Thursday, 14 October 2021

If I Had a Boat... (Notes on a trip to Newfoundland)


Boat on the Avalon (Brant's Cove Road), water painting, 22" x 30", Steven Rhude

"If in Paradise you hear a voice

directly from your maker,

you still can't stay in Dead man's Cove

they have no undertaker." - Newfoundland and Labrador Dictionary


You rattle and shake down coastal roads - they lean to the water as your body leans to the cliffs. Guard rails (if there are any) are more of an ornament now than a safety barrier. They cling to god knows what at 30 degree angles. You get out of the car and take in the view - there is no traffic, just the rumblings of distant thunder storms and some drizzle. You've done this before on other roads and in other communities. Another preliminary survey to gain information. Follow the road - it always ends at a wharf.


Approaching Upper Island Cove, photo Steven Rhude

 Upper Island Cove. You don't drive out on the wharf. Cracked concrete, doors of storage units blown out, detritus from fishing gear and partying. You're told the boats are now over at Harbour Grace. Still though, you can see the town is beautiful. Old and new dwellings pepper the coastline - survivors - kids scream away at the local school in incoherent diction. 


Upper Island Cove, photo Steven Rhude

You stop in the local Mini Mart. Owners are priceless. You over hear some storm chatter as someone ahead of you buys an abstract amount of candy, chips, and pop. You're asked right away "where ya from" and "where ya stayin'" while you purchase India Beer with a lab pictured on the can - "Man's best friend". You can't resist.


You find your sanctuary by the sea. It's perfect. Framed by two dwellings, you meet one neighbour while unloading the car. His name is George and he informs you he is a mystic spiritual minister who once lived in Halifax. You have a long chat because that's what you do when in Newfoundland. The neighbour on the other side is invisible - you will only catch a brief movement from him in about two weeks - he is George's opposite. You just know you're going to love this place. You unpack art supplies, food and wine and beer. 



 Your saltbox is tall and dignified. From upstairs the window view is ocean without land, Hopperesque, you question whether you're not on a boat. Crows cackling out back - out front pilot whales - in the bay. You go downstairs and sit down with a glass of wine. Between the ceiling joists are sculptural fish swimming out of town. For the moment you've joined them.


Fisherman's Home, water painting, 22" x 30", Steven Rhude

 You get in your wagon the next day and drift. This place finds you. You paint and yarn with him and it. You return to Salty to touch up, finish up a water painting on the places' dining table. Picture maker in Upper Island Cove - dining table makeshift easel. You prepare supper - it's cod fish night in Canada. Tomorrow you will drift up the shore to Ochre Pit, Old Perlican, Grates Cove.


Near Burnt Point, water painting, 22" x 30", Steven Rhude

In towns and cities one can generally rely on sound footing. Out here it's a step away from certain death. You get used to it. An uncertain demarcation, a crumbling sinkhole next to a cliff, gusty wind shifts, a boggy spot to upset your reality and balance and well... one joins the dust of fools. 

But a crevasse when the tide is incoming is worth it, a nap on the stony edge while the tide sizzles its logic far down below brings you back to a watery echo chamber of dreams past and present. You're glad to be back. You're reminded there is a hurricane coming - you make a note to yourself "this ain't no disco".


After Hurricane Larry, photo Steven Rhude

  You just know Larry's a bastard. He won't show himself by day - rather he comes knocking by night. Not like a Mummer, but as an invisible force. You wonder if George the spiritual minister knows anything about this stuff, but you chukle to yourself and have a glass of wine, it's just another category one to go through. You search for a radio in a packed bin in the basement just in case. You've secured the hatches and Larry arrives right on cue. The top floor rocks - you tell yourself: "go down stairs dude" just in case. You're on the sofa, with a blanket, listening to the roaring lungs of Larry creep through the stove vent. Larry vents till around five in the morning. At sunrise you go out to survey the damage - not so bad. You say goodbye to Larry and realize you don't even like the name Larry.


Wharf at Port de Grave, water painting, 22" x 30", Steven Rhude

 You just know it's a serious fishing town, so you make a picture of it. Or, maybe you call it - building without a window. You don't know. Further on down there are million dollar boats. You don't paint them ... too many thingamabobs. You always look for a gut reaction when entering a cove. So you walk around this red wharf building and can't find a window, just a door. You can't see in, they can't see out. You wonder how you can lose with a place called Grave.

It's Sunday so you drift on up to their church for the view. Time is suspended for a while, they gossip and banter as you note how they exit from the service and ponder your Bosox shirt and wandering expression. They really don't care. Believers or nonbelievers, it was peace on the rock and a momentary break from the grind. 


Placentia Bay, opposite The Three Sisters Pub, photo Steven Rhude

 The road to Argentia has mixed feelings for you. One being the love of a place you leave behind, the other being the love of place you imagine. You wake, you imagine, you dream, and then you encounter a check point. You press on. An over night ferry to Sidney is waiting for you. Your reconnaissance is over. You have a few paintings, some notes, a few drawings and numerous photographs You already are, as someone once mentioned to you, "Jonesing for the Rock." Next time maybe the western shore.

PS Salty by the Sea is a perfect place to retreat to or vacation. It is operated by Lisa Meecham

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Saturday, 14 August 2021

Bagged Out - a virtual exhibition of paper bag drawings

 This is a virtual exhibition of paper bag drawings - nothing more / nothing less. You'll probably never see these works in a tangible setting - at least I hope not. Thankfully they will never descend to the vaults of curatorial limbo where much of our patrimony seeks the light of day. Conversely, if uncared for, the chalk deposits will lose their grip and the image will fall particle by particle, just like pollen drifting in the wind. The brown bag will eventually deteriorate too and assume its place in the compost heap, recycled into future growth. That actually may be the beauty of it - who knows?

 No curators to pontificate with existential labels and historical revisionism. No changing or altering of titles by museological career gougers. No docents with prescribed interpretations. No awkward spaces and state sponsored catalogues, or thank you's for Canada Council's government grants fostering the arts. No museum membership drive at the front door,  no backroom boards with their head down in a plate full of identity politics. No security, inane restrictions, or pernicious Faucian fears or targeted measures to keep the museum goer safe from the boogy man. No dirty masks for kids, vaccine passports, or pandemic rhetoric, let alone "sophisticated vaccers need only enter this party." This exhibit is virtually free for the time being. However, I do not see it as a suitable replacement to the cultural place, just a sad reminder of the disintegration of physical space and our once significant enjoyment in it.

We have now become, and are, the brown paper bag -  and we are all bagged out. When we once filled the paper bag with dreams and the bounty of the harvest, we now fill it with nightmares of turbulence - mirroring the times with a plague induced narrative. We have filled the bag with irrelevant case counts and a mask security blanket for an abstract bureaucracy. 

It wasn't always that way. We can thank Margaret Knight for designing the brown paper bag your mom left on the counter, which you grabbed before you walked to school. Like an animated sculpture it determined your leave taking and destination. Its content was unique and it contained your connection with your domestic identity - it was your individualism. Some kids understood, some suspected and protected their contents. It was a container of strategy. With the lunch bag one learned the real system of commerce. - to barter, bluff, estimate, judge, apply the art of free trade, equate, assess lunch table rhetoric and its nasty brother "regulation through rumor".



 It was inevitable that the paper bag would make a come back from plastics, We pushed it too far and we knew it. Our oceans and fishermen filled us in on that a long time ago. So why draw on a paper bag? Why use it when one has access to the the tablet or other digital resources? I'm just the messenger, but anyone that has a penchant to draw will at one time or another, consider the surface that they wish to contrive an image on. What are the seductive capacities involved? Does the object have a tactile history? Expensive and finely milled papers with decal edges hidden away in art store cabinets come to mind. Intimidating in their cost, they are art objects in themselves daring one to mark and smudge it's pristine surface, a surface of commercial value. But if one loves to draw they invariably develop a love affair with the surfaces they draw on, not the cultural market they are configured in. The paper bag has folds and is often creased and used, sometimes stained with food stuff, or stamped labels denoting the location it originated from - all of this can be configured into a drawing. 

The following drawings are at once incidental and thoughtful. They chronicle the past and present, my neighborhood kids, pop culture, artists, rich and the poor, even a dog. A drawing can be like a quick discussion one commits to, sometimes ever so brief, but still... we do it non the less.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS 



This is not a Pipe, it's a Bag Pipe, chalks on paper bag, Steven Rhude

"Paper Bag Princess," chalks on someone's lunch bag, Steven Rhude

"Handbag, After Rembrandt," chalks on paper bag, Steven Rhude


"Duchamp, Paper Bag Prince," chalk on a gift bag from New Minas, Steven Rhude

"Sun nap" chalks on gift bag from New Minas, Steven Rhude


Pauper#1, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Pauper#2, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Pauper#3 (lydia), chalks on bag from Wolfville gift shop, Steven Rhude

Pauper#4, chalks on bag from Nova Scotia gift shop, Steven Rhude

Poor House Pauper #5, chalks on gift bag from Digby, Steven Rhude


 Peace Bag, chalks on lunch bag, Steven Rhude

Portrait of Marina, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Christo bag, chalks on Nova Scotia gift bag, Steven Rhude

Dove, chalks on gallery art bag, Steven Rhude

Pale Dora Maar, chalks on gallery gift bag, Steven Rhude

Truck Driver, Bag Man, and Pundit, Jerry Saltz, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Marty (for Lisa), chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Portrait of a Protester (Eddie Carvery) - Africville, chalks on gift bag

Portrait of Joseph Bueys, Conte on gallery bag, Steven Rhude

Whose Maud, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Ready for You, chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

For What maters..., chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Maud's Socks, chalks and ink on gift bag, Steven Rhude



Whose Identity, chalks and ink on gift bag, Steven Rhude

The Biologist (kid from the hood), chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Sasha in the Sun (kid from the hood), chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude

Spiky the Wizard (kid from the hood), chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude



Amos the famous and his brother another (kids from the hood), chalks on gift bag, Steven Rhude



Sunday, 16 May 2021

New painting headed to Emma Butler this month

 Dory from the Burnt Point shore, oil on canvas, 44" x 90", Steven Rhude


I'm a hopeless wharf rat. My addiction began in Canso with the government wharf. I would linger just to hear the chatter and check out the boats. On occasion I would marvel at the tuna that came in and the high stakes bidding wars for the great fish that would ensue. Japanese bidders with black limousines, and Louisiana sharks duking it out to supply high end sushi restaurants twenty four hours later. There was always the blood and tuna heads that remained to cement one's reality. But I loved the clutter and the mess.

 Wharves are converging points of myth, industry, conference, politics, and strategy. Pictured here is a wharf at the base of a droke near Burnt Point, NL - in reality it's no longer in use, waiting for content and utility once again. The possibility exists. So in a way I brought it on back to life visually. All the objects in the painting are or were located in the region.


 -  Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Spring Renewal, Emma Butler Gallery

Friday, 19 February 2021

The Solitary Protester


                   Portrait of Eddie Carvery, pastel on paper bag from Hennigers Market, Steven Rhude


 "The man most directly — and rightly — credited with keeping the spirit of Africville alive is Irvine Carvery." - Stephen Kimber


What constitutes a protester? What constitutes a protest? When crowds gather in serious numbers they are often referred to as peaceful protesters, or conversely, an angry mob - we live in the post modern age of the  chronicled "mass protest", a physical scene of  protest transformed into a digital format, where individuality is suppressed by political branding, and the virtual collective expression. It is the time of massive change, and, as Bruce Mau so once described - the era of the "Spectacle." The strength of the spectacle is found in the original tangible numbers that bring leverage. That is the foundation. Eventually, police presence invariably results in tension, opposing forces, and subsequently violence. Media and its progeny, social media coverage, relish on the spot interviews that allow for repeated soundbites, tweets, and coercion, but the interviewee usually remains anonymous; a human being caught up in an event spiraling down into a brief moment of human consciousness, and eventually a digital black hole. Historically, the shelf life of a spectacle can be relatively brief, but its documentation is a different story. And there are exceptions.

What of the protester that conducts a mission mostly alone, for a long period of time, possibly a life time? Ironically, a single protester isn't anonymous, even though the crowd has dispersed, and so has the coverage. And yet,  Eddie Carvery, who knows all about loosing his home (twice) may be an enigma to some, he is not to the month of February - AKA, our shortest calendar month. Eddie Carvery still has a dream of a home, and don't we all. Except for Eddie, it's the same home that was taken from him years ago. 

Carvery’s Africville would include a comfortable mix of private homes, co-ops, public housing and senior citizen’s units “for our elders.” He even has devised a complicated scheme for a trust fund that would allow former residents to swap the houses they now own elsewhere for homes in the new Africville while building up a pot of money that would be used to build community halls and services in the new Africville.[1]

In an era where protest flares and then dies, is then covered and subsequently dissolves, Carvery refuses to give up. He is ostensibly alone ( though really he isn't). He is a thorn in the side, a burr under the saddle, of  political Black history in Nova Scotia. His ideas are round in a municipality's square equation. One gets the feeling he is just getting started.

 Notes [1]: Stephen Kimber,

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS   


Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Red Boat, Brigus Wharf

                                  Red Boat, Brigus Wharf, oil on canvas, 38" x 54", Steven Rhude

In our times, I think there is beauty and relevance to the still image. If one is interested in composing a place, (as I am), then the realization comes to mind that there is no defining moment that captures an essential truth about the place that inspired it. Our experience of place is fluid, painting frames it as something still, and so conjecture about it naturally leads us to participate in a more probing narrative. This painting is a recollection of the Brigus wharf, yet, judging from the number of ordinary man made objects in the painting (a boat, garbage cans, table, paint roller, rags, paint brush, etc), it may also suggest a direction towards an autonomous still life; a random arrangement placed in the context of the sea and related fishing industry. The artist like the viewer, is inside and outside the scene. He paints a boat that is being painted by someone else. The opening to the wharf and distant sea is another painting within the painting, another compositional reason to be inside and outside the picture.
Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS