A series of photographic works referencing historical paintings has been removed from a popular walking and cycling route along Vancouver's West Side.
The reclining and sleeping figures were part of a Capture Photography Festival public-art exhibition curated by its executive director, Emmy Lee Wall.
They were taken down from the Arbutus Greenway by the festival and Pattison Outdoor as a result of public complaints. Some said that the photographs looked like dead people.
The exhibition was created from an archive of more than 63,000 images collected by Vancouver artist Steven Shearer.
He links these photographs, found in print and online, with "depictions of different canonical styles and representation through art history", according to the Capture Photography Festival website.
Shearer's work has been shown in galleries ranging from the Tate Modern in London to the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City to the Contemporary Art Gallery in Vancouver.
"The reclining and sleeping figures presented on Shearer’s billboards recall the poses found in religious paintings and sculpture, wherein bodies appear to be in states of ecstasy or seem to defy gravity, as if they are floating, having been released of their earthly bonds," the Capture Photography Festival states. "By virtue of giving way to their physical desire for sleep, the figures have unintentionally invited passersby to observe them at a heightened level of vulnerability and intimacy."
Wall told the Straight that the festival is very grateful for the support of the billboard company, which she described as "genuine champions of public art".
This exhibition was supported by the Audain Foundation.
"This is an important opportunity to take pause and consider the role of public art in our city, how we can balance public concern with artistic freedom, the ways in which we might engage in meaningful, constructive dialogue around images that make us uncomfortable, and the methods by which we can make contemporary art more accessible to those who might not regularly engage with it," Wall stated. "These are not issues with easy answers but witnessing the response to these billboards makes it apparent that they are ever more urgent."
Below in this week's edition of Georgia Straight Talks, editor Charlie Smith offers a preview of the Capture Photography Festival.