Art in the river

July 15, 2007

Besides visiting the flying club this morning (where Chris was easily persuaded to take two eager little girls for a ride in our aeroplane) and walking into town and back this evening, we cycled 17 kilometers up and down the Ottawa River bike-path this afternoon, a ride that took us past the Remic Rapids, a part of the river that’s attractive to birds and bird-spotters, but it’s also well known locally for something else.

A sculptor, John Félice Ceprano, has been playing with the rocks in these rapids for the last twenty years; the rocks themselves have been there a good deal longer than that. He says:

The sculptures begin each year when the Ottawa River receeds from the spring run off. The lower level of the river allows access to the rocks on the solid limestone riverbed […] dating 400 million years in age, […] impacted by glaciers and winter freeze, thus causing the limestone to crack, creating an infinite variety of linear geometrical forms and shapes. The round, granite like rocks upon site are not indigenous to the region and have been transported by glaciers and river currents for over 20,000 years.

The artist’s tribute to the rocks, however, is a very temporary art form in comparison with those time scales. Each summer he balances rocks on top of one other by hand so that they resemble people, animals or inuksuit (we saw him working on one of them today, cementing a “head” onto some “shoulders”) and each winter the storms, the ice and the floods of the thaw unbalance them and sweep them away.

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