|A George Cruikshank's illustration for Tristram Shandy
We also popped into the Ontario Crafts Council gallery to look at the Losing Parkdale show. The lovely piece by Dennis Lin using wood veneers evoked the saying that "civilization is a very thin veneer over barbarism" (from The Return of Tarzan (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs). The swoops and curves of Lin's veneers reminded me how precariously our civilized veneer clings to the underlying id and ego. Indeed, Losing Parkdale is about how "civilization", in the form of condo development, is displacing a large community of artists (less civilized?) from the community in which they have lived and worked for years. To quote from the statement for the show:
Sadly, studios in Parkdale are currently being displaced for condo development, thereby reducing the pool of usable working space in the neighborhood. As this is being written John Jackson's building has just been emptied, sending 100 artists out to try and find new work spaces. Scott and Joe's building has been sold and will be empty in the near future, and will again affect another 40 businesses."
But I don't want to be too negative about veneers. No lesser a thinker than Vaclav Havel has given us another take on civilization and veneers:
|the late, great, Vaclav Havel
From barbarism and Burroughs to multiculturalism and Havel! I think Tristram Shandy would have approved of such elegant swerves, and swerve we did as we turned left into the courtyard of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, and again to the left (take that, Stephen Harper!) into the Edward Day Gallery.
Penelope Stewart's "Haptic Exchanges". Stewart has been using beeswax to make cast tiles, which she assembles in to large mosaics. The smell was wonderful, the colors ranged from palest amber through brick to gray-brown, and the surface patterns of her casts lead the eye to wander in a Shandy-an fashion.
|Aganetha Dyck, Queen, 2007
Stewart told us that in the course of making some of these very large installations (those at the Albright Knox Gallery and the Oakville Gallery filled rooms) her beeswax supplier in the Ottawa area ran out of wax. Fortunately, she had made the acquaintance of Winipeg bee artist Aganetha Dyck and learned about a Manitoba beekeeping cooperative that was able to supply the precious wax.
I urge you to drop by the Edward Day gallery and take in this show - but if you have a cold, come back another day, because you must be able to smell the work, as well as touch and see it! And read the excellent review by Murray Whyte in the Toronto Star for more information...
Why is the smell of beeswax so evocative? someone asked Mr. Shandy. As one beekeepers' website said, "because it smells like honey, duh!". And it does a bit - but only if you get unfiltered honey which still has tiny bits of wax, not the industrial ultrafiltered, sterilized grocery store stuff. It has many other scents in it, like pine trees from the propolis the bees use to glue things down. That's why beeswax absolute has been used in perfumes for centuries, and is still a very important base in fragrances with all-natural ingredients.
|shaving a frame to remove the wax
|Laurence Stern, by Joshua Reynolds
|Roxanne Quimby, dog friend, Burt Shavitz
This real-life rags-to-riches story has got many twists and turns and several sides, just like a Shandy adventure, as you can read here and here and here. The last link tells how Quimby is using some of her money to buy up land in Maine, with the goal of creating a national park. It's amazing how, if you're a bee multi-millionaire, you become a magnet for opposing views. Some in the environmental movement call Burt's Bees a "sell-out", the local hunters in Maine oppose Quimby's land purchases because she's against hunting, but I know that Burt's Bees is also a significant corporate contributor to both research and public action on preserving pollinators.
Amelie's father's gnome on his journeys around the world. Or perhaps it's lubricating the chapped hands of members of the Garden Gnomes Liberation Front as they pursue their duties.
But of course I have kept the best use of beeswax for last: candles. As the excellent Wikipedia article tells us, the first known candles were made in China of whale fat about 2,200 years ago, but by 1,700 years ago the Chinese were known to have beeswax candles. In the Middle ages most candles were made from rendered animal fat and stank, both when being made and when burning. Beeswax candles were reserved for the rich and for churches, where their perfume added to the scents of incense.
|Presentation of Christ at the Temple, Hans Holbein the Elder, 1500
So, with the scent of blessed beeswax candles, I reluctantly leave our Shandyesque trip down Queen Street.