04/28/10 By JORDAN MAXWELL
A creatively complicated artist walks into the Holy Oak Café, orders the Italian soup with a glass of water and sits down in the corner round table with a handsome young gentleman before preparing herself for what-was-soon-to-be an epic conversation about her favourite neighbourhood in the city: Bloordale.
Dyan Marie, creator of the Bloor Street Banner Project (BSBP), begins to discuss the project but before she begins, she sheds light on her 21 years of experience living in Bloordale Village.
“It’s my home,” she said. “I know the neighbourhood fairly well and have watched the changes.”
Marie graduated from the Ontario College of Art and Design in 1977. Since then, she has worked on and created projects, initiatives and interventions “that explore ideas and reflections on urban issues and contemporary cultural experience.”
Moreover, she is creator of such projects like the Cold City gallery, the BIG festival and is a member of the Bloordale BIA.
The Bloor Street Banner Project (BSBP) was orchestrated in 2008 and inspired by Egon Phillips, who was a local tree planter who plants flower and corn in tree pits along the Bloor Street strip from Lansdowne Avenue to Dufferin Street.
Marie said that the beauty emulated from the vegetation and plant life encouraged her to take photographs of everything in the area from flowers, pedestrians and traffic.
“When I uploaded them into my computer, I realized that this was a great inventory of fascinating images,” she said.
What’s more, to bolster the impact of these photos and their meaning to the Bloordale area, Marie captured and photographed local business owners as well.
“I’ve watched the struggle by business owners and watched many good businesses die out. I’ve watched the street empty and have seen the busyness of the neighbourhood too,” said Marie.
Marie added that she is fascinated by the work ethic of business owners, many of which are foreign immigrants who work seemingly endless days in order to run a successful business.
“Many of them have personal stories and have travelled from across the globe,” she said.
“Many of them imagined a Canada of wide open spaces, clean pure water, forests and all of those wonderful things that we identify ourselves with as Canadians; yet once you come here, it’s like a little island surrounded by traffic and it’s really hard to explore anything that even is vaguely like that in Canada, especially if you own a business because of the phenomenally intense hours.”
So, Marie took this idea a step further when she was invited to take landscape images at the Tree Museum (www.thetreemuseum.ca), an institution in Gravenhurst, ON that commissions artists to do pieces and take photographs over luscious landscapes.
Marie then fused the two ideas by taking the landscape images and placing them over the portraits over business owners and pedestrians in the neighbourhood.
“It’s a celebration of our store owners and landscape,” she said. “It’s a comment on the disconnect [in the area] and life of people in inner cities. It’s also recognition that the landscape and our imagination is a contested site.”
According to Marie, there are three levels of the BSBP: flowers and plants, pedestrians and business owners as well as traffic and its abstract stretching effect.
“[It] stretches out to symbolize a formalist discussion but also represents the aura that the street has by extending the colors,” she added.
While this project still hangs on Bloor St. street posts and lights, Marie hopes that she can enlists the help of local community members and business owners to keep up the work originally started by Phillips.
“[I’m] hoping that people come to it and imagine what the neighbourhood is like. I don’t want to make an artwork only to turn it into text and say this is what this is. Nothing is simple and straight forward. Even our fantasies are undermined with certain kinds of concerns about nature being taken over by deforestation and pollution.”
The scraping sound of the bottom of the bowl subsequently ended the conversation, parting ways on one final insightful note from Marie.
“We’ve got an amazing neighbourhood. There are all kinds of pretty good things to do, see, eat and enjoy in the neighbourhood.”
And on that note, she was gone but the banners of Bloordale live on.