Bowstring

Here's another on the theme of natural and artificial landscape mixing it up in tucked-away spots, in this case the underside of an overpass where fishermen come to fish, kids come to smoke pot, and vehicles roar past overhead.

I jog through here often and am always taken by the juxtaposition of elements. To the left is the Eramosa River, homeland to the Attawandaron or Neutral Nation (neutral because they stayed out of the fighting between the French/Huron and British/Iroquois), as well as a decommissioned "bowstring" bridge. To the right is the overpass support and a constantly shifting canvas of graffiti. All over, meanwhile, assert shrubs and weeds and bony trees.

Curious about the decommissioned bridge, I did some research and learned it was constructed by the Italian immigrant Charles Mattaini in 1916, the year the Parliament buildings in Ottawa were burnt down and the Battle of the Somme took place.

According to Mattaini's granddaughter, the writer Pat Mestern, Mattaini learned how to work with concrete and dynamite in the Italian army and, later, on tunnel projects in the Alps. In Canada when he arrived, he tried his hand at statuary for a while but then turned to the more lucrative profession of bridge-making, but with an artistic twist that did not always go over well with the overwhelmingly Presbyterian and Anglican settlers of the area in the grips of the Temperance Movement.

Though few of these Roman aqueduct- and viaduct-inspired bridges remain today, hundreds were built across Ontario from 1915 to 1930.

This is a tribute to those unsigned flashes of history, rippling and echoing, in my backyard.

"Bowstring"
15.5" x 48"
Acrylic mixed media on birch panel

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