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.
Soft-focus photography might appear easy to execute but doing it well and in a way that conveys feeling and meaning in the image is quite difficult. In her photos Toronto photographer Virginia Mak skillfully uses this technique to give her images a distinctly moody and ethereal effect that is more evocative of painting. In contrast to photographs rendered in sharp relief, viewers of Mak’s carefully blurred images are able to contemplate various possibilities of meaning and emotion suggested by her elegant minimalist compositions. The sampling shown here conjures up feelings of serenity, mystery, vulnerability, desire, longing and wistfulness.
Image Credits: Virginia Mak
“We should enjoy this summer, flower by flower, as if it were to be the last one we’ll see.”
~ Andre Gide
Charlottetown is a delightful city on Prince Edward Island, whose residents are blessed to live in such a vibrant place and beautiful province. Small cities and towns throughout Canada often struggle to sustain a thriving economy and a high quality of life. To its credit, Charlottetown appears to have figured out a formula that works well.
On a recent visit to its city center, I was amazed at the evident diversity of its wonderful shops, eateries and arts and music scene. These shop signs are a small reflection of that. Although PEI may be the smallest province in terms of geography and population, it holds its own quite nicely.
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Not far from the Confederation Bridge on the Prince Edward Island side of that engineering marvel a scenic backroad leads to the cozy town of Cape Traverse and two of the best antique shops in all of Canada’s Maritime Provinces: Ice Boat Rarities and Antiques and, its sister shop, Island Uniquities and Antiques, which is just a few hundred yards away down PEI Route 10. Both shops are housed in 19th century buildings — one an old church and another a former masonic lodge — that have been masterfully restored and updated by owners Larry and Jane Dugdale.
The exceptional assortment of antiques, curios, artwork and furniture on offer started as a personal collection of the owners that eventually morphed into the well-organized groupings that seem intentionally curated for visual delight. The Ice Boat building features the former church’s simply designed but stunning original red, blue, green and yellow stained glass windows, which cast a warm, luminous glow throughout the place. These shops deserve to be called galleries as much as anything else.
If you’re into stylish old or reclaimed furniture, these shops have you covered; automotive and industrial neon, check; vintage toys, thermometers, oil cans, model boats, duck decoys, postcards and ephemera, tools or farm implements, check to all that too — and a great deal more! Of particular note is the collection of whimsical painted wood sculptures and other artworks by noted PEI folk artist, Kerras Jeffery, who sadly passed away last year at way too young of an age after battling a long illness. The Ice Boat Rarities shop serves as almost a museum of some of his brightly colored pieces and the shop also features a marvelous cloud-painting by Jeffery on the ceiling of its largest room.
In addition, the staff in both places are super friendly and helpful and the prices are about the fairest I’ve seen for antique shops anywhere. These places are definitely worth a visit if you find yourself nearby.
More information about these terrific shops can be found at their respective Facebook pages here: Iceboat Rarities and Island Uniquities. More about Kerras Jeffery and his art is available on the Backroad Folkart blog here, which was formerly written by him and is now maintained by one of his relatives.
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On the walls of Toronto some of the street art exhibits strong elements of design, such as these examples. I especially like the piece just above, which is painted on a piece of plywood tacked onto the side of a building.
~ ~ ~
I realized after I shot these four images that the faces had similar characteristics and they were all tagged “P.S” and were likely done by the same street artist. Their creator favors funky, angular faces and there’s definitely a certain style going on with these.
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.
Toronto, being the big city that it is, has more than its share of diverse street or wall art, more commonly called graffiti. This isn’t every one’s cup of tea, but it’s hard to ignore the creative expression that goes into these highly stylized works.
Among the varieties to be found gracing the corner wall of an old building, on either side of the occasional alley way or wherever else you may find these quirky pieces are classic graffiti tags, the enigmatic or humorous character scenes, the images laden with social or political messages, and designs that are as much about vibrant colors as anything else. I took a lot of shots of these recently, so have broken them up with some being posted here and others planned for a later set of shared images.
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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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Can’t help but smile about this quirky handmade sign stumbled upon recently in the Kensington Market district of Toronto.
The words are from a poem by Rumi that is generally understood to be about putting aside judgments that divide people and instead to focus on appreciating the wonders of being and the things that connect us all.
During the week after Christmas Toronto’s temperature plummeted to a 57-year record low. Brrrrr! Bundled up tightly against such crazy wintery weather, the day was slightly brightened by coming across this group of colorful sculptures of fishing bobbins. Situated in Canoe Landing Park in the CityPlace neighborhood, these cheerful works were created by noted Vancouver artist Douglas Coupland. Elsewhere in the park there is an oversized sculpture of a red canoe (also by Coupland), in which park-goers can sit and look out across Gardiner Expressway toward nearby Lake Ontario. Clever and fun subject for sculptures and another great example of the vibrant public art that can be found throughout metro Toronto.
I’ve seen the street photography of Fred Herzog previously but a brief essay by Geoff Dyer in today’s New York Times Magazine prompted me to look anew at Herzog’s work. Herzog came to Canada in the early 1950s from Germany and from the late 1950s through the 1960s pioneered color street photography in his adopted city of Vancouver. His candid shots provide a splendid if unvarnished documentary of the city and its people during that period. The vintage images also subtly illustrate many things that have changed in Vancouver and other urban areas throughout Canada (and America) in the past several decades.
More of Herzog’s work can be seen at Vancouver’s Equinox Gallery and on its website.
Photo Credits: Fred Herzog and Equinox Gallery
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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.
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
“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.
I came across a news story that led me to a real estate listing for a well-organized junkyard in Tappen, British Columbia with over 300 vintage cars and trucks crammed into 5 acres. Along with the land comes a few buildings and all of the classic junkers to boot. Asking price is almost CDN $1.5 million!
The colorful pictures taken by the selling real estate agency (Century 21 Agent Hudson Purba) are superb, several of which are posted here (more can be viewed on the listing site). This throwback reminds me of Old Car City in northwest Georgia, a salvage yard dating to the 1930s which is filled with truly old rusty vehicles that Mother Nature has slowly reclaimed. Both places are full of eye-candy for photographers and the just plain curious.
(Image credits: Century 21 Agent Hudson Purba)
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
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.
Regent Gas Station (Left View), Toronto (1949),
Designed by John Parkin, Photo by Hugh Robertson
Although these vintage images only showcase a humble gas station they’re amazingly good! That’s because they combine the modernist industrial design of distinguished Toronto architect John Parkin and the often-dramatic photography of Hugh Robertson and his team at Toronto’s former Panda Associates firm, both of whom helped popularize modern design in Canada during the 1950s and 60s.
Regent Gas Station (Right View), Toronto (1949),
Designed by John Parkin, Photo by Hugh Robertson
A trove of other vintage architectural photos can be seen at the Panda Associates Digital Image Collection, Canadian Architectural Archives, which is maintained by the University of Calgary, and in the book John C. Parkin, Archives and Photography: Reflections on the Practice and Presentation of Modern Architecture (University of Calgary Press 2013).
(Image Credits: Hugh Robertson/Panda Associates, Canadian Architectural Archives, University of Calgary)
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
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
City Bus on Vancouver Street (about mid-1950s)
Distinctive industrial design reveals itself in many ways and, when done well, can be a genuine pleasure to take in. While the specialness of such design is often difficult to see in our contemporary surroundings, its otherwise subtle impact jumps out when looking back at vintage images. A case in point: the humble municipal bus, operated in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Calgary and other cities across Canada. Over this period theses buses began to display a very mod sensibility as they evolved from the severe boxiness of earlier 1930s and 1940s versions to later, during the 1950s through the 1970s, being adorned with more rounded contours, sleek curves and very stylized lines and chrome elements.
“And now let us welcome the new year,
full of things that have never been.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
“Large Two Forms” (1966 & 1969), Henry Moore
Toronto’s diversity is reflected in the wide array of public art, especially sculpture, that can be seen on block after block in its downtown core. Encounters with public art as we hustle from place to place provide moments for reflection and inspiration and help to remind us of our connections to deeper things and to one another.
These pieces from out and about merely scratch the surface of the city’s offerings. (I forgot to get the titles for a couple of these pieces.)