Montreal seemed to radiate life and excitement in its very streets when we visited a few days ago. The downtown core was full of people, shopping, enjoying the sun, eating on the temporary festival patios, listening to music from “Les Francophones de Montreal” festival. It was wonderful. What we both loved when we visited was the fact that the city organizes its events right in the heart, closing off part of their major streets to make room for festivals or art exhibits. I’m sure many other cities do so, but its such a departure from how Ottawa is organized.
The street art that I loved the most interacted with it’s audience. It was a great combination of the past and the present and the future. The artist creates the base, and invites his viewers to participate in it’s transformation. The walls of the installation were full of names, and adding our own to the list felt as though we were invited to belong to the city.
The churches, and architecture were great to explore. I never figured that cobblestones would be such a pain to walk on however. Twilight gave every street an almost mythical feel. As a history Major, I always tend to let my mind wander when walking through preserved streets. We joked and figured that 300 years ago Montreal would probably stink, what with the lack of proper sewage drainage, and apparently the city was hit hard by the plague at one point. But the grim facts don’t dull the fact that Montreal was one of the first European established towns in Canada. We didn’t have time to visit any museums dedicated to the history of the city, yet we were fortunate enough to view the fantastic art of Dale Chihuly.
“I thought it was the hot glass that was mysterious, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.” -Dale Chihuly. The man is a genius with glass blowing. His words were quoted throughout the exhibit and the one comment that really struck me was his wonder at the medium of glass blowing.
“One can only wonder what kind of genius thought of blowing human breath down a metal tube, forming a bubble inside a molten blob of glass. And to think that this molten blob of glass is made only of silica or sand, the most common material in the world, that can be transformed from a solid to a liquid to a solid just from fire. […]” Dale Chihuly, Museum of Beaux Arts, Montreal.
His words inspired me to contemplate what we writers do with our common materials: language, and sound. We have the possibility to create beautiful pieces of literature, or poetry, and express the world abstractly. When I write, sometimes it can be the most challenging moment of my day. Trying to find the right words, the right sentence structure to accurately describe what I want my readers to see is hard. But it is so rewarding when I can place my thoughts to the page.
We are all trying to express life. With words, glass-blowing, or any other medium. Dale Chiluhy’s work is beautiful and inspiring. If anyone has the opportunity to visit Montreal this summer, make sure to stop by the Beaux Arts Museum to see his installations. It is worth it.
All photos taken by Daniel Cairns, my amazing travelling companion, who unfortunately isn’t in any photos…