Written By: Elise Arsenault
My woollen scarf still smells of marijuana.
I was warned of the narcotic atmosphere and the swollen crowds. I was notified of the drunken hooligans, deafening amps and questionable porta-potties. Having been raised in a town whose sidewalks are cleaner than my moccasins, I knew Supercrawl would be culture shock, and I was beyond stoked.
I prepared myself both mentally and physically while waiting for my ride that Friday night. I dressed in several layers, going for misunderstood hipster, downloaded the Supercrawl app and adequately cleared my camera roll. Lastly, I packed two pens and a notebook. A fine-arts assignment required me to take notes on a visual piece, a performance piece and another of my choosing.
All predictions were proven true within ten minutes on James St. North; the crowd was massive and thoroughly strewn with the young and intoxicated. This meant that everyone moved slowly, and that buskers were granted tipsy, dancing teenagers as an accompanying act. I clutched my notebook and narrowed my vision, vowing to seek out the peculiarly beautiful.
I found it in a gallery, then again in front of the Vasco da Gama Futebol Club and still again on a 12’ x 20’ brick wall.
I barely noticed Claude Le Blanc’s piece, J-L Murat, when I first entered Stax Gallery. It wasn’t particularly bold or thought provoking in its portrayal of a yellow, wooden fishing boat on still water. What caught my intrigue were its textured layers, reminding me of a childhood craft. I would scribble all over a sheet in crayon, then paint over it in black. Once it dried, I’d scratch the surface and each line teemed with colour.
I spoke with an eloquent, name-tagged man in a dress shirt. I was told that after painting a scene, Le Blanc would scrape it downward with a knife. He is known to construct, deconstruct, and transform his work until all that remains is emotion, usually abandon or solitude. I was captivated by these marks, these scars, bringing light to the hues hidden beneath.
A five-minute walk southward brought me to a dimly lit curb, where a lone man played an electric guitar. His case rested open before him, laden with coins and actual peanuts. I don’t know what drew me to stay, but I did. A kind of serenity swept to and fro across his frets as he played, his foot keeping the pace of his picking. I heard no words but certainly felt spoken to, and at his final strum I seized the silence as a chance to speak with him.
His name was Robin Lee LaJoie, and I asked to hear about his passion for music.
“I love it because it feels good.” He said. “I love to get something from here” – he pointed to his head, then to the hand still bracing copper strings – “to here.” When I asked to hear an original he began without a word.
This song was different; the pace was slower, the sound fuller and his foot still. He was the one entranced now, looking far past the frets and farther past the moment. A small crowd gathered, and coins hit the peanuts in steady intervals. The melody told a story, and when it concluded I asked Robin its name.
“Nobody Sees” he said, as though I should have already known. He shared the first verse a cappella. The words were simple yet held such depth, speaking of the first fallen leaves and a woman's first silver hair. I wondered why he said nobody sees if he indeed saw. I couldn’t help but admire this man whose music came from somewhere so raw.
On my way to catch bus 27 I noticed someone on stilts a block ahead of me. As I kept walking, however, I saw that it was in fact a girl on another’s shoulders, pressed against a brick wall. She was writing something: her name. Surrounding her name were hundreds of others, creating a mural of autographs.
These passers-by were left with boxes of chalk and complete creative freedom, yet each left but a name, straddling shoulders to reach higher or to write it bolder. They left a chalked legacy despite its impermanence, reaffirming, to me, the common yearning to be known and remembered.
If nothing else, Super Crawl taught me three things. There is strength in transparency, even through wounded windows. There is a vital, pulsing depth to simplicity. And legacy is irreversibly sewn to human spirit. It then struck me as to why these truths are so powerful.
They aren’t earthly truths, but Heavenly ones.
Having been created in God’s image, we too can create. The impact of our work, as I’ve now come to realize, is determined by the degree to which it reflects the heart of the first artist.