Maud Lewis and East Coast Folk Art

Submitted by: Maia Stark, Gallery Assistant

This lucky Gallery Assistant had the great pleasure to spend some time on the East Coast this June, and while being visually overwhelmed by cliffs and waves and whales, she managed to spend some time at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and, on a friend’s recommendation, went to check out the AGNS’s permanent collection of Maud Lewis’s work.

Despite knowing a bit about folk art (or so I thought) I hadn’t heard of Maud Lewis before this moment—to my own surprise, as she is apparently one of Canada’s most beloved and well-known folk artists. Her life story, struggles, and seemingly never ending positive outlook on life make her story a compelling one.
Maud Dowley was born in 1903 in South Ohio, Nova Scotia. As a child who developed juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as well as being born with some physical disabilities, Maud often played by herself and stayed close to home. To assist her family in her own way, she began painting and selling Christmas cards. Maud’s parents died while she was still quite young, only in her late twenties, and it was her brother who inherited the family home. She stayed with her brother and his wife for some time, but then moved to Digby to live with her aunt—here was where she met Everett Lewis, a fish peddler who further encouraged her painting and the two were married in 1938 (AGNS). Having little money and little access to proper painting materials, Maud used any and all materials available to her. She painted with hobby paint and house paint on board, cardboard, dustpans, even baking trays. I could imagine that, if she was a contemporary artist now, these pieces may be considered sculptural in form.
Maud Lewis in her small home in Marshaltown, Nova Scotia (Source)
Everett and Maud’s house was small—only 16 square metres in area, consisting of one room with a sleeping loft upstairs (AGNS).They had no electricity, and no plumbing their entire lives. A poor couple, Everett supported them selling fish while Maud sold her paintings and cards. Maud’s rheumatism worsened as she got older, and so spent most of her time painting at the window, advertising her pieces through a roadside sign. Maud’s work, though locally known, sold for very little most of her life.  The most she ever received for a painting was $10. Despite Maud’s secluded life, she clearly understood visual composition and colour theory, as the AGNS points out:
"Although she was not a formally trained artist, Maud's work demonstrates that she had a strong sense of composition, learned from close observation of any visual material that came her way--postcards, calendars, greeting cards…Her early paintings are quite complex in arrangement as she tackles harbour scenes, rolling farmland and countryside.”
Oxen by Maud Lewis (source)
Recognition and fitting payment for her work came much too late—after a CBC TV broadcast and multiple newspaper stories about the folk artist in 1965, Maud fell and broke her hip; her health declined and although she was getting requests  for paintings from people all over the world, it was difficult for her to acquiesce (Artist Biography Database). Maud passed away in 1970, having lived most of her life in poverty and with difficult health problems. As is the case with so many valuable artists unrecognized during their lifetime, Maud’s work now sells for upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars: money she and her husband were never able to use to help bring them self out of poverty. Despite her struggles, she seemed to have a joyful outlook and transcended the circumstances of her life with a rich archive of “bright and evocative paintings” (Triad film productions).

The AGNS not only has a large collection of Lewis’s work, but they’ve also reconstructed and preserved her small home from Marshaltown, Nova Scotia, which had been adorned with years of painted decoration. Maud had, during their marriage, painted most of their home with decorations of birds, flowers and insects.

The house as it appears in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (source)

Caption: The interior of the Lewis home (source)
After Maud’s death in 1970, and the death of Everett in 1979, the painted house began to deteriorate. A group of concerned citizens from the area started the Maud Lewis Painted House Society, their goal being to save the valued landmark. In 1984 the house was sold to the province of Nova Scotia and put in the care of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (AGNS). A testament to the importance of community and the local artist, the little house reconstructed in the gallery space is a wonderful sight.  Maud’s work reflects a make-do aesthetic, one which is culturally relevant to settler generations of Nova Scotia.

Social Media 101: Part 2 - Twitter & Instagram

Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Communications Assistant

Read Part 1 here.

Similar to Facebook, Twitter is a social media website. Tweets are like Facebook status’, but are limited to 140 characters. You can share photos with your tweets, and you can also tweet links to other websites. 

An example of a tweeted picture.

An example of a tweeted link.

On Twitter, people can follow your business’ account and then they will see your tweets in their twitter feed. You can use Twitter on your computer or as an app on your phone or tablet. There is no distinction between individual accounts and businesses or organizational accounts. Twitter is also useful for you to keep up with what’s going on with artists you like, businesses with which you are affiliated, organizations of which you are a member, news outlets that you read, the city in which you live, and 

even celebrities in whom you are interested. If you follow people, they are likely to follow you back.
On top of creating your own tweets, with photos or links, if you so choose, you can also retweet others' tweets. This means you are sharing their tweet with your followers. This is useful when you are hoping to share information about an event or about another artists' work. 

Tweeting quick, informational tidbits is helpful for readers to keep updated on your business. Feel free to tweet links to give more information. Twitter will shorten links as to help you with your character count. You can tweet more than is recommended to Facebook or Instagram, since the posts are shorter and more compact. Tweeting several times in a row is fine, if you have more than 140 characters of information to share. Posting on Facebook or Instagram several times in a row is less acceptable.  

Instagram is a photo sharing app that you can only use on a personal mobile device, such as a smart phone or tablet. You need to download the app to be able to use it. For some reason, you cannot post via the website, but you can sign into your account and view other’s posts on the website. Since you create art, Instagram is an awesome way to share your work! Always caption your photos, and feel free to share with your Facebook page. Avoid overusing filters, however, since you want to show the public what your art looks like in real life. Overusing filters can also appear unprofessional. 

An Instagram photo shared to Twitter.
When sharing to Twitter, your tweet will simply share a link to your Instagram profile, which is not ideal. I would recommend tweeting the same photo as a Twitter photo, instead of sharing via the Instagram app. This way, the photo will open in a viewer’s Twitter feed.  

Hashtags are great for Instagram, Facebook and Twitter! A hashtag is a label you can add to any message that will let people view it who don't follow you or like your page. Hashtags don’t work from private or personal Facebook pages, but they do work when you use them from a public page. Both your Instagram and Twitter accounts are public (and they should be!) and using a hashtag lets people searching for related subjects stumble upon your work.

For example, if I am visiting Edmonton and I would like to see what’s going on in the city, I may search the hashtag #yeg (This is the airport code for Edmonton and it has become common practice to use these codes as a hashtag). I can see the most popular or the most recent posts by anyone who used that hashtag. If someone had just tweeted about being at an art market in Edmonton using this hashtag, I may view this and decide to go to said market! The same goes for both Facebook and Instagram. Hashtags may seem trendy or annoying, but they are helpful when it comes to reaching out to the public. Again, try not to overdo it, however. There is a fine line between professional and annoying. 

The most popular tweets on a hashtag on Twitter.
The most recent tweets using a hashtag on Twitter.

The bottom line about social media is this: try it out. See if it's for you. Don't write it off as something that simply won't work for you or your business. Perhaps start by looking at other businesses' profiles and judge for yourself. 

For more information about Twitter and Instagram, check out these links:

Twitter for Business

Why Artists Should Use Twitter
Instagram for Business
Instagram for Artists

Social Media 101: Part 1 - Facebook

Submitted by: Sydney Luther, Communications Assistant

Social media may seem like a fad or something only teenagers are interested in, but these websites have become an important and useful tool for any non-profit organization or business person. Social media are defined as any media that exist on the internet "that allow for the creation and exchange of user-generated content. Furthermore, social media depend on mobile and web-based technologies to create highly interactive platforms through which individuals and communities share, co-create, discuss, and modify user-generated content." Social media are used to relay information between individual people, organizations, and businesses. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Pinterest, and Google+ are all examples of social media. 

At the Saskatchewan Craft Council, we utilize three of these social media: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Currently, we share almost all posts between these three websites, but there is a move towards creating different types of posts for each of these individual sites, as it creates a reason for someone to follow all three accounts. However, it is up to you how you would like to best utilize social media. 

Facebook is useful for a business or non-profit in that almost everyone is on it. This is no longer just a young person’s tool. My 92-year-old grandma uses Facebook! Facebook can be used to post photos, status updates, videos, events, and links to other websites. You can also share your Tweets and Instagram photos with your Facebook account. 

An Instagram photo shared to a Facebook page

As an individual business person, if you are hoping to use social media to raise awareness about your art, you should create a page for Facebook, and not an individual personal account. This means people can like your page instead of friending you individually, and they will still see your updates in their news feed. 

It's difficult, but important, to find a balance with how much you post on Facebook. Too much, and you run the risk of being annoying. Too little, and people may not know or care that your page exists. A business’ Facebook page is about sharing a product, sharing where to get said product, and sharing how the product is made. Feel free to share personal photos of you in the studio, but avoid those photos of you and your friends at the bar or of your grandchildren at the lake. Save such posts for your personal Facebook. Although social media feels casual, you should still conduct yourself in a business-like manner. 

There are many lists of tips on how to conduct oneself on Facebook. Most say you should be yourself, but also be professional. Post things that you would be interested in as a reader. Stay positive about everything you post. Promote yourself confidently and respond to people's questions and comments quickly and succinctly. Use proper grammar and punctuation and don't try too hard to be "cool" or "trendy." Facebook is definitely something used by people of all ages, so don't fall into the trap of attempting to speak or write like a teenager. Social media is all about sharing information and creating an online community.

For more tips about using Facebook, check out these webpages: 

Seeing Beyond the Object

Submitted by: Carmen Milenkovic, SCC Executive Director

I’ve only started here. July 2nd was my first day.
What I’ve come to know, seated at my desk on the second floor, is that I fashion any possible reason to wander down the staircase to the gallery below. Opening the door to that magical space immediately changes my mood, relaxes my sometimes frenetic mind and draws a gasp.

The exhibit on now – Art of the Book – is simply beautiful. If you haven’t made it to the Gallery you have until Saturday the 12th of July at 5PM to wander through its profound display of book binding and creation.

Susan Carr, Mexico, 2012. Photo by Mike Sullen
I take in one or two of the pieces with each descent down the staircase. I wonder at the inspiration and marvel at the execution. I’m not a creator but I’m a passionate book lover. And it’s not only the content that makes me a fan. I love the feel of the book, the softness of the front cover, the way the pages flip open, and the paper on which the printed word is lovingly held. I run my finger down the spine, and read the notes – the raves, the bios, the synopses – and I assess its possible place on one of my shelves (or more likely the piles that I’ve come to accumulate). I must say that I have to hold my hands behind my back as I wander through this exhibit – everything about the art pieces cries out to be touched, and yet I know I shouldn’t.

Patricia Owen, Collected Proverbs of Erasmus, 2013. Photo by Mike Sullen
On Monday, I was in the gallery at the same time as Martha Cole, a major Saskatchewan artist, one of our patrons, and a member of the Canadian Bookbinders and Book Artists Guild – the organization that curated and is touring Art of the Book 2013. She was with a friend, a fellow artist, visiting the exhibit. Les Potter introduced us; following a brief exchange, we stopped to look at Collected Proverbs of Erasmus by Patricia Owen. Martha told us that this was a masterpiece as it was carved from wood and wrapped with a fine skin of goat leather that was then painted. I've looked at that piece many times, but it wasn’t until Martha told me about its intricacies did I realize how truly wonderful it was. I hadn’t picked up the catalogue, available to all gallery visitors, to read about the process. And so, even though my eyes recognized something special, I didn’t understand why - until I spoke with Martha.
Thanks Martha. I’ll pick up the catalogue from now on.