I am an unequivocal supporter of public art. This does not mean however, that I champion every piece. Something about the nature of art invites controversy, so supporting its existence doesn’t mean I like it all, but rather that I commit to the conversation.
Ottawa is covered in public art, from historical tributes to some of the early European settlers, to contemporary reflections on the Indigenous history they clear-cut in their flag raising.
Everywhere you walk, stone men with victorious postures tower over you from podiums, pedestals, and hilltops. As is the nature of statues I suppose. And more than a few government men. To tower.
At first I have this impulse not to step on their shadows, like the way you’re not supposed to walk over graves. But by midday on any common pathway the shadows claim so much ground it’s impossible to weave between them. A stone image in the likeness of Duval, standing with his arm out, casts a long shadow from way up there. I wave. Maybe he’s blessing us. Or puppeteering? Or maybe he’s a hand talker, and the sculptor caught him mid-sentence.
Level to the foot traffic I notice many pieces of Indigenous artwork: dream catchers and inuksuks proclaiming their presence at intersections, and resting in the reprieve of public parks. My favorite installation is called the Gather Ring. It sits on the Ottawa side of the portage bridge, overlooking the river and linking the capitol to the Ville de Gatineau. An in-between place. An invitation to boundary-hop. A liminal space.
This spidery dream catcher is made of wood, and chain-link and glass: enduring and delicate, and deeply symbolic. In the centre rests a black hole made of Canadian granite, etched with a turtle shell pattern in reference to Turtle Island. I stand up from the bench and line my toes up with the lip of that black hole and close my eyes, hoping to tumble over the edge into a different world, like Skywoman. A world where people and animals worked together and honored their inherent connection to the planet, and each other. A good vision. A dream, caught. One of those dreams I hold on to after I open my eyes.