Written by Varouj Gumuchian
Gisele Amantea’s seven-foot-tall “Untitled (Poodle)” sculpture on Main Street has been both a surprise and disappointment. Installed in January through Vancouver’s public art program, one cannot help but wonder if it was selected by a jury or a predisposed panel.
Sitting 25-feet above the sidewalk, the meaning of the poodle and its relevance to the ethos of Main St. should be critically questioned, as should the approx $97,000 cost that is partially being covered by public funds.
It’s interesting to consider how Amantea came up with this idea: do a few quick visits and walks up and down the street justify such a project. Although the artist describes the poodle motif as “expressive of the general surroundings of the street….a curiosity that will bring attention to the sculpture as a marker or icon of time and place.” I can find no clear meaning in it beyond a self-indulging image masquerading as public art. One that treats the street as something secondary—a caricature imposed by the values of the artist.
Perhaps, however, it represents the reality of gentrification. That the once-edgy area of East Main has finally succumbed to a dull not-so-creative professionalism that has befallen other areas throughout the city. Or maybe it demonstrates how art as a something expressing radical, alternative ideas has fallen prey to the values of powerful development industry.
Regardless, I think this poorly reflects the important relationship between community and public art and I seriously question how the neighbourhood—and city, as a whole—gains by this choice of art at the expense of more meaningful pieces that truly contribute to the public realm.
Varouj Gumuchian is a masters graduate from UBC and Emily Carr with strong background in design. His interest in public art is a creative process that demands an active role in critical thinking.