It’s a sight that prompts police officers to stop – a lone woman walking up and down the Pattullo Bridge.
But it’s an experience Catherine Owen has owned for several years. The New Westminster-based artist received a B.C. arts grant last year to write poems about the 80-year-old structure. Her goal is to write about the bridge from different perspectives to try and tell the story of the controversial icon.
“I moved to New West in 2012 with a view of the Pattullo Bridge, and I started getting fascinated by the Fraser River and the bridge,” Owen told the Record.
Her first poem was inspired by the history of the bridge. The resulting poem motivated her to apply for the grant and begin working on a collection of poetry about the bridge. Her intention is to tell the life story of the bridge – from congestion problems to suicides, she said.
“There’s a lot of energy around the bridge,” she said.
As part of her creative process, Owen makes time to walk the bridge regularly, a habit that’s caught the attention of passing motorists once or twice.
“I’ve had several times when I’ve been stopped, while I’ve been writing, by cops who were thinking I’m going to jump and they’d had calls,” she chuckled.
The questions don’t bother her, Owen said.
The bridge is a space that’s not meant for pedestrians, she said.
“It is a kind of edgy, liminal space,” she said. “You might ride your bike, but if you’re a person walking it, there’s this kind of suspicion or anxiety.”
Through her work, Owen has come to think of the bridge as a person; one that at times seems like an infant and at others, an awkward teenager. For her, though, the most glaring thing about the Pattullo is its beauty.
“I love the colours, I love the lattice work feel to it. I mean, it’s got the very old world kind of feel because everything is so light and airy now, and so it’s got a very heavy, durable, much more eternal feel to it,” she said.