Sunday, August 3, 2008

Off Slope: Heading Home

I'm sitting in a rather uncomfortable chair at Logan International in Boston. Maybe it's not such an uncomfortable chair. Maybe I've just been sitting in it too long. This is the first of four stops on my way home and I'm going to be here for a while (longer than my computer battery will hold out, I'm afraid).

At the gate across the way, a baby is screaming discontent at the top of his lungs. Three airport workers are sitting beside me, conversing in a language I do not recognize. Somewhere down the way, a dog is yipping frantically from its carrier. Behind me, a cash register is ticking away rhythmically at a coffee shop with an obscenely long line. And all around there is a web of intersecting, yet unrelated, mumbling. Everyone seems to be talking on cell phones. Actually, some appear to be talking into thin air, but I'm giving them credit for an earbud cell phone, though I can't be sure.

The contrast of this day with my last in Nova Scotia is amazing and a little jarring. Halifax was a rainy mist of gray all day and into the night...quiet, friendly, peaceful. My plan to catch another play in the park was scratched, but the disappointment was quickly forgotten when I walked into the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

I'd read that the home of Nova Scotia folk artist, Maud Lewis had been restored and moved into the museum. I was excited with the opportunity to see her little house as well as the museum's collection of her original artwork. I wasn't prepared for how affecting it would be.

I am embarrassed to admit that I haven't had much appreciation for folk art in the past. Mostly, it just baffled me. With images so simple and childlike, it was easy (for me) to misunderstand the real value of this art form. Having lived in Louisiana, I was aware of Clementine Hunter's folk art paintings and knew they were significant. But, the truth is, I wasn't really sure what made them so.

Learning about Maud Lewis changed that for me.

Here was a woman whose small world was full of stark extremes. Life began taking things away from her, even as a child. She lost her health, her parents, and finally her home. Considered to be an insignificant burden, it was as if she was being erased from the canvas of the living. But, unwilling to quietly disappear, Maud Lewis painted herself back in!

It was humbling to see her tiny house (less than 16 sq. meters!) adorned from top to bottom with flourishing scenes of vibrant color and cheerful composition. In spite of her circumstances, Maud retained the capacity to see and appreciate beauty in even the simplest moment or task. If her artwork appears childlike, I have to believe that's because she viewed the world through the optimistic eyes that a child would have.

I became aware of Maud Lewis when I happened across some prints in The Flight of Fancy, a beautiful shop that doubles as a gallery for a variety of intriguing and talented artists. It's located in Bear River, Nova Scotia which was on our bike route that day. In spite of my sweaty messiness, the resident artist/owner Rob Buckland-Nicks graciously took the time to answer my questions and shared enough information to truly pique my interest and encourage digging deeper. I'm so glad I stopped in!

Not only did Mr. Buckland-Nicks share his art, knowledge, and enthusiasm with me. He shared his best buddy with me as well! Without a word or move from me, this twelve-year-old sweetie quickly "assumed the position," hoping for a good scratch from an obvious dog-pushover.

My trek through Nova Scotia introduced me to a wide range of art and music. My one day at the art museum in Halifax has fueled even more questions than I had before. I was fortunate enough to see the Tom Forrestall exhibit with his unusual magic realism.

And I saw a video of a First Nations artist who sculpts with the idea that people should be able to touch the pieces he creates. Surrounded by museum placards begging visitors not to touch the artwork, the concept amazed me. I want find out more about this guy!

If you would like to know more about Maud Lewis or folk art in general, this site is a great resource as well.


Bryan said...

Glad to see you are almost home! Vacations and travel are great, exciting, memorable, but it is Always great to get home! We'll miss you!

Kimberlee said...

Hey, Bryan! Great to hear from you! I'm not quite home yet (still in Fairbanks until Friday) but I'm headed in that general direction. :)

It will be good to get home. There are lots of big (and small) projects that need to be accomplished before school starts on August 13th. YIKES!!!

Ami said...

August 13th is so soon! When you get settled back in, call me!

Lynn said...

Kim, I have been keeping up with your vacation. Sounds like it was challenging but fun, I know you are glad to be home. Thanks for e-mailing my friend about teaching in Alaska. Are you ready for school to start? Aspen starts kindergarten the 18th. She can't wait. When is Rm supposed to get there?

Kimberlee said...


I'll call you as soon as I can. I'm looking forward to hearing about your summer! :)


Thanks for taking the time to keep up with my adventure. :) It's been an amazing thing for me. Now I'm frantically trying to get ready for the school year. Rm should be here this weekend. Won't that be wild??? I hope your friend finds what she's looking for. More soon!

Steve said...

Hey, Kimberlee! Thanks for sharing your art discoveries. Your appreciation of art is a wonderful thing, and your honesty about what you don't understand or appreciate is just as good. I could sense your open excitment at finding those places and people.

Your whole trip really was an amazing journey. I'm very glad you were able to accomplish it. We all lived a little more richly at the edge of ourselves by reading your moments. Thank you so much for taking the careful time to give us these satisfying hints at the way you have conducted your summer.

I'm sure I'm not the only one looking forward to an encore!

Kimberlee said...

Hi, Steve. You're right about the excitement inspired by my discoveries this summer. I found myself (often) absolutely overflowing with gratitude for the opportunity to experience such things. I hope to share more, for those who are interested, with posts linked on the sidebar. It will definitely take some time, though. School has to be my priority right now. But I hope you'll check back and chat with me when you can. Thanks.