Sculptured artPublished on September 13, 2011

  • this marble honeyball hydrant, by Ryan Lotecki, can be found in Hintonburg's Somerset Square. (Photo by David Barbour)

  • Maman. (Photo by the National Art Gallery of Canada)

  • The iron gate leading into the Oaks' glorious backyard is a work of art commissioned by Monique as a gift to her husband. (Photo by Mark Holleron)

Whether sculptures are used to decorate an intimate garden or a prominent public space, they allow you to experience art in a more tangible way.

Ottawa has a variety of unique sculptures and the capital city is recognized internationally and locally for embracing this fascinating form of artistic expression.

A sculpture of a thirty-foot high spider may sound like something from a B-grade horror movie. But the serene allure of Louise Bourgeois' bronze spider "Maman," which graces the courtyard of the National Gallery of Canada, surprises and delights even the most arachnophobic visitors.

"It's a beloved landmark and really showcases that Ottawa is a world-class city for art," says the Assistant Curator of Modern Art Jonathan Shaughnessy. The local sculpture is the largest of a series of seven spiders, with other versions that have been showcased at such esteemed venues as London's Tate Modern and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

However, art galleries aren't the only place around town where you can see stunning public art. As part of a recent project to revitalize the streets of Wellington Village, 18 statues carved by local artists Ryan Lotecki and Marcus Kucey-Jones are scattered along Wellington Street West. Carved from marble the artists hand-picked in Italy, the whimsical sculptures depict life-sized fire hydrants that have been morphed into everyday objects like baby seats, books and vegetables.

"We decided on using fire hydrants as the unifying feature because they're all-inclusive," says the multi-talented Ryan, who carved nine of the sculptures. "The fire hydrant is an object that is an integral part of the community and it is found everywhere."

The piano-and-hydrant sculpture displayed outside Lauzon Music, is used to showcase the connection between the art and the neighbourhood. All the sculptures seem to touch local residents in some way, and everyone has a favourite. Ryan's favourite of his own carving is the honeybees, which can be found tucked away next to a fountain in Hintonburg's Somerset Square.

There are clear indications that Ottawa's commitment to beautifying the city with public art is growing. As an example, local artist and teacher Tim Desclouds has just created a set of 22 striking sculptures that are going to be installed along Bank Street in the Glebe. The brightly-coloured stainless-steel chairs represent important universal themes such as play, justice, family, literacy and the arts. The Education Chair features a cheery, red spiral staircase that leads to an open book and dancing letters of the alphabet, while the Construction Chair incorporates a stepladder and tools into the design.

"The goal of this project was to lighten the daily journeys taken by Glebe residents in a magical, humorous, and thought-provoking manner," explains Tim. "They are a tribute to the journeys we take in our everyday lives and to the landscapes found along the way, which form the backdrops of our existence."

A meaningful art experience is something everyone can bring to their own back yard. Avid art enthusiast Monique Oaks has created a sculpture garden with flair at her home in the Glebe. As Vice Chair of the Ottawa Botanical Garden Society, she is not only passionate about collecting art for her own garden, but also works tirelessly on fundraising projects such as the Country Garden Tour to help re-establish the botanical garden that once existed at the Central Experimental Farm.

At home, Monique and her husband Steve have carefully selected remarkable works from local artists, as well as pieces picked up during their travels, to display throughout their lush garden. A winding path leads slowly through the flowerbeds to a charming waterfall that trickles into the pond, so that each sculpture can be appreciated one at a time - even those on the roof of the shed.

At the back entrance to the garden stands a fanciful iron gate decorated with found objects, which is a work of art Monique commissioned as a gift for her husband, There's also a striking boat skeleton by local designers Urban Keois, a collection of sleek blue-glass globes, and a large bird named "Van" who presides over the pond. Pretty bird feeders are scattered throughout.

"We wanted to create a space where the art and the garden set each other off," Monique says. "The flowers and trees reveal the beauty of the sculptures and the art does the same for the garden." Its effect is especially dramatic at night, when fifty concealed lights illuminate the sculptures from below.

Experiencing sculptured art in a gallery setting, enjoying its company on your neighbourhood walks, or viewing it in your own private garden are all delightful ways to connect you to the beauty of your environment. Take the time to stop and savour the sculptures!

Tips for Starting Your Own Sculpture Garden

Written by Julia Flemming of Gaia's Gardens 

‚Ä" Pair up sculpture size with a complementary environment;

‚Ä" When choosing a location, consider the sight line from various angles including inside the house;

‚Ä" Broken planters that you once loved can still find places in the garden- half dug in the ground like a found artifact or set in as a peony support;

‚Ä" Use sculptures to give a defining marker to a long property and/or interests along the way;

‚Ä" Mirrors are helpful in expanding small spaces;

‚Ä" Make sure each piece gets a separate space to avoid looking cluttered.

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