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.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Blossom Time

It is Blossom Time

It's that spectacular time of year when each day looks different. Two hot days brought speedy growth. The blossoms seemed to grow in just days.

Profusion of Blossoms

Each tree has its own shade of pink.


Each tree comes to life at its own rhythm. Some have leaves that are almost full, others blossoms and some are just starting to send out the first signs of leaves.

Tulips Wide Open in the Heat

On one of our hot days (Wednesday and Thursday the temperature went up to 30°C) the tulips opened wide. Some closed up again as a cold front came through. Tulip season is not long here. Spring brings rapid change before settling in to the lushness of summer.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Up in Summit Woods

The Forest Floor Sprouts Yellow

After days of rain and chilly temperatures growth is once again speeding up. Up on Summit Woods the early spring flowers have woken up. Their time here is short. Once the leaves open on the trees, these flowers will die off for another year. The dog toothed violets (a.k.a. trout lilies) were open in profusion.

Trout Lily or Dog Toothed Violet

Their bright yellow colour advertises to insects to quickly come and pollinate them so they can grow another year.

Trilliums Find a Spot to Grow

From wide open spaces to little niches, the trilliums pop up.

Trilliums Springing Up

They carpet the forest floor. It is their moment of glory - short-lived but grand.

A Protected Space

The forest is constantly regeneration, from decay comes new growth.

Stopping to Rest

We saw a number of these butterflies flitting around. They rest with their wings wide open. I believe they are mourning cloak butterflies.

Basking in the Sun

For moments the sun shone. Spring is upon us.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Spring is Trying

A shot of orange

Spring is trying to take hold. One warm day brings a burst of growth and then the cold makes the tulips close and huddle.

Not Ready To Open

April and May have brought record amounts of rain which along with snow melt has caused serious flooding along the banks of rivers. Montreal is an island, and though I am not affected by the flooding, not even being near enough to the shore to see the effects, I know that others are suffering the loss of homes and the tremendous stress of watching helplessly as their sandbagging attempts simply did not have a chance against the fury of the water.

Spring Flowers

Flowers still bloom; trees start to bud (though at a slower pace as temperatures have been below normal). Yesterday I saw some snow flurries and walked bundled up with gloves, hat and scarf along with a jacket worn more often in March than in May.

Magnolias Beginning

Magnolias are starting to make their fleeting presence known. Spring is coming in slowly. At least for now, there is no more significant rain expected.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

The Forest Floor Wakes Up

Red Trillium 2

New growth pokes through the layer of dead leaves. Out of last year's debris, regeneration begins. The red trilliums seem to open before their more proliferous white cousins.

Red Trilliums

Sometimes solitary, sometimes in small clumps their deep red is a sharp contrast to the sepia around them.

Huddled Together

Slowly the ferns are unfurling. They looked like they were huddling together. Warmth in numbers. The temperature was a hovering around 5°C (about 41°F), definitely chilly for the end of April.

First Trilliums

We did find a few open, white trilliums, but mostly they were just starting to bud.

Waiting for Warmth

Like the trout lilies (erythronium), they seem to be waiting for warmer temperatures.


Small patches of hepatica have sent up their first tentative blooms.

Sanguinaria Canadensis

Sanguinaria could be spotted here and there.


The forest floor is covered with dry, decaying leaves. Some looked almost ghost-like. Slowly they will return to the soil and soon the forest floor will be covered with the green of new growth.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A City Walk

Musical Swings

I love to have a destination for my walks and this was a different route from one I usually take. I'll start at the end so you can enjoy the whimsy of these swings. It is impossible not to smile as the movement of the swings creates music. I sat a while and pumped my legs - the real pleasure comes when more than one swing moves. Click and listen.

Sunshine in a Flower

Walking on a sunny spring day is energy-boosting. These sun-soaked flowers started me off on my trajectory.

St. James Church

My final destination was actually the Belgo building, which at one time was a department store and then served as small factories for the garment business. The first time I was in the building many years ago you could smell the furs which were being cut and sewn into coats, hats and other wearables. Now the majority of spaces are rented out to art galleries and studios. The study group on Aboriginal art was meeting there to see an exhibit.

On the way I passed St. James United Church (above). As I don't pass by here I often, I still get surprised by the open square in front of the church. For most of my life the front was obscured by store fronts which were removed in 2006. Now the church has a presence.

Corner Building

I took a little detour and walked up to John F Kennedy Blvd and St. Urbain. I liked the way this building used the corner.

Red Roofed Church

This church, St. John the Evangelist, is known as the red-roofed church for obvious reasons. I have been to a few concerts there. They also host St. Michael's Mission, which provides support, food, shower facilities,.. particularly to homeless men.

More Music

This is the seventh year that the swings have been set up here in the Quartier des Spectacles. The 21 swings are a creation of Daily tous les jours, in collaboration with animal behaviourist Luc-Alain Giraldeau from UQAM and Radwan Ghazi Moumneh, who composed the score of this fun installation. (from Each swing emits a different note and, apparently at night they also emit colours. What a delightful place to stop a while!