Government Street and Belleville Street, Victoria, Canada
My sister owned a beautiful mare which she permitted me to ride, wrote Emily Carr in Growing Pains, the autobiography she completed shortly before her death at the age of 73 in 1945. On the mare, astride as I had ridden before, my sheep-dog following, I went into the woods. No woman had ever ridden cross-saddle before in Victoria! Victoria was shocked! My family sighed. Carrs had always conformed…. Too bad…I was more me than ever, just pure me. Emily Carr was an artist and writer not to be straightened by convention. Or, indeed, by any one else’s expectations of her. At a time when the lives of most women were spent in domestic duty and care, Emily Carr traveled and explored. And not only did she travel and explore Canada, and her native British Columbia, Emily Carr traveled and explored Europe, visiting and studying in London and Paris. But her real journey, her real exploration, was to the very heart of herself and her own soul. She painted magical forests and majestic, enchanted totem poles, wrote stories of her life and struggles in nineteenth century Victoria, a quiet town peopled by European settlers on Canada’s remote Pacific coast. She’d been born in 1871, one of nine children of English parents who’d moved to British Columbia while it was still a colony of Great Britain. Her family was prim and proper, respectable. But from a young age, Emily was more interested adventure than in society’s limiting mores. She ventured out into the wilds of British Columbia, roamed its forests and hills. There, she met the province’s indigenous people. They became her friends, and even gave her the nickname of the Laughing One. Within her work, she attempted to capture thevanishing arts and customs of Canada’s native people; she drew their totem poles and stone carvings, and in the sweeping brushstrokes she used, she tried to capture the vastness and the expanse of the landscape she and they loved so profoundly. But life wasn’t easy for Emily Carr. Success and recognition eluded her while she was alive, and to make ends meet she made rugs and ran a ramshackle boarding house. A ramshackle boarding house in which Emily Carr lived with her pets. Parrots, chipmunks, cats, rats, a raccoon, Billy the dog and Woo, the Javenese monkey. Emily named Woo after the sound he made, and she adored him. He went everywhere with her. And so did her faithful dog, Billie. So, when Emily Carr was honoured by the people of Victoria with this statue by Barbara Paterson in 2010, it only seemed right that Emily should be depicted with Woo and Billy. They were, after all, a small part of the wild Emily Carr had loved so much. A wild that had helped Emily Carr to become herself.