most un-placid leap to one side. “Great chunk of ice just came whippin’ off that roof,” he says, with the amazement we all feel when Nature happens to target us. “Think I’ll go back underground.”
Yup. That sub-surface PATH system has its moments.
I cast a respectful eye upwards but then continue to weave my way among the towers. I come round a corner into Commerce Court Plaza, and just laugh and laugh. A pig-I-think, then a whale, then a herd of cows. Why wouldn’t elephants come next?
Meet Tembo, Mother of Elephants, the work of Derrick Stephan Hudson. Tembo looks as patient as the cows, in all this snow nonsense; the babies trust their mother. (Right. I am anthropomorphizing like crazy. At least I acknowledge it. And I do stop short of twisting my finger in my cheek and cooing “You’re so cute” at them…)
An architectural bonus, in this plaza — not built as sculpture, but gloriously sculptural in effect.
It’s a doorway. They didn’t need to do all that. Suddenly I think about the Old City Hall doorways again, and am cheered: we can be sleekly modern and still embellish our doorways, if we choose.
Some snow to justify this next shot, but mostly, I just like the hit of colour at the far end of a dark alleyway, between Melinda and Wellington, immediately west of Yonge.
That old building. incorporated into a larger and much more recent office/retail complex, contains a restaurant called the Marché.
I almost go in for coffee but decide instead to choose something less sleek, and continue east to the St. Lawrence Market. You know? A farmers’ market, not an office-tower marché?
I buy local buckwheat honey in the ugly late-60s north market, and cross Front St. into the not terribly beautiful but much more historic south market — which by the way in April 2012 was named the world’s best food market by National Geographic magazine.
Heaven knows I could pursue my animal sub-theme here!
I don’t. I spurn all the opportunities to buy beef, lamb, goat, pork, chicken, even fresh Muscovy duck and other exotica… and settle for cappuccino and a serving of tiramisù. Yum.
One last stop as I finally head for home, set in motion by the sight of this one-two-three, blue-mustard-red colour combination on Queen St. East.
It reminds me that I haven’t visited the Acadia Book Store, a destination for serious art-book collectors, in a very long time. Everything seems quite wonderfully the same inside (an achievement, in an era when indie book stores are failing fast), except I can’t find Edna.
Well, no wonder, since I haven’t been here in ages. Edna was already ancient then, resident cat but alley-cat in looks and voice, whom I first met the day she sprang to a stool and climbed my arm with her very sharp claws to drape herself around my shoulders like a particularly ratty old fur stole. She then purred in my ear as I browsed, more the sound of an ill-maintained cement mixer than a cat… but I was very flattered.
I ask, and the owner — daughter of the man who’d been smart enough to buy the building back in the 1930s, hence their survival now - assures me they still have a resident cat. “Her name is Mishu. She’s here. Somewhere.”
I browse, I find Mishu, I take her photo, and later, I smack my forehead at the result. Even for a total amateur, this photo is bone-head stupidity. I will show you. Don’t laugh.
Let this be an object lesson for every other amateur out there. IF YOU want to photograph a cat… WHO HAS long fluffy fur… AND IS coal-black all over… AND IS sleeping, so no open eyes to offer even a glint of contrasting colour… AND THE CAT is sleeping in a dark corner… AND YOU decide to use available light so as not to disturb the cat, even though your humble little camera really isn’t up to the challenge…
THEN YOU do not get a photo of a cat at all.
You get a rorschach ink-blot test.
Oh well, it’s all good.
This is even better. When I came home and found I could not decipher my notes about the whale sculpture (a chilly-finger scrawl in spluttering frozen ink), I began searching online. Eventually I discovered:
www.ruthard.ca – Art in Toronto’s Streets and Parks.
It is wonderful! Clearly a labour of love, not recently maintained (2008, alas), but an amazing resource all the same, with extensive listings of photos and info for the city’s statuary, divided by geographic district and by cross-geographic themes (e.g. cemeteries). There was Megaptera, plus many of the others I show here or in previous posts – including the info for all those scampering bunnies in the “Faces, Laces” post. They are Remembered Sustenance, by Cynthia Hurley Short, 1992.
I don’t understand the name, but I’m happy to know it, and even happier about the Ruthard site.