Diverse works delight the eye with whimsy, passion
Every piece has a different effect on readers
Last week, my colleague Ron Chalmers broke the news that the city has lost a valuable piece of art called Fanway. The 32-metre metal sculpture, shaped like an Asian fan, once marked the entry to Chinatown. The work of two of Alberta’s best artists, Harry Savage and Sylvain Voyer, Fanway was warehoused for safekeeping in 2001. Now no one knows where it is.
It would be funny, if it weren’t so pathetic. Especially now, when city council is considering spending some $1.4 million on more giant statues to mark the city’s east and west entries. So far, the two finalists — I’ve dubbed them the Red Ogopogo and the Christmas Tree of Doom — haven’t won a lot of public affection. But the controversy they pro- voked spurred me to ask you this. What makes good public art? What sculptures in this city do you like — and loathe?
The flood of responses to my little contest proves this much: We do have some neat public art in this city, sometimes where you’d least expect to find it.
“I am a senior citizen,” Carmelina Braganza wrote. “I never walk outside in the winter. But there is a piece of public art in the Millwoods Town Centre which I love, a cowboy rounding up a calf. The calf can jump aside and the cowboy can move at any moment! Even inside a mall in the middle of winter, it makes you feel you are outdoors in Alberta. The horse’s tail is burnished by the number of hands that have touched it in passing.”
As it turns out, Braganza’s favourite statue comes complete with its own history. The bronze, by sculptor Robin Bell, depicts cowboy Charles (Chunky) Woodward astride Peppy San, his prize cutting horse. Woodward was also president of the Woodward’s department stores and the statue dates to the days when Woodward’s anchored the mall.
Andrea Hamilton’s favourite statue, Buffalo Mountain, roams the playground at W.C. (Tubby) Bateman Park at 97th Street and 88th Avenue.
The granite buffalo was specially designed for the playground by Saddle Lake artist Stewart Steinhauer.
“It’s a stylized piece with lovely proportions and round, smooth lines. It has a large hole through its sides, so that a child can crawl through or just curl up inside,” Hamilton wrote. “It’s a delight. This is just what public art should be.”
Lynn Parish, who lives in Rossdale, is also a Steinhauer fan. She sent in her photos of a Steinhauer called Mother Earth Circling, along with the story of how the Rossdale Community League raised the funds to purchase the work for its plaza.
Some art inspires a range of passions. Take Edmonton sculptor Ryan McCourt’s work, Destroyer of Obstacles, a whimsical depiction of the Hindu elephant-headed god Ganesha, which currently stands in front of the Shaw Conference Centre. It was nominated by one reader as a favourite piece — but lambasted by another as “absolutely horrid.”
With so many smart, funny entries, judging was tough.
But top prize, an annual family pass to the Art Gallery of Alberta, goes to Jerry Wowk for his touching take on Danek Mozdzenski’s statue of murdered police officer Ezio Faraone.
Second place, a one-year AGA membership, goes to Carmelina Braganza for her Mill Woods roundup.
Runners-up Andrea Hamilton, Mildred Thill, Lynn Parish, Nick Radujko, Jill Scheyk and Margot Brunn each receive one-day AGA passes.
Thank you to all who entered — and proved that we have art in Edmonton just too good to lose.