Slavo Cech

As a boy, I learned my love of urban light from the CN Tower logo in downtown Edmonton. What I didn't know all those years ago was that Slavo was staring at the building, too.

The logo came into the world four years before I was born into a north-end railroad (yes, Canadian National) family. I learned later that some critics dismissed it as twisted paperclip. That's good, too, but, just not as good as the logo. The tower went up two years after I was born. We've been in this together.

I didn't see it a lot, but, on the special evenings we were downtown for dinner or a musical performance, I would always make a point of looking up at it. And it burned its way in. Because it wasn't just a lit logo that sat there like an unblinking eye. And it didn't flash manically like lights at a car dealership.

Elegantly, it revealed itself. Fluidly, it moved from the C into the N, taking my eye with it, forcing an inaudible voice inside me to say C-N. Its path, of course, resembles a train route line: around bends, up hills, down hills, along the bottoms.

Then it would disappear, like a train in the night, while the same performance was staged on another face of the building's summit. And then, the logo would return, as the C traced itself along its thick line of red into the N. And again and again. And I would always try to look at it one last time as I moved along.

In 1968, the Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia and put an end to the Prague Spring reforms, in the process putting their brightest on the move. One of those fleeing artistic families found their way into an apartment in downtown Edmonton, and from his bedroom in that apartment a young boy in that family would look out his window and up at the CN tower logo as it revealed itself against the night sky.

The boy was Slavo Cech. Slavo and I went to high school together and then lost track of each other for years until our paths started to cross at art gallery events. By then he had become a brilliant metal sculptor and blacksmith who could shave and whittle words, too, calling his Edmonton company Metal Urges. 

Slavo had gone on to NAIT, and the boy who watched the CN logo snake its paperclip course hit the world with the big idea of turning an Edmonton building's exterior into a Christmas tree. After a good idea, sorry, no, from one building, the AGT building (Telus now) said yes and Slavo designed the four-Christmas-tree pattern on the south face of the south tower that to this day delights the weary wintered of Edmonton.

Slavo's lights

If you watch closely, and feel closer, and get the rhythm of those lit tree shapes appearing and disappearing, yes, that is influence of the CN logo on the young artist all those years ago.

In both the CN tower sign and the Telus building there is a dance of light and dark. If the CN logo stayed lit, if the Telus trees didn't gracefully appear and disappear and just stayed lit, we would still look and we would see the logo and the trees. But they wouldn't move and thrill like they do.

Thanks for message of light sent out all those year ago, Slavo. It finally got to me.



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