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Travel Tuesdays. Vancouver Art Gallery

While I enjoy many artsy things I don’t know much at all about ‘Art’.

Lisa, Tamara and I once visited the Emily Carr University of Art and Design and found walls covered in art. We didn’t quite know what kind of art it was but it seemed to have something to do with transportation corridors in Vancouver. Perhaps they were interpreting what that meant to them?? We really couldn’t figure it out. It did not look like Art to us at all.

A few blocks away in a tiny shop on Granville Island we came across a stunning piece of handmade fabric that mesmerized me. This was art I could understand.

While in B.C. last month Tamara and I decided as part of my bohemian, artsy fartsy journey, a trip to the Vancouver Art Gallery was in order. Only, how to make it something more than just sauntering through the galleries saying I like this, I don’t like that, that makes no sense at all!

Our cousin Ruth, a teacher and artist gave me an assignment. Find something that speaks to you and then write a short essay it.What is it? Why does it appeal to you. What is unusual about it?

Off we went into Vancouver.

Oh look! How cool is this? An exhibit of Dutch Masters! Perfect.

The gallery was beautiful.

We started at the top and began working our way down. I must admit as we wandered through the various galleries I began to hope that the Dutch Masters would have something special because most of what we were looking at wasn’t art to me at all.

The first exhibit had to do with travel and hotels through history. It was interesting, certainly. I love history, so much of what we learned I found fascinating but I didn’t see the Art in it. Although there was this one display . . . I could see how that might fit into the contemporary art scene as it was obviously meant to either shock or titillate the viewers. I found it tawdry and sad.

The next floor down seemed to hold more promise even though it felt quite empty. I know you need white space to allow a piece to shine but this was a lot of white space!

Until I saw them. Martin Honert’s ‘Riesen’.

Oh my.

Martin is inspired by memories of his childhood and a feeling of being afraid in a huge and empty exhibition space inspired him to make these two over sized figures. He based the size of these men on the actual size of the tallest man in the 20th century, Robert Wadlow.

I stood next to these sculptures looking up, up into their faces and it was the oddest feeling. Was this how the kids on my bus saw me when they first started going to school?

It gave me the shivers. They are so very big.

The detail of the sculptures fascinated me. I am all about the details in my own life but to see the level of detail that went into these giants astounded me. Every hair on the backs of their hands were individually inserted into the ‘skin. Backpacks were frayed and worn where backpacks should be frayed and worn. Boots had wear and tear from hiking the country side. (riesen translates into trek or journey) Fingernails were encrusted with dirt. And how in the world did they make clothes that big?!

I would love to have taken pictures but the minute I raised my camera someone rushed over in a bit of a panic to tell me it was absolutely forbidden, so any pictures I’ve posted here of “Riesen’ came from the web. (It kind of freaked me out a bit. I felt like both a criminal and an ‘art loving’ impostor)

We did eventually make it to the Dutch Masters. My favorites tended to be paintings that featured the countryside or activities in the village. Two particular portraits caught my eye. Somehow as I looked at the Lieutenant – Admiral Aert Van Nes and his wife they came alive right in front of me, even though they’d been gone for hundreds of years.

That too gave me the shivers.

Visit your local art gallery. Look for something that speaks to you and write an essay even if the only one to see it is you. You won’t regret it.

I do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks Ruth!

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