Marshes in the Minas Basin, Looking Toward Cape Blomidon, N.S.
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.
“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.”
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
Moose River, Clementsport, N.S.
Photo-realistic paintings, such as these by BC-based artist Kristina Boardman, easily fool the casual observer as well as the more-studied eye. That’s amazing enough! But in addition, these works of pain-staking exactitude nicely capture the whimsy and pleasure of surveying a shoreline adorned with swaths of smooth-faced multi-colored stones and pebbles that have been thrown together randomly over long periods.
Although the realism of these paintings dictate a dominant blue-gray hue, Boardman wonderfully conveys nuance within that muted palette and complements this with perfect pops of other earth tones and pleasing juxtapositions of size and shape. The compositions of some of these images, such as “Cara’s Pebbles” (above), suggest small jewels just underfoot.
Astrid Blodgett’s recently published first collection of short stories, You Haven’t Changed A Bit (Univ. of Alberta Press 2013), is stunningly well written. As I finished the book for the second time, I reflected how these stories brought to mind Rainer Maria Rilke’s observation about how each of us cannot help but be a mysterious solitude in relation to one another and, most especially and paradoxically, to our closest loved ones.
Almost all the thirteen stories in this wonderful volume explore fissures in relationships — whether between spouses, partners, siblings, parent-child or friends — and the unspoken mental landscape that inexorably shapes those relationships. Notably, most of these tales are told from the perspective of a female character, who mainly endure the emotional pain that accompanies varying degrees of psychic distance from a loved one.
A small sampling: In “Don’t Do a Headstand” a visit by her husband’s pregnant teen niece highlights the growing and likely irreparable gap between the spouses. “Zero Recall” explores the toxicity of a husband’s mistrust and the wife’s ensuing bitterness at being treated unfairly, both of which threaten the couple’s bond following an unfortunate mix-up at a blood donation center. The realization by young adult friends that divergent life paths will impact their ties in “Let’s Go Straight to the Lake” is skillfully elicited by the piece’s authentic, slightly awkward dialogue and scene-setting. Several of Blodgett’s stories are especially poignant, particularly “Ice Break,” about fragile parent-child relationships and the weight of guilt from choices that can’t be undone. This latter story is one that I’ve written about previously and compelled me to seek out more of Blodgett’s captivating writing.
In an effort to stick with my preference for conciseness, I’ll conclude by simply noting that each of the stories in You Haven’t Changed A Bit is a pitch-perfect gem, characterized by truly graceful and insightful writing by a talented writer who is worth every bit of your attention.
More information about Astrid Blodgett and her writings can be found at the author’s website here.
Walter J. Phillips, York Boat on Lake Winnipeg (1930)
Walter Joseph Phillips is yet another unquestioned master of magnificent woodcut images of the Canadian landscape. He often printed his artwork in color inks rather than just black ink as used by many of his contemporaries working in the same medium. Although born in England, he settled in Canada as a youth and resided in Winnipeg, Manitoba for much of his life (the same place, coincidentally, chosen as a newfound home by another exceptional Canadian woodcut artist and fellow European immigrant, Eric Bregman). Phillips produced the bulk of his work from the late 1910s through the 1940s. In many of his images of the Canadian west he situated people within the scene, providing both a sense of scale and nice human emotional element.
Walter J. Phillips, Mount Cathedral & Mount Stephan (1928)
Walter J. Phillips, Lake of the Woods (1931)
Walter J. Phillips, Red River Jig (1931)
Walter J. Phillips, The Clothesline –Mamalilicoola (B.C.) (1930)
Walter J. Phillips, The Stump (1928)
Pathway Near the Earthworks, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
Hillside Cannon, Fort Anne, Annapolis Royal, N.S.
H. Eric Bergman, “White Morning” (1932)
The intricate artistry of wood engravings amazes me and Canada has its fair share of accomplished artists in this medium. Chief among them is H. Eric Bergman, who emigrated from Germany in 1913 and made Winnipeg, Manitoba his home throughout a highly productive career until his passing in 1958. Images from the Canadian wilderness figure prominently in many of his very stylized and moody works.
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“The Dream Country” by Andre Philbert
It’s definitely heavy coat and neck scarf weather around here, as it is in many places this time of year, so thoughts of winter cold are unavoidable. This painting, “The Dream Country,” by Montreal artist, Andre Philbert, with its overwhelming shades of blue and houses set with jaunty rooflines perfectly captures the quiet chill of this time of year. More of Philbert’s deep-blue winter landscapes can be seen at the site for Toronto’s Liss Gallery.
Kejimkujik Seaside, near Liverpool, N.S., is wonderfully peaceful along the north Atlantic coast, a perfect place for quiet reflection and a sun-soaked nap upon its massive granite rocks.
Richard Ahnert, Messenger (2012)
Richard Ahnert’s anthropomorphic art is both whimsical and brilliantly provocative. This Toronto-based artist paints intriguing images of animals engaged in activities one might expect of weary modern-day city dwellers. While his work harkens back to the playful (and disturbing) posed taxidermy of the Victorian era, Ahnert’s paintings engage the viewer with considerable satire and reflection. The images here provide only a small glimpse of his range and more of Ahnert’s fascinating paintings can be seen at his website, MyCanvas.ca: Paintings by Richard Ahnert.
Richard Ahnert, Billy Brooklyn (2011)
Richard Ahnert, Commute (2014)
Richard Ahnert, Feed (2014)
Richard Ahnert, First Light (2015)
Richard Ahnert, Panda Wear (2014)
Richard Ahnert, Pride & Ponder (2013)
Richard Ahnert, The Hemingway (2013)
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.