VoCA went to Georgian Bay this past weekend, and we were surprised to discover a work of contemporary art sitting on a rock overlooking the water.
The sculpture is by the artist Robert Murray, who has a cottage nearby and sits next to a lighthouse that marks the original township/community of Pointe au Baril.
The Georgian Bay community of Pointe au Baril was originally located on the north east corner of Lookout Island and the mainland, where the lighthouse presently stands. Together these two land bodies form part of the entrance channel which begins in open water to the west and threads its way through small islands to Pointe au Baril Station and Shawanaga Bay, a protected body of water that extends south to Snug Harbour and the entrance of Parry Sound.
Robert Murray grew up in Saskatoon. He attended the Regina College School of Art and studied with Ken Lochhead, Arthur McKay, Roy Kiyooka, Wolfram Neissen and Richard Simmons. He also studied at the Emma Lake Artists Workshops with Jack Shadbolt, Barnett Newman and Clement Greenberg.
The lighthouse at Pointe au Baril. Image: skerryvore.ca
Before a lighthouse and accompanying range light were built, myth has it that the early fishermen used a barrel and lantern to mark the channel, hence the name Pointe au Baril.
The piece, apparently disliked by many locals – although VoCA likes it – was commissioned by local cottagers Jasmine Herlt and Douglas Steiner to commemorate “the barrel.”
Murray lived in New York for many years before moving to just west of Philadelphia and his work is in many collections, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Art Gallery of Vancouver, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Montreal Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, New York the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, the Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Robert Murray, an early study, POINTE AU BARIL IX, 2003. Image: mooregallery.com
The sculpture’s base picks up on the rust coloured moss that it sits on, while the metal tub echoes the grey cottage nearby and the bright yellow offers sort of an ‘off’ element that engages the backdrop of green trees. The whole thing is tasteful and unusual.
Was it necessary? No. But it could have been a whole lot worse.