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
Evening Sunset, Phinney’s Cove, Nova Scotia
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
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.
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.
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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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.
Blossoming Peach Grove, Wolfville, N.S.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
~ William Butler Yeats
Not far from the Bay of Fundy shore of the northern Annapolis Valley sits this very old and humble Baptist church. The colored glass windows are adorned simply with a subtle yellow-hued cross motif and a few complementary colors in the other panes. Every weathered detail of its cedar-shingle exterior and its intimate understated interior testifies to its long history and the many lives and life-stories that have been shared within.
Moose River, Clementsport, N.S.
Annapolis Royal occupies a special place in both the far western part of Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley and the province’s history. Situated on the sweeping Annapolis River, the site was originally called Habitation at Port-Royal by French settlers around 1605 and was the capital of French Acadia. In 1710, the settlement became the first capital of Nova Scotia during British rule. The charm of this small town is typified by its wide variety of doors and entryways, many of which hint at the town’s early history and its seaside heritage. Here’s a sampling from a recent stroll on a brisk fall day.
Walking along a backroad trail in Harbourville, Nova Scotia near the Bay of Fundy shore these small flowers hugging the ground caught my attention. While their more commonly known and larger floral cousins (such as roses, tulips, lilies and the like) may receive more attention, the abundance of these tinier, prosaic blooms poking their vibrant colors through rocky terrain and from under scattered logs provides a perfect backdrop for a hike close to the water on a lazy summer day.
I like vintage signs a great deal, especially classic neon displays that have been well preserved. These shots taken yesterday show The Acadia Theatre in Wolfville, Nova Scotia, which is graced with a magnificent masterpiece of neon and signage art above its entryway. The triangular sign juts out from the building’s facade with “ACADIA” in bright yellow on two sides and white and yellow neon accent lines all around and a bold neon yellow star encircled atop the front.
Built in 1911, this Annapolis Valley theatre has been through several incarnations and now houses a cinema and stage for community theatre (the Al Whittle Theatre), a film society (the FundyFilm Society), a local coffee shop / cafe (Just Us!) and an art gallery (Jack’s Gallery). More info can be obtained at the Acadia’s site here.
Some other posts about signs on O’Canada:
Tiller Wheels, Northville Farm Heritage Center, Northville, N.S.
With its fertile plain shielded from the Bay of Fundy by a low-lying but extensive mountain range, the Annapolis Valley has long been the farming center of Nova Scotia. Because of this, there are several places devoted to preserving and sharing that heritage. Although the Ross Farm Museum in New Ross, N.S., probably gets more attention (and about which I’ll post at another time), the Northville Farm Heritage Center in Northville, N.S. (close to Centreville, N.S.), which we came across while on a meandering late Fall drive through the Valley, has a wonderful display of old farm tractors, machinery and other implements situated in an especially scenic area of the Valley. It’s worth making the effort to find!
Trusty Rusty Tractor, Northville Farm Heritage Center, N.S.
Massey Harris Tractor, Northville Farm Heritage Center, N.S.
Some Other Farm-Related Posts on O’Canada:
Rustic Red Barn, Near St. Croix Cove, Nova Scotia
Scenery does not get more picturesque than a rustic barn or cozy cottage situated against a body of moving water or a lush green field. While hues of red seem to be the color of choice for barns and barn doors along the maritime coast and nearby farm fields, shades of grey, blue, yellow and a few other colors sometimes sneak in. These barns, sheds and cottages from around Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are typical of the serene coastal and rural scenery throughout the region. (Click on image to enlarge.)
In the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and many places in between, Fall is harvest time from coast to coast for Canada’s rich variety of apples. That variety is also reflected in the colorful artistry of numerous vintage apple crate labels — such as the incredible OgoPogo one above — which recently caught my eye and which I thought would be worth collecting here to share. (You can click through the slides below.)
In late September, my wife and I visited Nova Scotia and spent most of our time around Wolfville and the surrounding area in the Annapolis Valley region of the province. Wonderful time spent exploring Nova Scotia’s farm country so close to the sea. Some of our pics below.