Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Back from the Big Smoke

View of the CN tower and the Art Gallery of Ontario

I feel lucky. My flights home from Toronto were only 4 hours delayed. I made it home at 4 am yesterday morning. Walking through Calgary airport, getting my connecting flight, was a bit surreal. It looked a little like an emergency disaster shelter, crowded with many weary people trying to sleep on the floor, using their luggage as pillows. Some had been there for 3 days. It was extremely unusual for storm systems to be present across the entire country at once.

I'm always surprised in these mini crisis that people are so well behaved. People just sigh, get on their cell phones, complain to people who know them or go off to the airport bar and drink. The people at the boarding gate next to mine had to get back on the plane they just came off of and go back to the city they just left to get a connecting flight to Vancouver. Then a woman spoke up,"but this plane [referring to mine] is going to Abbotsford, [an hours outside Vancouver] Why can't I go on this plane!" I was expecting the beginning of a big scene. It also occurred to me, having averaged about 4 hours of sleep a night for the past week, you become a little like a hungry, mangy dog with a bone. That distressed woman could have slowly cut off my arm with a sharp, rusty metal file and I still wouldn't give up my seat on the plane. Hmmm... I think that imagery is a result from reading The Road during my trip. A brilliant book, hauntingly beautiful, but horrific and bleak, bleak, bleak.

During my trip I did manage to do one thing unrelated to my fathers death. My sisters and I went to the newly renovated Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO). The space was redesigned by Frank Gehry, hosting an expanded collection. It was wonderful. The highlight for me was an installation entitled "The Index" by Montreal artist David Altmejd. It's a disco infused, kitschy Audubon nightmare, and I thought it was spectacular. But like all installation pieces, you need to walk through it to really experience it fully.

Looking at art from Rubens, to Picasso to pieces like Altmejd's, a selected scope of art history was at my fingertips. Contemporary art that (the proverbial) 'they' consider important can be summed up simply:
Large scale, obsessive created art pieces using common materials or objects, not art materials, remade into recognizable forms = iconic. There was sports bags and golf bags made into large totem poles, thousands of plastic craft beads made into a large curtained landscape wall hanging. Fine wire mesh that looked a little like window screening made into a replica of a bathroom. Although there was some big paintings, they seemed weak next to these other art spectacles. I thought it was exciting and pointless all at the same time, and if that feeling doesn't sum up living in the modern world I don't know what does.

Now I'm off to bake gingerbread cookies with my kids for the big red guy's appearance tomorrow. And honestly, I can't think of anything I'd rather do more right now. Simple pleasures.


katie jane said...

So glad you made it home safely, and I really feel sorry for all those people who had such a difficult time. Holiday travel is the WORST kind of travel. I hope they all got where they were going without too much more stress.

The museum sounds wonderful. I have heard of Frank Gehry. Probably saw him on CBS Sunday Morning.

Happy Baking, and Happy Holidays.

dinahmow said...

Good to have you back, Ellen.
Airports during delays are the stuff of nightmares! Pleased you made it through unscathed, if late.
Happy Christmas to you and yours.

my croft said...

Welcome home, Ellen. Simply that -- and peace in the new year.


Caroline said...

Glad you got home with so little delay - it sounds horrendous to have to spend days and days at airports!

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Kim Hambric said...

Ellen, sorry you have had to go through so much lately. Yes, baking will be a very good cure. Not much is better than good art and good cookies with your family. I wish the best for all of you this Christmas.

andrea said...

So glad to hear you're home and doing Christmas things, especially considering the weather right now! I hope you have a happy, relaxed holiday. I think you deserve it!

Angela Wales Rockett said...

So good to hear you made it home safe and sound, with minimal amounts of unexpected waiting in airports.

"Exciting and pointless"? I think you have uncovered a great truth about much of modern life there.

Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Ellen said...

Thanks all, hope everyone had a nice holiday, I'll be back to visiting and commenting on your blogs as soon as the sedative effect of enormous amounts of turkey consumption wear off (oh and chocolate too:)).

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