09 Nov Wellesley resident creates Queen Elizabeth II statue, unveiled in Queen’s Park
A statue of the late Queen Elizabeth II seated on her throne was unveiled at the legislative building in Queen’s Park, Toronto, on Tuesday, November 7th.
The work of art was created over the course of about one year by experienced sculptor and Wellesley resident, Ruth Abernethy, as well as assistant Cassandra Cook.
The design is based on a photo of Queen Elizabeth addressing the Canadian Parliament in 1977. The Queen delivered a speech that appeared in a national television broadcast, a highlight of her six-day visit to Canada to mark the Silver Jubilee of her reign.
“Because it’s a real moment,” explained Ruth, on the choice of this design. “The Queen has a whole lifetime of being photographed in real moments – and they are moments that are public and they are part of the heritage of the crown.
“So the thought of inventing a moment seemed ludicrous, particularly in the face of having this one. I think this was the only time she opened the Canadian Parliament.”
Ruth was contracted by a group of private citizens to create the sculpture. She has been contracted to create pieces for a wide variety of individuals and organizations.
“It could be anybody. It could be private, it could be a group, it could be a club, it could be an individual,” said Ruth. “It depends on the piece, depends on the work. I do steel works as well, but mostly what I am known for are public pieces.”
The piece is 3,500 pounds and made of bronze. Ruth described the piece size as “life-and-a-half,” so 150 per cent. The chair is eight feet tall, the bronze chair is 12-feet-tall, and the throne sits on two six-inch steps, made of bronze. The bronze casting is 13 feet, and there is a granite base that is around eight feet.
The throne was sand cast, a manufacturing process where molten metal is poured into a sand mold containing a hollow cavity of the desired shape. All of Ruth’s castings of public bronzes are made hollow, which she said had nothing to do with cost or weight.
“It’s just the nature of working with the material,” she said. “That much material cooling at once would twist and warp and crack. It wouldn’t work. You couldn’t make a large figure out of solid bronze and have it hold its shape. So they’re all made hollow.”
The wall in a bronze sculpture gets its strengths from the material and from the contours of the casting.
Ruth said that she finds it easier to work on larger pieces than smaller pieces. “To be honest, working small is more apt to be inaccurate. If it’s large, you’ve got space to check all of those distances that need to be perfect – the span of knees to ankles, point of shoulder to point of shoulder.
“I actually think it’s easier to work accurately on a larger scale.”
Ruth created a statue of John A Macdonald, the first Prime Minister of Canada, which was placed in Baden in June 2017. It was the first figure installed as part of a project called The Prime Minister’s Path. The statue was later removed from public view after concerns arose about Macdonald’s role in creating the Indian residential school system.
In addition to creating bronze portraits, Ruth’s studio works combine textiles, hand-made lace and stainless steel. She is also a published author, and developed a method of figurative mapping to create 3D portraits.
Ruth comes from a theatre background, having been hired as Head of Props at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Manitoba, and later at the Stratford Festival Theatre. She was born in Lindsay, Ontario.