Leaving our apartment in different directions you can walk to the water's edge, or to Stanley Park, or take one of the streets leading downtown. Today we walked down Davie Street, lined with restaurants and businesses, and filled with a wide variety of Vancouverians. The architecture of Vancouver is a continual surprise. There is an imposing old stone mansion which is now Macaroni Grill; rundown office buildings may contain lovely stone carvings; skyscrapers catch gleams of sunlight on their glass facades. We passed the symphony hall and the theater district, and resolved to check online for the current programs. Chinese Garden
From the guide books we learned that the Vancouver Art Gallery contained a lot of work by Emily Carr, and featured mostly British Columbia art. Bob had a hunch it would be a wasted visit, and he got to say I Told You So. The problem, it seems to us, is that Vancouver is evidently not a center of fine art; over the years its aspiring artists have gone elsewhere to study and create. The museum was filled with what seemed to us to be mediocre works, which would do little to inspire students. The modern works were all abstract or political, and apparently didn't take any inspiration from the majestic beauty of the British Columbia landscape.
Emily Carr worked in the beginning of the twentieth century; it took her 15 years to sell her first painting. After studying in London and Paris she came home to paint pictures of forests and totem poles. They are somewhat moody, impressionistic pieces which did not excite us, although she is apparently being rediscovered by Vancouverians. We prefer the actual Haida totem poles to Carr's paintings of them.
There was a traveling exhibit of Cornelius Krieghoff's paintings of rural life in eastern Canada; it turned out to be the same exhibit we had seen last summer in Montreal. Krieghoff was quite popular; he painted to sell and sell he did. But again it is not great art. In fact we were taken by a certain similarity between Krieghoff's work and that of Thomas Kincaid, Painter of Light, which is being hyped in malls and galleries all over the United States, and is no doubt produced by factory methods.
The other traveling exhibit was entitled Komar and Melamid: Canada's Most Wanted and Most Unwanted Paintings. Vitaly Komar and Alexander Melamid, Russian Narrowest building immigrant artists, polled over a thousand Canadians, asking them what they liked and didn't like in a painting. Size, frame, color, subject, medium, style (representative versus abstract) were some of the topics covered. Komar and Melamid have produced beautiful graphs displaying the statistics of the responses to their questionnaires, and then to top it off, have created two "works of art" -- one displaying all the "most wanted" characteristics, the other displaying all the "most unwanted" characteristics. So it boils down to art by popularity poll.
We thought this display might be regarded as a hilarious poke in the eye of art critics, but the Vancouver Art Gallery appears to have taken it seriously, even adding a set of paintings of their own, to be voted on by Gallery visitors; several large binders are set out where people may record their comments.
Somewhat bemused by this experience, we continued our walk. We had just stopped to look at a doorway filled with graffiti (we've been reading more about the subject) when suddenly a passerby spoke to us, to make sure we knew that Vancouver has a major effort underway to remove graffiti. He was a former maitre d' at the Four Seasons Hotel, a city booster, and also wanted to tell us that the U.S. had made a big mistake electing the alcoholic George Bush instead of the saintly Al Gore. He also told us that a lot of rich Chinese had immigrated recently from Hong Kong, and, after consulting Sheng Fui, had decided to locate their big mansions in the suburb of Richmond, where we had seen the Buddhist temple. As we parted he urged us to turn down a side street so we wouldn't encounter the open drug dealing on the next few blocks of Hastings Street. We didn't tell him we had already walked there, and obligingly went down the side street.
The main police station is located in this crime-ridden neighborhood, and next door is the Police Museum, our next stop. This is a volunteer effort, with a really interesting set of exhibits. There are mockups of dispatching stations, motorcycle cops, mannequins in various police uniforms, including the Oval skyscraper cermonial Scottish regalia for the police pipers, mounted police, beat patrols, along with the usual horrific displays of weapons and contraband. There are special exhibits for the policemen killed in the line of duty (not many) and exhibits of famous Vancouver murders, solved and unsolved. It keeps getting more interesting; in the rear is a murder scene, complete with a stabbed woman on an iron bed in a cheap small apartment, along with all the types of evidence the police would gather to investigate. Following this is the morgue, complete with drawers for corpses (still all mannequins) and autopsy room, with a number of forensic pathology displays.
We wandered back home, through Chinatown and past more interesting architecture, including the narrowest building in Canada: Mr. Chow had purchased land for his building but the government took most of it for reasons of their own. He had just enough, however, to build a building a block long and about six feet wide, plus bay window overhangs on the second floor. It's occupied by Believe It Or Not Museum (second floor) and a string of offices selling automobile insurance to customers standing on the sidewalk.
In the Sun Yat Sen park several hippies had apparently found a place to sleep within a dense grove of bamboo. Farther along our walk, we found some landmark office buildings from the 1930s near new skyscrapers, and closer to home several beautifully restored and maintained houses recall the early days of this part of the city. We were well tired out by our walk.