Illustration by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
Toronto is home to a cornucopia of public art. Some of the pieces acknowledge an individual’s greatness; others are installed when developers want to exceed standard density or circumvent other zoning regulations—the public art is a trade-off for being allowed a variance from the rules.
Often, we don’t pay this art nearly enough attention. Some pieces are out of the way, situated way up high or way down low, and some are so subdued—or so familiar—that they blend into the cityscape. In each installment of Conversation Pieces we’ll look at several artworks devoted to the same theme, and talk about what makes public art succeed or fail.
Today: Upbeat and sorrowful hospital installations.
NAME: The Sky Watchers (2000)
ARTIST: Ian Leventhal (Toronto, Canada)
In 2000, Baycrest hospital cheered up their patients with this colourful, zany statue. The circus-like combination of colours, patterns, and shapes is perhaps a little over the big-top, but it’s hard to not feel a burst of energy when you see it. It even inspired one senior patient to create her own smaller version of it in a year-long project [PDF]. The miniature mimicry was placed up for auction, and Leventhal was so taken by the gesture of re-creation that he bought the piece and donated it back to the hospital—not only making joyful images, but joyful moments.
NAME: Family Group (1977)
ARTIST: Gena Tenenbaum (Canada)
Also at Baycrest: a 1977 piece capturing an ashen, mournful family. That is bleak bedside manner. Yet maybe sometimes the soul-crushing reality of “sorry but you’re not going to make it” is more honest an approach. Sometimes you want to see something as sad as you are instead of something that seems to be mocking you because it is happy and you are not. Baycrest balances it out.
Images courtesy of the Dittwald family.