Since the inception of a Mosaiculture Competitions back in 1998, Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal has launched 5 competitions and 6 exhibitions worldwide. We have been fortunate enough to visit two of these, in 2018 we attended the artful garden of Mosaiculture in Gatineau, Quebec.
and Mosaiculture 2013 in Montreal, both in the province of Quebec, Canada.
The exhibition that we toured in Gatineau was a repeat of the one held there a year earlier for Canada’s 150th birthday. Promoted as MosaïCanada 150, it was so popular that 30,000 people petitioned the government to have an encore exhibition.
The organizers had invested so much into creating the exhibition for Canada’s 150th birthday that it seemed logical to reassemble the magnificent creations for even more people to enjoy. Being avid birders, Bob and I really appreciated these well rendered Snowy Owls.
We actually benefited by waiting an extra year to tour the sculptures because 10 more were added to the collection for a total of 45 horticultural art pieces. This one, The Bird Tree,…
and The Man Who Planted Trees, both of which we had seen in Montreal, were bonuses for anyone revisiting the extravaganza. Most of the floral odysseys were aimed at celebrating Canada’s provinces and territories in order to honour Canada’s sesquicentennial, so come along and join us on our cross-Canada tour.
Bob and I started the magical journey at a small town train station, symbolically Canada’s first, with its living walls of green. How fitting is that? We were about to visit the 10 provinces and 3 territories of Canada to celebrate the country’s Confederation, and it was the railway that was instrumental in holding the provinces together so they could grow and expand.
The exhibit called A Ticket to Canada, All Aboard! is a typical train station like any of the 350 that were built by the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway between 1910-1920. The building design was later adopted by Canadian National Railways, but today, few remain.
Even the 2-dimensional Station Garden was historically accurate because CPR and CNR used similar showpieces at their railway stations to help recruit settlers. With thriving gardens beautifying the stations, prospective settlers could see that the soil was fertile and were encouraged to settle the land. This served the rail companies well because they were also land agents.
It wasn’t hard to imagine standing on a platform waiting for a train because right next to the station was an elaborate rendition of a locomotive chugging along the track. In recognition of the first train to cross Canada from Montreal to Vancouver, linking the east to the west, Engine #374 was pulling two passenger cars.
As if waiting to board the same train, Anne Shirley from the story Anne of Green Gables by our own Lucy Maud Montgomery, sat on her trunk mere metres away. This young orphan girl with a boundless imagination embodied the vision held by the creators of Mosaiculture, early settlers, and the visitors who were willing to suspend their notions of reality for a short while.
Anne of Green Gables was set in Canada’s tiniest province, Prince Edward Island, and also representing this maritime province was a handsome pair of Red Foxes.
New Brunswick is another province on the East Coast of Canada, and it proudly paid tribute to the Canadian Horse. Introduced into Acadia in 1609, a few horses adapted very well to their new country.
The horses developed into a distinct breed because they spent nearly 100 years in isolation. Settlers learned to love them for work and pleasure, and they soon became an instrumental part of country living.
The Canadian Horse is considered the animal breed of Quebec’s agricultural heritage and was given that designation in 1999. In 2002, the Canadian Government declared it the National Horse of Canada. It is sad that today, survival of this breed is threatened and deserves efforts to protect it and its significance to be recognized.
Continuing to explore the Eastern Provinces of Canada, it was with extreme delight that we took in the magnificent display portraying life in Nova Scotia. Since the beginning of time, the sea has shaped the lives of people in Nova Scotia, and lobster is well known as one of its plentiful resources. To illustrate the significance of that industry, a larger-than-life lobster fisherman hauling in lobster traps dominated one corner along the trail.
Setting off in a dory at dawn, lobster fishermen would often return with a bountiful harvest by midday, but also many fishermen lost their lives to the fury of the North Atlantic.
A testament to their knowledge and courage, many fisher folk also played a huge part in rescuing castaways from shipwrecks. Used to great effect to create the illusion of rolling waves and frothy whitecaps are common bedding plants, Dusty Miller and Purple Scaveola.
The adorable Puffins clasping a mouthful of fish stole my heart. With Newfoundland & Labrador being home to over 500,000 of these colourful seabirds, it is no wonder that the Atlantic Puffin is the provincial bird of that province.
Atlantic Puffins are very hardy birds that spend a good share of their lives at sea, but in this sculpture, a dedicated pair seems to be bringing food home to their burrow on a seaside cliff.
One of my favorite botanical sculptures at Mosaiculture 2018, was the one representing the province of Quebec, Three Ships from France.
Representing Jacques Cartier’s 3 voyages to the New World, and simultaneously the 3 ships that made up his expedition on the third trip, the three mosaiculture sculptures captured those important moments in Quebec’s history very aptly.
Again challenging the Mosaiculture artists and gardeners was how to depict the vast blue ocean. Dusty Miller in combination with Sweet Alyssum and Purple Scaveola grew and changed as the season evolved and mirrored the ever-changing nuances of a briny sea.
Ontario was next up. The creation by Niagara Parks Commission showed 5 genderless people rising from the thundering waters of Niagara Falls. Probably the most well known and popular natural wonder in Canada, Niagara Falls is often referred to as the Gateway to Ontario.
It is very symbolic, then, that the arrival of such diverse people as make up our population in this province, where they can and have carved out a new life, is associated with the life-giving waters of Niagara Falls.
The five figures represent our First Nations, early settlers from Europe, African-Americans arriving via the Underground Railroad, and immigrants of today, all of whom have made their lives in Ontario.
I love that animals were used to great effect to represent some of the regions of our great country. The commanding presence of a Polar Bear draws attention to the province of Manitoba, and given that Churchill, Manitoba, is touted as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, it seemed very fitting.
As is traditional in Nunavut, Canada’s youngest territory, a Drum Dancer performs a dance meant to welcome visitors to Mosaiculture. Often, stories will accompany the performance by a Drum Dancer. The Inuit mark special occasions and life events with tales of history and hardships, spiritual beliefs and the love of the land.
A very vivid picture is created of Canada’s North between the Drum Dancer, a towering Inukshuk with a Wolf Howling as Northern Lights brighten the night sky and husky Musk Oxen lingering nearby.
Inukshuks were traditionally used throughout Canada’s Arctic region to provide directions to travelers on the bleak landscape. Artfully planted with bright green leaves to represent Northern Lights in a dark sky, this Inukshuk is visited by a lone Wolf that howls to its pack mates while being afforded extra light for hunting.
It is a massive Musk Ox that symbolizes the Northwest Territories. The group of three Muskoxen construes the social nature of these animals. They do not require extra light by which to travel because their acute eyesight enables them to easily navigate the frozen tundra throughout the Arctic’s long, dark winter.
I love how the gardeners used Sedge to imitate the thick, coarse hair of the Muskoxen. These slow-growing plants resemble grass, come in an assortment of colours, and are drought tolerant, all characteristics that make them valuable additions to the gigantic creations.
Standing on guard and making a grand entrance was this RCMP Officer on his trusty steed. Saskatchewan chose well for its emblem. For over 100 years, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Officers have trained in that province at the RCMP Academy in Regina.
I was really impressed with the plants used to create the Mountie’s red tunic, and thought it must have been a real challenge to fashion the horse’s legs so enough soil was available to sustain the plants growing on the surface. Horticulturists really had to know their business to select plants suitable for each location.
Another of Canada’s western provinces is Alberta, Wild Rose Country. Alberta is a province of mountains and lakes, badlands and coniferous forests, glaciers and prairies. Found on the prairies are wild roses that thrive in the sandy soil. The prickly rose is the largest of 14 species of wild roses native to Canada and grows in proliferation in Alberta. Alberta named the Wild Rose as its floral emblem in 1930.
On Canada’s West Coast is the province of British Columbia. An iconic sight off its shores is the black and white Killer Whale. An Orca is dramatically captured in a reproduction of Ken Reid’s bronze sculpture that permanently resides in Vancouver.
Prominent in the mythologies of First Nations People on Canada’s West Coast, it seemed a propos that the province would opt to feature an Orca and one that was originally fashioned by a member of the Haida nation.
And lastly, in terms of touring the provinces and territories through the Mosaiculture creations, is the Yukon, and synonymous with that territory is the famous Gold Rush. The romantic notion of striking it rich by prospecting for gold in the Yukon Territory was brought to life with a giant Prospector Panning for Gold.
During the Klondike Gold Rush, Boom Towns sprung up to service the influx of fortune seekers with Dawson City being the only one where some of that original excitement still lingers.
With his gargantuan pan displaying a few rare nuggets, this Prospector represents one of the few thousand that actually struck it rich, while others lost their lives or were left penniless. To this day, small amounts of gold are still discovered in the Yukon perpetuating the legend of the good old days.
With our tour of the provinces and territories complete, I want to highlight some of our other favorite botanical creations. There were several themes explored at Mosaiculture 2018, and A Trip Through Time added a further dimension to the history of the provinces and territories. One such exhibit that resonated with Bob and me was this, The Winning Goal from the famous Summit Series of 1972. To this day, we still recall where we were when the Canadian Team scored the winning goal with only 36 seconds left on the clock!
Stepping further back in time, from the 17th to the 19th Centuries, voyageurs ruled the rivers that became fur trading routes to support the industry that was centered in Montreal. Following Native American trails, voyageurs pushed deeper and deeper into the woods, paddling and traveling on foot.
For months and sometimes years at a time, the voyageurs expanded their territory under extreme conditions in hostile terrain. This gargantuan canoe fully loaded with cargo tells the tale of those hard-working and adventurous men.
Equally as influential in the development of Canada as a country was the logging industry. A legend from those fur trading and logging days came from Quebec, and his name was Jos Montferrand. A hulk of a man, he was a master of many trades: voyageur, lumberjack, log driver, helmsman of timber rafts and a foreman.
AKA Joe Mufferaw, made famous by Stompin’ Tom Connors in one of his songs, this Giant from Gatineau also was respected for standing up for the little guy. He has been immortalized in song, print, historical notes, and plays. This lumberjack in repose on a tree stump depicts this legendary man very well.
On a more sober note, the display called In Flanders Fields, The Poppy, Symbol of Remembrance gave Bob and me reason to pause and reflect on the sacrifices made by our own ancestors in the Great War, the Boer War and WWII. This installation of a giant poppy surrounded by red blossoms to suggest poppies growing freely in a field was very moving.
There really were so many masterpieces bursting with creativity that it is impossible to talk about them all in this blog. Another favorite theme was A Journey Through The Imaginary of the First Nations. One sculpture delves into the legend of the Earth’s creation as explained through the spiritual beliefs of the Algonquin people.
Included in the exhibit were the relevant creatures…a Common Loon, Muskrat, Turtle, Duck, an Otter, Mink and Beaver, each expertly crafted alongside the creator’s, Kichi Manito’s son, Wisakedjak. It illustrates the strong bond and interdependence of man and animal.
Embodying the Huron-Wendat legend of Aataentsic was this centrepiece called Mother Earth.
This impressive and humongous sculpture thrilled us as well at Mosaiculture 2013.
There is no denying the strong ties that the Huron-Wendat people have with nature as elaborately demonstrated in this expansive sculpture.
On The Trail of Algonquin People focuses on the building of a birchbark canoe, a long-held tradition that also stresses the importance of family. The canoe is an exceptional craft and was the ideal method of transportation for the Algonquin People to navigate the vast network of lakes and rivers.
This piece reflects some of the values and culture of First Nations, and was conceived by Anishinabe artist Dean Ottawa of Kitigan Zibi.
The Bird Tree shared centre stage with Mother Earth in 2018. Equally as extraordinary as the first time we saw it in 2013, here again, it was occupying a place of prominence. The combined efforts of horticulturists, sculptors, landscape artists and welders were required to pull this off.
Featuring 56 species of endangered birds around the world, with each one weighing between 1-3 tons, this is a serious piece of mosaiculture magic. The features of each bird species were true to the actual living creature, with some having a 10-foot wingspan.
The Man Who Planted Trees was another work of impressive floral art. It delighted us once again because of the whimsical story and the shepherd’s endearing giant-sized canine pal.
Bringing to life the beloved short story by French author Jean Giono, this whimsical sculpture is meant to convey man’s responsibility for stewardship of the land and his positive influence on it.
An inspiring tableau was the one featuring the Arts with a nod to Canada’s own Glenn Gould. This multi-talented individual was a brilliant pianist, composer, conductor, writer, director and communicator whose gifts bordered on genius.
The first-ever moving botanical sculpture was a towering ballerina who appeared to be pirouetting to the tunes emanating from Glenn Gould’s piano and an accompanying cellist. This floral fantasy was reminiscent of a music box adorned with a dainty dancer.
Mosaiculture is a horticultural art that has its roots in the mosaics made of glazed tiles, but only the most-skilled gardeners tackle the task of creating the mesmerizing 3D sculptures with plants. Depending on the continent and the time period, this art form has been practiced first in 2 dimensions, and evolved in recent decades into 3-dimensionsal works.
The floral sculpture garden in Jacques-Cartier Park overlooking the Ottawa River was the largest and most ambitious taken to date by Mosaicultures Internationales in Montreal. With a couple of complementary creations sponsored by China, we were able to take a little detour to that Asian country. This is Blessing of the Good Omens.
This blooming art gallery of floral designs benefited from being next to the Ottawa River. With over 5.5 million plants used to “paint” the art installations, a ready supply of water pumped from the river was invaluable. Constant pruning…
and trimming was required to keep the 200 plant species looking their best.
A chance encounter with one horticulturalist, my “twin”, had Bob and me learning about some of the challenges faced by the organizers and maintenance staff.
But this living art gallery also featured one art form that used only driftwood cleverly arranged together. The pieces have been painstakingly searched out so as to require no cutting or alteration to the natural materials. Referred to as an ecological work, these life-sized horses, Hope, the mare, and Odyssey, the colt, are in keeping with the theme of Canada as a Land of Hope.
Bob and I thoroughly enjoyed our stroll across the Canadian territory. It was fun, too, to travel back in time and to explore the imaginary world of our First Nations. Walking along the one-kilometre trail was akin to ambling through the pages of a storybook. It is hard to believe that this extraordinary feat was accomplished in less than 3 months time. Mosaiculture 2018, was a compelling tribute to Canada’s 150 years of history.
Frame To Frame – Bob and Jean