Nestled in Sparks Street Pedestrian Mall , Ottawa’s pedestrian street, there is a copper sculpture : 4 figures, 3 adults and one child, hold hands in a circle. Their entire bodies are thrown back, their heads are up and the child and a female figure each have one leg off the ground, pointing up. Their bodies are smooth and unadorned; the only material is copper. One does not need to read the title of the piece to feel the tone of it at once: Joy.
Bruce Garner’s Joy is a beautiful, evocative sculpture. Looking at it, your heart is immediately swept up in the gestures of their hands, in the arches of their backs which push their chests out as if they were singing, in the dancing movements suggested by their bodies, right down to the toes pointing upward. To me, the piece is even more poignant for its location: though Sparks Street has many delights including boutiques, greenery, and benches, it is surrounded by old banks and buildings of commerce. To have this sculpture among all that is refreshing and inspiring; these figures do not celebrate because of possessions or purchases, but because of the community they have within each other.
Though using a heavy form, Garner has somehow achieved movement so real it leaves you with a sense of breathlessness. The smooth, unbreaking lines in the bodies help realize this – consider how the line found in the lifted foot of the little boy continues with the up stretched , up thrown hand and body of the figure facing him. The whole piece has a fluidity to it that creates a sense of exuberance, of celebration. I have walked by this piece many times, and on each occasion, no matter my mood, I have found myself smiling, and have met the smiles of other on-lookers passing by, as we share a bit of joy.
Sculpture is a fascinating art form. What are some of your favourite pieces out there? What sorts of emotions are evoked? What appeals to you most about sculpture?