The totemic art of small-town Canada
The monumental statues of the Canadian small town are a well-recognized folk art form. Communally sponsored and constructed, town monuments announce the presence of a local social system and are the symbolic expression of some key aspect of a settlement's social life. Stylistically diverse and varied in subject, they speak of nature, history, ethnicity, economic activity, the regional origins of townspeople, and the achievements of residents. In some sense sacred, town monuments may commemorate an ancestral pioneer population or venerate a cultural heritage, a prized articulation with the land, or a characteristic occupation. More than mere tourist attractions, town monuments make perceptible an intangible set of social relations and are sites for various community events and celebrations. Proclamations of identity are encoded in town monuments, and the structure of signs that results from the creation of each is ultimately a system of totemic representation. Collectively, town monuments facilitate the appreciation of local difference along with a concomitant recognition of the shared presence of community and have come to establish thereby a contemporary form of totemism.