Bell Measure, 1999
Bronze, wood, 426 x 219 centimetres
Stephen Cruise's Bell Measure is actually two pieces combined into one. The "Bell" of the title recalls the importance of many different kinds of bells that once rang out over our communities, each one with its own kind of calling.
The ringing of church bells recorded the passing of time for generations of people. The same sound also marked significant community events. Church bells rang for religious ceremonies and for important town meetings, for family gatherings, even for emergency fire alarms. Hand held school bells called children to classes or released them for recess. The ringing of a dinner bell meant it was time to put down work and return home for a meal. In a very intimate way, these bells "measured" out the regular span of a life and marked its major events.
Cruise's work takes the bell out of the belfry and puts it on display. It asks us to take a closer look at an art form of the everyday. His work invites the viewer to appreciate the precision, balance and craftsmanship of these ordinary masterpieces that were never really seen by the public.
The "Measure" of Cruise's title applies to the long wooden handle of the piece and references the image of a bar measure, a very tall, calibrated ruler used by archaeologists to take measurements of depth and range. The bar measure is a kind of historical marker. In an excavated site, it negotiates between the present and the past: it stands between the buried culture and the researchers who attempt to unearth it. The bar measure provides archaeologists with a sense of scale.
Stephen Cruise has produced a work that balances its interest in community and archaeology. Like a time capsule, his Bell Measure gives us a history of our present. As a true sign of its time, the date of the work's 1999 installation is stamped in Roman numerals on the bottom rim of the bell: MCMXCIX. Cruise's massive and silent Bell Measure marks its territory on the old side of our shifting millennium, before the takeover of streamlining abbreviations like "Y2K" or the ominous sounding Roman numeral, MM.
About Stephen Cruise
Stephen Cruise was born in Montreal in 1949. He has travelled around the world and lived for extended periods of time in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan.
Cruise's sculpture has been exhibited across North America and featured in many international shows, including three recent appearances in the Bienal Barro de Americo in Caracas, Venezuela.
Cruise has won several important commissions for public art in the Metropolitan Toronto area. The six pieces of his Spadina Avenue series Places in a Book reinforce his interest in ideas of localized history. Cruise's work has been recognized with grants and awards from the Canada Council and the Ontario Arts Council. His sculpture is featured in the collections of the National Gallery, The Art Gallery of Ontario and the Canada Council Art Bank.
Stephen Cruise is also an accomplished martial artist in Kendo 5dan, (Japanese sword fencing) and Iaido Renshit 6dan(Japanese sword draw).