Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bowie, Hadfield, and The Lady of Shalott

A train ride, though not long, led to a place that took my thoughts far away. This is the back view of the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The old home now houses a members' lounge and serves delicious lunches. I like the juxtaposition of the stately, straight-lined, brick building and the modern, curving stairway which led from the first to the second level of the special exhibit.

I find it intriguing when evidence of synchronicity appears. Currently, I'm reading Chris Hadfield's recently published book, "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth". You may have heard him singing "Space Oddity"  last May while he was the Canadian commander of the International Space Station. It's his version of  David Bowie's song and, as it happened, I visited the Bowie exhibit on Friday.

I can't claim that I have closely followed Bowie's career, but it was fascinating to see his costumes, snippets of work in film, hand-written lyrics, sketches and such. I think I now have a greater appreciation for his incredible creativity and wide ranging influences. (Photographs, alas, were not permitted in this section of the gallery.)

From one of the songs that was played:

"This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I'm stepping through the door
And I'm floating in a most peculiar way
And the stars look very different today . . ."
     ("Space Oddity" by David Bowie)

From Hadfield:

"Now Scott can detach inside and come join me. Waiting for him I check behind me, to be sure I haven't accidentally activated my backup tank of oxygen, and that's when I notice the universe. The scale is graphically shocking. The colours, too. The incongruity is stupefying: there I was, inside a small box, but now - how is this possible? . . . It's overpowering, visually, and no other senses warn you that you're about to be attacked by raw beauty." 
     (pp. 89-90, "An Astronaut's Guide to Living on Earth")


Moving on to something quite different . . .

The Lady of Shallot, not completely unlike Bowie's solitary Major Tom, had her own set of troubles. She was shut up, alone, in her tower, permitted to see the outside world only as it was reflected in a mirror, weaving what she saw there. (The painting is by John William Waterhouse.)

"To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
    And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the Moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
"I am half sick of shadows," said
    The Lady of Shalott."

              ("The Lady of Shallot" by Lord Alfred Tennyson) 

Suffice to say, as they had for Major Tom, things turned rather grim for The Lady of Shallot. What lay beyond her restricted home led to her demise. Hadfield's story is a much happier one.

There will be no weaving or space travel here today, just an easy Sunday of knitting thoughts together

Any ideas to share? I'd enjoy reading them.

I`m linking with Mosaic Monday at Little Red House. 


  1. Karen,

    So enjoyed reading about your three main protagonists today! The AGO is truly one of the city's major gems; have visited it several times, as a high school student, and later on my visits to Toronto. Yes! Love the juxtaposition of the old, tall and thin, geometrical houses against the massive and modern update!

    I am intrigued with our Commander, both with his singing voice, as well as his narrative one. Have read excerpts and am impressed. He also seems like such a sweetheart!

    Thanks for the scoop and I'll let you get back to your knitting, in the peace and quiet of your thoughts!


  2. You had a very interesting day at the Art Gallery, Karen! No Art Galleries near here so haven't been to one for quite awhile. Have a relaxing day knitting and a great week.

  3. Very interesting to read about The Lady of Shallott, the only thing I knew about her was that she was mentioned in a Miss Marple story (The mirror cracked, I think?), so it was very interesting to read about her. Thank you for this! xx

  4. The oil paintings are beautiful Karen. I used to be a Bowie fan but that was a while ago.

  5. I have been to see stage plays and ballet in Toronto, but never to the art gallery. It was nice to have a peek inside and read of the three people you featured. David Bowie has always fascinated me, a talented man that can also seem odd at times.
    My world is still revolving around gardening events as the year winds down. I need to get working on my Christmas cards which I find relaxing.

  6. We are listening to NPR's Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me as I blog and Chris Hadfield was the celebrity guest. He was great and shared some fun stories.

  7. Karen,
    It's wonderful the way you tied these three disparate subjects together. Chris Hadfield's singing in space was quite moving. I watched it a couple of times. Have you seen the photos he took from space? Truly amazing. That poor Lady of Shallot - I always feel sorry for her.
    These days are busy with calls to teach (some) and getting ready for the craft fair next week. After that it will be time to think of Christmas preparations. I like to have everything done early so I can relax and enjoy the season.

  8. Sounds like a good day at the Toronto art gallery . I haven't been to Toronto for years and yet I live with in a few hours of it lol We are not much of city people more of town folk lol ! Wonderful post . Thanks for sharing . Have a good evening !

  9. I like how you weaved them together...very nice :) I happen to love really like the pre-raphaelite woman that Waterhouse paints. I didn't know that particular painting was in Toronto. Thanks for sharing.

  10. I am SO glad I took a few moments out to visit you and read this post this morning. Your thoughts on such diferent art forms and the way you threaded them together made me feel happy and stimulated. They also made me think about my research into seventeenth -century optics and illusion. Fascinating stuff.


  11. What a wonderful trip you just took me on Karen!!! I loved hearing and seeing the wonderful outing you went on and how it was so in line with what you have been doing of late.I loved every photo too. What a delight to visit you!
    Thank you so, for your sweet words you left for me.
    hugs from here....

  12. The thought that you get to see in person, a painting that has intrigued me since I first saw it in a book as a just amazing. Was it as beautiful as it looks in the photos?


  13. A fascinating post, Karen. I loved coming along on this wonderful trip with you. Thank you for your lovely comment too.....I think I remember the days of Bowie's quilted space suit!! I am half way through Louise Penny's The Murder Stone now and must find some more of her novels very soon......
    Helen x

  14. My goodness... such an interesting visit.
    I love that old building that sits aside the new, bold colored modern building too. Sure captures your attention.
    Your knitting is beautiful . Happy reading, and knitting.

    Warm wishes...

  15. Amazing photo of the old houses with the big new structure behind. Thanks for the tour of the museum, the paintings are beautiful. I remember the David Bowie Space Oddity song, he was popular. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing. Have a happy week!

  16. I too love the way that one interest melds with another or with current events. I've just been reading Daniel Silva's fiction about the art treasures stolen by Hitler from the Jews in WW II and this same week the news story about the collection of master works found in a Berlin apartment!

    This place had something for everyone. And your Lady of Shallot--very special--has me thinking of Loreena McKinnett's song, "The Lady of Shallot". My favorite Canadian songstress.

  17. Those are some great photos. Thanks for sharing them and their stories.

  18. It's always grand to wander through art galleries. I is always a wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon! Enjoyed your post!

  19. I live 45 minutes north of Toronto and have never visited the Art Gallery of Ontario. Terrible of me, I like the painting of the Lady of Shallot. Have a blessed week, Jen

  20. OH, I'm so jealous! The Bowie exhibit and a Waterhouse all in one day! I had tickets for the Bowie exhibit, but was too sick to go!

  21. Y=I haven't yet read Chris Hadfield's recently published book, "An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth" but after this post I am feeling the need to check it out. Thanks!



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