I’m always thrilled when I come across a rusty old truck or auto from the early era of transportation and I have my camera handy. This vintage Chevrolet truck, from about the late 1930s (my guess), was perfectly situated near a weathered garage down a meandering country road. The distinctive front-end of this truck features an oversized grill, exaggerated fenders with standout headlights, and an iconic sleek hood ornament. I spoke with the owner, who explained that he restored old vehicles. So this vintage beauty may yet roll along the road again and turn a few heads as it does.
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Travel posters at their best showcase memorable places in distinctive ways as well as the talent of remarkable artists. A case in point is the beautiful series of travel posters by Salisbury, New Brunswick-based graphics designer Eric Goggin. The stylized design, bright colors and buoyant fonts are all fun. Many of Goggin’s posters have a pleasing vintage feel to them and focus on locations throughout Atlantic Canada.
While well-known cities and areas, such as Gros Morne, St. Andrews By the Sea, Cape Breton and the Bay of Fundy, are featured, Goggin also directs some of his artistry to lesser-known but still picturesque locales, including Cape Forchu, N.S., Shediac, N.B., and Cavendish, P.E.I. Of course, because they are travel posters they fulfill their principal purpose by inviting curiosity and wonder about the places depicted and make the viewer itch to get on the road to see these sites.
You can see more of Goggin’s terrific poster designs on his DestinationArt website here.
(Images Credit: Eric Goggin)
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Way out in the country you don’t often see graffiti, and certainly not the artistic variety. So this painted statement near one of Nova Scotia’s most remote ferry terminals (in Freeport, Long Island) stood out for its vivid colors, its possibly enthusiastic statement about its location, and the fact that it took someone more than a little time to complete this.
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Colorful buoys, rusted anchors and long coils of rope strewn hither and yon, and vibrantly painted sheds dotting the rugged shore of Westport on Brier Island, N.S., provide unmistakable signs that this place is a longtime fishing village. Situated as the westernmost part of Nova Scotia, this compact but charming island is just a modest drive (and two short and scenic ferry rides) from the much larger port of Digby, which is a little to the east up the the gorgeous Bay of Fundy coast. People routinely make the trek here for the beautiful coastal vistas, to go whale watching or just to meander to and through a quieter place and time.
“We should enjoy this summer, flower by flower, as if it were to be the last one we’ll see.”
~ Andre Gide
Cameron Stevens is a hugely talented graphics designer working in Ontario. Several years ago he embarked on a project to design vintage screen-printed-style posters for a number of Canada’s national and provincial parks. A few years later he’s now up to 58 gorgeous posters, each of which is characterized by a spare, consistent layout and muted pastel tints as evidenced by the sampling shown here. Whether intentional or not, most also include a body of water, which is certainly reflective of the vast number of lakes, rivers and sea coasts throughout the country.
On his official Canada’s Parks poster art site, Stevens notes that he was inspired by the artwork produced by the U.S. Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s and 1940s to promote America’s National Parks. His Canada Parks posters clearly harken back to that earlier era, as well as the time when the Canadian Pacific Railway blanketed the country with its highly stylized travel posters. These contemporary posters with a vintage feel are beautiful to behold while bringing well-deserved attention to many of Canada’s spectacular outdoor treasures across its provinces and territories. Stevens sells these as posters and prints, which can be accessed through the above official poster site and his graphics site.
(Images credit: Cameron Stevens)
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In Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley wintery weather maintains its grip late into March as the province bounces back from the fierce winds and driving snow of this past week’s Noreaster. Although this old relic of a farm combine sits in a forlorn state shortly after the storm, it’s a beautiful piece of machinery with its pops of orange-red on the wheels and threshers contrasting nicely with the muted colors of the rest of the combine and the bleak surroundings.
Out in the country people work hard, and back in the proverbial good old days they worked even harder. Whether on a farm, a fishing village or in the forest, rural folk have always had to put their bodies and souls into their labors to eke out a living.
As these vintage postcards from the eastern parts of Canada attest they at least did so amidst beautiful settings.
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Aside from its overall weathered appearance and striking shades of blue, this barn stands out for its second-story house-style doors and its slightly asymmetrical design with an upper window thrown in for good measure.
Many of Miyoshi Kondo’s brightly colored gouache paintings may appear at first to convey images of pure whimsy, but looking deeper there is very thoughtful and wry commentary at work in her art. Among the themes that Kondo explores in her recent art are concepts of home and place, our relationship to the environment, and how technology influences us in ways both positive and less than desirable. Overall, I discern a strong sense of optimism that comes through in her art, which I think is reflective of this highly personable artist herself.
Originally from Toronto and a graduate of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, Kondo’s distinctive style is a wonderful example of the vibrant arts scene in and around the charming town of Wolfville, Nova Scotia, where she resides, and the province generally. She is also among the many fine artists represented by the very progressive Argyle Fine Arts in Halifax.
(Image Credits: Miyoshi Kondo)
Along Highway 1, Near Middleton, N.S.
“Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
Before seeing the acclaimed “Maudie,” I knew a little about Maud Lewis and her folk art but I was unaware of her life story and the everyday struggles that she faced from a very early age. Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke each give deft performances in this emotionally touching movie about persevering and finding happiness in the face of difficult circumstances. There are notes of grace here, along with a number of tear-jerker moments.
Lewis received some early art instruction as a child from her mother, with whom Lewis would make homemade Christmas cards to sell. From this basic foundation, Lewis’s many, mostly smallish paintings of bright-colored animals, plants and farm and shore scenes provided her solace in the face of a hardscrabble life in rural Nova Scotia. The occasional sale of her artworks eventually provided a modest income for her and her husband, Everett, in the later years of their lives. The movie does a nice job exploring the initially reticent relationship that the two shared and the deep interdependent love that they came to nurture. A more thorough overview of Lewis’s life can be found in the online Canadian Encyclopedia.
(On a side note, for those familiar with the Maritime Provinces, the rocky shoreline and cozy coastal villages featured in the film will be recognized as distinctively those of Newfoundland, which is where much of the movie was filmed. Quite ironic given the subject matter and that there are, of course, many beautiful vistas in Nova Scotia. The explanation for the filming in a different province appears to be the greater availability of film production tax credits in the more northern province.)
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“Oh, but I can hear you, loud in the center / Aren’t we made to be crowded together . . .”
~ Robin Pecknold (Fleet Foxes), “Third of May”
1. Kristina Boardman’s wonderful pebble paintings, which I highlighted in a post last year, inspired me to take these photos along the shore. Her paintings show why even with the amazing capabilities of digital photography, masterful paintings by talented artists of a given subject capture an expressive element that photos can’t match.
2. Fleet Foxes, one of my favorite folk-rock groups, after a several years’ hiatus released the album “Crack-Up” earlier this year, which contains the song from which the above quote is taken. While the song is principally about Pecknold’s challenging relationship (like most!) with a close friend, like many Fleet Foxes songs it also contains some thoughtful ruminations on life. For me, the line quoted above conveys nicely how we as people are meant to be social and connected, in varying degrees, and how goodness and purpose flow from that. Song video below.
Evening Sunset, Phinney’s Cove, Nova Scotia
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore
Earlier this year, Gaspereau Press, a small press in Kentville, Nova Scotia devoted to exquisite bookmaking, released Linger, Still, Aislinn Hunter’s most recent poetry collection. (Aside from the wonderful writing, I think it’s great that a brilliant writer from Vancouver is published by one of the country’s highest caliber presses, all the way on the opposite coast.)
Hunter has penned many riveting pieces in this volume, which I highly recommend. Here’s one of her standouts for me:
Esk, Part V.
The starry heads of the woodruff
are saying No to the wind,
though they might also be nodding along
to the song of their own great ideas.
Still, today it feels like
the clock of the world,
its ticking heart,
is less fired-up than usual.
The talk last night was of violence,
and the right to be offended.
Tonight I’ll aim for lightness
and fail —
forget the names
of the field flowers,
say the wrong things at dinner,
ghost past the dusky mirror.
I’ll try to talk about the girl I met
at a workshop in London,
the one whose brother
mounted neon signs
on the outside walls
of cemeteries —
YOU ARE STILL ALIVE one said,
in a pulsing red fluorescence.
YOU ARE STILL
~ Aislinn Hunter
While recently running an errand in Halifax I snapped these manhole covers as examples of subtle industrial design. I didn’t notice as much variety among them as I’ve seen in other cities but that’s probably because I collected these so quickly. Still, there are a few distinctive examples to see, including one that’s a square cover formed by two triangles.
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During a recent visit to the Low Tide Gallery in Bridgetown, N.S., I encountered the colorfully vibrant work of Denny Lunn. He is a self-taught artist who first took up painting in his mid-70s and whose style is best described as being within the folk art tradition.
Lunn lives in the Annapolis Valley area and, like many folk artists, his subject matter reflects his community, which for him are the coastal and agricultural landscapes of Nova Scotia. These are scenes that I suspect many Canadians are familiar with — depictions of the maritime shore, lobster and fishing boats, winter skating and hockey, and cows in pastures that joyfully capture the province’s landscape in bright colors. For Lunn just about any available surface suffices as a canvas for his art, including fishing buoys, shovels, hand saws, paddles, milk buckets, baking tins, rocks, driftwood or any other utilitarian or natural object readily at hand, with every nook and cranny becoming filled with glorious detail.
Some of the imagery takes artistic license and doesn’t fit with the actual landscape but nevertheless conveys a consistent imaginative sensibility. Thus, in some of Lunn’s paintings snow-covered mountain peaks hover in the background while boats sail along in summer waters.
Low Tide Gallery proprietor Steve Skafte, who is a writer, fine art photographer and genuinely nice fellow with terrific insights and is passionate about the authenticity of Lunn’s art, deserves great credit for helping bring more attention to Lunn. Skafte created the above documentary video and this coming Sunday, July 30, his gallery will kick off a showcase of Lunn’s work. It will be well worth visiting if you are nearby. When Canadians think of folk artists, fellow Nova Scotian Maud Lewis frequently comes to mind (the Nova Scotia Gallery of Art has an exhibit of her work) and she was certainly one of the country’s more prominent such artists. I believe Lunn deserves to be in her company.
More about Lunn’s work and the gallery is available on the Low Tide Gallery Facebook page.
Happy Canada Day!
As many know, throughout 2017 Canada has been marking its 150th anniversary as a confederation. Of course, the history of the country is much richer and extends more than twice as far into the past. More notably, in recent years Canada has truly shined as a stellar example on the world stage. Like any country, it has its issues but it generally gets a lot of things right and that resilient effort, its vibrant culture and its wonderful people deserve immense appreciation.
Best wishes on this day and in this year and for 150 more!
Personal confession: I fit most comfortably in the “spiritual but not religious” persuasion, and especially value the sense of human connectedness and community that touches all of us, which spiritual and religious traditions tend to foster. With that in mind, I thought this post would be fitting for a Sunday.
About a year ago I posted some photos I snapped one late-Spring afternoon of a well-weathered but cozy church picturesquely situated on the Bay of Fundy in the rural community of St. Croix Cove, N.S. As a modest amateur photographer I was happy to see the photos used a few months later to promote a chapel choir concert by Acadia University. Now these images have been put to an even more appropriate use to assist with a just-launched GoFundMe campaign to restore this almost 175-year old structure.
Darla Mitchell, who grew up in the St. Croix Cove area and is one of the organizers of the restoration effort, notes on the GoFundMe site:
“Many people have come to love this little church and the surrounding communities. Countless photographers have admired its simple sturdy lines, people share memories of first communions and every Christmas multiple generations return to fill the church to sing carols, hear the Christmas story and continue the traditions of our grandparents and great grandparents. Most importantly, gathering in fellowship with each other. “
The historic St. Croix Cove Church
Mary Garoutte, “Sundown, Lincoln Street” (2015)
What strikes me most about Mary Garoutte’s urban landscape paintings is the way she highlights the play of light at the beginning and the end of days. These quiet periods that brim with potential, while also evoking a mixed sense of meditative loneliness and reflection, seem to be as much the subject matter of her work as are the historic houses and store fronts of Halifax, where she is based. Garoutte cites the Group of Seven artists and Wayne Thiebaud as among key influences on her art, which are evident in her choice of colors and the strong textural brush strokes on her canvases. Her wonderful art also brings to mind for me the feelings of solitude conveyed by Edward Hopper in his own paintings of dwelling places during the quiet hours.
Mary Garoutte, “Yellow Door (Falkland Street)” (2013)
Mary Garoutte, “100 Montague Street” (2015)
Mary Garoutte, “Dwellings (Light in the Window)” (2015)
Mary Garoutte, “Glass House” (2016)
Mary Garoutte, “Single Dweller” (2016)
Mary Garoutte, “Late Night Visit” (2016)
Mary Garoutte, “Red Bicycle, Young Street” (2014)
Mary Garoutte, “Sunset on Agricola Street” (2013)
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Marshes in the Minas Basin, Looking Toward Cape Blomidon, N.S.
Can Spring just come on and get here already?
“The progress of the intellect is to the clearer vision of causes, which neglects surface differences. To the poet, the philosopher, the saint, all things are friendly and sacred, all events profitable, all days holy, all [persons] divine.”
~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
I recently came across a copy of an old school book, “Picture Map Geography of Canada and Alaska” by Vernon Quinn, that includes charming woodcut picture maps by Bruno da Osimo, a then noted Italian illustrator, for each of the Canadian provinces (other than Nunavut, which was then part of the Northwest Territories). Originally published in 1944 and updated in 1954, it has a light but well-written chapter devoted to individual provinces. Each map features animals, plants, activities and industries peculiar to the province depicted. In addition to the maps (scanned in above and below), the book is adorned throughout with other delightful illustrations by da Osima (some of which I’ll compile in a future post).
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Steven Rhude, “On the Edge”
Nova Scotia artist Steven Rhude is most often characterized as a realist painter, akin to Alex Colville and Christopher Pratt (both also from the Maritimes). However, Rhude’s representational style is decidedly more nuanced. A close examination of his works reveals an underlying splatter technique that is almost pointillist (and adds wonderful texture) as well as distinct aspects of whimsy and irony, all of which might be more appropriately regarded as a kind of magical realism. His paintings prominently feature icons of the Atlantic provinces — dories, lighthouses, fishing sheds and buoys, among others — as signifiers of place, identity, memory and loss amidst ongoing changes affecting that region of the country, particularly since the early 1990s ban on cod fishing altered a centuries-old economic equilibrium for coastal communities where living has never been especially easy.
In discussing his early artistic training, Rhude has noted that while studying at the Ontario College of Art & Design one of his instructors urged him to first equip himself with a notepad and hiking boots and get out of the studio so as to write and interview people and thereby find authentic stories and experiences upon which to ground his art. Reading Rhude’s humane and thoughtful ruminations about art and society on the blog associated with his professional website is a great pleasure and it’s obvious from his splendid writing that he took his instructor’s advice very much to heart. Because of his skillful artistry, Rhude’s paintings of Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and other places are visually enjoyable and can be appreciated for that alone. Even more special is that his beautiful images also convey important social commentary and add another layer of appreciation for his wonderful paintings.
You can see more of Steven Rhude’s excellent work and read some of his insightful writings on his website and blog and the related links to the galleries that represent his art. Rhude’s book “A Place Called Away: Living and Painting in Nova Scotia” also showcases many of his paintings.
Steven Rhude, “Towards Sibley’s Cove”
Steven Rhude, “After the Storm”
Steven Rhude, “Judy Takes Her Lighthouse For A Walk”
Steven Rhude, “Expulsion, The Final Cut”
Steven Rhude, “Equilibrium # 3”
Steven Rhude, “Finding Brigus Light”
Steven Rhude, “Up On the Roof”
Steven Rhude, “The Home Coming”
Steven Rhude, “Lunenburg Shed in Guggenheim”
(Image Credits: Steven Rhude)
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“And now let us welcome the new year,
full of things that have never been.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Angela Carlsen, “Boulevard Drive In”
If you take creative photography, neon signs and other roadside kitsch and mix them together with a retro-pop art sensibility, for me that’s a winning formula and is the approach taken by Nova Scotia-based artist, Angela Carlsen with her artwork. Much of her recent mixed media art focuses on bygone Americana as a result of her road trips over the last few years through the American West. Vanishing roadside relics, such as those depicted in this sampling, comprise a significant part of both the Canadian and America car cultures, and her work serves as a fitting artistic bridge between them.
Angela Carlsen, “Copper Manor Motel”
Angela Carlsen, “Fresh Donuts”
Angela Carlsen, “Supai Motel”
Angela Carlsen, “Four Winds Motel”
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Abandoned barns, decrepit factories and broken down equipment fascinate me. I ponder the stories behind these once highly functional things that now rest in a decaying state. As testament to the utility of the wheel, the circular form is often present in such man-made landscapes. There’s also the mystery, mundane though it may be, about why particular discarded objects come to be abandoned in a given place and usually piled together randomly with other well-worn debris. The unkempt farm field, the ramshackle shed off to the side of a property or the makeshift junkyard along an overgrown path all withhold such stories.
These photos of old farm equipment are from just such a place alongside a back-country road I happened upon early one morning near Granville Ferry, N.S.