Emily Carr Mystery Solved

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Yesterday’s “Can you Guess?” post was so much fun. Yes?

It is indeed Emily Carr.

The statue is located in the Victoria, British Columbia harbour near the Empress Hotel which you can see in the back ground. The specific location is on the corner of Government and Belleville Street diagonal to the legislative buildings.

Looking up is Emily’s dog Billie. He is looking at Woo Emily’s monkey who is sitting on her shoulder.

The artist/sculptor who was commissioned to create the Emily Carr statue is Barbara Paterson.

I took these photographs the day after the unveiling of the oversized Carr statue. People were still frowning at it as they passed on their way to work in the morning. I didn’t take their pictures as they were so unguarded in there peering at this statue of a strange woman with a monkey on her shoulder. I didn’t want to embarrass anyone. I believe it is safe to say that most of them couldn’t have guessed who the statue represented either and they live in Emily’s home town.

The evening before we had seen a screening of a new documentary film Winds of Heaven: Emily Carr, Carvers and the Spirits of the Forest by Michael Ostroff which I reviewed on the “Emily Carr My Kindred Spirit” post in October. I was in full Emily Carr remembering when I took these photographs. I have read her diaries, her stories and viewed her art work for much of my life. I regard her as a mentor.

Why did I wait so long to post the photographs of the statue? It is because my heart sank when I saw the statue. I was filled with a deep sadness – not because of the statue itself. The statue is beautiful, thoughtful and skillfully created. I was sad because the location chose for the statue presented a mystery for me. Emily would hate it. I just know she would. Stuck in the buzz of city traffic and tourists, with people peering at her while she is left sketching one miserly branch of the great forest she loved would have been torture.

Why would anyone choose to put a statue of Emily Carr in such a counter position to her whole being? I thought and mused as I invited Emily to walk with me out of the noise and commotion down a path along the harbour shore. I am sure her feelings were hurt as much as she was angry.

I know because as we stopped to look up at the totem pole along the path, she seemed to be saying:

“Why couldn’t they have just tucked me a little ways into the peace of the rose garden where at least the birds visit?”

“Why didn’t they put me in Beacon Hill Park where it is quiet and the glorious big pines still stand?”

“Oh bother! Why didn’t they just forget about this old fool?”

I feel compelled to tell her that she is important to art history in Canada and especial in British Columbia. Though people may have not chosen the best spot for her statue in relation to her love of the woods, their hearts were in the right place. They loved her. She sagged a bit under the weight of it all and seemed to weary to fight the mistake… for surely it had to be a mistake, wasn’t it?

After weeks of considering, my conclusion is no, it is not a mistake. It was the right decision even as heartbreaking as it is to think of Emily sitting there stuck so far from the peace of her woods. It is the right decision because the statue isn’t for Emily Carr. She lived her life, created her art, wrote her stories and her spirit is free to be where it chooses – which is not on the corner of Government and Belleville Street I can assure you. The statue is for those of us who have yet to discover Emily Carr. For those that do not know of her great art and her books. The statue is a clue to a mystery that waits to be discovered by tourists, workers going to work and the three year old on a walk with her dad who draws him into the world of Emily as the child pets Billie and they both smile up at Woo. Maybe then they will seek out Carr’s paintings and wander into the great forest to see the trees as she saw them. I hope so because this is where they will find her spirit joins them as they sit on a log in wonder at one of the greatest mystery of all – the forest.

The statue is only a clue to solving a great mystery. Maybe someday the world will know Emily Carr and her woods well enough that this clue can be removed deep into the forest where we can sit together with her as kindred spirits around a small fire discussing other creative mysteries.

Sprout question: How do you resolve creative sadness and disappointment?

Or an even better sprout question offered to us by Leanne Dyck: What artist of the past would you like others to discover today?

Thank you Leanne:)

© 2010 Terrill Welch, All rights reserved.

Liberal usage granted with written permission. See “About” for details.

Purchase photography at http://www.redbubble.com/people/terrillwelch

Creative Potager – where imagination rules. Be inspired.

From Mayne Island, British Columbia, Canada

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6 thoughts on “Emily Carr Mystery Solved

  1. Terrill – In reading the post I started out feeling outraged. The geographic displacement of her statue being so darned rude and insulting.

    But then I followed your heart — the shift in perspective you provided to the silver lining on the cloud:

    “…it is not a mistake. It was the right decision even as heartbreaking as it is to think of Emily sitting there stuck so far from the peace of her woods. It is the right decision because the statue isn’t for Emily Carr. She lived her life, created her art, wrote her stories and her spirit is free to be where it chooses – which is not on the corner of Government and Belleville Street I can assure you. The statue is for those of us who have yet to discover Emily Carr.” yes, Yes, YES!

    Sprout question: How do you resolve creative sadness and disappointment?

    In my experience, shifting one’s mental outlook — even slightly — the trajectory changes significantly and usually reveals the sun coming up beyond the dark horizon.

    • Laurie you have clearly described what I had to do when confronted with Emily Carr’s statue deposited at a busy intersection in the heart of tourism Victoria. Nicely put! Have you read Emily’s writings yet? If not you have a real treat in your future. Your Library should be able to get them in. Separately they are Klee Wyck, The Book of Small, The House of All Sorts and Growing Pains: An Autobiography, The heart of a Peacock, Small and Her Creatures, Pause: A Sketch Book, and Hundreds and Thousands: The Journal of an Artist. Lucky me I have them all in one book of 893 pages The complete writings of Emily Carr but I think I found one more small volume of writings after this but I can’t seem to find where I put it at the moment.

  2. If I am very lucky, I find a friend and together we create a plan for victory out of a momentary defeat.

    Oh, Terrill, if only I could have whispered in your ear while you were writing this. If I had I would have said, “Terrill, ask them, what artist of the past would you like others to discover today?”

    My answer: Pauline Johnson. The first that comes to mind, but there are many others.

    • Leanne I wish you could have whispered this question into my ear this morning as well. In fact I am going to go and change the question right now. Thank you for this gem and for leaving your sprout response.

  3. I enjoyed this historical perspective and what attracted you to this adored work.

    Resolving sadness and disappointment can be remedied by staying the course, and I’d pose the name of Seraphine de Senlis, (1864-1942) as the name of an artist who deserves more recognition.

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