July 6th, 2010 Off to the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery!

Walking Home Yaletown Public Art  July 62010  – The Jennifer Kostuik Gallery and Public Art in Yaletown

By Samantha Knopp

Today’s session began in the “Jennifer Kostuik Gallery” in Yaletown. This is a commercial gallery which is very different from the public galleries that most of us are accustomed to. Rather than catering to the general public and covering a wide spectrum of work, commercial galleries are usually intended to serve a specific clientele. In this case, Jennifer Kostuik, the owner of the gallery, explained that her gallery showcases only a small collection of artists that she selects based largely on her own personal tastes and the contemporary art market. These artists are then represented by the gallery and a collection of each artist’s work is kept on file to show to potential buyers.

Photo by WHYPA Audio facilitator Laurie Dawson

Commercial galleries operate as private businesses and generate revenue by selling artwork with most galleries charging a commission of 40-70% on any art they sell. This rate came as a shock to me, but as I mulled over the pros and cons it started to seem reasonable for an artist to take a large pay-cut in exchange for the freedom of working primarily in the studio and not having to worry about promotion, storage, shipping, exhibition and sales. Visiting this gallery was an interesting glimpse into the business side of art which, to this point in our discussions, had not yet come up. We had understandably focused on the interpretation of art in most of our discussion but this experience served to remind everyone in the group that the economic viability is a key aspect of any artwork’s ultimate fruition.

Photo by WHYPA Audio Facilitator Laurie Dawson

After leaving the gallery, we went down Homer Street toward the Yaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Transit Station where one of the participants, Stephanie French, led us in an interpretive analysis of the sculpture, Equestrian Monument, by David Robinson. This life-sized bronze sculpture depicts a horse and rider and, at a distance, appears to be yet another re-making of the all-too-familiar classical monument. But as we got closer, it became plain that this wasn’t the case: the lower halves of both horse and rider were unnaturally large, and the rider himself was a fat old man, naked and tied to the horse with a taut rope that covered nearly his entire lower body. It was not your average “important guy on a horse” statue.

Photo by Artist Bali Singh

Stephanie explained that the sculpture is one of two casts of the monument, both located in Vancouver. The second white gypsum replica is situated at the store “John Fluevog’s Shoes” on Water Street and although Stephanie was unsure as to their connection, she did inform us that this work was submitted by the artist to the Canada Line as a temporary installation, which brought the discussion back to the economics of art. The Canada Line has donated a certain amount of space for artists to temporarily showcase their work for sale. I thought this was an interesting way to bring innovative artwork to the public affordably and fairly. The artist gets the benefit of showcasing their work without paying a commission rate or installation fee (the Canada Line and Jugo Juice cover the installation costs) and the Canada Line benefits by acquiring a wide variety of artwork without actually paying for or accumulating artwork[1].

As we began to discuss the sculpture’s meaning, our general consensus was that the work was intended as a sort of mocking commentary on classical sculpture and the imperialistic culture it represented. This interpretation was based on the sculpture’s rather overt reference to a classical theme, and yet violently inverting its purpose. For instance, as one participant noted, classical sculptors used to alter the proportions of their work, when placing sculptures high above the viewer, in order to make the work appear anatomically correct. In this case, Robinson seems to have done the same, but the work is not placed high above the viewer and thus the altered proportions do not serve to create a realistic illusion.  In fact, it’s quite the opposite!

Photo by Artist Bali Singh

The comments from fellow project participant, Tiffany Choi, were particularly interesting on this piece because she drew on her own knowledge of horses to draw her conclusions.  She noticed, for instance, that the horse’s tail had been cut too short.  Tiffany explained that the tail was crucial for the horse’s sense of balance, and comfort (since it was used to swat away flies and pests) so a tail that was too short conveyed obvious meaning. This information was unknown to me and probably to several viewers and reminded me once again that the context and knowledge of the viewer is extremely important for interpretation.

Photo by Artist Bali Singh

Our day concluded at the Roundhouse Community Centre where we spent most of our time discussing the Walking Home Projects’ schedule and other logistical details, as well as beginning to brainstorm how we might be able to contribute to the project. The final half hour ended with an amazing presentation from Laurie Dawson, the project’s audio documentarian, who explained her background, in freelance broadcasting, and interests as well giving us some information on residencies, journalism, podcasting, and blogging. I left feeling excited for the things that I could develop out of this project and looked forward to the opportunity to share what I had learned with both our small gathering and, potentially, a wider much wider audience as well.

-Sam Knopp

[1] http://www.intransitbc.ca/art


July 6th 2010, Continuous journey and discovery

by Justina Faith Lee

July 6th, our third day together, and we were blessed with blue skies and warm weather. We began our day at the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery. Catherine had told us earlier that we would get the opportunity to meet and learn about Jennifer, the gallery owner. Jennifer gave us a warm welcome upon our arrival. We spent the first few minutes wandering around the gallery, really soaking up all the artwork. Most of us had the impression that we wouldn’t be able to visit commercial galleries on our own, so we really took this time to absorb all the beauty. We figured out later on however, that although very intimidating at times, commercial galleries are absolutely free for the public to enjoy. We then proceeded to gather around Jennifer as she began to explain what her job was all about. Jennifer said that she was very risky when it came to her work. Most commercial gallery owners would display what the public wanted to see, but she would put on display work that she connected with. As a result, there is a chance that she may not have as many customers as opposed to other galleries. However, she only wanted to display what represented herself, and that worked well for her. As we continued to listen to her speak about her gallery and her job maintaining it, she really began to inspire me. I, myself, had little idea that our city was so full of people that truly had a passion for art. I had no idea that, in fact, I’m surrounded by those people. Within a few more minutes, she wrapped up her speech and we thanked her for her time. We lingered around for a bit longer, before making our leave.

Photo by Audio Facilitator Laurie Dawson

Our second destination was less than a 10 minute walk away. We arrived at the public art piece, the ‘Equestrian Monument‘. For those who have never seen the work of David Robinson, I really suggest check this one out. Stephanie, our fellow pupil of this program, explained to us all angles of this piece. The work was of man and beast, and how they wander the imagination. As Stephanie continued to further explain to us what the artwork represented, we each began to have our own little interpretation. The man tied to the horse, in fact was looking into the horizon, whereas the horse was looking down and was in labour. Program Director Catherine Pulkinghorn pointed out, and we all soon noticed as well, that the horse had no eyes. We also noticed that the hoofs of the horse and the feet of the man was significantly larger not in proportion to the rest of the body. We also noticed that there was lack of hair and mane on both the man and horse, which made us think further why David Robinson had created it that way. When Stephanie said that the work was only temporary, I was a little upset. I thought that the work should stay because it had so much interpretation and meaning that it would be a shame to take it down. But I knew that there would be a chance that something new and maybe better will replace it, and we can only respect that.

Photo by WHYPA Audio Facilitator Laurie Dawson

As we finished our discussion of the horse and man, we continued down a little bit more and had a short conversation a piece of public art part of the Vancouver Biennale. It was an artwork suspended above, inside the sky train station. The artwork was a picture of a man on a lighted board looking off into the distance. On the board written in big yellow lettering says, “John Sola is not making art”. However, the description box plastered on the wall says otherwise, stating that “John Sola is making art“. Our connection with this piece and the last was that both men in the pieces were looking off into the distance, and both made small statements about politics.

Photo by WHYPA Audio Facilitator Laurie Dawson

Within the next few minutes, we concluded our conversation and moved on to the Roundhouse. Most of us were experiencing our first time being inside the Roundhouse community centre. It was quite the experience for us. The people of the community centre were extremely generous and had allowed us to use of their meeting/board rooms for our own meeting. A couple of us set up chairs while the rest of the people made quick visits to the bathroom. Catherine then proceeded to bring out the snacks. Needless to say, we were very happy. Usually, having snacks while sitting down and having nice conversation about art would be the most relaxing part of the day. As we sat down in a circle, Laurie began to talk about her work. As a freelance radio broadcaster, she is on the Simon Fraser University radio show quite often. Laurie shared with us her stories of how she came to find her passion in radio. She also explained to us that she loved to hear other people’s stories as well, whether it be happy or sad. And with the career of being a radio broadcaster, she gets that chance.

At the end of the day, we were all very content and our very minds were overflowing with new ideas and interpretations. Catherine had once said that we may find it difficult to remember and learn new context, but truth is, we all love it.

Justina F. Lee – The Discovery kid

WHYPA Participants Interpreting Equestrian Monument by David Robinson (photo credit: Neudis Abreu)

Click on the podcasts below to hear Gallery owner and curator Jennifer Kostuik, Walking Home Projects Director, Catherine Pulkinghorn and WHYPA Participant Stephanie French talk about art: