Urban Grunge

Notes for “Urban Grunge Exhibition”, Cape Breton University Art Gallery, May 2007:  The 11th Student, Faculty, Staff, and Alumni Art Exhibitition.  Curated by Michele MacDonald.

I took the pictures you see before you in an hour’s fit of whimsy.  They were all taken with a disposable camera. From the beginning, the titles were an integral part of the pictures:  I saw the objects and scenes through the titles as much as through the camera’s lens.  The right way to look at these pictures is to look first at the titles, then the pictures, then back at the titles.  Repeat this triangular process until something clicks or the gallery closes.  Then laugh, or smile, or grimace.  It was Mike Targett and Stan Godlovitch who first laughed, and so gave me the thought to show them to others.

My wife, Mary, and I have lived in Sydney, Nova Scotia for most of our adult lives, and this is where we raised our family and have made wonderful friends. We are very attached to Sydney.   Sydney is full of lovely places to walk, play and live.  As part of Cape Breton Island, it shares an interesting culture.  It is also rich in history.  Like any other city, Sydney has its grungy scenes which, when look at in the right way, have a beauty of their own.

The origin of these photographs was as follows.  I was walking down Sydney’s main street when I noticed the words on the marquee of the Vogue theatre: “Toward a New Beginning”.   I knew a lot about the history of the Vogue.  I knew, for example, it had played an important role in the cultural history of Sydney, not only as one of its first and most prominent cinemas but also because it was where the city for many years had staged its grand musicals.  The interior was ornate and beautiful.  I also knew the Vogue was soon to be torn down to be replaced by a large business complex housing a bank and other offices.  A Cineplex located in a mall had drawn most of Sydney’s filmgoers, leaving the Vogue in financial trouble.   Given the Vogue’s history, and its imminent destruction, “Toward a New Beginning” struck me as ironic in a sad but mildly funny way.  I walked across the street, bought a disposable camera, and took a picture.  The thought then struck me whether there might be other Sydney scenes that would evoke in me the same ironic response as had the Vogue.  I walked around Sydney, and in less than an hour I had the other five pictures you see before you, along with their titles.   

The future is bright


 Beach scene



my barbershop



open and shut case



no problem



pole position