Toronto Through My Lens

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Eldon Garnet’s Toronto Sculptures

By creating this blog I’ve discovered the Toronto sculpture works of Canadian visual artist and novelist Eldon Garnet piece by piece. As it turns out, over my years of photographing Toronto I’d been unknowingly capturing shots of Eldon Garnet’s work. Going through shots both old and recent I realized I have enough to publish a post focusing on Eldon Garnet’s collective sculptures in Toronto, soooooo… here we go.

Eldon Garnet is a true Torontonian; he was born here in 1946. His prolific sculptures and photographic work has been held at the National Gallery of Canada, the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and the Amsterdam Center of Photography. He is also a Professor at the Ontario College of Art and Design located in the city’s core. Eldon Garnet is represented by the Christopher Cutts Gallery in Toronto and the Torch Gallery, Amsterdam

The Toronto Sculptures

To Serve and Protect

To Serve and Protect is a three-part sculpture surrounding the Metropolitan Police Headquarters in downtown Toronto. The three pieces are located at the main Headquarters entrance at 40 College Street, the southeast corner of Bay and Grenville Streets, and the Grenville entrance. The sculptures were erected in 1988.

The first part of the “To Serve And Protect” trilogy is a policewoman with a police radio and trowel in her hands.
“Little Glenn” is the second part of the set. He’s depicted pulling a 22-foot-tall stone obelisk in a four-wheeled cart. On the obelisk are carved the words “To Serve And Protect”, the motto of the Toronto Police Force.
The third sculpture in the “To Serve And Protect” trilogy is a male figure balancing books and blocks on his shoulders.

If you’d like to read my post dedicated to this 3-piece sculpture, click here.


Time And A Clock

This bridge on Queen Street East, which crosses the Don Valley Parkway, bears an inscription across the top which reads:

This river I step in is not the river I stand in

The text is based on a quote from the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said: You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you. Basically, change is the one constant in life.

The overall textual theme of the work is Time, its substance and ambiguity. Time And A Clock is 1 part of a 3-site art piece, with the second part appearing as words embedded in the 4 corners of the Broadview Avenue and Queen Street East intersections. The last part of the work appears on 4 metal banners further east at Jimmy Simpson Park. Unfortunately I have no shots of the other 2 pieces of the installation (I’m thinking there just might be a further post on these), but as a whole the work is presented like this:

1) At the location Queen Street East/DVP location:

THIS RIVER I STEP IN IS NOT THE RIVER I STAND IN

2) Each of the 4 corners at the intersection of Queen Street East and Broadview Avenue, bear 1 of the following text embedded in the sidewalk:

TOO SOON FREE FROM TIME

TIME IS MONEY : MONEY IS TIME

BETTER LATE THAN NEVER

TIME = DISTANCE X VELOCITY

3) Near Jimmy Simpson Park (872 Queen Street East) 4 steel poles hold banners which read:

COURSING

DISAPPEARING

TREMBLING

RETURNING

On a less artistic note, this current steel Truss bridge crossing the Don Valley was built in 1911 by the Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Company of Darlington, England. It was higher in elevation than previous bridges at the location and streets on each side of the river were graded higher to meet the level of the bridge. The bridge was opened for streetcars on October 8, 1911, and for other road traffic 5 days later.

The bridge was renovated in the 1990s; Eldon Garnet’s public art was added at the top of the bridge in 1996.


Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial

Created by Eldon Garnet and Francis LeBouthillier and erected in 1989, this monument is located at the intersection of Blue Jays Way and Navy Wharf Court.

The sculpture depicts 2 life-sized Chinese workers precariously moving a beam into place to complete the construction of a railway trestle. The boulders at the base are from the Canadian Rockies. Three pairs of rocks from the original transcontinental rail route are parallel to the pedestrian pathway and contain a small plaque stating One by One the Walkers Vanish.

Between 1880 and 1885, 17,000 men emigrated from China, most from the province of Kwangtung (Guangdong), to work on Canada’s burgeoning railway. By some estimates, more than 4,000 workers died during the construction. In addition to facing racist discrimination, the immigrants were often given the most dangerous jobs in the already dangerous task of blasting through the Rocky Mountains to lay the Western section of the track. Many were killed by landslides, cave-ins, disease and explosions. Despite the high risk involved in their work, Chinese were paid half as much as other workers.

The Chinese Railroad Workers Memorial was erected to commemorate the contribution and sacrifice of these workers, who remained nameless in the history of Canada. After the railroad was complete, many of the immigrants who survived could not find new jobs. To that end, a plaque on the memorial reads:

With no means of going back to China when their labour was no longer needed, thousands drifted in near destitution along the completed track.


Equal Before the Law

This sculpture is located at 21 Osgoode Lane, behind the Courthouse and adjacent to Nathan Phillips Square. It features the scales of justice on which balances a lamb (left) and a lion.

The text on the piece reads:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination

A description from the artist’s website:

The lamb often signifies purity, innocence, meekness. It often represents either pure thought or a just person. The lion is rich in symbolism. In common correspondence, the lion is the “king of beasts,” the “natural lord and master,” the possessor of strength. It also can represent earth and at times “philosophical fire.”

The context in which the lamb and lion appear in this sculpture direct the interpretation of these two symbolic representations. One is large, one is small and yet the scales balance. The mis-weighted yet balanced scale invites us to question why and how. The answer is simple – on the scales of justice each individual is equal. One is strong and one is meek, one is powerful and one is weak, but the law treats both equally.

To borrow some further explanatory text from the McMurtry Gardens of Justice website:

The scales are also represented symbolically. The tower and the platform are constructed symmetrically yet askew. The tower is twisted to a 60 degree angle to the back of the courthouse, to which the platform is parallel. The ends of the platform are cut at 30 degree angles in correspondence to the support tower. The tower is constructed such that the dimensions from the top to the bottom are angled.

Everything about the mathematics of this scale is calculated to be in perfect proportion, balanced, but turned or angled 60 or 30 degrees, as are the proportions designed to range from 1 to 2. The final effect is a scale that is balanced yet in a complicated fashion, possibly a metaphor for the law itself.

The scales are constructed of brushed stainless steel. The lion and the lamb are life size, realistically rendered in bronze.


Inversion

In Inversion, you will see upside down moose, foxes and wolves in front of the James Cooper Mansion condos, 28 Linden Street (Bloor/Sherbourne area). Placed in 2011, they are made of bronze.

But what exactly does it all mean? From Eldon Garnet’s website:

This sculptural work is a comment about our current, local relationship with the age-old Canadian, and particularly urban, interaction with nature. Simply put, nature has now been turned on its head. The threat has gone, the desire is not to fortify our existence against the wilderness which has been tamed to disappearance, but rather, it is now a nostalgic desire to embrace what no longer exists. Our current longing is to return a sense of nature to our environment, not to build walls against its presence, but rather to embrace nature.


Artifacts of Memory

Near the corner of Yonge and St. Joseph Streets stands Eldon Garnet’s sculpture Artifacts of Memory. Unveiled in 2016, it consists of 5 lines of text stretching out into interconnected yet disparate strands:

FROM ONE NARRATIVE TO THE NEXT
IF NOT TOMORROW TOMORROW
LUCKY ENOUGH TO FLY INTO THE FLAME
SLOWLY SURELY DISAPPEARING
FOLLOWED BY MOMENTS OF EQUILIBRIUM

The piece highlights the conditions of living in the modern world with a focus on the passage of time. The sculpture is meant to captivate the observer’s curiosity and reflection as they walk toward and under the artwork.

Eldon Garnet has expressed that Artifacts of Memory materially espouses the difficulty of coming to terms with history, time, and death.

Art critics have commented on Artifacts of Memory:

Sprouting a multiplicity of civic narratives, the sculpture resists the comfortable and easy sense of resolution – of certainty – often dispensed by less playful and less daring public art.


Well, that’s about it for Eldon Garnet’s sculptures in Toronto – at least the ones I know about. If you know of any I may have missed please let me know.

“Untitled”

Outside the Kelly Library, St. Michael’s College (U of T) at 113 St. Joseph Street, resides Untitled by sculptor William McElcheran.

This bronze sculpture was installed on June 6, 1973 as a plastic piece before being bronzed a few years later; it was sent to Italy for that process.

This is a 2-sided sculpture: the street side shows a crowd of people, many clinging to the others, while the library-facing side shows historical figures involved in intellectual discussions.

The Street-Facing Side (crowd)

The Library-Facing Side (historical figures)

McElcheran deliberately included the faces of many contemporary and ancient scholars and teachers on this side of the sculpture. Some of these individuals, such as Einstein or Gandhi, are easy to make out. From left to right, you can see the following figures:

James Joyce
Stephen Leacock
T. S. Eliot
Geoffrey Chaucer
Marshall McLuhan
Dante Alighieri
Germaine de Staël
George Bernard Shaw
George Sand
Leo Tolstoy
William Shakespeare
Sigmund Freud
Jean-Paul Sartre
Rene Descartes
Etienne Gilson
Søren Kierkegaard

Georg Hegel
Immanuel Kant
Eugène Ionescu
Jacques Maritain
St. Thomas Aquinas
Sir Isaac Newton
St. Theresa of Avila
St. Augustine
Albert Einsten
Eldridge Cleaver
John Henry Newman
Barbara Ward
Karl Marx
Charles Darwin
Mahatma Gandhi
Herman Kahn

Some of these scholars – for example, Marshall McLuhan and Etienne Gilson – have taught at St. Michael’s College and even used the Kelly Library.

Symbolism1

So what does McElcheran’s statue symbolize? The interpretation of Reverend Edward A. Synan (1918-1997), a noted philosopher and medievalist with the Pontifical Institute at the Medieval Studies at St. Michael’s College, was printed in the September 7, 1973 issue of the U of T Bulletin:

There are people outside and inside the Library, all of them gratifyingly different. … Some hurry by and will never go in. … Some will go in, but why hurry? Stand around and talk awhile. After you are in, ideas, facts, perspectives, are all hard to come by. One side of Bill’s sculpture says this and much more.

The other side in this artist’s report on the inside of our Library… (he) has reached the people whose books guarantee them survival. … Bill has put in conversation men and women who met only in libraries and in the intellects of those who use them. … Not all the figures are historic — at least not yet. Look carefully and — who knows? — you may find yourself.

Synan also observed that the head of Jesus can be seen on the side of the statue facing the street. Synan said McElcheran was trying to show that Christ overhears the talk of those waiting outside the library and that He can like what He hears. Knowledge is what a library is all about and it means hard work so a lot of struggle goes on, for first you must get in.

Father John Kelly speaking beside the McElcheran statue outside the Kelly Library, 1973 (I can’t help but wonder if the dude in the front left still has those groovy plaid pants…)

1Analysis from the Kelly Library’s site

Want to see more works by William McElcheran? Click here to read about another of his sculptures I’ve profiled on TOcityscapes.com.

Clover Hill Park

And exactly where is Clover Hill Park you may ask? Situated in the northwest corner of Bay Street and St. Joseph Street, it is nestled in amongst the University of Toronto buildings and St. Basil’s Catholic Parish at U of T. It’s kind of small and easy to miss but has a few interesting things to offer.

At one point, neighbourhood residents were incredibly frustrated with the park’s development. In the late 2010s it was finished and ready to enjoy, yet remained closed for months surrounded by fencing. City Councillors at the time – Mike Layton and Kristyn Wong-Tam – received many letters of complaint from area residents. At the time, both Councillors cited issues with payment of the developers, Saddlebrook, which had prevented the City from opening the park.

The building of the park was part of a master plan in 2006 for new condos in the area along with a green space for residents tied to the 50 St. Joseph Street parkette enlargement. Construction of the park began in 2017; in November 2020 it was finally opened and warmly welcomed by the community as a much needed green space.

Although it looks pretty dismal in mid-January, as below, it’s a green and inviting park in the summertime. There’s a little bit of something for everyone at Clover Hill Park:

Mushrooms of the non-magic variety

Bunnies, snails and foxes, oh my…

Sculptures

This piece is entitled Zen West. Created in 1980 by Kosso Eloul, the stainless steel sculpture was donated by Father Dan Donovan of the Basilian Order in 1980.

And of course, the beloved Primrose!

Shameless self promotion:
If you’d like to learn about her story, please visit my Primrose post here.

St. Joseph Street

I love walking down St. Joseph Street in downtown Toronto. The street consists mostly of 1940s-era Art Deco and/or brownstone apartments. Much of the original architecture is still in place and, thankfully, the street has not been totally overrun with towering condos. Yes, there are some condos on this street, but they have been kept low (not counting FIVE St. Joseph near the corner of Yonge Street) and styled to match the existing architecture of the original buildings. I always feel like I’m stepping back in time when I walk through this small street, which really only stretches from Queen’s Park Crescent to Yonge Street; it’s a small street with big character, and there’s a lot of gay history here as well.

Apartments at 26 St. Joseph Street
The Canadian Music Centre, 20 St. Joseph Street
The national office of this organization dedicated to honouring and preserving the efforts of Canadian composers is located in a residence built in the Queen Anne style in 1892 for William J. Hill, who was a City Councillor and contractor. The Canadian Music Centre has been in existence since 1959 and moved into the building in 1984, and named the building the Chalmers House to recognize the financial contributions of Floyd and Jean Chalmers to renovate the premises.

A Dark Past: 16 St. Joseph Street

The street is quite idyllic until you come upon an apartment building at 16 St. Joseph. Whenever I pass by this building I always think of that atrocious murder of gay bar owner Sandy LeBlanc in September 1978, and I wonder who committed this violent murder and for what reason. This murder is famous in the annals of Toronto’s gay history, and remains unsolved to this day.

There has been a lot written on this particular murder so I won’t go into great detail here, nor am I qualified to – just Google it if you want to learn more. Basically, friends of Sandy LeBlanc became worried when they didn’t hear from him after a day or two. The friends went to the apartment building and kicked Sandy’s door in – they found LeBlanc’s bloody body on the floor. He had been stabbed over 100 times – the police called it “overkill” and I can certainly see why. Police at the time found bloody footprints leading from the carpet in the bedroom to a window overlooking the alley. Reports said the carpet was so thick with blood it squished when officers walked on it. A bloody handkerchief was also found on the front lawn of the property.

16 St. Joseph Street as it is today
The building was known as “16 St. Joseph Court” at the time of the murder in 1978

Anyway, back to the street…

11 St. Joseph Street. Home many years ago to the famous and seminal 1970s gay club “The Manatee”, and later, “The Playground”. The condo building has been rebuilt since that time, but reconstructed in the exact same design as the original.
6 to 14 St. Joseph Street
The row of five buildings were Second Empire style rowhouses completed in 1879. They are listed in the Historic Yonge Street Heritage Conservation District and designated under Part IV and Part V, of the Ontario Heritage Act. The buildings feature red brick cladding with a mansard roof over moulded brick frieze. Tapered stone lintels top windows and door openings.
5 St. Joseph Street – former home of the gay club “Katrina’s”, later renamed “Colbys”, and later still became “Bachelors”. Like 11 St. Joseph Street beside it, the original building was demolished but a new one rebuilt in the exact style.
Near the corner of Yonge and St. Joseph Streets stands a sculpture entitled “Artifacts of Memory”, created by artist Eldon Garnet. It is composed of five lines of text which stretch out into interconnected yet disparate strands:
“FROM ONE NARRATIVE TO THE NEXT / IF NOT TOMORROW TOMORROW / LUCKY ENOUGH TO FLY INTO THE FLAME / SLOWLY SURELY DISAPPEARING / FOLLOWED BY MOMENTS OF EQUILIBRIUM”
Not on St. Joseph Street but right around the corner is 579 Yonge Street, home to the awesome gay bar “Cornelius” back in the day. The dichotomy of this building still amuses me to this day – in the 70s and 80s, “Cornelius” sat above the notorious biker bar “The Gasworks”. You could not possibly have found two more disparate worlds co-existing in one structure.

And… that’s about it. If you’re interested in the history of Toronto’s gay clubs from the 60s, 70s and 80s, check out the site Then & Now. There’s an abundance of detail there regarding Toronto’s gay past and it makes for fascinating reading, especially if you were in the scene at the time.

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