Tuesday, 25 November 2014


Three Stacked Buoys by the Sea, oil on canvas, 50" x 42", Steven Rhude, private collection

The objective of achieving balance in life is constantly being assessed owing to our knowledge of opposing forces. From family, friends, to community. The human body, diet, the life cycle - existence and mortality; the idea of spirit. Our place in the Maritimes, church, state, and equality. Relationships, close or long distance, personal or political, are forever subject to the vicissitude's of external and internal forces. Forever being analyzed, scrutinized, and catagorized.

While working on this painting, my youngest son Samuel, observed that he would hold the water back, because he liked the idea that something so seemingly difficult to balance could be achieved.  I asked him how long he thought he could hold back the advancing ocean?  He replied: "for at least as long as it takes you to finish the painting."

Sam has a way of leaving me at a loss for words.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

From the Chronicle Herald

Laura Kenney, Bedside

Steven Rhude, Burning Light


AT THE GALLERIES: Rugs, paintings shine light on architecture of coastal beacons

Laura Kenney is a lively, expressive rug-hooker; Steven Rhude a quiet, intellectual painter.
But the two share a passion for lighthouses, an offbeat sense of humour and a talent for their chosen medium.
Their dual exhibit, I’m a Lighthouse; It’s Your Call, at Harvest Gallery in Wolfville to Nov. 16, is a cry for the preservation of lighthouses in playful and poignant pieces.

“When I first read the article that lighthouses were being declared surplus I couldn’t believe it,” says Rhude, a Quebec-born, Wolfville-based painter who has also lived in Fox Island Main, Guysborough County, and Lunenburg.

Similarly alarmed Kenney started a summertime mission two years ago to search out the province’s lighthouses with her two kids. She and Rhude both refer to Rip Irwin’s Lighthouses and Lights of Nova Scotia and Chris Mills’ Lighthouse Memories.

“We’ve seen 30, and there’s 170! It’s been good for the kids,” says Kenney, particularly fond of the atypical black and white Margaretsville lighthouse.
The Truro artist has roots in Nova Scotia, “but I mostly grew up in Ontario,” she says.
“We would come here in the summer, and I associated Nova Scotia with lighthouses, saltwater taffy and bagpipes.”

Harvest Gallery owner Lynda MacDonald put the two together. Kenney asked her for a show but not a solo one.

“I wanted a buddy. Lynda looked behind her, and there was a Steven Rhude painting on the wall.”
Rhude was keen to team up.

“I knew we had an affinity for lighthouses. I was also fascinated by the idea of sharing something as meticulous as a painting next to something organic in a rug-hooking style.

“What I like about what Laura’s doing is she’s using the tradition of rug-hooking as a form of social commentary, and she’s created an alter ego. Judy’s like the patron saint of lighthouses.”
Judy is a character who “just evolved” two years ago, says Kenney. She has red hair, a long black dress and red rain boots. She is nobody’s fool.

“She has no filters; she’s brave,” says Rhude.

“She can say things you think or wouldn’t say in a crowd.”

In Kenney’s playful, vibrant hooked rugs, Judy hugs a lighthouse, props it up, wears a red and white lighthouse dress, hangs a lighthouse on a clothesline or tries to push one back up from her stance in a small red boat at sea.

Kenney also creates stark, poignant images. Judy is in a funeral procession of women carrying a giant lighthouse with a large crow at the rear. In the dramatic, gothic, rural artwork Graveside Judy, the forlorn figure is a lonely mourner with her arms stretched out like a cross. The crow is small, perched on a grey tombstone before the sea.

Kenney’s Cape Forchu is another gothic, proportionally askew image, with Judy holding lanterns and almost as tall as a lighthouse. It hangs next to Rhude’s sublime realist painting The Apple Core, of the Cape Forchu light, with a giant pale moon at the horizon.

This lighthouse, at the entrance to Yarmouth Harbour, was first lit in 1840 and rebuilt in an apple-core architectural style in 1962.

Rhude is fascinated by the architecture of lighthouses, their cultural significance and their spiritual power, which he expresses in paintings like Cathedral.

“Lighthouses are our cathedrals,” he says.

Historically, “they provided a spiritual protection for communities, as well as a practical one. They gave everyone a sense of comfort knowing they were perched in front of a community.

“That’s why a lighthouse isn’t movable. It’ll be a part of our identity and culture for a long time.”
Inspired by trips to Newfoundland — Cape Spear in particular — he loves to play with the clean and iconic lines of the structures.

“I don’t think you’ll find a more eccentric piece of architecture. They were modernist before anybody was thinking about modernism.”

Just as fond of wordplay as Kenney, he puts displaced lighthouses on an abandoned rural highway so they are going nowhere in March of the Obsolescence.

He and Kenney each drew a picture for the other to depict.

“She sent me something of Judy taking her lighthouse for a walk, which is difficult for a realist!”
Rhude asked his wife, Simone Labuschagne, whose hair is dark, not red, to pose as Judy. She wears a forbidding black coat and pulls a trolley from Blomidon Nurseries for the fictional lighthouse.

He repeats this fierce, withheld, “stoic” figure in The Lighthouse Keeper, a painting of Labuschagne in a Renaissance-style profile against the large white base of a lighthouse. She looks to the right, but Renaissance artists painted faces looking to the left.

“There’s a history of female light keepers but not a lot of them. It’s unorthodox to consider a woman a lighthouse keeper so I reversed the direction.”

Rhude, also exhibiting in the Capture 2014: Nova Scotia Realism show, studied Italian and northern European Renaissance art in Florence, Italy, in an off-campus program while he was a student at the Ontario College of Art and Design.

After he received his degree with honours in painting and drawing, he worked with the Ontario Crafts Council in Toronto.
“I put up a lot of shows of quilting and rug-hooking and I really liked it. I liked the idea of recycling materials, and I learned a lot.”

Rhude has a labour-intensive, ordered process but builds in disorder.

“I find more and more I’m using just a couple of words to spark an idea,” says Rhude, who likes to sketch on printed matter, including Gerald Ferguson’s The Standard Corpus of Present Day English Usage Arranged by Word Length and Alphabetized Within Word Length.
After Rhude paints an image in oil on board, he then puts the board on the floor and starts flinging paint at it as if he were Jackson Pollock.

“I have this penchant for destroying it. I’m spattering or flicking colour over it, and then restoring the painting.”

He puts the speckled, multicoloured surface back on the easel and then paints to restore the image.
“I’ve lost some, but you can’t get this kind of texture if you’re not building it up with some kind of layering mentality. You walk that edge between abstraction and realism. It’s the second half I enjoy.”

“It’s the same with me,” says Kenney, whose backgrounds are multicoloured, kinetic ribs created out of fabric strips cut from Indian saris and clothing from Frenchy’s.

“Once I put Judy and the lighthouse in them, then I can do the background, and I go wild. I don’t have to plan. I just start grabbing stuff, and it’s magic.”

They both like working against the atypical imagery of lighthouses as majestic structures perched on cliffs, says Kenney. They hope their art will spark further preservation.

“These structures are beauty, they are our Eiffel Tower, our Statue of Liberty our Leaning Tower of Pisa,” Kenney writes in her artist’s statement.

“They have stories which we need to see, hear and feel at this time when we need it the most. They need to be protected; I feel it is our job as Nova Scotians to do this.”

“The lighthouse protected a community,” says Rhude.
“Now what are we doing? We’re using our art to raise awareness of the need to protect lighthouses.

November 7th, 2014

Monday, 3 November 2014


Study for Modernity, Bay de Verde, oil on copper, 6" x 9", Steven Rhude

Modernity, Bay de Verde, oil on board, 20" x 24", Steven Rhude

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS