Butterflies, art galleries and the young are not…
Early Wednesday afternoon, with the warm sunshine beaming down on me, I stopped at a low retaining wall in the alley on the south side of West Broadway Avenue, just before Alder Street.
I had a travel mug of hot coffee to enjoy and soon enough I had the companionship of a powerfully curious yellow jacket wasp..
While the wasp and I took turns trying to drink the coffee, a small flutter of white crossed my peripheral vision and landed on the hedge beside me.
Seeing a chance to get my first-ever photograph of a butterfly, I left my mug to the wasp and s-l-o-w-l-y inched closer to the landing spot, zooming and focusing my camera as I did so.
I actually managed to snap three progressively closer photos of the butterfly at rest. My fourth photo caught a bit of white wing and the shadow of antennae on a leaf as it suddenly took flight.
And butterflies get better reception
As the lepidopterists out there will already know, what I photographed was a Pieris rapae, a butterfly commonly referred to as a “small cabbage white”. The single dark dot on each of its visible fore wings distinguishes it as male — females of the species have two dots per fore wing.
And yes, I also think that it looks like a moth. Apparently the difference between moths and butterflies comes down to details as small as antennae shape.
A moth would has feathery, comb-like things protruding from its head while our butterfly is distinguished by the fact that it has long slender antennae, with club-shaped tips.
The cabbage white is about the only butterfly I’ve seen in Vancouver and this is the first time I’ve seen one so close. Even in the scaled web version of the photo, you can see the “docking clamps” on the tip of the butterfly’s thorax that are used during mating.
Life imitating art galleries
The departure of the cabbage white butterfly left me on my own, standing up to my waist in a hedgerow inset from the alley and shaded from the sun by the finely serrated leaves of a paper birch tree — just me, a tree, a hedge and the large sheet metal, wood and concrete rectangular mushroom of a flat top heating and air conditioning vent.
That’s when I realized what it was that the much-discussed conceptual design for the new Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG) actually reminded me of.
At first glance, the proposed design looks too artless to me to be an art gallery. As many people have pointed out, it resembles an irregular stack of boxes (or crated art?).
I would add that it reminds me of the boxy weathered sheet metal venting and ducting creations that form the visible parts of many large workaday HVAC plants, such as the structure behind the building off Alder Street.
I’m not saying that’s a bad thing or that I actually dislike the new design; it earns high marks in my book for simply not being the ugly old Francis Rattenbury-designed and Arthur Erickson-remodeled Vancouver provincial courthouse building that has served as the VAG’s home since 1983.
A public art gallery is actually like an HVAC installation, in that both ultimately owe their form to their function and to the need to build economically.
If the overall shape creates the optimum interiors for showcasing the art gallery’s collection then I can certainly accept the ungainly exterior.
And anyway, when did we start saying that buildings in downtown Vancouver should be attractive?
Age before beauty
As was said about the TransLink tax referendum back in March, opposition to the Vancouver Art gallery concept, certainly among people I’ve talked to, seems to be stronger with age. For people on the younger side of 50, the design is far from the last straw that it seems to be for people over the age of 50.
I don’t know any 50-somethings ,besides myself, who can stand the proposed design. The best thing that a 60-something I know had to say on the subject was that they wouldn’t have to live with the thing for very long (ouch!).
On the other hand, the 20-to-40-somethings I’ve talked to, have either liked it, or haven’t cared about it one way or another.
It appears that the younger people are, the less likely they are to have made their minds up. Apparently strong opinions, like wisdom and pessimism, come with age.
As an aged person, this should come as no surprise to me.
If a big part of life is about separating the wheat from the chaff — deciding for yourself what’s good and bad, then it’s also true that, over the course of a lifetime, a person will end up disliking far more things than they like.
This, in itself, explains why the older a person is, the more likely they are to have an opinion on simply everything (such as the Art Gallery design) and why that opinion will, more often than not, be negative.
That, of course, is just my opinion. Click the images to enlarge them.