Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Creating public art not for the faint-hearted

The artist Tyler Hodgins dangles from his latest public sculpture, "Glass Half Full," a whimsical piece that brings art to the playground. Or does it bring the playground to art? His sons Emmett (left) and Dexter take the art for a spin. Globe and Mail photograph by Chad Hipolito.

By Tom Hawthorn
Special to The Globe and Mail
August 22, 2011


Two sculptures stand side by side, a pair of outsized stainless-steel representations of glasses of water. One glass is tall, the other stout. A blue straw extends from one, a red straw from the other.

Both glasses are half full.

Or half empty, depending on your perspective.

The sculptures can be spun, chimes inside ringing as they rotate.

A playful piece of public art was unveiled on the Dallas Road waterfront on Friday. A posse of children sat quietly through the reading of a poem by the city laureate and brief speeches by the mayor and the sculptor before being unleashed on the artwork.

They spun the glasses until they were dizzy, one boy straddling the red straw like a pirate seeking booty.

The sight delighted Tyler Hodgins, who remembers being fascinated as a boy by the illusion created when viewing a straw in a glass of water.

“As children we learn from looking,” he said at the unveiling, “that what you see isn’t always what is there.”

The 43-year-old Victoria sculptor is himself as tall and lean as a straw. His latest piece, titled “Glass Half Full,” is a large-scale interactive work likely to generate a lot of interest from locals and tourists alike. The lure of turning either of the glasses is irresistible, while each turn alters the view of the sculpture. At the same time, if you’re riding the piece, your view alters with the movement.
"Rings" by Tyler Hodgins

The sculpture is in Holland Point Park, at the foot of Government Street, next to the Harrison Yacht Pond, home to model boatbuilders, their miniature ships contrasted by the larger-than-life sculpture.

Creating public art in Victoria is not for the faint-hearted.

Many residents remain resistant to change to the streetscape of any kind. As well, one person’s art is another person’s travesty. The six-year-old aluminum, granite and stainless steel piece outside the hockey arena, titled “Pavilion, Rock and Shell,” is widely criticized (“monstrosity” is one of the kinder descriptions), while the year-old “Homecoming” on the Inner Harbour is seen by some as cloying and sentimental (“bland” is the kinder of the criticisms).

“You don’t want to try to please everyone,” Mr. Hodgins said. “You want to engage as many as possible.”

The sculptor has won two other public competitions in the capital district. Another stainless-steel piece, titled “Rings,” can be found at the intersection of two trails in Saanich, while his “Topography” sculpture can be found at the entrance to a local community centre. For that one, volunteers stepped into foam for the artist to later make concrete casts of their footprint.

Mr. Hodgins was incorporating into his art his day-to-day working life. While establishing himself as an artist two decades ago, he found work with his hands as a maker of orthotics. It is physical, repetitive work, but it pays the bills as he raised a family of three children. Eight years ago, he had an installation at The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. “The Work Project” incorporated a video, photographs and the discarded wooden casts of feet that passed through the orthotics laboratory. These were placed on the gallery floor, causing visitors to walk across an uneven surface to better see the photographic images. You could say the piece was good for the art and sole.

He had a good model for balancing the financial demands of family with those of creating art. One of his childhood memories involves wrestling with his father, a Nanaimo high-school teacher, who was stretched out prone on the floor while trying to edit a typescript. The work was published as The Invention of the World, a magic-realist novel that helped launch the writing career of Jack Hodgins.

Hours after the sculpture was unveiled, the artist returned to the site to watch the public react to his work. He discovered the children had played so vigorously on the installation that some of the chimes were dislodged. It is an easy fix. He could not have been happier.

1 comment:


Wow, it is not suitable for an untrained person, such as i :D