Classical Toy Boat (1987) by Vancouver artist Glenn Lewis is the most recent outdoor artwork to be installed at UBC. This sculpture was initially located outside of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery on the Toronto waterfront in 1987 as part of the exhibition From Sea to Shining Sea. It was purchased by the Belkin Art Gallery in 2009 for the University Art Collection and restored in anticipation of its new location.
The site chosen for this work is the pool on the north side of University Centre (formerly the Faculty Club) designed by Frederic Lasserre with an addition by Arthur Erickson and landscape design by Cornelia Oberlander. The shape of the boat reflects the innocence of a child’s toy and the material, Italian Carrera marble, makes reference to classical Roman sculpture, a juxtaposition that lends this work a tone of humour. In spite of the weight of the marble, the boat conveys a spirit of resilience in that it defies gravity and magically hovers above the surface of the water. This work and its site provide a strong connection between the indoor spaces of the University Centre building and the outdoors—a visual punctuation to a subdued and discreet site. This work was originally conceived as a reference to temporary installations in the gardens at UBC undertaken in the late 1960s and early 70s by Lewis, Michael Morris, Gathie Falk, and others.
Born in Chemainus, BC in 1935, Glenn Lewis graduated from the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design) in 1958 with honours in painting, drawing and ceramics. Subsequently, he studied ceramics under Bernard Leach in St. Ives (Cornwall, England) (1961–1964). He was an active member of the avant-garde art scene in Vancouver during the 1960s, producing work in video, performance, film, ceramics, photography, sculpture and writing that blurred the boundaries between media and between viewer and artist.
As one of the co-founders of the Western Front, Lewis initiated and administered the Video Program (1974–1976), curated the Performance Art Program (1977–1979), acted as arts administrator and program coordinator (1979–1987), initiated and coordinated the Computer-Integrated Media Program (1985–1987) and was Acting Director for three months in 1994. In addition, Lewis was head of the Media Arts Section of the Canada Council (1987–1990). Solo exhibitions include the Douglas Gallery, the Vancouver Art Gallery, Presentation House Gallery and the Belkin Satellite. Lewis lives and works in Vancouver.
Classical Toy Boat was purchased with the financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance Program and the Morris and Helen Belkin Foundation. The installation was made possible with the support of the UBC Matching Fund for Outdoor Art. The work will add to an outdoor collection that includes recent acquisitions of works by Edgar Heap of Birds, Myfanwy MacLeod, Rodney Graham and Robert Murray.