Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Putting brains into statues

Samuel Eliot Morison statue Boston: fewer PMs, more historians?
What's with the donations of statuary no one seems to want very much?

The Mother Canada montrosity proposed for Cape Breton seems to be dying away.  But the "statutes of all the Canadian prime ministers" idea that was rejected for Kitchener's Victoria Park is now trying to transplant itself to Wilfrid Laurier University.

Christopher Dummitt in The Globe thinks the proposal is okay  and finds the "prime ministers were racists" cry a bit lame because, you know, who could you commemorate?  Rick Salutin is not much for the "no racists" cry, either. But his doubt about the bronze-em all plan gets to the heart of the problem.

Salutin's take is in one of those stupid Star video essays (find it from here) that you have to sit and look at after sitting through some bloody ad video first, and you can't simply quote the relevant sections, and I'm damned if I'm going to embed the video here.  But Salutin says, more or less, the 22 Bronze Prime Ministers proposal mostly shows  "the people behind it don't have a clue about what matters about Canadian history." They just propose to throw up more prime ministers, he says, instead of thinking intelligently about public art and place and originality.

Right. The prime ministers have statues and buildings and airports and highways here there and everywhere.  Let's try for interesting statuary rather than stiff sanctimonious obvious bronzes.  Use a little imagination.  Now, maybe if a great artist put all 22 PMs together climbing out of a clamshell -- a little hommage to Bill Reid? "The Black Canoe" and "Raven and First Men" are worth looking at.

Salutin recommends the new Gordon Lightfoot statue in Orillia. The Al Purdy in Toronto comes to mind too. Now those seem fresh.  Statuary should not bore us all to death, and that's the real problem with the Laurier plan. If we are sticking with old white guys, the Samuel Eliot Morison statue on Commonwealth Avenue in Boston could be an inspiration -- who'd ever know that's a historian?

Update, November 2:  Ken Dewar lets me know that the Halifax Women's History Society is planning a statue or series of statues on the Halifax waterfront to commemorate the work of women in wartime. Society chair Janet Guildford told the CBC:
There are more than a hundred monuments in the Halifax Regional Municipality, but less than a dozen depict women. And mostly they're mythological women. We have fairies and nymphs, for example, in the Public Gardens."
The statue is not yet designed.  The Society seeks donations. Thx to Ken Dewar for the heads-up.
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