Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Learning to leave

Boy with Hay Bale, oil on canvas, 27"x37", Steven Rhude

The search for community is a creative process of constructing what Castells calls 'resistance identities' which oppose the 'legitimized identities' constructed for us in the context of civil society and its state apparatuses.'  

Michael Corbett - Learning to Leave, The Irony of Schooling in a Coastal Community, Fernwood Publishing 

The guest analyst referred to the region as 'a resource based, industrial life style driven into the ground.' A world of clear cuts and Monsanto. But the boy recalled his Dad saying otherwise. Something like a tangled and interwoven world of layers stood out in his memory.

Starting from scratch - wind, seed, and all compressed into an image of iconic growth.

That romantic folk legend said something about how he 'gave it up and went to town'. But that wasn't on his mind as a child. In fact learning to leave was furthest from his mind. 

He loved to hear them referred to as Tootsie Rolls in a Field. Delighted in the fact he conjured a metaphor expressing the sweetness of shape and design - something to be consumed. But really it was just hay - or long rows of sun and community, baled into a shape universal. Unfettered like a sewer lid incongruent - yet fitting and essential to any city street.

However, boys dream and drift. So he thought of Andrew Wyeth - temperas made of eggs, earth, ochre and umber. How could anything be more rural or exacting?

The boy thought of isolation and that string bean called Hopper. Comfortable being alone in the woods; confronted suddenly with the image of urban anxiety. For the boy, the field was his Office in a Small City. His ground of being.

That compression thing again. Like making a snow ball packed tightly.

More plant closures - Bowater Mersey, transition teams, and foreign buyers in the wings...

Time to cut the bales open and unravel their humanity and contents. Lay it out like a carpet of revitalization for them.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Friday, 15 June 2012

The Bee Keeper

Bee Keeper, oil on canvas, 62"x44", Steven Rhude

Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will be in the next moment.

Vicktor Frankl

Domesticating honeybees has turned out to be a fragile and complicated part of contemporary post modern life. Without a doubt, the death of honeybees has accelerated in the last decade; just as the rural out migration of humanity has also accelerated to the urban jungle, leaving most people alienated from the importance of bees until the honey supply in the pantry runs low.

Bee Keeper, (detail)

 Honeybees have always had enemies, even before we domesticated them. But a list of current threats to their existence would include moths, mites, viruses, bacteria, the heat of summer and the cold of winter. Particularly disturbing is the pesticides we put on plants they pollinate and ironically, also the pesticides used to protect bees from other insects. By helping them we are also killing them. There's California and the almond crop, and the widespread disease which results from such intense and colossal pollination. An act of sharing which has come to threaten the existence of bees as our modern age of industrial farming becomes more corporatist in practice. Topping the list of threats is CCD or Colony Collapse Disorder. In 2007 this ailment reduced 1/3 of American beehives to empty boxes. Not a rosy picture and current data in Canada is just as bleak.

Bee Keeper, (detail of a smoker)

I don't pretend to understand bees or the mystery of their purpose and beauty, but I do hang out with a bee keeper friend of mine. This portrait is another in a long line of images that have come to reflect and record a rural life in Nova Scotia I consider to be profoundly rewarding in so many ways; yet at the same time, experiencing a serious challenge to its future. I wondered for years why someone would want to spend time with insects that sting and generally intimidate most people when they approach a hive (me included). But Bee Keepers are a rare breed that more than ever bring us into a world of a sophisticated democracy we could learn much from.

Bee Keeper, (detail of hand)
The future of the honeybee is crucial to all of us, and makes rural life all the more important to understand, especially in terms of food security and food strategies.  They are the contemporary canary in the mine shaft. Like an old testament prophet, the bee keeper reminds us of this and the larger picture we are all willing participants in.    

As for rural life, the below video is a superb commentary by Kate Oland on the relevance of contemporary rural society in Nova Scotia. If you have some time, I highly recommend watching it.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Road To Yankee Harbour

Road to Yankee Harbour, oil on board, Steven Rhude, Argyle Fine Art

Been driv'in on roads going up.
Been driv'in on roads going down.
Been all the way to FPI, just to hear they done left town.
Seen too many doors closed.
Seen too many committees froze,
 by the ghost of Hollis Brown.

'They're to blame" said the serf - "waste and empty is the sea",
So the Master said - "move along folks; nothing left in here that's free."
"We have no criminals here in town", said someone close to someone near.
"Mister", the Master said -  "I might make the rules, but it's the Bible you should fear."

'"The Bible?' said the serf, "It's got noth'in on me,
the book I read, cried and bled, with the voice of Socrates."
He'd been to the land they call Green,
been jerked on up, and jerked on down,
Seen em' sick with every lean.
With their ears in the water and their face in the sun,
heard that hollow ancient scream.
As it echoed in their minds, they were pitched by the sea, forth to the port and board,
And in the wheel house he found them, all alone and on their knees,
 a pray'in to the Lord.

We'll never know if it did them any good, cause black granite's what they got,
names for the liv'in, names for the dy'in, bad memories to be fought.
There mak'in movies in that old port town.
The scenery's pretty for miles around.
They got a schooner sleek with a big tall mast,
and  hiring lots of locals to make up the cast.

Been driv'in on roads going up,
Been driv'in on roads going down.
Been all the way to Seafreeze, just to hear they done left town.
They open doors a wide,
"Come on in", they all cried,
welcome to the lost and found."

"What ya miss'in son? Everybody's lost something."
 thought I heard the mayor say.
"There's courage and fears,
broken clocks and tears,
an just enough time left to play."

The coast was clear in that old port town
The scenery pretty for miles around
Then Cerberus Rock the Arrow hit, and went a ground with oil.
It can still be seen in the lost and found,
black rock, black clams, black soil.

A car pulled up and a man got out,
said as he looked in the box.
"What's this for and your in my way,
can't you see I got to get to the docks."
His suit was fine and his car was sweet,
and pockets were filled with cash.
He looked so close at the bottom line,
with a wink and a blink and a dash.   

He said, "Son, there's nothing left here, why don't you just  move on,
 south to the city of sin.
There's lights and cars,
sidewalks and bars,
a meat dress in a show called Skin."

I said, ''No thanks kind sir, if its all the same - is that your suit or a silhouette?
My box is full, but not with fish,
rather tragedy, toil and sweat."
Its been shipped here and over there,
its even come back another colour.
So times ain't fair and east is west,
for father, son, and daughter.

Been driv'in on roads going up,
Been driv'in on roads going down,
Been all the way to Nat Sea, just to find they done left town.
But there's a song in the wind and a granite fault,
there's a place called Wild Rose Chance.
There's a Lions Club night where the folks drink malt,
and talk and sing and dance.
But there's a mist in the wind and a coin that's tossed,
going to life drawing class tonight.
Noth'in else to do since Arcadia's lost,
and the fisher folk are out of sight.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS.

Monday, 4 June 2012

So... Every Tree Has Been Drawn?

Spruce Branch, graphite on paper, 15"x30", Steven Rhude 

She said realism was the kind of art her parents liked.

 It was a declaration steeped in an historic upheaval with white washed limitations. The avant-garde and the laws of the contemporary establishment rendered it in a minimalist text not generally meant for public consumption. Cherished and protected like the Book of Kells, it was manna for the priests of post.  

 However, it was nothing new to them, they were all seasoned realists, who heard it all before by previous provocateurs - those providers of a post modern elixir freely passed around the gallery camp fire to quell the fears of the illusion of the painted third dimension.

Oh those realists, they knew that the other art was challenging, and intelligent. They also have a healthy respect for it. Even like it when it is in the groove and is interconnected and pluralistic. But every one knows it is time for a boundary review.  

 ...the kind of art her parents liked.

 The murmurings continue. A tribal ritual dating back to a conceptual reformation - in Nova Scotia, an artistic brother/sisterhood originating from an American ex patriot monastery intent on dematerialization.    

  The statement rings like an institutional sound bite for the uninitiated who show up for the latest award ceremony; not the experienced mind behind that brush with the real - who so incisively, critically, compassionately, and daily turn heads to the landscape of the tangible, and her sister, the landscape of the mind.

  Doomed to make the same mistakes of her predecessors, the linearity of this supposition (or was it a proclamation?) laid bare the facts.

  Every tree has been drawn.

Or has it?

Kind of like saying every tree has been planted.

Or has it?

He sat on one of those artist panels, quiet an contemplative - on occasion making notes. If you saw him on a subway you couldn't place him. Probably would assume he was an accountant or had shares in a Starbucks. But if you came across his ideas somewhere... say while surfing Youtube, and heard someone ask him what a New Old Master was or what their art was about, he would probably say:

"Their art reaffirms visible reality with no sacrifice of its inner resonance. They make even the starkest appearances - and all appearances are oddly stark to the sensitive eye - pleasing with no sacrifice to their starkness. Their art is an unexpected gift in these post art times. It is an alternative art without the condescension that money, the media, and popular entertainment - and post art which is their lackey - have to their audience. New Old Master art brings us a fresh sense of the purposefulness of art - faith in the possibility of making a new aesthetic harmony out of the tragedy of life, without falsifying it - and a new sense of art's interhumanity. [1]

reference: Donald Kuspit - The End of Art, Cambridge University Press


Steven Rhude, Wolfville, Nova Scotia

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Road To Lunenburg

Road to Lunenburg, oil on board, 20"x24", Steven Rhude, Argyle Fine Art

For years it thrived on fish. Thrived on the proud identity that comes with a hefty price - that of sail, shipbuilding and that vessel pictured on a dime; a schooner everyone has seen or heard of.

 A tough town with lots of beer and brawls - money, salt, and cod. An old town class with a working waterfront. A palace school like nothing the province had ever seen, or will see again.

To educate was important, so they built it themselves - like they did everything.

Built the town out of Hemlock. Folded up old newspapers like an Accordion and wedged them in the seams of the floorboards to block out the cold drafts.

 And for migrant residents to find today.

 Buffalo Times, the Shipping News... something was always threatening the fishing way of life said the oldest form of gossip known to man.

Even had a Town Crier

But rot comes from within.

It's a long and sordid tale, not at all pretty like the way the waterfront facade presented itself to that couple from the rust belt, with their digital camera and lobster bibs.

 The logic of decline was too much, too real; so the use of the shop window hid the empty store behind it.

 Kept it hidden; ever so hidden that even the town folk wanted to believe the Doers and Dreamers.

 Down the street where you pay your taxes, a romantic history is forever neat and packaged. Just like in a stationary shop - with the official UNESCO seal of authenticity stamped on its letterhead.

In another storefront - this time for clothing, silver window foil impedes the wandering eye from entering the black void. Like the larger, engineered space woven by a wizard with a habit for heritage.

And the industry of retirement.

Sent the high school kids a pack'in they did.

 Someone said in the post office.

So now, in the morning, younger children are imported from the shore route - what's left of it. Brought into town on big yellow buses - into a new storefront; a precast world of concrete and passwords. The wizard is proud of it - gotta great deal, didn't have to build it ourselves this time.

Someone said in the post office.

Exported back to the shore in the afternoon on their home away from home. The local Times believes school bus yellow is the children's favorite colour now.

Its their only colour now.

 And so it goes with an aging population and all the kings men... all the wizards and all their curtains... and the politicos of today, at the expense of what can and could have been.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS.