Besieged by autocratic Medicis and the aspirations of its city-state rivals, Michelangelo’s statute of the Biblical David, the diminutive Giant Killer, came to represent Florence’s endurance in the face of these many threats to the Republic.
No less a figure than Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) watches over Rio de Janeiro, his outstretched arms an invocation of peace.
In New York Harbour stands Libertas, torch held aloft to enlighten the world.
Where’s our protector, redeemer and/or liberator? Wherefore the aspirational icon? Where is the embodiment of our de facto guiding principles of “lifestyle” and “a quick buck”?
There are quite a few candidates, but they don’t quite resonate.
A bronze statue of Captain George Vancouver graces the top of the steps at the north side of City Hall. The celebrated mariner and intrepid explorer pointing the way to a future filled with promise/North Shore real estate opportunities? The good Captain is tucked away at the back entrance, diminished, half forgotten.
The Reclining Figure at Guelph Park perhaps speaks to a reputation for being “laid back.” In my experience, this was once quite true. Sadly, slack is no longer a widely shared virtue.
A-maze-ing Laughter (sic) at Denman & Davie is a popular tourist attraction. I imagine the maniacal and macrocephalic statutes speaks to the Vancouver Is Awesome crowd.
Much closer to the mark is the fluid, undulating sculpture at Vanier Park. Officially entitled Freezing Water #7, it could easily pass for a cum shot. West cost lifestyle as orgasm on a mountain and condo canvas.
In the same throbbing vein, there was the “Satan-with-a-hard-on.” Installed at the comically named and neo-fascist styled “Piazza Italia,” against a backdrop of glass towers, the Horned Hand of the tumescent Prince of Darkness stood sentinel to those venturing to the fleshpots of the west: perfect. Sadly, this unsanctioned effigy was expeditiously removed by city officials.
And then there’s John “Gassy Jack” Deighton.
On September 29, 1867, Deighton rowed -or had himself rowed by his aboriginal associates- from New Westminster to what we now call Gastown. The choice of landing was strategic: just a few feet beyond the Hastings Mill’s prohibited drinking area. On the promise of an initial free drink, the thirsty locals built The Globe -the area’s first saloon- inside of 24 hours.
Its success quickly led to the establishment of a half-dozen more watering holes –“an aggregation of filth,” in Captain Stamp’s opinion.
As a popular innkeeper, Deighton quickly gained his nickname “Gassy Jack” from his “gaseous” nature -he talked incessantly.
When he ran out of gas, Deighton’s native wife -the niece of his deceased first wife- was disinherited.
Deighton is immortalized in a bronze image that appears to celebrate the effects of cirrhosis. (Not so long after its 1970 installation, the statute was decapitated; the head was exchanged for a $50 ransom.)
Therefore: for taking advantage of proto-land use bylaws to found Vancouver’s first entertainment district, for being immortalized as a grotesque and capturing the imagination of slackjawed tourists, for being of poor moral fibre, and especially for being a blowhard, I nominate St. Jack.
I could feel Jack’s presence in the room today, finding purchase with the incumbent mayor his steady stream of spin-laden cliches, obfuscations and non-sequiturs; a staccato beat occasionally punctuated by the rich velvet tones of CBC senior lightweight Andrew Chang. (I will say this for Mr. Chang: he’s got great hair.)