Toronto Loves Public Art!

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“Large Two Forms” (1966 & 1969), Henry Moore

Toronto’s diversity is reflected in the wide array of public art, especially sculpture, that can be seen on block after block in its downtown core.  Encounters with public art as we hustle from place to place provide moments for reflection and inspiration and help to remind us of our connections to deeper things and to one another.

These pieces from out and about merely scratch the surface of the city’s offerings. (I forgot to get the titles for a couple of these pieces.)

Artist to Appreciate: Richard Ahnert

R. Ahnert -- Messenger (2012)

Richard Ahnert, Messenger (2012)

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Richard Ahnert’s anthropomorphic art is both whimsical and brilliantly provocative. This Toronto-based artist paints intriguing images of animals engaged in activities one might expect of weary modern-day city dwellers. While his work harkens back to the playful (and disturbing) posed taxidermy of the Victorian era, Ahnert’s paintings engage the viewer with considerable satire and reflection.  The images here provide only a small glimpse of his range and more of Ahnert’s fascinating paintings can be seen at his website, MyCanvas.ca: Paintings by Richard Ahnert.

R. Ahnert -- Billy Brooklyn (2011)

Richard Ahnert, Billy Brooklyn (2011)

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R. Ahnert -- Commute (2014)

Richard Ahnert, Commute (2014)

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R. Ahnert -- Feed (2014)

Richard Ahnert, Feed (2014)

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R. Ahnert -- First Light (2015)

Richard Ahnert, First Light (2015)

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R. Ahnert -- Panda Wear (2014)

Richard Ahnert, Panda Wear (2014)

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R. Ahnert -- Pride & Ponder (2013)

Richard Ahnert, Pride & Ponder (2013)

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R. Ahnert -- The Hemingway (2013)

Richard Ahnert, The Hemingway (2013)

Brian Deignan: Memory, Imagination and Wonder

Barn, Nova Scotia

Brian Deignan, “House with View, Nova Scotia”

Because it is so unusual, the work of a highly-skilled photographic artist who intentionally seeks to blur his images stands out to me.  Such are the mysterious images produced by Brian Deignan, a Toronto-area fine art photographer originally from Montreal and who also has lived in several parts of the U.S.  Unlike typical bokeh photographs — where the subject is in focus against a blurred background — Deignan’s entire subject is out of focus.  The resulting impressionistic images resemble paintings and conjure up deeper thoughts that often elude sharply focused photographs.   Deignan hints at this with the following observation from his portfolio website:  “People, places, things are what I photograph; memory, imagination, wonder are how.” Very nicely stated!

See more of Deignan’s images at his site here.

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 Brian Deignan, “Crosswalk #28” (High Noon in Mississauga)

Winter Wonderland #10

Brian Deignan, “Winter Wonderland #10”

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Brian Deignan, “School Bus, Route 332 — Nova Scotia”

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Brian Deignan, “Sunday Drive #25”

Sunday Drive

Brian Deignan, “Sunday Drive #20”

Friday Night, Queen Near Spadina

 Brian Deignan, “Friday Night — Queen Near Spadina”

(Image Credits:  Brian Deignan)

Distillery District Door and Window Combo

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This smallish window and nearby door in Toronto’s Distillery District caught my eye both because of their curves and the forest green shared by each opening.  In addition to the well-preserved historic buildings, this area of the city features a wide range of exceptional restaurants, bars and small shops.

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Dreamy Illusions: The Surreal Art of Rob Gonsalves

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“The Phenomenon of Floating”

Toronto-born Rob Gonsalves is a surrealist master whose marvelous paintings depict dreamlike illusions. It’s almost like a mashup of M.C. Escher and Rene Magritte.  But, of course, Gonsalves’ style is the result of his own creative synthesis of many artistic strands.  Many of his paintings feature wide landscapes and young children — which seems appropriate for both the whimsical joy and philosophical reflection conjured by this painstaking artwork.  More of Gonsalves’ art can be seen on his official site here and at the site for Huckleberry Fine Art.

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  “Stepping Stones”

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“Written Worlds”

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“Tabletop Towers”

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“Nocturnal Skating”

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“Towers of Knowledge”

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R. Gonsalves -- Beyond the Reef

“Beyond the Reef”

Image Credits: Rob Gonsalves and Huckleberry Fine Art.

“Now God be praised. I will die in peace.”: Early Canadian Military Heroes

Stricken at the battle for Quebec City in 1759, Major General James Wolfe uttered those words as he lay dying just as his troops’ victory was assured.  Imposing bas relief sculptures of Wolfe and three other early Canadian military heroes — Samuel de Champlain, John Graves Simcoe and Isaac Brock — grace the facade of the Archives and Canadiana Building at the University of Toronto.  Like their real-life counterparts centuries earlier, these sculptures keep a watchful and weathered gaze upon the surrounding landscape.

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Samuel de Champlain (1574-1635)

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James Wolfe (1727-1759)

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John Graves Simcoe (1752-1806)

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Isaac Brock (1769 -1812)

Toronto Public Art: Barbara Hepworth’s “Parent 1”

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“Parent 1” (1984), by Barbara Hepworth — Her modern work calls to mind Inuit forms.

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

                                                                                     ~~ Thomas Merton

Urban Art: Bronze Cows in Toronto

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Art in urban settings is great to bring us out of ourselves and to refresh our minds.  A wonderful example is artist Joe Fafard’s The Pasture, a group of bronze cows posed lazily resting in the bucolic setting of the Toronto-Dominion Centre office park (designed by Mies van der Rohe), is perfect for providing an unexpected feeling of being far away from the nearby hustle and bustle of the Financial District.

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Let’s Visit Ontario!

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This nifty selection of vintage travel posters do a nice job capturing many of the wonders to be experienced in Ontario.

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Toronto United Air

Similar Posts on O’Canada:

—  Retro Winter Recreation and Travel Ads

—  Magnificent Travel Art of the Canadian Pacific Railway

Love These Vintage Neon and Bulb Signs!

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Mixed in among modern urban streetscapes, the look and feel of the rare classic neon and bulb-lit signs are distinctive. I spied these in Toronto and one in New Brunswick (the fabulous sign for Mel’s Tea Room!), which happily stand the test of time.

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Splendid Farm Offerings at the St. Lawrence Market

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Since the early 1800s, the St. Lawrence Market in Toronto has been a traditional marketplace for fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and all manner of other agricultural products.  It’s a colorful and happily bustling scene that has the distinction of being named by National Geographic in 2012 as the world’s best  market.  Even if a matter of opinion, that’s high praise!  Snapping these shots between bites of a warm croissant graced with some local honey provided a relaxing hour’s idyll.

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Similar posts on O’Canada:

⇒ Abundance at the Saint John City Market

⇒ Kensington Market, Toronto: Fresh, Funky and Fun

⇒ Early 1900s Town Markets

Broke-Down Dodge Truck

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Situated along one of the wide pathways in Toronto’s Distillery District, this tired old Dodge truck  from the 1940s exudes character with its highly stylized chrome grill cover brightly shining against varied shades of surrounding rust.

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Ossington Avenue Graffiti

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Crisscrossing the streets of Toronto, it struck me that I had to look harder there than in Montreal to find graffiti or street art.  But what’s to be found in Toronto is every bit as varied and creatively expressed, as shown by these two examples, both in the Ossington Avenue area.  I’ll post more later.

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Neighborly Toronto!

The mosaic or melting pot, as you prefer, that is Toronto is notably defined by its many distinct neighborhoods.  By the time I realized I was working on a theme with these signage shots I had already overlooked about a dozen or so too many feet-miles earlier to readily retrace my steps.

 

An A++ for Toronto’s Gadabout Vintage

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While spending a late morning in Toronto’s very hip Leslieville neighborhood I happened upon Gadabout, a fantastic vintage shop showcasing all manner of things from bygone eras.  The store’s very friendly proprietor, Victoria Dinnick, was cheerily helpful and wonderfully gracious in allowing my impromptu photography in her jam-packed two-story shop.  Equally as impressive as Gadabout’s extensive offerings of vintage items are the mad and clever organizational skills on display.  For instance,  numerous rustic cabinets and drawers are carefully labeled to hint at the nifty contents tucked within just waiting for the curious.   (In one such drawer I found the heart-shaped box pictured below, with which I later happily surprised my sweetie.)

I plan to share several categories of photographs — including clothing, housewares, figurines and toys — from this neat little shop in future posts and these shots are just a sampling.  More on Gadabout can be found at its official site here (or stop in over on Queen Street East!).

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Creativity Afoot!: Toronto’s Varied Manhole Covers

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A while back I posted a collection of Quebec City manhole covers as an offbeat photo subject.   From a recent trip to the wonderful urban melting pot that is Toronto, here’s another assortment of these often overlooked cast iron street fixtures.  Having encountered at least 25 variations, I’m intrigued by the subtle expressiveness reflected in these compact circular spaces.

Artist Appreciation: Andrew Horne

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 Andrew Horne, Pegasus Unicorn

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The serendipity afforded by the Web still amazes me at times and I love it when it allows me to stumble upon something of pure goodness, as I recently did when I came across the fantastically hip visual art of Toronto-based artist, Andrew Horne.  His “typographic paintings”, in particular, are excellent.  Most of these vivid pieces play around with classic signage and exhibit elements of studied photo-realism, pop-art irony and downright aesthetic gorgeousness.  Above and below is a sampling of Horne’s clever work, more of which can be found at his artist website here.

(Horne also has an entrepreneurial streak, which he channels by operating the very cool Flying Pony Gallery and Cafe in the Little India area of Toronto.)

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A. Horne, Victory Bar2

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A. Horne, Renee's Salon Of Beauty2

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A. Horne, 419 Salutations

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Other similar posts on O’Canada:

•  Artist to Appreciate:  Michael E. Glover

•  Sean Yelland’s “Distant” and “Stop Everything”

•  Artist to Appreciate:  Christopher Walker

•  Montreal As Muse for Jeremy Price

Ever-Bustling Early 20th Century Toronto

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No Postmark– Around 1920s

The cityscape of Toronto, with its many tall buildings adorned with fine architectural detail and its bustling street-level activity, is most akin to what Americans encounter in the busy cities of New York and Chicago.  These early 20th century postcards highlight the magnitude of Toronto even then.  The people and vintage vehicles in these tinted images add interest and help define scale.

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No Postmark — Around 1920s

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Postmarked 1910

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 Postmarked 1918

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Postmarked 1939

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Todd McLellan: Taking Things Apart

Todd McLellan -- Push Mower Apart

Todd McLellan — Push Mower Apart

Toronto-based photographer Todd McLellan loves to take apart machines — especially more solidly built older ones — and capture all the related parts in  striking photographic compositions.  I really like these — they appeal to both an aesthetic and design sensibility as well as my penchant for building things.   See more of his photos and other work on his website here.

Todd McLellan -- Bike Apart

Todd McLellan — Bike Apart

Todd McLellan -- Typewriter Apart

Todd McLellan — Typewriter Apart

Todd McLellan -- Chainsaw Apart

Todd McLellan — Chainsaw Apart

Toronto’s Nuit Blanche

So-called Nuit Blanche arts festivals are held in many cities throughout the world, including in Montreal and Toronto.  Nuit Blanche, translates to “white night” and, more loosely, as “sleepless night” and has been typically associated with winter festivals taking place at night.  This year, Montreal held its Nuit Blanche in February, while Toronto held off until just a few days ago, with its own nighttime arts festival kicking off for twelve hours starting around twilight on October 2.   While I arrived in Toronto for a business trip a day too late to enjoy this first hand, the 2010 event marked the fifth anniversary for this all-nighter out on the town in Toronto.  An unsuspecting visitor to the city that evening might very well have observed the wondrous and grand spectacle of this arts fete and concluded that Torontonians had gone blissfully mad.

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