Montreal’s “Roadsworth” Art Will Last as Long as the City’s Pavement

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For anyone visiting Montreal, it is difficult to miss the artwork of Roadsworth, a.k.a. Peter Gibson. That’s because the artist’s canvas is largely asphalt and his “gallery” is the streets and parking areas of the city.

When Gibson first because painting from stencils, which he designs, it was in support of bicycling, somewhat mimicking the road markings that define bike lanes. But then he took it many steps further: streets and parking areas of this cultural capital are festooned with everything from giant blue flowers, tree leaves, ostriches, geese flying in the classic V-formation, fish, whales, shoeprints, an egg-filled bird’s nest, electrical plugs and a row of bullets. His work often uses existing, regulation markings, such as the centerline street markings that then turns into a heart rate monitor, or a crosswalk’s thick parallel lines that become part of a fish skeleton.

Roadsworth art began, by the artist’s own admission, as a protest against car-dominant culture. But Gibson claims it evolved into simply an expression outside the boundaries of the art world – and that of municipal traffic management laws. He was arrested and charged with 53 counts of public mischief in 2004, but with a strong show of support from the community was given a small fine and community service sentence. He continues to work for private clients in outdoor and indoor installations.

None of his work celebrates the beauty of potholes per sé, however road deterioration will ultimately take his work. Tourists and residents alike are given a visual treat as long as the work holds up, as pavement everywhere eventually deteriorates (faster, when not given proper maintenance) to traffic, heat, freezing, precipitation and time.