Monday, April 9, 2018

Montreal Sculpture: The Illuminated Crowd


On March 27th of this year, I attended an exhibition game between the Toronto Blue Jays and the St. Louis Cardinals at Montreal's Olympic Stadium.  The next day, while strolling along McGill College Esplanade, I came across a sculpture that immediately intrigued me.  It is located in front of the 20-storey Banque Nationale de Paris (BNP) Paribus Canada office complex.

The name of the sculpture is The Illuminated Crowd and I was not surprised to learn that it is one of the most photographed sculptures in Montreal.  This thought-provoking and controversial work was created by Raymond Mason in 1985.  Mason was a native of Birmingham, England who immigrated to France in 1946,  He lived in Paris until his death in 2010.  In 1980, The Louis Dreyfus Property Group approached him with the idea of designing a sculpture for the future plaza at 1981 avenue McGill College.  The artist was already working on The Illuminated Crowd and he chose a revised version of the theme for the Montreal setting.

From September to November 1985, prior to being shipped to Canada,, the sculpture was exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris.  It depicts a crowd of 65 people of various ages and racial backgrounds.and it illustrates a rather dark side of humanity.  The crowd is gathered tightly together.  The figures in the first row look off into the distance.  Behind them, however, the mood worsens.  It gradually deteriorates as the people display a gamut of emotions including fear, hatred, lust, sadness and sheer terror.

The Illuminated Crowd is ochre in colour against the background of the blue BNP building.  It is a large sculpture - 8.6 metres long by 3.2 metres wide.  Its depiction of a mob of humanity is disturbing and provocative.  That is why it is such a fascinating work of art.

At the base of the sculpture, there is a plaque with the following words:

"A crowd has gathered, facing the light, an illumination brought about by fire, an event, an ideology - or an ideal.  The strong light casts shadows, and as the light moves toward the back and diminishes, the mood degenerates; rowdiness, disorder and violence occur, showing the fragile nature of man.  Illumination, hope, involvement, hilarity, irritation, fear, illness, violence,  murder and death - the flow of man's emotion through space."

- Joanne

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Photo of Laurel and Hardy dolls at Granite Brewery and Restaurant

Some family members and I recently had lunch at the Granite Brewery and Restaurant in Toronto (245 Eglinton Ave. East.)  It was a cold, drizzly March day and we enjoyed sitting near the restaurant's cozy fireplace.  We had to leave at a certain time and we appreciated the prompt service.

As we were leaving, something caught my eye.  I noticed a table with Laurel and Hardy dolls playing chess. I just had to take a photo and I would like to share it with you.    I hope you find it amusing, as I did.

- Joanne

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter: Marry Magdalene: Her image from the Bible and Renaissance art to Jesus Christ Superstar and The Da Vinci Code

Today is Easter Sunday and I would like to share some quotations with you.  This will be followed by a profile of Mary Magdalene.

Tomb, thou shall not hold Him longer;
Death is strong, but Life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right . . .

- Phillips Brooks
From An Easter Carol

Awake, thou wintry earth -
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!

- Thomas Blackburn
From An Easter Hymn

IN SEARCH OF MARY MAGDALENE: Was she a fallen woman who became a devoted follower of Christ?


In many ways, Mary Magdalene is elusive and mysterious.  She is not clearly identified in Scripture and very little is known about her life other than what appears in the New Testament and later Gospels which are not included in the Bible.  One source of confusion is the number of women called "Mary" in the Gospels ("Mary" is derived from the Hebrew name "Miryam" or "Miriam").

It is usually assumed that "Mary Magdalene" means "Mary from Magdala."  Although no specific location of Mary's birthplace is mentioned in the Bible, many Christian academics believe she came from a place the Talmud calls Magdala Nunayya ("Magdala of the fishes"), on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  She is thought to be of Jewish descent, and all four canonical Gospels present her as a follower of Jesus who travelled with him and his disciples.

According to the Gospels of Luke (8:1-3) and Mark (16:9), Jesus cleansed her of "seven demons."

Then followed a time in which he went on journeying from one city or village to another, preaching and spreading the good news of God's Kingdom.  With him were the twelve apostles and certain women, whom he had freed from evil spurts and from sicknesses, Mary, who is called Magdalen, who had seven devils cast our of her, and Joanna, the wife of Chusa, Harod's steward and Susanna, and many others, who ministered to him with the means they had.

Luke 8:1-3

But he had risen again, at dawn on the first day of the week, and showed himself first of all to Mary Magdalen, the woman out of whom he had cast out seven devils.  She went and gave the news to those who had been of his company, where they mourned and wept; and they, when they were told that he was alive and that she had seen him, could not believe it.

Mark 16:9-11 

Mary Magdalene has been characterized as a repentant sinner largely as the result of a homily delivered by Pope Gregory 1 in 591.  Gregory lauded Mary for her devotion to Christ, but referred to her as the unnamed female sinner with perfume in Luke's Gospel (7:36-50) and as Mary of Bethany, sister of Martha and Lazarus.  The pope also made reference to Jesus cleansing Mary of the "seven demons," which he associated with the seven deadly sins, which include not only lust but pride and greed as well.

Centuries later, Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples, a French theologian and humanist, challenged this version of Mary Magdalene.  In Da Maria Magdalena et triduo Chriisti disceptatio (1517), Lefèvre argued against the conflation of Mary the sister of Lazarus, Mary Magdalene and the anonymous penitent sinner who anointed Christ's feet in Luke's gospel.  He contended that they were different people and received much condemnation from French theologians.  However, in 1969 the General Roman Calendar put an end to the dispute about the composite Mary when it identified different dates for Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany and the anonymous sinner.

Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples

It is a myth that Mary Magdalene was a penitent prostitute, even though that image of her has persisted in Western tradition and theology.  Mary has long been portrayed as a fallen woman who repented,  Western medieval and Renaissance art pictured her in extravagant clothing or dressed immodestly in contrast to other women of the era.  Some paintings even depicted her nude, discreetly covered by long, blond hair, especially the works of Italian artist Titian (1488-1576).

This image of Mary has continued into more modern times. From the 18th century on, institutes that cared for prostitutes were called "Magdalenes."  In the 1970 rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar (music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Tim Rice), there is a song entitled "I Don't Know How to Love Him.," sung by Mary Magdalene.  Here are the lyrics:

"He's a man. He's just a man.
"And I've had so many men before, in very many ways he's just one more."

It  has also been theorized that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married.  In Dan Brown's bestselling 2003 novel, The Da Vinci Code, it is discovered that "The Church, in order to defend itself against the Magdalene's power, perpetuated her image as a whore and buried Christ's marriage to her, thereby defusing any potential claims that Christ had a surviving bloodline and was a mortal prophet."

According to Dorothy Ann Lee, Professor of New Testament, Trinity College, University of Divinity in Australia, "nowhere in the Gospels is Mary Magdalene associated either overtly of covertly with sexuality."  Although she is described as having had seven demons in Luke's Gospel, this description does not mean she was a prostitute.  This description, argues Professor Lee, does not refer to "unfettered sexuality."

In her 2018 essay in The Conversation, Lee states that exorcisms are common in the first three Gospels.  "Those suffering from demonic possession,," she writes, "are never described as sinful but rather are victims of external evils."  Today we would refer to them as illnesses such as epilepsy or mental illness. In other words, Lee concludes, "Magdalene has been the victim of a serious illness and Jesus has healed her."

What we do know is that the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John clearly place Mary at the crucifixion, burial and resurrection of Christ.  However, as Professor Lee points out, "the gospel references don't describe her personality, history or character."  There are very few direct quotes from her, nor any description of her temperament.

In the New Testament, there is no doubt as to Mary's devotion to Christ.  According to the Gospel of John (20:1), it was Mary Magdalene who came to the tomb of Jesus early Sunday morning and discovered that the stone was removed.  It was she to whom Jesus first appeared after his death.  Despite Mary's image in art and literature, there is no solid evidence in the Gospels (or anywhere else) that she was a prostitute or a repentant sinner.  We do know for certain that she was a dedicated and beloved disciple of Jesus.

- Joanne

Monday, March 26, 2018

Faces of Currency Quiz

Here is a pop quiz that tests your knowledge of world currencies.  I hope you find it entertaining and challenging.  It was created by Moneypod, a trading style of Noveau Finance Ltd.  So, put on your thinking caps and good luck.  Note:  The British term "notes" is used instead of "bills."

- Joanne