Toronto is home to a cornucopia of public art. Some of the pieces acknowledge an individual’s greatness or are inspired by their surroundings; others are installed when developers want to exceed the height or density for which their building is zoned—the public art is a trade-off for being allowed a site-specific change in the rules. In each installment of Conversation Pieces we’ll look at several artworks devoted to the same theme, and consider what makes public art succeed or fail.
NAME: Hockey Sweater Moose and Jay Moose
ARTIST: Susan L. Brown and Temma Gentles (Hockey Sweater Moose) and Duncan Brown (Jay Moose)
Mel Lastman’s Moose in the City project invited artists to paint for the public, and also encouraged sponsors to pay artists to compose heavily branded moose for them. Most of the moose were simply made up like paper dolls, in different outfits. Look: it’s a moose mailman! Others were just collaged paintings forced into the shape of a moose. At least four had a “moosaic” pun in their name. While limitations can force a creative person into new artistic territory, Lastman’s moose were more like a corporate-sponsored colour-by-number, akin to a publicly funded music album with commercial jingles every other track—and they all had to be played on the ukulele. People responded by stealing the moose’s antlers and sometimes scuffing up the paint job. The moose themselves were eventually auctioned off; many of their new owners repainted them in their own favourite costumes. Does that mean there was a lack of respect for the original artwork? Or that the art was so fun it encouraged interactivity?
Photo by Brian McLachlan/Torontoist.
ARTIST: Charles Pachter
On the other hand we have this moose silhouette at U of T, on Harbord Street. It’s simple and perhaps more forgettable than a moose dressed like a hockey player, but it does still have a punny name. The metal from which it’s been cut is also on campus, a negative version of the moose shape called Moosedemeanour. The important thing is that the artist chose to make a moose, rather than having a moose thrust upon him. Pachter loves moose. He paints and sculpts moose. He has a book, M is for Moose. His gallery is called the Moose Factory. Yet he did not turn his nose up at Moose in the City—he made two different moose for the project. Even if it’s a cheeseball idea, Pachter’s love of art and moose still shine through, though it’s too bad the whimsy of his title doesn’t come across in this sedate steel sculpture. If Moose in the City was too flashy, perhaps this one is too flat. Darn, that pun thing is contagious.