"I am 3/4ths Canadian, and one 4th New Englander - I had ancestors on both sides in the Revolutionary war." - Elizabeth Bishop

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A few more photos from the EBSNS Annual General Meeting on 17 June 2017

Another round of photographs, courtesy of Susan Kerslake, showing glimpses of the artwork in the "Echoes of EB" gallery. We hope you have a chance to stop by St. James Church and see what the EBSNS and our contributing artists have done.
(Artists l. to r. Janet Guinan, Laurie Gunn, Andre Meredith).
(Laurie Gunn's "Awful but cheerful" hooked rug.)
(Artists l. to r. top: Christene Sandeson, Joy Laking,
Catherine MacLean. Bottom: Bruce Gray)
(Not technically part of the inaugural art exhibit, this beautiful
painted chair by Halifax artist Tayia Barss
used to belong to the EB House.)

Stay tuned for more AGM photos.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Another successful Annual General Meeting

On Saturday, 17 June 2017, the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia held its Annual General Meeting at St. James Church in Great Village, N.S. Around forty members and guests gathered for a lively event which saw the opening of "Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit and "Echoes of EB" art gallery. What follows are a few images from the day, courtesy of EBSNS member Susan Kerslake. Minutes of the meeting will soon be posted on our website. The EBSNS thanks all those who attended for their support, as well as all the people who helped to make the exhibit and gallery possible. Heartfelt thanks to our guest speaker, Alexander MacLeod, for sharing his powerful words. And a special thank you to the St. James Church of Great Village Preservation Society for offering us part of the beautiful sanctuary.

The first thing on the agenda was our usual business. Here Patti Sharpe presents her first President's Report. That's past president Laurie Gunn on the left and secretary Sandra Barry in the centre.
Then the exhibit and gallery were officially opened, with time for those gathered to look at the displays and art work.
A half dozen local artists had contributed the inaugral gallery exhibit, including this beautiful carving by Deverne Rushton, his interpretation of Bishop's famous poem "The Fish."
Our guest speaker was Nova Scotia writer Alexander MacLeod. After reading mesmerizing us with a compelling read of one of his short stories, I had the honour to ask him some questions.
Before making our way across the road to the legion for our reception, we drew for two prizes. The first was a door prize (a lovely hooked rug seat cover done by Laurie Gunn). Binnie Brennan was the lucky winner.
Then the big draw for the raffle prize (Alfred Villeneuve's wonderful en plein air painting of Algonquin Park, which had been on display during the meeting). Alexander did the honours. The winner was Halifax resident Mary Blanchard, who was not at the meeting.
Then it was time to indulge in the delicious sandwiches, sweets, coffee, tea and punch that the Great Village Fire Brigade Auxiliary had prepared for us, set up at the Royal Canadian Legion across the road. Lots of lively conversations took place and folks were slow to leave all the conviviality.
Here is a glimpe of the hard working auxiliary ladies taking a well-deserved break in the kitchen.
I will share more photos from the AGM over the next few days. We hope everyone enjoyed this gathering as much as the EBSNS board did presenting it to our members and guests.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Friday, June 16, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive: Planned Activities, Class 5

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive 
NEH Summer Seminar June 12-30, 2017 
Vassar College Project 

Director: Dr. Bethany Hicok

Friday, June 16: Biography 

Readings: Travisano, “Bishop and Biography” from the Cambridge Companion to Elizabeth Bishop, edited by Cleghorn & Ellis (2014); Fountain and Brazeau, Remembering Elizabeth Bishop, Megan Marshall, A Miracle for Breakfast. You should also be familiar with Lorrie Goldensohn’s The Biography of a Poetry and Brett Millier’s, Life and the Memory of It, the first full-length biography of Bishop. 

Friday afternoon: Dr. Barbara Page will join us at 4:30 in the Rose Parlor (Main) to talk about how the Bishop papers got to Vassar and the process of sorting through them; she will also give us a brief tour of important Bishop sites at the College.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive: Planned Activities, Class 4

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive 
NEH Summer Seminar June 12-30, 2017 
Vassar College Project 

Director: Dr. Bethany Hicok

Thursday, June 15: Editing

Here we move into a discussion of Bishop and the shifting landscape of the poet’s reputation as new editions and biographies are published and new materials come into the archive. No scholar has defined this shifting landscape more thoroughly than Dr. Thomas Travisano, who will join us today and Friday for discussion on archival research, teaching Bishop and her circle, editing, and the art of biography. Dr. Travisano will also be available to consult with scholars on their projects today and tomorrow. 

Readings: Travisano, “Editing 20th Century Letters: The Road to Words in Air,” from Letter Writing Among Poets, Ed. Ellis; Cleghorn, Hicok, Travisano, “Introduction,” Gray, “Postcards and Sunsets: Bishop’s Revisions and the Problem of Excess,” Goldensohn, “Elizabeth Bishop’s Drafts: ‘That Sense of Constant Readjustment,’” all from Elizabeth Bishop in the 21st Century: Reading the New Editions; Hicok, “Elizabeth Bishop’s Translations,” from Elizabeth Bishop’s Brazil; and Bishop and Lowell, Words in Air.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive: Planned Activities, Class 2

Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive 
NEH Summer Seminar June 12-30, 2017 
Vassar College Project 
Director: Dr. Bethany Hicok

"Tuesday, June 13:   Introductions: We will be introducing ourselves and our teaching and research interests as they relate to the seminar topics. What project will you be working on during the three weeks? After these introductions, we begin with a discussion of Bishop as a poet. What makes her important? What poems do we value the most? Why? How do we teach her? This first day of the seminar is important to help establish the poet at the center of our study and to explore the different approaches that we might build on as we interrogate the relationship between the poet and her archives. Ron Patkus will join us during the last half hour of our session to talk about Bishop’s papers, the history and contents of the Vassar archive, recent acquisitions, and holdings in other repositories. He will also review procedures for using the collection at Vassar. 

"Readings: Core readings that will inform our discussion about the poet and her archives include these primary sources—Bishop’s poems, letters, and drafts, including Poems, Prose, Edgar Allan Poe & the Juke-Box, and published letters (One Art, Words in Air, Elizabeth Bishop and the New Yorker).  [...]"

Monday, June 12, 2017

NEH Summer Seminar "Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive" Begins Today (June 12, 2017)

The complete syllabus and reading list for the seminar, from which this excerpt has been taken, may be found here.

"Elizabeth Bishop and the Literary Archive 
NEH Summer Seminar June 12-30, 2017 
Vassar College 
Project Director: Dr. Bethany Hicok

 “…alone in the Archive, in the counting house of dreams, 
the historian opens the bundles…” 
--Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History 

“The revised poem had been typed out on very thin paper 
and folded into a small square, sealed with a gold star sticker
 and signed on the outside, ‘Lovingly, Rose Peebles.’” 
--Elizabeth Bishop, “Efforts of Affection” 

“I am writing a poem about a litter of objects in a museum 
whose uses the spectator can’t make out.” 
--Bishop to Ruth Foster, 1947 

“How can anyone want such things?” 
--Bishop, “Crusoe in England” 

"Seminar Description: In Dust, Carolyn Steedman defines the Archives “as a name for the many places in which the past (which does not now exist, but which once did actually happen; which cannot be retrieved, but which may be represented) has deposited some traces and fragments.” More poetically, it is “also a place of dreams”—a place “where the past lives, where ink on parchment can be made to speak.” Steedman reminds us that archives and the stories we tell about them are necessarily narrative reconstructions of the shards we have excavated from them. At the same time, the archive is a place where we bring our own desires, our “general fever,” as it were, “to know and to have the past.” Will the archive yield its secrets to us? For Elizabeth Bishop, there is no question that archival documents can be made to speak. But what do they say? This seminar positions us at the intersection of archival theory and literary study in order to explore the relationship between the poet and her archive, aesthetics and ethics, texts and avanttextes. The seminar will be organized around “case studies” in order to provide a model of integrative teaching and scholarship, helping us work through questions of ethics and aesthetics and to better understand the complex dimensions of authorship. As Iain Bailey has argued, we should think of the archive “as a place of work, rather than as a cache from which to draw certainties.” With this caveat in mind, we will act over the course of these three weeks as investigators, curators, collaborators, and inquirers in the workshop of literary production and its aesthetic products. "

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia Annual General Meeting on 17 June 2017

Only a few days before the EBSNS holds it AGM starting at 1:00 p.m., in St. James Church in Great Village, N.S. Besides our usual business, this year the society unveils the “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” exhibit and the “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” art gallery. The society has been working on this project all winter and is now ready to share it with all the community and the Bishop fans and other visitors who will spend time in the village this summer.
(On 27 May 2017, the exhibit committee and
friends gathered for anotherinstallation session. 
Here are two images taken that day. It is coming together!)
We will also draw for the raffle prize (an exhibit/gallery fund-raiser), which is a beautiful painting by Ontario artist Alfred Villeneuve.
And if all of this isn’t enough, we are delighted to welcome Nova Scotia writer Alexander MacLeod, who will read from his work.
This feast for the eyes, ears and mind will be followed by a feast for the body — a reception, catered by the Great Village Fire Brigade Auxiliary, will be held across the road in the Great Village Legion. Those who have experienced the food provided by this busy organization will be perfectly happy to step outside and cross the road for their delicious offering. Come join us next Saturday for our special gathering.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Deverne Rushton

Deverne Rushton was born and raised in Truro, Nova Scotia. He presently lives in Londonderry, N.S., with his wife, Valerie. He has two daughters and a new grandson. Deverne loved to draw all his life, but did not have any formal training in chainsaw carving or chiseling. He originally bought his chainsaw to clean up some old apple trees on his property, but saw something in a tree and instead made a memorial of a St. Bernard he had lost. Of his work, Deverne says, “I always had an interest in art and drew a lot as a kid, and carving the dog kind of reignited that interest.” The rest is history; “Devo’s Doins Chainsaw Carving” was officially born. A large scarecrow was one of those apple trees, and was completely carved and chiseled while still in the ground. Since then, Deverne has carved many wood sculptures using only a chainsaw and chisels. “It’s just whatever comes out of my head and I never make anything twice.” His designs are created in his head and, for the most part, without an initial drawing to guide him. Deverne continues to delight with each new carving, some of which include scarecrows, hockey players, hen and chicks, a skiing St. Bernard, fishermen, a beaver taking a ride on a curling rock, and two bear cubs climbing to their pot of honey.

On a side note, Deverne is also a Handyman, and one of his jobs was helping take care of the Elizabeth Bishop House.
You can see more of Deverne's work by clicking here.

Ed. Note: As a former owner of the EB House, I can attest to Deverne’s skill and dedication to his craft. His help was invaluable. The above image shows a couple of his carvings on the verandah of the house.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Laurie Gunn

Of her art, Laurie Gunn writes: “I have been taking photographs since my parents gave me my first camera about 55 years ago. It was in 1998 that I realized photography was important to me and it has since become my passion and it has brought me much happiness. Capturing images has helped me to see the world in a wonderful and captivating way. It fulfills my need to be creative which in turn contributes greatly to my well being.  In photography I not only want to capture the image but also the feelings that go with the image.

“Although my first love is photography, I also love being creative in other areas.  In 2001 my good friend Joy Laking and I decided to become “hookers” and we went to Amherst, Nova Scotia, to learn from one of the best, Deanne Fitzpatrick. It only took one afternoon and I was hooked!! Since then I have lost count of the number of rugs and hooked projects that I have created. Being a rug hooker has helped me in my need to be creative and I love sharing my work with others.”

Laurie Gunn got involved with the EBSNS at the time of the Bishop Centenary celebrations in 2011. She was a principle organizer of the EB100 Arts Festival that happened in Great Village that August. She subsequently became president of the society and co-edited Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop: Elizabeth Bishop Centenary (2011) Writing Competition, published in 2013.

You can see more of Laurie’s photography on her website: http://www.lauriegunnphotos.com/

Thursday, June 1, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Bruce Gray

Bruce Gray lives in Truro, Nova Scotia, and is an amateur artist who paints in oil, acrylic and watercolour.  He uses saturated pigments to paint unrealistic but representative landscapes and portraits. He paints for the pleasure of painting and seldom shows his paintings in public. Indeed, the majority of his paintings remain unfinished.

Bruce contributed one of his paintings, a striking image of St. James Church, to an EB100 exhibition held at the Nova Scotia Community College in Truro in the summer of 2011. He has been a member of the EBSNS board for several years.

Monday, May 29, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Janice Guinan

Janice Guinan is a self-taught artist who derives her inspiration from an appreciation of God’s creationShe passionately believes in the importance of the visual arts in the promotion and preservation of our heritage and culture. Working primarily in acrylics and oils, her paintings are part of the permanent art collection of the Town of Truro, the County of Colchester, the RCMP Operational Communication Centre, the Fairbanks Interpretive Centre , Nova Scotia Power, and in private collections across Canada, the United States and Europe. Guinan has been nominated twice for the Lieutenant Governor’s Masterworks Art Award. Her artwork has also been published in various media publications and was given special recognition in the 75th Special Anniversary edition of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Quarterly. She is a featured artist in Dee Appleby’s book Contemporary Nova Scotia Artists, Volume 2.

Of her art and artistic practice, Janice writes: “For me painting presents a challenge and an adventure, a means of discovery which leads to a greater appreciation for the world around us. Having a fascination for recording the people and places of our time in history provides immense inspiration and vast subject matter that is constantly changing and ever expanding. I believe visual art encourages one to dig deeper beyond what is seen to capture the essence of what is beyond and value its meaning.”

You can see more of Janice’s work on her website: http://www.janiceguinan.com/

Ed. Note: On Saturday, 27 May, the EB exhibit/art gallery committee and friends gathered to do the final part of the installation of the "Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit and "Echoes of EB" art gallery exhibition. Stay tuned for more updates about this project and the upcoming EBSNS AGM.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Profile of Artist Andrew Meredith

Andrew Meredith finds inspiration for his vivid paintings, prints and cards in his east coast roots and current western home. Raised in Nova Scotia where he began his career, Andrew now lives in Saskatchewan. An artist of many mediums, Andrew’s subjects range from the realistic to the fantastical, and are expressed with a vibrantly colourful palette. Andrew has had solo arts shows in western Canada, including the Moose Jaw Cultural Centre, and in group exhibitions, including the Canadian Museum of Civilization and the Shurniak Art Gallery in Saskatchewan. His works can be found in homes, offices, gift shops and galleries across Canada. In 2015 his drawing “Winter Fun” was a finalist in a design contest for the Royal Canadian Mint. Andrew has joined the colouring book renaissance and created one to honour Great Village, which was launched in the village a couple of years ago. He is launching a Nova Scotia colouring book in Great Village in May 2017. Andrew spends part of his summer in the village, so the EBSNS definitely regards him as a Colchester County artist.
You can see some of Andrew’s art on his website: http://andrewmeredithart.blogspot.ca/

Quick update: I am excited to report that the EB exhibit/gallery committee has begun the installation of the works for the inaugural gallery exhibition. We are making good progress and are on track for the big opening at our Annual General Meeting on 17 June. Stay tuned for more updates.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Ebb and Flow: A Response to Seán Street’s Estuary

The EB100 project I am proudest of is Suzie LeBlanc’s CD of settings of Bishop poems by Canadian composers, “I am in need of music.” Bringing poetry and music together is something of which I deeply approve, though it does not happen as often as it could and should. But a new CD launched in Liverpool, England, on 18 May, Estuary, is a stirring merge of poetry, music, reading and singing. I wrote a post about Seán Street and this exciting project in late April: http://elizabethbishopcentenary.blogspot.ca/2017/04/sean-street-and-neil-campbell-estuary.html . Now that I have listened to the CD several times, I want to write a response. I am not a musician and know little about the compositional aspects of music. I respond to it emotionally, but I won’t let that stop me.
 (Seán Street reading at the launch. Photo by Adrian Wharton.)
Estuary: a place where realms meet and merge — salt and fresh water, land and air, light and night; a place where there is changing weather because of the convergence of so many elements. A poem is an estuary. So, this title is provocative and right.

The more I listened to the ebb and flow, the surfacings and submergings between the poems and the music, the words spoken and the words sung, the deeper I fell into this haunting, haunted world, an inter-space both clearly itself and utterly mysterious. As the first poem, “Change,” says, “Sound shows us.” Here that sound is first the clear, cadenced voice of the poet, then the liquid rhythms of the guitar, then the warm texture of the singer’s voice.

Many of the tracks have Seán reading his highly tangible, sensory poems, an unfolding that often happens with the pulse of music surrounding (above, below, from within) the words. How did I respond to these dialogues? I felt always calm and clear-headed, pulled by a quiet surety, a knowing of place and time.

Another track, “Shipping Forecast,” as well as several others, carry a punctuation of the kinds of marine weather radio reports that I remember hearing on CBC Radio when I was a child. These are no more. The through-line of these highly specific and elemental collections of practical yet poetic words, a hypnotic repetitiveness built in, is both deeply unsettling and  profoundly comforting. Perhaps the definition of a good poem.

Seán collaborates with musician and composer Neil Campbell, whose guitar opens the first track, and jazz singer Perri Alleyne-Hughes. Perri’s voice is first heard in “Fog Redux,” a distant chanting of a single word: “island,” cutting through a percussive through-line and a repeating sigh that must be a human voice — or is it? — as another forecast surfaces out of the soundscape. The complexity is so beautifully handled, seamlessly flowing, it feels utterly of a piece.

Words and weather. Words as weather. Words are weather.

I could write about each track because there are pleasures and hauntings in each one. I will close with two late tracks: “Sestina” and “Sestina (Part 2).” I choose “Sestina” because it is a poem inspired by Sable Island and Halifax, N.S., and the 1917 Halifax Explosion. It is one of the longest poems and has a tight, formal structure, with six end words repeating. It is filled with questions asked and not asked, the tensions are palpable, the compassion present. The reading is followed by a marvellous setting of the six end words of the poem, only the end words. Each word has its own note, each one sung softly, distinctly at first, then slowly the words, the notes form an ever-changing, Gregorian-chant-like song that is meditative and hypnotizing, intensifying, like watching a river flowing into the ocean: the same and never the same.
(Neil Campbell and Perri Alleyne-Hughes performing
at the launch. Photo by Adrian Wharton.)
Each time a track faded to its own echoes, then into silence, I felt at peace. As “Pier Head” offers, “Departing lights shape darkness,” even as they disappear into the fog. The mind holds all sensation in memory.

This elegant collaboration has added something materially and spiritually good to this troubled world.

On Thursday, 18 May, Seán and his colleagues launched Estuary with a multi-media performance in Liverpool. I wish I could have been there! Seán kindly sent me a few photos from what looks like a memorable event, which he has kindly said I can share. The photographs were taken by Adrian Wharton.
(Rachel Sweeney performing at the launch,
with video projection. Photograph by Adrian Wharton.)

Friday, May 19, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Artist Profiles

Below is the profile for Christene Sandeson, one of the artists participating in the inaugural exhibiton of the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" Gallery.

Christene Sandeson

Of her art and artistic practice, Christene Sandeson writes: “In my journey through life, the emotion of various life challenges and events has inspired me. In my small circle, discussing those experiences over a cup of tea makes for closer friendships. The practise of sharing life journeys is our evidence that we are not alone.

Having painted in acrylic and carved in small-scale stone over 40 years, my subject matter has always reflected the emotions that are relevant and valuable to me. My images now contain fragments of land and animal imagery connected in a surreal way with the major design elements in an attempt to suggest an interconnectedness of our experiences.”

You  can see some of Christene’s art on her website: www.christenesandesonart.ca.

Currently, Christene has several works display at the Marigold Centre in Truro, N.S. In July 2017, she will have a solo exhibition at the Fraser Cultural Centre in Tatamagouche, N.S.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Gallery: Artist Profiles

The next several posts will profile the artists who are part of the inaugural exhibition in the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" art gallery connected to the permanent Elizabeth Bishop exhibit in St. James Church in Great Village, N.S. Elizabeth Bishop wrote: “Something needn’t be large to be good.” While the space for the gallery is relatively small, we are tremendously excited about the opportunity to show the work of some of Nova Scotia’s amazing visual artists, all of whom have a lively and expressive vision.

As mentioned in previous posts, the inaugural exhibition focuses on artists from Colchester County. Perhaps the best known of these artists is Joy Laking, whose studio in Portaupique, N.S., (just up the road from Great Village), is a destination for many locals and vistors from all over the world. Joy was involved with the EBSNS for a number of years, in particular, she was a driving force behind the society’s EB100 Arts Festival in August 2011 and she initiated the banner project.
 Joy Laking

Joy Snihur Wyatt Laking was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1950.  The daughter of an artist, she graduated from the University of Guelph with a major in Fine Art in 1972. Since that time, she has lived and painted professionally in Nova Scotia.  She has exhibited provincially, nationally and internationally including a solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, which was subsequently toured for a year. She is an elected member of the Society of Canadian Artists, a founding member of PLANS (Professional Living Artists of Nova Scotia) and she has served two terms on the Board of Governors for the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. In 2009, Joy received the Halifax Progress Club Woman of Excellence Award and in 2012, she received the Queens Diamond Jubilee Metal. She was the 2016 recipient of the Port Bickerton artist residency.

Joy has an extensive and colourful website: http://www.joylakinggallery.com/

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit -- exciting update

On Saturday, 13 May 2017, the EBSNS permanent exhibit committee and a few board members met in St. James Church in Great Village, N.S., to begin the installation of the "Elizabeth Bishop's Beginnings" exhibit. This post is to share a few photos of the main event of this session: the arrival of the beautiful display cabinets hand-crafted by Great Village resident Garry Shears. Garry's work is second-to-none. Our Elizabeth Bishop treasures could have no more elegant containers. Thank you Garry for all your hard work.
(Setting up the main cabinet)
We also want to thank Cameron and Duncan Gunn who carefully carried in the cabinets. The main one came in two sections. This piece is made out of beautiful wood, with glass on three sides, so each part is quite heavy. They are secured with locks.
(The finishing touches.)
Elizabeth Bishop wrote, "no detail too small." And Garry is of this school too. Here he is securing the two pieces together for stability. He also made a horizontal cabinet for us and the two pieces together for the centre of the exhibit.

(The two cabinets in place.)
We also installed the photographs and many of the treasures in the cabinets, but I will hold off sharing those photos until all this work is done and we are closer to the unveiling at the AGM. Artworks for the "Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop" gallery are coming in and will be installed later this month. We are pleased with our progress and will continue updates over the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned.
 (Linda and Garry Shears putting the finishing touches to the cabinet installation.)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

“Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop” Art Gallery: Background

Visual art was everywhere in Bishop’s Great Village childhood. In the parlour of her grandparents’ home hung family portraits, chromographs of the British royal family, and seascapes painted by George W. Hutchinson, Bishop’s great-uncle (her grandmother’s brother). George Hutchinson was trained at the Royal Academy in London and worked for many years as an illustrator (he was the first professional illustrator to depict the meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Holmes’ mystery A Study in Scarlett). Bishop grew up hearing stories about George’s and his younger brothers’ travels around the world. Two of her most famous ekphrastic poems were inspired by Hutchinson paintings: “Large Bad Picture” and “Poem.”
(The “Large Bad Picture” painting. It is owned by
a Bulmer descendant who lives in the US.)

(The "Poem" painting. It was sold in 2011 
to one of Bishop's acquaintances.)
In the next generation, Bishop’s Aunt Maude also became a painter. In the 1901 Nova Scotia Census, Maude declared herself a professional artist. She took lessons with her uncle and his colleague Bertram Knight Eaton in 1898, when they set up a studio and spent a year teaching. Maude won prizes at local exhibitions for her large landscapes.
(Painting class, Great Village. They are seated on the bank of the
Great Village River. Bertram Knight Easton on far right.
Maude is seated on the far left.)
Maude Bulmer Shepherdson was the aunt who raised Bishop in the late 1910s and through the 1920s, in her home in Revere, Massachusetts. Bishop had vivid memories of going to the art galleries in nearby Boston with her aunt, who painted right to the end of her life.

While not a professional visual artist, Bishop enjoyed painting. She painted enough images for there to have been several posthumous exhibits of her work, including one in 1997 in Worcester, MA, coinciding with a Bishop conference. Exhibits have happened in Key West, Florida, and North Haven, Maine. A major exhibit took place at the Tybor de Nagy Gallery in New York City late in 2011.
(This appears to be Bishop’s only painting of Nova Scotia. 
It is owned by Frani Blough Muser.)
Today, Bishop’s life and work have inspired visual artists around the world, not least of whom are a number of Nova Scotians. Over the years, the EBSNS has worked with the children of the Great Village School to create and exhibit artwork inspired by Bishop’s poems. One of the Elizabeth Bishop Centenary legacy projects was a competition among young people in the Great Village area to create an image for a permanent banner to hang in the village each summer. April Sharpe’s striking image of St. James Church was chosen.
With all this visual art in the picture, so to speak, it was logical for the Exhibit Committee to include a small art gallery with the exhibit project, which we are calling “Echoes of Elizabeth Bishop.”

The next series of posts will profile the various artists who will participate in the inaugural exhibition in the gallery.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

“Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” Permanent Exhibit: Concept

We all come from somewhere. Elizabeth Bishop wrote in her famous poem “The Moose” that she was “From narrow provinces / of fish and bread and tea,” that she grew up in a “home of long tides / where the bay leaves the sea / twice a day…” Of course, she meant, first and foremost, Nova Scotia, but also the Maritime Provinces generally, as she had ancestral links to all of the Maritimes. Her maternal grandfather was born in Nova Scotia. Her maternal grandmother was born in New Brunswick. Her paternal grandfather was born in Prince Edward Island (the narrowest province of them all). Though she herself was born in New England, where her father was born; Bishop’s spiritual home was Great Village, where her mother was born. She told the writer Anne Stevenson that she was three-quarters Canadian and one-quarter New Englander. She told Robert Lowell she was a "herring-choker" [New England] "bluenoser" [Nova Scotian].

In the class prophecy of her Walnut Hill School graduating yearbook (1930), her peers foresaw Bishop’s life in this way: “Miss Bishop, the poet laureate of Nova Scotia. Walnut Hill has proudly placed her bust in the alcove, while she remains in Nova Scotian seclusion.” In her 1934 Vassar College yearbook, she declared her home beneath her graduation photograph.
When the residents of Great Village affixed a memorial plaque to St. James United Church in 1992, they were publicly claiming that Bishop was our “home-made” poet, something the Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia has celebrated and honoured for nearly a quarter of a century.
With this legitimate claim to Bishop’s life and art, it seemed reasonable to assert that Great Village is a, if not the, place of  “Elizabeth Bishop’s Beginnings” and to shape the permanent exhibit around this idea.

The exhibit will be a presentation of the most important element of those beginnings: Bishop’s maternal family, the Bulmer-Hutchinsons. It will include a set of images of Bishop and her immediate family, as well as carefully selected artefacts to represent each person.

Each image and artefact will have its own story-caption, which will be collected in a catalogue, copies of which will be on hand for those who want to delve into the details of the individuals’ lives.

For example, Bishop’s Great-Grandfather Robert Hutchinson, was, arguably, the ancestor who most intrigued Bishop.

All of Elizabeth Bishop’s ancestors were British (Bulmers, Hutchinsons, Bishops and Fosters) who made their way at different times to North America, from the mid-eighteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries.

The Hutchinsons were some of the most colourful of these ancestors — seafarers, missionaries, educators and artists. Bishop was especially interested in her Great-Grandfather Robert Hutchinson (5 October 1816–30 September 1866).

Robert Hutchinson married Elizabeth Black sometime in the late 1840s. They emigrated to Saint John, N.B., in 1848. Their first two children were born in this port city. Sometime in the mid-1850s, the family moved to Folly Village (now Glenholme). Their remaining children were born in Nova Scotia.

The History of Great Village lists Robert as a “Master Mariner,” which did not necessarily mean he was a captain, though Bishop believed he was. He sailed on the ships that were built in nearby Great Village, which plied the world’s oceans, including as far south as Cape Horn, a site Bishop was told her great-grandfather reached on one of his voyages.

Seafaring was a dangerous business. The danger fatally found Robert Hutchinson in 1866 when his ship was lost at sea with all hands. Bishop was told the ship went down in a “famous storm” off Sable Island (though she also recalled it might have been Cape Sable Island). Whichever place it was, Robert Hutchison died leaving a young widow with four children.

So convinced was Bishop that the wreck had been off the infamous “Graveyard of the Atlantic,” that she made a trip to Sable Island in 1951.

The origin of this image is unknown, but in all probability, it is a drawing done by Robert’s artist son George W. Hutchinson.

Most of the material in the exhibit is found at the Esther Clark Wright Archives at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S. Some of the exhibit artefacts are on loan from there. The Bulmer family archive has been digitized and can be seen by clicking here.

Thursday, May 4, 2017