ABERNETHY, Ruth




Author Tags: Art

Vancouver can boast about bike lanes; it can make repeated vows to eliminate homelessness in order to advertise its good intentions; and it can look great year-round due to its spectacular natural setting—but the micro-managed metropolis remains in the running for the world’s Worst Public Art Award.

Ideally the part-time residency of transplanted bronze sculptor Ruth Abernethy in Kitsilano will now have some transformative effect. As evidenced in her coffee table book compendium, Life and Bronze: A Sculptor’s Journal (Granville Island $60), the Ontario-raised Abernethy has created alluring sculptures and installations that people really, really, really like.

Abernethy's first major Vancouver work was unveiled at Science Centre in October of 2016. As described (but not pictured) in her book, her first West Coast installation honours scientists James Till and the late Ernest McCullough, co-discoverers of stem cells, who are a modern-day equivalent of Banting and Best. Abernethy's husband Mark Smyth began working at Stemcell Technologies in Vancouver around 2010.

In 1999, her depiction of pianist Glenn Gould on a bench, wearing his distinctive cap, launched her solo art practice into wider renown. Commissions to replicate Mackenzie King, John A. Macdonald, “In Flanders Fields” war poet John McCrae, golfer Arnold Palmer and pianist Oscar Peterson have followed.

Having worked in theatre props departments across Canada since age seventeen, Abernethy has developed a unique method of ‘mapping’ 3D figures before carving them in styrene. Now she’s received royal approval for a statue of Queen Elizabeth II seated on the Throne of Canada to be unveiled in 2017.

In an ideal world, the city would commission Abernethy to produce a life-size statue of beloved Chuck Davis who served as the Vancouver’s unofficial, saint-like historian for most of his adult life. 978-1-926991-73-3

[BCBW 2016]