Engine by Ron Baird, Stouffville, Ontario. Painted in 1988, on the side
of the Bell Canada Building on Cross Street, 21' by 22'. As a large-scale
steel sculptor, Baird's affinity for metal and heavy machinery came through
in his mural. The steam engine, which combined brute strength and hard
labour was used to help build the old canals. The engine is as brightly
coloured as a child's toy.
sky is patterned in hexagons, which mirror the shape of the paving stones
in the streetscape and create an image of honeycomb, with man as the bee,
building not wax cells, but canal walls. The paint drippings on the old
engine are representative of rusting iron, running down the old 'work horse.'
mural is about the pounding excitement of the live steam era. Iron leviathans
snorting and scratching in the pit of the Welland Canal. Proud men with
hard arms and dirt on their faces, building a bypass around the greatest
waterfalls on Earth."
work has to be designed very differently from a piece in an art gallery.
It has to be bold and colourful to compete with all the other visual things
in the streetscape. In some ways, it's a lot more fun doing murals because
you can be impulsive and make changes. You can be more reckless with murals.
I really enjoyed that freedom."
project for Lynda and me was a holiday from building public sculptures
and a chance to make a drawing 22 feet high. It was a family affair - wife,
kids and a nephew all came to help. We felt like a circus family, swinging
over the scaffolding, slapping on paint with a crowd of spectators watching
each change. We had a captive audience of strikers picketing the Bell Facility
to encourage us in this public glorification of the working man."
Virtual Guide's Comments
of the more impressionistic of the murals, we experience the impression
of a steam engine, rather than a photographic likeness. The throbbing machine,
with its mighty pistons, flywheels and billowing clouds of black smoke
dominates the image. The grim expression on the face of the engineer is
somewhat perplexing. It is almost as if he doubts his capacity to control
his charge. Could it be that the locomotive is more powerful than his ability
to restrain it? The abstract backdrop of repeated hexagons, some of which
spill over onto the locomotive eliminates any distraction from the central
theme of the mural.
the Artist: Ron Baird, Stouffville, Ontario
his graduation from the Ontario College of Art in 1964, the main thrust
of Ron Baird's work has been the site-specific sculpture in architectural
settings. Much of this consists of large metal pieces, many with elements
that move in the wind, such as the huge "Spirit Catcher" featured at EXPO
'86 or the 33 metre "Weather Tower" in Toronto. He has an active interest
in graphics and is well known for his whimsical etchings of animals.
has been a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts since 1972, recipient
of the Royal Architectural Institute Medal for Sculpture, founding director
of the Latcham Public Art Gallery and also recipient of numerous Ontario
Arts Council Awards. A major retrospective of his first 20 years of work
was organized by the Robert McLaughlin Gallery in 1984.
1985 to the present, Ron and his wife, Lynda, have collaborated on large
scale, site-specific sculptural projects.