Monday, July 26, 2010

The most famous man I had never heard of

Sorel Etrog truly is 'Canada's National Living Treasure'.

This prolific artist is the most famous person I had never heard of... until I looked up a few things about the Vancouver Biennale's Sculpture #12, The King & Queen.

(This awesome shot of the piece I'm talking about was taken by Patrick Doheny, completely separate from me or the Walking Home Projects program and I gratefully found it through wikipedia).

Etrog's The King & Queen is at Harbour Green along a scenic and busy route in Vancouver. (It's #12).

It weighs about 4000 pounds and is painted steel. There are some bird droppings on it and a few well-meant words of graffiti etched into it. You can tell it is used as a seat. It's so inviting to climb up on even though it's made of material that can be seen as hard and calculating.

There's a warmth to it, no matter the material or the regal stance of The King & Queen; maybe its warmth comes from its curves. The way it bends into itself, offering so much to those of us lucky enough to have a few moments to stop and really view it and touch it.

This is one of three of these sculptures. The first "The King & Queen" was made in the city of Windsor, Ontario at Demonte Fabrication Inc. It is a "crowning piece" of work for the city of Windsor, tying together art, industrial labour and the city's history in one 10 foot tall piece. Through the Walking Home Yaletown Public Art Program, I've been learning that Vancouver, has a largely industrial past which is alluded to by public art pieces along the water front and the old steam engine 374 fought for and saved at the Roundhouse Community Arts & Recreation Centre.

Etrog's The King & Queen fits well along Vancouver's waterfront where not so long ago it was home to the timber industry, cooperage and railway. Much different scenery from the plush green grass and deep blue of the water today. His piece articulates this loss and gain, this difference and sameness.

Which leads me to finish up with "the Betty White factor". On first glimpse it may not seem like 'Canada's National Living Treasure' Sorel Etrog and comedian extraordinaire Betty White have much in common save that they can both get a senior's discount at Denny's. And although their mediums don't touch on the arts spectrum, they are both making incredibly relevant art today. Whether that's hosting SNL at the age of 88 or making a third King & Queen sculpture at 77. We can learn so much from this. From bending industrial steel to crossing five generations in laughter. We need these connections.

The best thing about getting to stop and visit Sorel Etrog's The King & Queen to me, aside from how pleasing it is to interact with public art, is finding out more about Sorel Etrog and his work. It's like this unassuming pair of regal industrial shapes are sitting there, open to everyone, a huge clue to our future and past, connecting us to each other and the materials that have shaped us.

Laurie Dawson

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