Artists Talk: Maintaining Maud’s Captivity
This guest blog post is from the artists who will be presenting a talk in Annapolis Royal on Wednesday, February 20, at 1 PM. Please register as space is limited! And now, a word or two from Laura Kenny and Steven Rhude:
The processing and transformation of Maud Lewis, folk painter, into a commodity by Canadian auction houses and the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, is by now well known. In common art circles, it is understood that an ongoing commitment to marketing Nova Scotia’s simpler way of life, and the merchandising of Maud Lewis’ identity has become an objective without critique. The template set, the Maud Lewis Society and management ordained, the scribes appointed, and the resulting by-product is one of auction house records, mushrooming gallery attendance, and gift shop profits. The CBC, engaged in the transfer of public information that follows the standard press release with contacts from the likes of Heffels, Waddingtons, and the Art Gallery NS marketing department, has transformed the image of Maud Lewis into Nova Scotia’s Patron Saint of Art, and what is commonly referred to around the water cooler as “the Maud bounce.”
Some achievements can be neatly summarized on a balance sheet - and some can't. Ordinary benchmarks can't always be used to measure artistry. Maud Lewis slipped a little joy into our pockets and then quietly slipped away. But who was she really? And what were the social circumstances that led to her living with a former Poor Farm inmate with a spurious image in the community of Marshalltown, NS? Why does the Art Gallery NS and the media avoid the issues of Maud’s illegitimate child, and Everett’s murder nine years after Maud’s death in that quaint little house so many view in the Maud Lewis Gallery?
Rug Hooker Laura Kenney and painter Steven Rhude have been exploring the broader and more important social issues that pertain to the life of Maud and Everett Lewis. Their work has been met with both great public appreciation, and conversely, institutional dismay as they continue to probe issues through their work that are not concurrent with the standard image crafted to date by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, the recent film “Maudie”, and standard media coverage.
Each artist, using a selection of recent work, will discuss their experience with the legacy of Maud and Everett Lewis, the social conditions of their times, and the barriers they have experienced in drawing attention to this important chapter in Nova Scotia’s cultural history.