Sometime ago a talented carver created a stunning piece of guerilla art in the forest of Stanley Park that paid tribute to the First Nations who originally lived here and to the ghosts of those magnificent cedar trees that were logged before 1890 to make shakes and shingles. The Parks Board never acknowledged this unique exhibit nor put up any directional signage as to its whereabouts, preferring to leave it for people to discover on their own and perhaps discreetly share the magic of the site with others. That it even existed was part of the Park's own urban folklore.
The mistake of course, in this type of approach, is that eventually someone would take it upon themselves to damage the creation; in this case by attempting to paint it. So-called graffiti artists can be found everywhere defacing walls, commercial vehicles, railway cars and anything else they can find to tag. Fortunately the annual wall mural projects around the city have helped provide a more constructive outlet for those who wield a paint spray-can, and some truly impressive paintings have resulted, but clearly it isn't enough.
The ignorance of the person or persons behind the desecration of the forest sculpture reminds me of the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the equally ignorant Taliban in 2001 who defied world opinion and proceeded to destroy 1,500 year old statues that had been carved into the side of a cliff. While of course one was an act of terrible destruction and the other simply vandalism, the small-minded thinking behind both wasn't all that different.
Vandalism of public art is not anything new, especially when there are artistic differences amongst the small minded over controversial installations. More disturbing is when vandalized works of art are nothing more than displays of pure racism. The Chinese connection to COVID has encouraged racist idealogues to deface the lions at the entrance to Chinatown, various building walls and, most sadly, the iconic Lao Tsu mural at the corner of Gore and Pender.
There was also the recent vandalization of the small lions that overlook the Lions Gate bridge at Prospect Point. The face and paws of the statues were smashed off in yet another senseless act with no cultural or artistic justification.
There are, however, some examples of modifying artwork that are playful and cause no harm and one of the best examples is the dressing up of the Amazing Laughter men. Whether it's for Pride Day, water safety awareness or Xmas these statues are the perfect foil and never take or give offense. If only those who are so quick to make their mark would try to create something of their own, instead of damaging the work of someone else, they might appreciate how much effort goes into being a real artist.