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
Prior to the great stock market crash at the end of the decade and the ensuing economic chaos, the prevalent mood of the 1920s in many places was upbeat and carefree. Magazine covers from the era typify this, including these fabulous illustrations from Canada’s Goblin, a monthly humor magazine. Launched in 1921, it was in print for about ten years during which time its highly stylized, and at times witty, covers helped it to become Canada’s then most widely circulated magazine.
(Image Source: University of Toronto Archives)
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 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.
Sarah Hatton, Vimy (2015)
I’m always impressed with how a talented creative person can take a concept and come up with an unexpected interpretation that enables others to understand an aspect of that concept from a dramatically different perspective. Such is the case with Sarah Hatton, a contemporary visual artist based in Chelsea, Quebec, who has developed a knack for employing non-traditional materials in service to her artistic vision.
Her “Detachment” series utilizes thousands of brass fastener pins, each originally stamped with a star on its head, salvaged from archival paper records maintained on Canadian soldiers during their WWI service and repurposes these pins to map out constellations of stars matching those that the soldiers would have seen during key battles of the time. This video from her artist site gives a nice overview of this brilliant work.
Another body of her work seeks to raise awareness about the adverse effects of pesticides on declining honeybee populations. This award-winning work incorporates dead bees into depictions of some of the natural geometric patterns found in the flora pollinated by these indispensable but threatened creatures. Wow!
Sarah Hatton, Circle 1 (2013)
Hatton is also an accomplished painter. Her artist site showcases several series of imaginative paintings that reflect her curiosity about the natural world and individual mortality. I especially like her “Fathom” series, which seems to play with ideas about the vulnerability and comfort that we feel with watery environments.
Sarah Hatton, Fathom 3 (2014)
I encourage you to view more of Hatton’s excellent work at her artist site here as well as the several galleries that represent her, such as Ottawa’s Galerie St- Laurent-Hill or the James Baird Gallery in Pouch Cove, NL.
(Image Credits: Sarah Hatton)
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
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!
I truly love all sorts of music and I thought I might share a few tunes that showcase the wide diversity of offerings by Canada’s talented musicians. Since it’s always hard to choose favorites and there are way too many other performances — oh my gosh, so many good ones! — that I appreciate from this country, I’ll just note that the songs below are among those that I like a great deal because they inspire me, move me or just make me smile.
(The titles below are linked to YouTube videos.)
Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons
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.
“Heartwarming,” “human,” “genuine” and “community” are among the words that come to mind to describe “Come From Away,” the Canadian-produced musical that just opened this week on Broadway after a preliminary tour across Canada and the U.S. The musical tells the story of how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland (about 10,000 people), with good cheer and resourcefulness, memorably accommodated during a week-long stretch the more than 6,500 air passengers from all over whose planes were unexpectedly diverted there following the 9/11 attacks.
The reader comments on the NY Times review of the production are striking by how moved people have been by this story. Having visited Newfoundland on multiple occasions, I can attest that the people of this ruggedly beautiful province are as sincerely friendly as this musical depicts.
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
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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Our fresh snow cover here this morning sent me looking for some wintery inspiration, which I happily found in the wistful watercolors of Saskatchewan artist Bob Pitzel. Pitzel’s art captures the stark and vanishing rural landscapes of western Canada, typified by imposing grain elevators, graying farmhouses and sheds that dot wide expanses of prairie, and weathered fences erected more as barriers against the elements than to fence in or out people or creatures.
While Pitzel’s subject matter ranges beyond winter settings, it struck me while surveying his masterful work that many of his scenes are rendered with the coldest of seasons as a central element. In the biography on his site, I love the ethos of humility, practicality and community that he expresses when noting that given the remoteness of rural life “we had to help ourselves out of the corners our inexperience got us into.” More broadly, the following observation by Pitzel suggests some further inspiration for the muted emotional feel and sense of isolation conveyed in much of his winter-themed art: “As the human race, we fool ourselves that we’re in control. But look at global warming, and history. At the end of the day, we’re only spectators.”
More about Pitzel and his wonderful watercolors can be found on his artist site here.
“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.)
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.
Katharine Burns, “Perfect Day”
Capturing in a painting the emotion of the coastal landscape is a tricky thing and something that Halifax-based artist, Katharine Burns, has managed to do perfectly. Inspired by the serenity of Nova Scotia’s beautiful shores (one of my favorite places!), she skillfully renders the movement of ocean waves, with varying shades of light dancing across the water’s constantly shifting surface beneath vast expanses of cloud-covered skies. This past August, Burns had her first (of what I’m sure will many other) well-deserved solo show, this one entitled “Sea Level” and held at Argyle Fine Art in Halifax, which showcased many of her seascapes.
On her artist site she notes: “Preparing for my first solo show was one of the hardest things I’ve done. For six months I went through periods of serious self doubt and frustration along with some moments of sudden realization and inspiration. It was a bit of a rollercoaster for me emotionally but I learned a lot and grew as an artist.” You have to root for that sort of spirit and candor!
In addition to Burns’ evocative seaside paintings, her other work is also terrific. I especially like the painterly style of her series of bicycle paintings, a few of which are below. More of her art can be seen on Burns’ artist site here.
[As an side, much like the Ian Tan Gallery on Canada’s West Coast, Argyle Fine Art on the East Coast has a stellar roster of emerging and established Canadian artists and both are among my favorite independent art galleries. As I’ve done with some Ian Tan Gallery artists, this is the first of several posts I’ll be doing on a few artists represented by Argyle whose work deserves greater attention.]
Katharine Burns, “Diffused Light”
Katharine Burns, “Glisten”
Katharine Burns, “Lawrencetown”
Katharine Burns, “Road Racer”
Katharine Burns, “Linus”
Katharine Burns, “Bicycle Series 2”
Katharine Burns, “Marginal Road”
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I’m definitely an amateur photographer at best. So I was pleased to be asked recently to allow a photo I’d taken of a simple, well-worn pew inside an old church on the Nova Scotia shore to be used for a poster for an upcoming concert by Acadia University’s distinguished Manning Chapel Choir. Of course, I was more than happy to do so (and the request made my day)!
The sunset concert of Compline, or night prayers, will be sung, appropriately, in a former old church in the small town of Harbourville on the Bay of Fundy about a week before Canada’s Thanksgiving Day. The concert poster is above and the original blog post and series of photos that prompted the request is here. More about the concert and the Manning Chapel Choir can be found here.
Headstones, Old Burying Ground, Halifax
Given its immense size, Canada is blessed with vast forests, sprawling farms and sweeping fields all of green. Adding to previous posts featuring red- and blue-themed photo galleries, this collection showcases many shades of green that I’ve encountered through my photos from coast to coast across Canada.
“I’m so glad you’re here . . .
It helps me realize how beautiful my world is.”
~ Rainer Maria Rilke
Looking across the Harbour, Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C.
“I believe a leaf of grass is no less
than the journey-work of the stars . . . .”
~ Walt Whitman
Andrea Kastner, Progress (2014)
Andrea Kastner is an up-and-coming young painter whose art deals with what she calls the “sacred nature of rejected things” and the stories that underlie society’s no longer useful objects, structures and places. The scenes she paints are ones that are readily familiar in urban landscapes across Canada and the U.S., with the constancy of the old being torn down or pushed aside as detritus to make way for the new.
Kastner is originally from Montreal, studied art in New Brunswick and Alberta and until recently was based in Hamilton, Ontario. She is now located in the creative town of Iowa City, Iowa. More of Kastner’s terrific work can be seen at her artist website here.
Andrea Kastner, Noah’s Ark (2013)
Andrea Kastner, The One That Got Away (2013)
A. Kastner, The Inventory of Dreams (2014)
I love playing around with themes. In an earlier post, I grouped together a bunch of my photos from across Canada that featured a strong element of red. Today, I thought I’d do a similar thing with some photos that incorporate blues (of the uplifting kind).
Lyssa Kayra, Vancouver’s Winter (2016)
Lyssa Kayra’s art is striking! I love her skillful use of colors and her expressive creativity. Her imaginative large-scale paintings use the form of tree rings — the natural design of which alone makes an intriguing subject and which is suggestive of time and memory — as a means of conveying ideas about specific places that have influenced her.
More info about this wonderful young Vancouver-based artist and her gorgeous work can be found on her artist site here.
Lyssa Kayra, Adjuna Textile, India (2015)
Lyssa Kaya, Berlin Wall (2015)
Lyssa Kayra, Sahara (2015)
Lyssa Kayra, Purple Study (2016)
Blossoming Peach Grove, Wolfville, N.S.
“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”
~ William Butler Yeats