|Canada 150, oil on canvas, 24" x36", Steven Rhude|
Some history behind the sweater: In the 1950’s, my mother Margaret Rhude knit the sweater for my father to wear outdoors (I consider this to be somewhat prescient since our current Canadian flag had yet to be designed and approved by parliament). Later on I inherited the sweater and wore it through art school. I also wore it throughout Europe and while studying renaissance art in Florence, Italy. I even loaned it to a friend who wore it hitchhiking through Germany. Some how it always made its way back to me.
Back in Canada, it was worn and modelled by Simone Labuschagne, my wife, for my painting Woman and Dog painted in 1995. Unfortunately, later on the sweater was inadvertently lost through a clothing drive for the Diabetes foundation. (I hope whoever owns it now is warm!)
Strange how things work out. In the fall of 2016, I was contacted by Sally Melville, a knitter, who saw the painting of the woman and dog at a friends house in Ottawa, and kindly knitted me a replacement in what she believes to have been the original yarn from Briggs and Little in New Brunswick. Ironically the new sweater arrived through Canada post. Sally now has designed a pattern for my cherished sweater, also in honour of our sesquicentennial. http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/margarets-gift
Something old is now new again, and in these bleak months of winter, with the post colonial drum beating our political and racial sins into the rhythm of everyday life, the thought of a maple leaf has become a complicated thing. It would be an understatement to say that there has been some resistance to Canada's celebration. Invariably, the idea of Canada 150 brings up the history of trying to define the Canadian identity, and will no doubt continue to be considered well into the future - politically from the right and left, and artistically within Canada's Indigenous community. http://canadianart.ca/news/artists-resist-canada150-social-media/
However, it has been said that our identity is related to really not having an identity. When George Stanley designed the Canadian flag he warned in a memo to John Matheson, MP, House of Commons, 23 March 1964 on the history of Canada's emblems, that any new flag "must avoid the use of national or racial symbols that are of a divisive nature". http://people.stfx.ca/lstanley/stanley/flagmemo2.htm
So then who has not, whether they are a child, teenager, adult, male or female, not picked up a maple leaf and pondered it for its infinitely varied characteristics in terms of shape, size, colour, texture etc, and yet not sensed its apparent collective configuration? In essence, is this maple leaf not in fact the same leaf seen and pondered by indigenous people a thousand years ago? Like it or not, it is no coincidence it became emblematic of our country. The question now is what will we learn from this celebration?
Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS