Flora Hominis stands in the Dalglish Family Garden at the RBG Rock Garden - a testament to the Thomas B. McQuesten city building.

artsblue 100x100By Pepper Parr

October 25th, 2017



It is called Flora Hominis.

It stands at one end of the Dalglish Family Garden which is part of the revitalized Rock Garden at the Royal Botanical Garden.

McQuesten full

The first permanent sculpture commissioned by the RBG in decades commemorates the legacy of Thomas McQuesten in a bold, imaginative work of art by Hamilton artist Brandon Vickerd.

It is the first permanent sculpture commissioned by the RBG in decades and was done to “commemorate the legacy of Thomas McQuesten and RBG’s long-standing commitment to the stewardship of our land.”

The sculpture was done by Brandon Vickerd, a Hamilton based artist and Professor of Sculpture at York University.

There are two stories being told – that of a bold, imaginative work of art that will take some getting used to for some people and the story of Thomas McQuesten, a man who did more to build the province of Ontario than anyone else in his time or since.

Today we celebrate the work of the artist. Vickerd serves as Chair of the Department of Visual Arts and Art History. He received his BFA from Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1999) and his MFA from University of Victoria (2001).

The work was funded in part by the Ontario 150 Fund, and RBG donors Peter and Camilla Dalglish.

McQuesten - head close up

Close up of the head of Flora Hominis

The statue, cast in bronze, is a life-sized figure weighing approximately 350 lbs. that appears to be Thomas McQuesten from a distance; but on closer inspection, the sculpture is composed of a collection of local flora and native plants.

The artwork is intended to connect the representation of McQuesten to the rich and vibrant ecosystem of Royal Botanical Garden that he was pivotal in creating. Flora Hominis addresses the interconnected ecosystem that humans inhabit along with all other forms of organic life.

The title of the work, Flora Hominis, is the Latin translation of the words plant and human, and is intended to encapsulate the interdependency of both.

By presenting a figurative work that marries plant and man, the sculpture addresses the interdependency of both elements of the natural world. McQuesten referred to park spaces as the “lungs of the city,” a vital organ that by its very nature makes civilization possible.

Flora Hominis calls for an alternate understanding of what it means to be human – that humanity can only realize its full potential when it accepts that it is part of the natural world.

In other words, we are not stewards of all things natural, but subjects of the complex ecosystem that surrounds us.

Camilia Dagleish H&S # 2

Camilla Dalglish

Camilla Dalglish explained how the work of art came to be. She said that she had her husband Peter “visited Whitehern, Thomas McQuesten’s family home in Hamilton and became fascinated by the story of this remarkable man”, who became obsessed with city planning.  He worked with lawyers, politicians, engineers, architects, artists, and horticulturalists and within a decade created a city park system that is the largest acreage of parkland in any Canadian city.

It includes Cootes Paradise, Gage Park, The High Level Bridge, the Royal Botanical Gardens Rock Garden, the Niagara Parks Commission, the Queen Elizabeth Highway as well as the once glorious grounds around McMaster University.

The Dalglish’s “felt this incredible man deserved much more recognition”. Mark Runciman and the Board of the Royal Botanical Gardens agreed. Today we are thrilled that Thomas McQuesten is immortalized in The Dalglish Family Courtyard.”

Brandon Vickerd RBG

Brandon Vickerd, the artist who created the statue.

The process Vickerd used to complete the statue was complex; it included both traditional and innovative Vacuum Assisted Organic Burnout (VAOB) bronze casting methods. Flora Hominis will be the first public sculptural work using the VOAB process in which a ceramic mold is constructed directly around organic material. The ceramic mold is then fired at a high temperature that strengthens the mold while incinerating the organic material, leaving a cavity.

Next, the ceramic mold (which is porous by nature) is placed on a high capacity vacuum so that when the bronze is poured into the mold the vacuum forces the molten bronze into the miniscule cavity of the mold creating a highly-detailed rendering that exceeds the detail of any traditional bronze casting process.

Mark Runciman H&S #1

Mark Runciman, President and CEO of the Royal Botanical Gardens

The selection jury included Tobi Bruce (Art Gallery of Hamilton), Mark Runciman (RBG CEO), John Best (author of Thomas Baker McQuesten: Public Works, Politics, and Imagination), Camilla and Peter Dalglish (RBG supporters), and Maryella Leggat (RBG supporter). They considered over 45 submissions from across the country before settling on 4 short-listed artists.

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4 comments to Flora Hominis stands in the Dalglish Family Garden at the RBG Rock Garden – a testament to the Thomas B. McQuesten city building.

  • Negan

    Hey give the artist credit. This is a terrible idea executed perfectly. I feel like this is something a 3rd grader might create. Perhaps the “Artist” is not comfortable sculpting actual facial features. I feel who ever the judges were on this panel made an insulting mistake choosing this commission. Excellent job RBG.

  • Yvonne

    I also have to agree with the other posts. While the workmanship and creativity is not questioned I cannot find it in me to appreciate the final result. It is a poor tribute to a man with a vision for conservation resulting in a parkway system that so many of us enjoy on a daily basis, i can appreciate that the artist employed materials collected on site to create the sculpture however obliterating Mr. MqQuesten’s head, face and hands while doing so disrespects the subject from my vantage point. If the intent of the artist was to stir controversy he has indeed been successful but I think money could have been better spent on something we could all enjoy, not just those that like controversy.

  • Glenda D

    Sorry but I think the face looks like a scary monster. Agree with previous post local flora could have been any place other than a face. Looks like a monster from outer space.

  • steve

    I think the statue should have shown the face of McQuesten, and it still could have incorporated the local flora in his hands, or elsewhere. It looks like it should be standing outside of a horror museum.