Love and art anchor the heart
Artist Glen LeMesurier has more pieces in public spaces than any other sculptor in Montreal
By MARIANNE ACKERMAN, Special to the Gazette
August 19th, 2011.
Click here to see the article on the Gazette’s site.
MONTREAL – After dark, I’m sitting beside the railway tracks, drinking wine out of a coffee cup, wondering where the mosquitoes are. Half a dozen people mill around a crackling fire, mounted on a milk drum, while Augie, 11, and his sister, Tallulah, 14, sitting at a table, work their way through some snacks.
A thin, angular guy with bristly grey hair, our host, is waving a flashlight. I call him over, take a roll of bills from my pocket and stick them into the beam. His eyes light up.
Last payment on the fish, I explain. “What? You still owe me? Hey, money’s always handy when you’ve got kids. Comes in, goes right out again.”
That’s how sculptor Glen LeMesurier does business. Two years ago he offered to loan us a piece for our front yard. Visiting his studio, my husband and I decided we needed to own Poisson Jurassic, an undulating fish skeleton on a rotating pedestal, made from chunks of chains once used on mammoth long-haul trucks. Finally, it’s paid for.
Irrepressibly intense, Glen LeMesurier is part of a rapidly dwindling variety of artist: hard-working, driven even, yet not a careerist. His greatest victories involve talking politicians into letting him treat various empty corners of the city as his showroom. Consequently, he has more pieces in public spaces than any other sculptor in Montreal, most of them “on loan from the artist,” including a few that went up when nobody was looking.
Using elemental and recycled materials; scrap, bolts, wheels, springs, pipes, he cuts, welds and polishes, creating sculptures that capture the spirit of purposeful function in imaginative ways.
Brave talismans of a crumbling time and place, built to rust, they do. Of 102 works, about half are private purchases. Others can be found in front of the Cirque du Soleil HQ (a commission), at Carré Cabot near the Atwater métro.
Days later, we’re back in his private sculpture garden, a strip between the railway tracks and the Van Horne Terminal Iron Works, where he has lived and worked for 14 years. Squirrels nibble carrots hanging from a feeder in one of the many trees he planted. He serves honey from his private hive of imported Italian bees.
The eternally optimistic man of action is in a reflective mood.
“My vision for Montreal is sometimes so powerful, it’s overwhelming,” he says. “This city could be amazing. Look at the sculptures brought here for Expo 67. Montreal is nowhere near it’s potential for beauty.”
In 2005, he won a Conseil des arts grant to see the work of Expo 67 masters in Europe, the U.S. and Canada, including Niki de Saint Phalle, Bernard Luginbühl and Jean Tinguely .
He was impressed by the iron work of Jujol in Barcelona, who worked with the Catalan architect Gaudi.
Travel exposed Montreal’s potential, but also clarified reality.
“The only person with any kind of vision and clout here is Phyllis Lambert,” he says. “I dream of having the impact she does with the CCA.”
His studio is full of gems that would enhance the aesthetic of any living room, but he hankers to go big.
“Every idea I get these days needs to be on a much larger scale.”
Being allowed to create for Montreal is not enough any more.
He would like to create a four-season sculpture garden in the countryside, a permanent exhibition people might actually pay to see. He’s even found the perfect location.
But how does an inveterate noncareerist change the way he relates to the world without becoming somebody else?
In Glen’s case, the beginning began with heartbreak – a horrific experience with a woman last winter.
In the worst of it, close friends kept an eye on him 24/7.
As the cloud lifted, he began to question his future both as a rogue public artist and as a woman-adoring, lumpstaking 51-year-old single guy:
“Why can’t the universe throw an artist at me, a woman who can make stuff happen?
“I gave this a lot of thought, and figured out that when I meet somebody, I always look at the body first, you know, glance down, get hooked.
“Months later I wake up and realize she’s a wing nut. So I decided (his thumbs and index fingers form a square), the next one, I’m going to look in the eye, get her talking and find out what she’s thinking. If she’s got something going on in her life, then – only then – do I let myself look down.”
So he did.
That’s how he found Rouge Lefebvre, who is not only an accomplished artist but can prepare delicious meals on an open fire and is also beautiful.
His showroom has never looked so professional. His plans have never been so concrete.
A member of the new group of Friday Voice columnists, Marianne writes the Micro Montreal column which profiles people and places in our city.
A novelist, playwright and critic, Marianne is publisher of The Rover, an online arts magazine found at http://www.roverarts.com.
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