Canada's most ambitious landscape art project takes several heartwarming turns in Gatineau.
A prairie buffalo looks up from his meal of tender grass shoots, looking calm and serene despite the heat of the day and the thickness of his woolly coat. He's perfectly at ease and utterly unperturbed by the proximity of a nearby polar bear, whose sleek, silvery-white fur glistens in the sun. An enormous, stately inuksuk stands between them and presides over their affairs.
Anywhere else, this would be a most curious trio but in downtown Gatineau, Quebec, they couldn't be more at home, for the buffalo, the polar bear, and the inuksuk are made entirely of plants, the latest spectacle from Montreal's innovative landscape art company, Mosaicultures. And in their most ambitious project yet, "MosaiCanada", Gatineau's waterfront Jacques Cartier Park is transformed into "a beautiful historical bouquet" for Canada's 150th anniversary.
Every great journey needs a starting point and the flower enveloped 'train station' of MosaiCanada marks the start of the exhibit and kicks off the first sector A Ticket For Canada with style.
The railroad has long been a poignant Canadian symbol and there are so many great stories that begin with a train ride. I couldn't have been more thrilled that the story they chose to immortalize was Anne of Green Gables, waiting outside the train station for Mr Matthew Cuthbert to transport her to Green Gables in a horse and buggy. From her long red braid to the shabby old carpet bag that she had to hold 'just so' in order to protect her meager worldly possessions, this is an Anne that every Canadian will recognize.
Our Ticket To Canada soon morphed into a A Ride Across Canada as the second sector of the exhibit began. It wasn't long before I came across another charming symbol of Prince Edward Island. These adorable foxes were just irresistible. The jaunty pair, with the adult's bushy, white-tipped red tail protectively wrapped about the baby, drew gasps of adoration from everyone around me. Their sweet snuggle and all the emotion it contained was a clear crowd pleaser. Given that foxes adorn Prince Edward Island's coat of arms, this artistic collaboration with the City of Charlottetown couldn't be more apt.
My beloved foxes were just one of many sculptures representing Canada's provinces and territories. If memory serves me right, the plump puffins above were part of Newfoundland's contribution. The imagery of an epic train journey across the country which allows you to soak in the culture, history, and nature of each region is a vision that's wonderfully supported by the incredible variety of plants used in each work of art. Every color and texture imaginable was used to bring each display to life, from fishing boats heaving under the weight of their catch to a formidable orca, caught mid leap as it arched its back and dove into a sea of flowers.
The orca and the foxes weren't the only creatures caught playing. These spirited dragons, engaged with a bouncing ball, are a gift from the city of Beijing. Along with a complimentary piece from the city of Shanghai, these living sculptures in the A Trip To China section celebrate 15 years of collaboration between Chinese artists and Mosaicultures' Quebec based team, as well as the long relationship between Canada and China, including the often overlooked and underappreciated role that Chinese laborers played in the construction of the trans-Canadian railroad.
Over 25 horticultural workers came from China to work on the remarkable creations. When the exhibit ends on October 15th, the annuals will be composted and the frames will return to China for future projects, while the components of the remaining works of art will return back to Montreal.
From here, the MosaiCanada journey morphs from one that is geographic in nature to a more symbolic journey through our collective memories in A Journey Through Time. Heroes and celebrities and events familiar to every Canadian are represented here, from famous hockey goals to the poetry of World War I. While I suspect this sector of the exhibition will be a real crowd pleaser I have to admit to some disappointment that the pieces didn't represent greater gender and racial diversity and include a broader range of Canadian heroes.
Grand journeys require equally grand destinations and MosaiCanada leaves the best for last. Their final piece, part of The Journey Into The Imagination Of The First Nations sector, is an absolute showstopper. Mother Nature is surrounded by animals and water, a waterfall cascading from her outstretched hand. From certain angles, she looks serene and peaceful, while from others she appears vulnerable and sad, and in yet another position she seems to be shrugging with resignation, precious water slipping through her fingers in a gesture of how we let the best of nature slip away from us. She's a magnificent tour-de-force and is the crown jewel of the event's 33 sculptures.
While MosaiCanada concludes October 15 2017, Gatineau is the perfect year-round destination for exploring the symbols, legends, and images of Canada. In particular...
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