Charity began at home
If you’ve been close to home for the past three weeks or so, then you’ve likely heard about the lovely stainless steel cow that climbed on a pair of stilts and made her way to the centre of a little parkette in Cathedraltown in Markham (404 and Elgin Mills area). What you may not know is that Charity – that’s the cow’s name – has an Uxbridge connection. And a personal one.
I haven’t seen one article yet give kudos to the person who actually created the sculpture, which, placement aside, really is a work of art. This particular piece of art was created by Ron Baird, a sculptor who lived in Uxbridge for decades and was well-known throughout the artistic community both here and around the world. About four years ago, he was approached by Helen Roman Barber, the woman who commissioned the piece, to create a cow that would pay hommage to Brockview Tony Charity, a prize-winning, world-renowned (in the dairy world) cow who was partly owned by her family.
Here’s where the personal connection to Charity comes in. When Ron was commissioned with the cow, he contacted my husband, Grant, knowing that he’s a dairy farmer. Grant and Ron spent many an hour together, looking at the cows on our farm, sketching them, taking photos, really getting to know what a prize-winning animal would look like. Details like the venation (I just like saying that word, venation) on the udder, the flare of the nostrils – these were all minutiae that Ron took in, and transferred to the cow that he created to look like Brockview Tony Charity.
Because I feel like we have a personal stake (not ‘steak,’ that would be in poor ‘taste’. Oh, geez, I’ll stop now) in this whole Charity affair, my eldest daughter and I took a detour last week while delivering newspapers and went to visit the great gleaming beast ourselves. We weren’t the only ones visiting the little parkette at the time, either. Three other couples were there, cameras out, hands shielding eyes as they gazed up up up at the cow in the sky. Other news reports say that many tourists are going out of their way to catch a glimpse of Charity (no, she’s not so tall that you can see her from the 404). One couple we talked to was from Hamilton.
Charity, Perpetuation of Perfection is an amazing piece of work. She is about one-and-a-half times the size of a regular large cow (and they can be pretty large) and her detail is everything that Ron intended it to be. Her tail seems really big and clunky, but remember that, a) it’s larger than life, and b) it’s surgical stainless steel, not wispy fronds of cow hair. I think, looking upon hundreds of various cow forms every day, I can quite confidently compliment the artist on his rendering of the bone structure of the cow, the slight indents around the ribs (her “dairyness,” for the pros out there) and the fine venation (three times in one piece!) along the underside of the cow and into the udder.
I, quite frankly, want to boast about Charity Perpetuation of Perfection. I want to brag about the part that Highview Holsteins and a former local artist played in her creation, because it’s all over the news and I guess I want a teeny bit of that 15 minutes of fame. But instead, I’m a little bit embarrassed. Why, you ask?
Those darned stilts.
In my humble opinion, the whole piece has been rendered silly and very un-profound, the very opposite of what it should be, by raising it almost two storeys into the air and putting it on four narrow metal sticks, all so that it “see” the cathedral that sits in the middle of a non-descript subdivision. Firstly, those cobalt black eyes – they aren’t real, they can’t see diddly-squat. And the cathedral? It hasn’t been used since 2006 for a service, and it hasn’t been open to the public since 2009. It may be opening up again soon, but really, there ain’t much for the cow to gaze upon.
She shouldn’t be in the air. Cows don’t really jump over the moon. She should be on the ground where people can really admire her, touch her. Cripes, it’s the closest many urbanites may ever get to a real cow!
It’s a shame that the residents say they don’t like her in their park. I’m used to cows in my backyard, and they really are lovely, gentle giants. Heck, this sculpture is a peach! All the cow, none of the poop! I think that people would be a lot more receptive to poor old Charity if she was just down on the ground, like a normal cow. They might also have liked her a little bit more if they had been forewarned about her arrival. Money talks, though, and Helen Roman Barber got what Helen Roman Barber wanted, those who bought her houses be darned.
I wonder if now is a good time to let Charity Cres. residents know they got off lucky. The button that one presses so that Charity emits real cow sounds (recorded at Highview Holsteins, of course) exists, but hasn’t been installed.