Michael Hermesh of Summerland with his sculpture Hat Box Man which is on display at the north side of Penticton City Hall. The Hat Box Man supplies hats to dreamers when required. Mark Brett/Western News

Public sculpture exhibit unveiled

More than a dozen years after his controversial work The Baggage Handler first came to life, Summerland’s Michael Hermesh is back on municipal display

Hermesh is one of six featured artists whose works make up the Penticton Public Sculpture Exhibit, only this time, unlike Frank in the original piece, Hat Box Man is fully clothed.

The Baggage Handler showed up in the Marina Way roundabout near the Penticton Art Gallery one cold day in 2005 and was also commissioned by the city.

Prior to his installation, the then mayor of Penticton, David Perry had ordered Frank’s private parts be covered and a metal plate was placed over them.

This generated international attention on Penticton and a long-running controversy and legal wrangling which eventually resulted in the removal of the plate and subsequently Frank himself because of vandalism.

“Did it change me? Oh yeah it made me way more of a public person. In a way, for awhile it affected my work, it made me more self conscious,” said Hermesh, whose new sculpture is located on the north side of Penticton City Hall. “Yesterday I all of a sudden realized that this piece is actually a companion piece to The Baggage Handler.”

However it did not have anything to do with the fact Hat Box Man is dressed in a jacket and bell bottom pants.

Four other sculptures are located on the Okanagan Lake waterfront between the Peach and Sicamous and the sixth is in the Marina Way roundabout.

“I realized a lot of my pieces have to do with gravity, things floating up or being pulled down and that’s the dynamic, the spirit wants to fly and the body is, well, you’re mortal,” said Hermesh, who now concentrates his efforts on painting and drawing. “With The Baggage Handler all the suitcases were heavy and this year they’re dreams, hats for dreams they’re light, I wouldn’t say more of a positive thing but it’s kind of almost a mirror to the baggage handler.”

His description is the Hat Box Man is the person who supplies hats to dreamers when required.

Every night running from dream to dream delivering them and every morning he packs them up and takes them away.

“You need baggage, it’s a good thing. You need dreams and sometimes dreams are bad that can happen too,” said Hermesh.

The sculptures include Bringing Back the Salmon Chief by Penticton’s Clint George, The Kiss by Serge Mozhnevsky of Coquitlam, Tamarack Pond by Paul Reimer of Cranbrook, 30 Birds by Zohreh Vahidifard of Tehran, Iran and Portal by Patrick Field of Okanagan Falls.

“Through the portal I see us entering and arriving as a harmonious wave of humility and respect for each other and nature,” is how Field described his sculpture, relating to the 25,980-year cycle of precession moving into the age of Aquarius. “My perception as an artist is that women are going to be the ones that are going to help solve the long term problems.

“So this portal goes into two parallel universes one is good and one is bad. We don’t know what the results are going to be I’m just hoping the women can now get into a position of matriarchal power.”

Penticton’s unofficial temporary walk of art was showcased Saturday with the unveiling of the six public sculpture exhibits. The art will remain in place for a period of a year.

“I think it’s great that Penticton’s made an effort to invest in some beauty in the community and I just hope we can continue this as an annual event and grow it,” said Field. “I think you’ll find today and tomorrow and next week that people are going to come by and say ‘yeah we like that to be part of our community.’”

Robin Robertson who chaired the public sculpture committee was pleased to finally see the project become a reality.

“A lot of logistical things were involved, it was a matter of that (public artwork) being seen as valuable again,” she said. “Once we had the money it was work but it was wonderful work.

“It says that we’re becoming a city that realizes how important our cultural fabric is.”

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Patrick Field of Okanagan Falls with his sculpture, The Portal, his interpretation of the portal he sees humanity entering in the age of Aquarius. Mark Brett/Western News

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