INSTALLATION: Straight Flush DATE: September 2009 LOCATION: 333 Bay Street, Bay and Adelaide streets (lobby of Bay Adelaide Centre)
It’s always a bit of a gamble to commission work for the cityscape. Public art coordinators drafted to enlist the talent of artists often have to do the dance of consulting with the community while respecting the artist’s interpretation.
The result? Sometimes the city gets stuck with variations of the same sculptural works. There seems to be too many loopy or curvy objects all over the map, including this non-infinite loop, titled “Things End.”
But with “Straight Flush,” James Turrell’s light show at Bay and Adelaide, the artist is still firmly ensconced in a league of his own.
The author’s living room. Photo by Brittany Carmichael.
I picked up the elk two summers ago when they were left leaning against a trash bin on Dundas and Dovercourt. Rendered in shades of teal in paint-by-numbers acrylic, they were pure Canadiana kitsch constrained only by a garish, gold-dusted frame. I was feeling particularly homesick that day, and these dumb little elk haphazardly placed in front of a deflated mountain range somehow transported me back to BC—despite the fact I’d barely left the Lower Mainland. $12.99 was etched on the back in pencil, but, to me, this piece was priceless.
I hopped off my bike and walked this ridiculous painting—almost half my size—over the Sorauren bridge and into my apartment. There, it found its home between a melodramatic matador scene, passed down to one of my roommates from her grandfather, and two French liquor advertisements, mounted on scuffed plastic, that I nabbed from a Halifax Salvation Army during undergrad—more terrible art elevated solely through its significance in our respective personal narratives.
This is how we tend to decorate when we’re younger. Rooms are cobbled together with discoveries from garage sales and thrift shops, pieces we receive from friends and partners and maybe a couple of POÄNG chairs stolen from the family rec room. Later, when we get some sense of stability and disposable income, we’re able to start thinking about how to intentionally incorporate art into our slowly solidifying sense of aesthetics. But it can be a bizarre leap to take, moving from experiencing art in a gallery to entertaining the idea of actually taking it home.
Luckily for the intimidated, the indecisive, the time-strapped, or, like me, the perpetual adolescent, there’s the Art Gallery of Ontario’s art sales and rentals department.