photo: Art Gallery of Victoria, "Light Bulb" by Kerry Joe Kelley.
I started the day in a nearby independent coffee shop with a coffee and an apple turnover. Back to the hotel, pack, and cart my backpack across the street to my new hotel, where I dropped it behind the desk. From there I headed to the Royal BC Museum, which is a pretty good place. Ah, a woolly mammoth display ... takes me back to my childhood and the Royal Ontario Museum. They have a lot about the history of BC - exploration, mining, forestry, native peoples. I was most interested in their room full of argillite pieces: that was fun. It looks like argillite carvings have been almost entirely for the tourist trade since 1860. A name that came up again was Charles Edenshaw - I'd seen and liked his works at the McMichael Collection about a year ago.
Next stop was Alcheringa Gallery. They only had one argillite piece, which was a lovely seated figure called "The Thinker," evidently a cross between Raven and Rodin's better known sculpture of the same name. It had perfect inlay work, really impressive. And an impressive price for something slightly larger than your fist: $7500. I was actually tempted, but it's way out of my price range.
From there I went to Craigdarroch Castle - a bit of a hike, maybe 30 minutes walk from the core. I stopped at a used book store, where I managed to find a copy of Gatherer of Clouds by Sean Russell (they're difficult to track down and I want a loaner copy) - and at the checkout there's a guy with another Russell book. Russell isn't well known, we had an interesting conversation. I need to try Russell's second series again, this guy thought it was his best (I didn't get far with it last attempt). What I'll be reading on the flight, also a used book bought in BC, is The Iron Dragon's Daughter by Michael Swanwick.
Craigdarroch Castle is more a mansion, but the quarried stone, towers and crenellations earned it the name. I've toured a variety of publicly accessible mansions in my travels, and I've seen more impressive ones than this - but this one felt ... homey. Like you'd actually want to live in it. It didn't have 47 guest rooms, and the use of every room made sense (okay, if you were rich enough to have a breakfast room and a dinner room, plus a billiards room and a dancing room ...). The place spent much of its life as an institution: first a hospital, then a school. But the restoration - while incomplete - is excellent. I really enjoyed the place.
There was a marvellous bit of commentary in the billiards room on the "dark side" of the billiards craze of the period: 10000 elephants a year were killed in the 1860s to make billiards balls ... While we're standing in a mansion built with money from coal mining.
I should probably have given Craigdarroch a bit more time, but the next must-see, closes-at-1700 site called to me, so I walked the couple blocks to the Art Gallery of Victoria. I'd argue that this was a bit of a failing on the part of my guide book, although they could justifiably argue it was my mis-reading of the book. The art gallery is quite small (they said that), but the guide book says it's all worth it for the Emily Carr (probably true if you're a fan). She's probably BC's most famous artist, and I suppose I felt a bit of obligation: I've never much liked her stuff, and sadly this didn't change my mind. It's a good display of her paintings though. I did find two of hers that I liked: one a very early painting of flowers in a more traditional style than her later stuff that I quite liked, and the other was a watercolour that she'd done for a hospitalized friend, of the friend's garden. It is (despite being watercolour) in bright and vivid colours, and is quite lovely. Part of the rest of the collection is in a mansion that the new building is attached to, and I thought that the building itself overshadowed the collection ... So not a bad place, but not perhaps a necessary visit in Victoria.
Since I still had time left before the 1700 deadline, I made the long hike back to the centre to visit the new Bateman Collection. My mother is (was?) a big fan of his, and I used to love his stuff as a kid. It's a very good collection, spanning his entire 60+ year career. He grew up in my area (near Toronto), but I think he lives out here now. I watched a part of the movie they had playing about him. I'm quoting from memory, but I think this is at least accurate to the spirit of what he said:
People often say to me 'I love your work - it's so detailed.' That's not a compliment. When I paint a bear, I haven't painted every hair: I'm interested in the bear between the hairs, the form. I still have a lot of the impressionist in me.
His paintings are gorgeous, and he does form very well ... but they're still very detailed. Possibly to their detriment, and I found myself wishing he was more of an impressionist. I guess at some level I knew that, which is why I left this gallery to the end of the day's list. I'm glad I saw it though. There was a particularly interesting display about his licensed reproductions: they included an original painting, a numbered photo reproduction, and the newer computer scanned Giclée Print. They were keen to point out that the Giclée Print was better, but I spent a lot of time looking back and forth between the three, and I could see slight colour shifts (different in both cases) in both the reproductions. But what I noticed most was the loss of texture: the brush strokes, the raised paint you can see in the original is gone in the reproduction.
I went back to Fisherman's Wharf where I had a couple sushi rolls at Rockn' Rolls. They're more oriented to take-out than eat-in, which may explain the weird hours. The rolls were quite good, but my favourite place in North York (Sushi One) is still competitive. I got some more pictures of the crazy house boats, and got to see a couple harbour seals(?) that had been tempted to the dock by a kid with bait fish. Very cute (I'm meaning the seals - I barely noticed the kid's existence, I've seen a few more of them). Around the third or fourth piece of fish, a seagull did a perfectly timed dive to peg the fish out of the kid's hand and flap away. Obnoxious beasts, but I have to respect the shear nerve involved: it was grabbing the fish from right between two of its predators.
From there I took a long walk down the south of town by the cruise ship docks (there are three massive ships in right now) and then along the south shore to the edge of Beacon Hill Park. I headed back north along Douglas, and almost immediately found a surprise Terry Fox statue. I can always do with one of those, and I guess that means I've seen the one at the beginning of his run AND at the end (near Thunder Bay). I walked by a variety of retirement apartments facing the very lovely park, and the South Park School (huh?). And then back into the centre of town - where I once again ran into Darth Vader playing the violin. He's one of a very large variety of buskers along Government Street, although most of them are more traditionally dressed. I strolled back to the hotel, and thus endeth the visit to Vancouver Island (my departure is 1100 Sunday).