Of the countless art pieces that line the walls of Ottawa City Hall, this sculpture – Butterfly, by Dutch artist Pim van der Maas – is probably my favourite.
It’s not easy to find, mind you. It’s located near the second-floor footbridge between the Heritage building and the main building, but thankfully my day-to-day work takes me past this sculpture on a pretty regular basis.
The description mounted next to the sculpture doesn’t give much in the way of explanation about the piece. It focuses on how the sculpture came to be presented to the City of Ottawa and about how it used to stand more prominently in front of old City Hall, prior to amalgamation.
With no info to guide me, I’m free to compose my own thoughts on the artistic merits of the piece. I find this piece has a warmth that I connect with, which I think stems from the colour of the wood and the smooth rounded edges. I almost see the outline of a human head in he curves of this sculpture.
Because the black spots on the wood don’t line up, I feel like the horizontal strips of wood are not stacked together in the way that was intended – like a jigsaw puzzle that’s not put together correctly. And yet, because the overall shape is so pleasing, it doesn’t feel wrong.
I’d like to think the artist is saying that there are many ways to look at the world – or rather that there is not one RIGHT way. Just because something doesn’t match a pre-defined “correct” doesn’t mean it doesn’t have something else to offer.
And I like that thought.
I have no idea if the artist had anything like that in mind – and the fact that it’s called butterfly makes me think the intent of the sculpture could be much simpler than what I’m reading into it. But that’s art for you.
I never knew the name of the sculpture until well after I developed a fondness for it.