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"Crossroads" by John-Philippe Smith


Pontiac – the river meets the hills


The Ottawa River and the Eardley Escarpment offer an eye-catching contrast to those who travel its route, and the clear separation between the Ottawa Valley and the Canadian Shield is evidence of a rich geological history. The first traces of human occupation date back 6,000 years. The presence of humans resulted in changes to the elements of the territory – the river, the forest, and the land – and re-shaped the environment.


Part of the historic territory of the Anishinaabeg (the Algonquins), the areas now known as the townships of Onslow and Eardley were places of passage and trade for explorers and travelers in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 1830s and 1840s, the first European families (Wyman, Mohr, Merriefield, Sinclair, Lusk, and Herdman) began settling in the region, drawn by an industry based on an abundant natural resource – the white pine. Once harvested, the trees gave way to agriculture. Until the arrival of the railway in 1886, the Ottawa River remained the main route for the transportation of people and goods.


Crossroads, 2017, by John-Philippe Smith

Smith’s work evokes images of the military landmarks found along the roads of ancient Rome, and is reminiscent of the obelisk which, over the centuries, has served to commemorate the memory of an event or a person. The sculpture is oriented according to the cardinal points. Each point of view illustrates a different aspect of the municipality’s history. The north recalls the unique geology of the Eardley Escarpment and the Luskville Falls; the east pays tribute to the Indigenous peoples who used the river for trade and transport, and as a source of food; the south represents the arrival of the Irish, Scottish, English, and French settlers who took up farming; and the west, illustrated by a driver keeping his balance on logs, emphasizes the importance of the forest to the community.


A native of Pontiac, John-Philippe Smith is a professional sculptor and engraver whose artistic practice is deeply rooted in history and traditions. He has won several awards, including first place at the European Stone Festival in 2015. His workshop, Smith & Barber, was contracted to restore the sculptures and stone masonry of several buildings on Parliament Hill.

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