British Columbia

Emily Carr sculptor aims to tap artist's spirit

The Edmonton artist who created a new three-metre bronze sculpture of Emily Carr hopes the work will bring to life the dynamic spirit of the West Coast icon.

The Edmonton artist who created a new three-metre bronze sculpture of Emily Carr hopes the work will bring to life the dynamic spirit of the West Coast icon.

The statue in front of Victoria's Fairmont Empress Hotel a few blocks from where Carr grew up will be unveiled Wednesday, but CBC News got a sneak peek at the work.

It depicts the famously eccentric West Coast artist with paintbrush and paper in hand, her pet monkey Woo on her shoulder and her faithful dog Billy at her feet.

Artist Barbara Paterson said she was inspired to create something more dynamic than a statue.

"I really feel like Emily dictated this whole idea to me. I have her posed sort of with a contemplative look to her," Paterson told CBC News as the sculpture was uncrated last week.

"She's going to be looking over the harbour, and the interaction comes between Woo the monkey and Billy the dog. So there is that play and it is three-dimensional and you can spend a little more time looking," she said.

Audience reacts

Before the sculpture was in its place, it was already drawing an adoring crowd, including longtime Carr fan Kieran Ann Black, who was visiting from Oregon.

"My mom and my sisters and I started coming here in the '70s and stayed near her house and so we immediately got into her stories and bought all her books and I'm just thinking, it's making me think, I want to reread her books," said Black.

That is just the sort of reaction Paterson hopes her creation inspires.

"I hope they'll learn to love Emily.  I want so much interaction," she said.

The project was initiated more than 10 years ago, but donations trickled in until Victoria's volunteer-run Parks and Recreation Foundation began a campaign in 2008, which raised $400,000.

Carr was born in Victoria in 1871 and spent much of her life travelling and painting the native villages and the forests of the West Coast. As a contemporary of the Group of Seven, she was one of the first Canadian artists to adopt a post-impressionist style.

Later in life, she also made a name for herself as a writer, winning a Governor General's award for her book Klee Wyck. She died in 1945 in Victoria.

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