The answer is blowin' in the wind
Traveling show at Musée has whimsy at heart of weather telling
By: Scott Hayes
| Posted: Saturday, Oct 27, 2012 06:00 am
Wind Work, Wind Play: Weathervanes and Whirligigs
On display from Monday, Oct. 29 to Sunday, Jan. 13, 2013
Musée Héritage Museum
5 St. Anne Street (St. Albert Place)
Call 780-459-1528 or visit www.museeheritage.ca for more information.
Meteorology is serious business but there’s a wealth of folk art there that can fill it with a good amount of amusement as well.
All of those rooftop roosters have a long history in showing ground-bound people which way the wind blows, but there’s a lot to be said for the styles in which they did it, and still do.
“We try and look for a variety of subjects and things that would pique people’s interests,” began curator Joanne White. “This was one that sounded like it would be fun and interesting. Even though it is from different parts of Canada, certainly whirligigs and weathervanes are common everywhere.”
Weathervanes are a part of the collective experience, having made their stands as part of the European and North American landscape for centuries. You have seen them atop tall poles and prominently displayed on rooftops, on church steeples and even castle towers. They were practical first, before they became decorative.
Whirligigs are their goofy cousins. These carved objects are more pinwheels than pointers. Rather than demonstrate the strength of the wind blowing through, whirligigs make use of the wind to power movable parts, turning an inanimate object into a farmer milking a cow.
“There are several types of whirligigs. A whirligig has that extra motion, so it has not just that ability to rotate in the wind but it might have spinning arms, or up and down motions. There’s paddle-arm whirligigs where their arms spin around.”
Other examples from Wind Work include one that shows a mustachioed man in a blue blazer playing a fiddle next to a windmill, and another features a goose with what looks like three pairs of wings.
This travelling exhibit from the Canadian Museum of Civilization is indeed full of whimsy. The pieces date back to the 1870s.
“It talks about their human ingenuity and humour and a lot of things that appeal to us,” she said, later adding, “I tend to like some of the older pieces but there are some amusing ones for sure. They’re really quirky folk art humans. There’s quite a few really neat-looking ones.”
The show is rounded out with one local artifact: a beautiful early handmade weathervane rooster on loan from the collection of the local Oblates.