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

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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.
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 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.
GREAT-GRANDFATHER: ROBERT HUTCHINSON

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.

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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

"Accept the fluster of lost door keys..."

Alfred Villeneuve's Solo Exhibition

On 20 April, I posted a profile of our exhibit raffle artist, Alfred Villeneuve. In that post I mention that Alfred has a solo show coming up this summer. He has recently sent a notice about it, which I want to share.

Congraulations, Alfred. We wish you all the best with this exciting event. Stay tuned for the next installments about the EBSNS exhibit/gallery project and our AGM.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Elizabeth Bishop Society of Nova Scotia AGM coming up in June

We are excited to announce that the EBSNS Annual General Meeting will be held on 17 June 2017, in St. James Church in Great Village, Nova Scotia, starting at 1:00 p.m. We will unveil our new Elizabeth Bishop exhibit and art gallery, draw for the raffle prize and our guest speaker will be Nova Scotia writer Alexander MacLeod.
You can download a copy of the poster on the EBSNS website, by clicking here. Just scroll down the page. 

Stay tuned for more posts about the new exhibit and gallery, including profiles of the artists involved.