Tonight I was walking downtown along Stephen Avenue Mall in front of the Art Gallery of Calgary quite late. It was fortuitous timing as three artists (Caitlind r.c. Brown, Lane Shordee and Ivan Ostapenko) were in the midst of installing the new Solar Flare light installation, which was commissioned by the Calgary Downtown BRZ. Moments after I arrived, they wheeled away the lift. Fortunately, I was able to get in a few pictures of the installation when the new installation was not fully installed and before they moved the lift to park it one of which I used above. The Roots The roots of this solar-powered installation were formed during the first Calgary Nuit Blanche which occurred during Calgary 2012 and was originally proposed as an annual event. Now it appears to be a biannual event as it did not happen this past year and was replaced the newly formed Intersite Visual Arts Festival that occurred on the same weekend as Nuit Blanche should have happened. All this contains some speculation on my part, so here goes. No doubt this happened (in part) so that public institutions which must plan their programming far in advance could fulfill their obligations to the contracted artists during what they previously expected would be the weekend of Nuit Blanche . But I digress. During the 2012 Nuit Blanche event one of the most interesting events was an installation that contained both burnt-out and live incandescent light bulbs. These bulbs were all connected to hanging pulls that turned the lights on and off. It was in the form of a large cloud and it magical. People loved it and it became an internet sensation – and rightfully so. From my recollection when I attended the night of Nuit Blanche, it could best be described as enchanting. The images spread quickly. In fact, months later there was a show at an art gallery in Moscow of a new version of this cloud that no doubt came partly as a result of images that were picked up off the internet. This new work was constructed in Russia. A number of months later a smaller commission was completed at what I believe is a gay bar or club in Chicago. As was the case in Russia and Calgary, this newly formed cloud (truth be told – clouds, as there were more than one cloud installed in this club) also met with success. Phantom Wing Fast forward to the recent Phantom Wing project at cSPACE King Edward School. The artists involved with the Nuit Blanche Cloud also formed the Phantom Wing signage for that event as well. The signage subsequently also was modified somewhat and used for the Phantom Wing website. Once the Phantom Wing project had barely wrapped up, they were off to recover the Russian cloud and then re-install it in the heart of Prague, Czech Republic alongside the Vlatava river. This was for an event similar to Nuit Blanche and probably was as captivating as it was at each other location it has been shown at. Sometimes the history behind something is important. This is one of those cases. It is very interesting seeing where this light installation by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett came from as it might otherwise be easily missed due to the location and the temporary nature of its installation during the next few months. Events There also will be an artist talk with Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett which will take place at the Art Gallery of Calgary on Thursday, December 19, 2013 at 6:00pm. Smart move on the part of the Calgary Downtown BRZ on commissioning this work. If you are downtown at some point between now and early February check it out.
During the summer of 2000, Downtown Calgary became of dairy farm of a different sort for the summer. Organizers in Zürich, Switzerland introduced the concept of bringing painted cows into the city during 1998 in a project called Land in Sicht. The following year in summer 1999 the concept was taken to Chicago where the cows grazed along the Magnificent Mile along with a new cow that is used often around the world in various cities since that time.
Building the framework.
Bonnie Laycock saw the Chicago event and thought it would be a great way to generate a fundraising effort for local charities. She rightfully thought that building on the “cow culture” associated with the Calgary Stampede would bring success and ready market for this project. She along with other like-minded and community-oriented people then formed a new organization Udderly Art Inc. which was formed to oversee this project and bring it to fruition. It was unlike anything that the city had ever experienced before. The beneficiaries of this endeavor were various local, national and international charities.
The organizing committee got together and had to figure out who best to make the cows, since this was an independent organization from the Chicago one.
Local artist, who made a name for himself by creating life-sized dinosaur models – Brian Cooley. He set out to create a big doey-eyed jersey cow as the model from which all 125 Calgary cows were created from.
How did it work?
An individual or corporation would generally purchase the model and then donate it to a charity. The artist and charity were matched somehow through various methods of selection. During most of the summer, once the cows were painted or completed they were allowed to graze along Stephen Avenue Mall. After the summer had ended, at a large fundraising auction the dairy cows were auctioned off to the highest bidder and the designated charities would in turn receive the funds.
It was a win/win situation for all parties involved. It also built community and connections with groups, people and organizations that may not have crossed paths before.
So what happened to the cows since 2000?
There is a small herd of dairy cattle located on the +15 level of the Centennial Parkade in downtown Calgary. The others have been dispersed. Occasionally, we hear about them in the local papers, but usually they are forgotten and quietly graze wherever they ended up only remembered by their owners and those who happen to pass by.
Recently, in my travels I came across a stray from the herd in Centennial Parkade.
The artist who painted this cow is Lynnie Wonfor and it is entitled Knee Deep in Wild Flowers. It was donated by Viking Management Inc. to the Calgary Stampede Foundation, which was also the charity that received the funds when sold. Who purchased it is unknown. From information believed to be accurate, it seems as if the flowers were painted based on flowers on the country property where the CEO of Viking Management then lived during 1999.
Now this cow seems to have traded the country life for one where she is penned in on a grassless patio with a few shrubs and can keep a watchful eye overlooking her favourite charity.
In time, I am sure that I will cross paths with others and maybe even write about them again.