Friday, 30 December 2016

Forbidden City

Forbidden City, oil on masonite, 48" x 96", Steven Rhude

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Up on the Roof

Up on the Roof, oil on board, 24" x 48", Steven Rhude

"Inconclusive incidents and their images rarely receive such scrutiny except when a serious accident has occurred or a crime has been committed - then the incidental becomes evidence." - Richard Shiff
Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Thursday, 1 December 2016


Aftermath, oil on board, 20" x 24", Steven Rhude

Fool: "But what kind of society would do this to itself? Were not these the very things which forged their identity in the first place?"

Jester: Yes, true enough - but now they are condemned to a figurative journey without destination. Find them Fool, for this is where you can now haunt them." [1]

Years later...

Jester: "so did you find them?"

Fool: No, but I'm still looking. I'm told haunting has become something of an obsolete occupation for a fool. However, then I recall what that film maker once said - you know the guy... 'sometimes when I'm dreaming I think - I'll remember this... I'll make a film of it.' I wonder if he didn't have a good point there..."  

Jester: " Indeed, he makes a good point. It may sound like an occupational disease to all those that haunt - including you."

Fool: " Well, yes true enough, and good on ya - but sometimes I think the haunter has now become the haunted. Is there not a distinction to be made between the literal world and the representation of dreams?"

Jester: Perhaps it's that "in-betweeness" that should be the distinction now... for their conception of time has been forfeited to an artificial world of their own making. Space too for that matter. You must provide the in-between in order to find them"

Fool: So, how can one trust this in-between world anymore than the tangible one my task was once to haunt?"

Jester: "I've told you before I'm tired, which is why you must continue the task - yet I do recall when I started out on my own hauntings as a fool some four hundred years ago, my Jester told me this" :

"In this dream play, the author has, as in his former dream play, To Damascus, attempted to imitate the inconsequent yet transparently logical shape of a dream. Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Time and place do not exist; on a significant bases of reality, the imagination spins, weaving new patterns; a mixture of memories, experiences, free fancies, incongruities and improvisations. The characters split, double, multiply, evaporate, condense, disperse, assemble. But one consciousness rules over them all, that of the dreamer; for him there are no secrets, no illogicalities, no scruple, no laws. He neither acquits or condemns, but merely relates; and, just as a dream is often more painful than happy, so an undertone of melancholy and of pity for all mortal beings accompanies this flickering tale." [2] 

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

[1] A place called Away; living and painting in Nova Scotia, pg 37
[2]Strindberg's preface to A Dream Play (Ett drömspel), 1901.  

Friday, 25 November 2016

Sunday, 20 November 2016


Portrait of Kluskap (with Amethyst), oil on canvas, 38" x 60", Steven Rhude

"Kluskap, the first creature, was created out of three bolts of lightening, according to Mi’kmaw legends. Gerald Gloade, a public information officer with the Mi’kmawey Cultural Centre at Debert, says the first bolt gave him form, the second life, but he was still connected to the land and could only observe and learn from nature. The third bolt set him free to walk about and teach."

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Post Colonial

Post Colonial Town #1, oil on panel, 31" x 40", Steven Rhude

Steven Rhude Wolfville, NS

Friday, 30 September 2016

Cape Blomidon

Spirit Cliff #2, oil on copper, 12" x 20.5", Steven Rhude

Spirit Cliff #3, oil on copper, 10" x 20", Steven Rhude

"A particular place in the land is never, for an oral culture, just a passive or inert setting for the human events that occur there. It is an active participant in those occurrences. Indeed, by virtue of its underlying and enveloping presence, the place may even be felt to be the source, the primary power that expresses itself through the various events that unfold there." 

-David Abram, Spell of the Sensuous, pg 162

A particular
in the land
is never,
an oral culture,
just a passive
or inert
for the human
It is an active

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Spirit Stone

Spirit Stone, Cape Blomidon, oil on canvas, 20" x 30", Steven Rhude

They (Mi'kmaq) would have left under our very feet, in stream beds or along shore lines like Cape Blomidon, a long standing stone carving art form that held the conviction that a stone contains the spirit of a person, animal, bird, etc.
Manipulated in one's hand, or held up against the sky, or sun - or fire light, one can explore the cultural practices of their lives and ethos as they elaborated on that which the stone contains.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS 

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Spirit Cliff, Cape Blomidon

Spirit Cliff #1, Cape Blomidon, oil on panel, 19" x 20", Steven Rhude

Glooscap was said by the Mi'kmaq to be great in size and in powers, and to have created natural features such as the Annapolis Valley. In carrying out his feats, he often had to overcome his evil twin brother who wanted rivers to be crooked and mountain ranges to be impassable; in one legend, he turns the evil twin into stone. Another common story is how he turned himself into a giant beaver and created five islands in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia by slapping his huge tail in the water with enough force to stir up the earth. His home was said to be Cape Blomidon. - Wikipedia

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Why Collect Art?

 Recently Bloomberg News reported on the dramatic unloading of the so called "Zombie Art" market in recent auctions. Often rationalized as the emergent market, the contrasting example this time is a Canadian work by Hugh Scott-Douglas.

What was once apparently valued at 100K is now worth 20K. The idea of young and mostly inexperienced artists garnering even $20,000 (less commission) for a single work, let alone 100,000 strikes me as absurd, but likewise as in real estate, this is about the art of the flip, not about the aesthetics and meaningfulness of cultural production, or an artist's skill, depth of study and developed vision.

 A much needed probity in terms of social and cultural value is required. But where, if it exists can it be found?

Four Seasons, New York

Certainly not in the studios of  Bloomberg, covering hucksterism, and the robber baron world of art. A world of agents that flip art like houses, wine and dine titan acquisitionalists with storage units chalk a block full of Zombie art that require hefty insurance fees. And certainly not in a world where if a painting's value plummets over night in the forest of art - does anybody hear. When bottom feeders like  Stefan Simchowitz, the Los Angeles entrepreneur known for buying in bulk from young artists on behalf of clients and for his own collection, may desire to be seen as rubbing his hands with glee, investors talk. But in reality he too must also be concerned about being last to hold the bag in a volatile game of investor chance.

“I am going to be extremely active in the auction market as a seller and a buyer,” said Simchowitz, who owns 3,500 artworks.

Indeed he may, considering the vast amount of questionable matter he needs to move as its due date nears expiration. But this is not really a realistic world of collecting. For one reason is that no one is really collecting - at least where culture is concerned. In an 2014 interview with Sky Gooden of Momus, the question was posed to incumbent director, Susannah Rosenstock of Art Toronto :

How do you reflect on the Canadian art market’s seeming hesitance and conservatism?

"As an outsider who’s only been watching this market for seven years, I can see (Toronto) that it’s a younger city. It doesn’t have the history that Chicago has, for instance, the families that have been building these collections for several hundred years, the robber barons. But I’ve seen it change so much in that time, so I’m optimistic that it will keep going. And this goes back to my desire for the fair to be more international: we can work hard on that but an art fair is just one aspect of a larger market, a growing market." [1]

Two points are noteworthy here. First, the perspective that the market is always "growing", with the idea of the robber baron as a precedent. According to Oxford Dictionary a robber baron is: A person who has become rich through ruthless and unscrupulous business practices (originally with reference to prominent US businessmen in the late 19th century).

 It goes without saying this archetypal model for amassing wealth is alive and well, and has played an essential role in maintaining the value of art through this period of financial imperialism. Much, if not all of this model is based on the 1914 French financier, Andre Level and his Le Peau de L’ours investment club. They initiated a remarkable return of 400 percent to their investors by purchasing early works by Picasso, Matisse, and Vlaminck from 1907 to 1914. These works were eventually considered masterpieces as modernism claimed the mantle of European art. They have been making millions and canonised the elite as arbiters of taste and wealth ever since.

The second point focuses on the other side of investing -  the idea that the Canadian art market is hesitant and conservative. What are we to make of this inference? Does it point to a lack luster interest in collecting post modernist Canadian art canonised by the Toronto art fair gallerists and museums? Or is the collector base with an interest in this field unable to legitimise the work as it is foisted into art fairs and splinter fairs alike by the wheel barrow load. Invariably art fairs boast the final sales tally the way film companies measure a film's value in terms of box office revenues.  Even Eric Fischel in a series of recent paintings, found the art fair world too lush an environment to resist for maintaining his social critique of the one percenters. It is to a large extent an unsavory world with murky  connections to the culture capitals.

Yet, there is another type of collector, one that takes genuine interest in cultural edification through art - Cheech Marin:   

Marin's focus on not how one grows a collection (although that too is important), but “why” one may start to collect, and what streams one might follow to answer this question in a world where art has been subject to the continued status of a plaything of trade titans. The ethics of collecting remain fraught with this stigma, and to encourage a new generation of collectors requires one to overcome the “how to route to collecting successfully” and induce a means of cultural inspiration and edification for the potential collector and their respective passions.

Essentially we collect to learn and enrich our lives and our community. We collect in order to challenge our beliefs, enhance discourse with others, and foster the need for vision in ever challenging times – not to corroborate our own ideas or profit from them.  Collecting art just may be one of the most difficult and uncomfortable enterprises active today. We collect to provide an agent for discussion with family and friends, not to just decorate our surroundings. We collect for our experience and love of memory. We may even collect in order to see how a precious mind develops as their art matures into a vision intimately connected to their geographical place of being and understanding.  Collecting is truly a mysterious enterprise and has made many a person far more insightful in terms of their personal and cultural education.
I have been fortunate to see some of my works go into collections both private and institutional where cultural edification is relevant to the collector. There are many avenues to explore when it comes to researching an artist or their art, but there is really nothing that replaces being arrested by a work in the flesh. However, it is  obvious technology has altered traditional routes of expertise.
Collectors have so much more in terms of resources today than ever before. Researching an artist and their work continues to expand. Blouin Info Blogs posted a good one on Invaluable, an online auction house with informative blogs not only for the collector, but the artist as wellThe blogs are informative and cultural in orientationas well as covering the art industry in general.
 I have seen many collections that were built with a modest means. One need not follow Bloomberg's reports on the market flippers to ponder the purchase of a painting or sculpture. Like Cheech Marin, the reason why one collects might be bound up in our desire to understand narrative, and who might be making art that responds to our own inner narrative. I believe it is out there, however it is up to the collector to find it.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS  
[1] The future of Art Toronto, and how it plans to adapt, Nov. 2014 - Sky Gooden

Wednesday, 21 September 2016


Roxanne During WW2, Near Canso, 35" x 22", oil on panel, Steven Rhude

I will miss Roxanne, I hardly got to know her, and our time together was too brief. I thank her for her services rendered. I understand she is, like many a maritimer before her, headed down the road to Toronto. Be careful, it is a big city, yet full of kind, creative, and wonderful people - I can testify to this since it is where I grew up. I understand her reasons for going, and trust she will be appreciated where there is a larger market for her expertise. Bonne chance! :)

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS 

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Artists talk, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia

Post Cod, oil on board, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude, part of Terroir, AGNS

At the End of the Day, Rug Hooking, Laura Kenney, part of Terroir, AGNS

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia


Terroir Talk with artists Laura Kenney & Steven Rhude

Sunday, 2 October 2016 -
2:30pm to 3:30pm

Join Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey artists Laura Kenney and Steven Rhude for an in-depth discussion of their work and their on-going joint project. This project explores the Nova Scotian communities, their world, and shared future as framed by a post cod world.

FREE with admission.

About the Artists

Laura Kenney was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan but her roots are in Nova Scotia and has resided in the province for the past 20 years. She has lived in many towns and cities across Canada as well as Germany and Japan, and it was in Japan where she met her husband, William Morgan. Laura began rug hooking when she moved to Truro, Nova Scotia in 1998. She took classes with the Rug Hooking Guild of Nova in Truro, which gave her a good basis in rug hooking. Her work has been represented by the Nova Scotia Folk Art Festival since 2009. It was at the festival, after talking with the artists and seeing the art, that she realized her humourous, colourful rugs were indeed folk art. Laura works from her studio in her small green house where she lives with her husband and two children, Jonah and Zoe.

Steven Rhude was born in Rouyn Noranda, Quebec in 1959. He attended Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto where he studied fine arts and graduated in 1983 with honors in drawing and painting. Steven also attended the college's off campus program in Florence, Italy for one year which included an intensive study of the Italian and Northern European renaissance. Rhude was featured in the exhibition Capture 2014, a survey of Nova Scotian realism. His work can be found in numerous private, public and corporate collections. Wolfville, Nova Scotia is where he currently resides with his family and Black Lab, Hagrid. 

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Herbes de l'esprit , de l'Acadie

Herbes de l'esprit , de l'Acadie, oil on panel, 28.5" x 22.75", Steven Rhude

"A still life, really, is a fleet of cargo ships setting out to sea on a canal lined with gabled buildings. It’s ermine-trimmed silk jackets on barrel-chested ambassadors who are leaning, shoulders cocked, on Persian rugs. It’s a cellar of salt from processing plants in Venezuela sat next to lemons from the Mediterranean. It’s the dogged pursuit of empire and commodity, and a total assurance that every ounce of self-made wealth was not merely earned, but ordained."

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Friday, 9 September 2016


Exodus, oil on panel, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

"Stop and think what an uproar there would be if a real restructuring along the lines of past resettlement were tried today.
Stop and think what real hard choices would actually look like today."

- Russel Wangersky

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Cod's Eye #2

Cod's Eye, Heart's Content, oil on board attached to another oil on board , 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

“The sea is not less beautiful in our eyes because we know that sometimes ships are wrecked by it.”

- Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Cod's Eye

Cod's Eye, Towards Argentia, o/p, 24" x 24", Steven Rhude

"It is instructive to contrast this with the tendency of the Baroque to present the affects of the persons as clearly and intelligible as possible; to give them that expressione that can also be captured in concepts, for which purpose the eye is not really a useful device at all." - Georg Simmel, Rembrandt: An essay in the Philosophy of Art. [1]

The over night ferry to Argentia charts one slowly along towards the land of the cod - an ancient migration. The cod's eye providing the traveller with a window into the soul of a place for those that realise the age of enlightenment and reason still needed the eye as an agent for rational, and not vice versa. Light plays the role of an intermediary, reflecting and registering an image at the back of our ocular screen to be forwarded to our brain for distinction and definition. Opacity is quickly registered, yet transparency, (or in painting the application of numerous coloured glazes), takes a little longer, and is harder to define from a distance. As the cod's eye brings us closer, our terminus ad quem does not occur. Simmel comes to mind in a studio in Wolfville: "that the eye speaks actually means that it says more than can be said." [2]

[1], [2] Georg Simmel: Rembrandt: an Essay in the Philosophy of Art, pg 100 

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS


Saturday, 13 August 2016

Terroir - Turning Water into Wine

Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey (phase two)

 - June 25, 2016 – January 15, 2017
Curators: David Diviney, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Bruce Johnson, Independent Curator, and Sarah Fillmore, Chief Curator, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

Terroir: Borrowing heavily from the language of wine, this three-part exhibition will look at regional artistic production through the culture from which it emerges. The word “terroir” refers to the complete natural environment in which a particular wine is produced, including factors such as the soil, topography, and climate. 

Some might say Terroir is long over due. But what exactly is Terroir, and rather than being over due, is it perhaps ahead of its time? There is no doubt Terroir is an exhibition about regional artistic production and  fascinating in its duality; a balance between traditional and contemporary media side by side, while creating new platforms for discussion, and still maintaining excellence in craft, technique, and social commentary. But as strange as this sounds, Terroir should also be a time capsule, hidden away to one day be discovered by future generations to ponder and reference when discussing the ethos of Nova Scotian culture, and why it is what it is today. What questions would be asked about artists honouring past traditions, and incorporating them while standing shoulder to shoulder with artists creating art in a markedly new way? If Terroir is anything, this juxtaposition stands out as defining Nova Scotian art in a way that should  prove to be prescient, where regional art production may be re evaluated for its merit not only today, but for years to come.  
Leveled: Year 2, Chromogenic Print, Lorraine Field

"These things should be understood by now: The present is diverse beyond knowing, history is never completely on anyone’s side, and what we ignore today will be excavated later and held against us the way we hold previous oversights against past generations." Roberta Smith, New York Times art critic [1]

 If Roberta Smith is correct, and I believe she is, shows like Terroir are not to be ignored. Terms like "the tyranny of taste" have been ringing throughout the hallowed halls of western contemporary art museums for some time now. Widely held assumptions about why such and such a genre is omitted from the post modern establishment are hotly contested among artists in coffee shops around the world. And yet certainly, curators have a million shows they would love to do, but only one life time, so what happens when the turn around occurs, and what was once wrongly or rightly considered retrograde becomes current? Or more specifically, where the regional is focused on front and center with a duality of traditions and modes of expression profiled?

At the End of the Day, wool and silk on burlap, Laura Kenney

Radical: (definition) of or going to the root, (Especially of change or action) relating to or affecting the fundamental nature of something; far-reaching or thorough. [2] 



                                                         Room for everyone

As I listened to Pete Luckett, vintner, regale a packed crowd of art and culture enthusiasts at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia on the opening night of Terroir, I mused upon the notion of how the artists in the show are making art not only with their hands, but also with their heads, and are questioning and exploring globalization, colonialism, Mi'kmaq First Nation ancestry, and other issues related to Nova Scotia - all with respect to a plethora of traditional and contemporary electric media. Pete made me smile as he confirmed there is room for everyone, and my sense was that this phase of Terroir is an exhibition that is needed, or as art critic Roberta Smith once wished out loud, that curators might "think outside the hive-mind." 

Opening of Terroir

Turf and Twig, oil on canvas, Amanda Rhodenizer

Later on, I found myself mentally making the analogous connection of "Terrior" in wine production to not only the artists that reside in Nova Scotia, but more specifically the twenty nine artists that were selected by curators Sarah Fillmore, David Diviney, and Bruce Johnson for the exhibit.

 The exhibit is overtly regional in the reference to the title and the Nova Scotian artists included, but it goes far beyond that as the objective is presumably to posit through the art work, reasons for exploring the specifics of an artistic terroir relevant to the times.

For the Trees, Video Still, Anne Macmillan

Actually, it's a lovely title for an exhibition (It seems now everyone just refers to it as Terroir), and conjures up numerous ways for viewers to experience work that is both  immediately engaging, and ecumenical at the same time. Survey shows as they're sometimes called, don't always do this. Perhaps it is the way they are structured, and what artists are involved. Terroir questions the term "survey" by circumventing the conventional curated effort of known quantities, and employing a 'call for entry' format instead - thus distancing itself from any preconceived and sketchy notions regarding a conceptual outcome. One need only look at the juxtaposition of Lorraine Field's "Level: Year 2" chromogenetic print, next to Laura Kenney's "At the End of the Day" rug hooking. Both include reclining figures, yet contrasted they reveal a duality; a Nova Scotian day entirely different in both mind and topography.

This show was thoughtfully curated with the same disposition a drawing teacher may question the meaning of "sketch", which is often mistakenly exchanged for the more probing term "drawing". A sketch implies something incomplete, where as a drawing, no matter how brief in its execution, entails a complete thought. Terroir is anything but a sketch. It is a complete thought in the sense that it refers to not only the contemporary factors that present themselves to the Nova Scotian artist today, like diverse media and issues both regional and global, but the layers of healthy influence and artistic logic that preceded it as well. On another floor of the gallery, viewers can explore more work assembled from the AGNS's permanent collection (Terroir phase one) that laid the groundwork for Terroir's phase two. Combined, the two shows are stunning, and weave an important narrative that has been unfolding for years, and cements Nova Scotia's reputation as an ongoing channel of significant creative out put.

When not painting I restore wooden floors, the difficulty is apprehending the character of the floor while providing a suitable finish for durability. Character in a floor as evinced in its terroir, or conditions. How much character should one remove and how much should one retain? Like wise in art, what are truly an artist's habitat and conditions? And what does it mean to contextualize ones art with ones topography, be it personally or in a more global way, literally ones climate and surroundings? What does the artist remove, and what does the artist retain? As I toured Terroir these were some of the questions I found myself asking. The comparison of a Vintner's practise to an artist's practise invariably arises and the temptation is too great to resist with some works.

"Terroir from terre, "land" is the set of all environmental factors that affect a crop's epigenetic qualities, unique environment contexts and farming practices, when the crop is grown in a specific habitat. Collectively, these contextual characteristics are said to have a character; terroir also refers to this character." - Wikipedia

 In wine parlance there is also a term called "epigenetic" - it refers to that which is formed later than the surrounding or underlying rock formation. For the love of plants, the leap to the work of Francis Dorsey is as terroir as it gets. Beautifully crafted moon abstractions confront us with the symbolic horizon dissecting the firmament of sky and water. The moon, our moon, is united by the horizon, hovers in front of the horizon, or sinks into the horizon. They are ghostly and unsettling, yet are peacefully aided by the abstract references of sky, earth, and water - uniting the composition. 

Golden Moon, Portugal Cove, Linen and Silk multi shaft weaving, Frances Dorsey

They're heavily textured weavings with the organic and uneven square enhancing the circular reference to the moon. But it is the natural dyes, in this case local Goldenrod and Alder, dyed in a Cape Breton, Middle River Dye bath, that provide the exceptional hues evident and enhanced under the gallery's soft lighting. Some are reflective while others flatten out depending on the angle and placement of the fiber.

 The work is an earthy, yet mystical piece, witnessing another work that contains turbulence, man's inhumanity to man, and an issue of jarring poignancy confronting a proclamation that refuses to disappear, is dormant, and sadly remains contained by something composed also of fibre - a pre confederation document.

"And, we do hereby promise, by and with the advice and consent of His Majesty's Council, a reward of 30£ for every male Indian Prisoner, above the age of sixteen years, brought in alive; or for a scalp of such male Indian twenty-five pounds, and twenty-five pounds for every Indian woman or child brought in alive: Such rewards to be paid by the Officer commanding at any of His Majesty's Forts in this Province, immediately on receiving the Prisoners or Scalps above mentioned, according to the intent and meaning of this Proclamation."

Ursala Johnson

“Memo after memo, document after document is completely whited out,” CBC’s uncredited reporter writes. “The reason given is that the public can’t know about discussions held by cabinet or with the province’s lawyers.”

This uncredited reporter is of course referring to the Nova Scotian government's attempt to obtain legal advice on how to proceed, while Canada, has claimed to at least make all the distinction it can to declare the words null and void. So while the lawyers profit, Ursula Johnson, back in 2010 created her own ending far more enduring and palpable in the form of a performance art piece:

"She then invited a volunteer to come up from the group of participants who would be the last European to “scalp” a Mi’kmaw person in Nova Scotia. She offered up the headpiece as a symbolic scalp to be taken on the steps of Grand Parade Square."

                                                       How is memory formed?

Ben Mosher brings the rational of duality to the front row in a series of assemblages uniquely displayed on the gallery's  curved wall with a deep earthy background colour to it. Together, they convey an intimate configuration of objects that whisper to the viewer and enable one to chart their way through the series with ease. They struck me as having the kind of humility I would equate with Giorgio Morandi, the Italian still life painter. Personal and collective "memories" forms the intent, as the artist inside questions the origin of their formation. But Mosher doesn't stop with only the physical object. In a fascinating artist statement Mosher remarks: "With digital technologies, our lives are increasingly tethered between two realities, the digital and the physical. This gap interests me." Mining directly the sentimental objects of his personal history, the circular reference in his work suggests the saving, or storage of an object through a piece of found wood that echos the circular shape of the now ubiquitous CD. 

Drift Assembled, (ongoing) found wood and assemblage, Ben Mosher


                                                               Water to Wine

One need not follow the chronological order of the show to enjoy it. There are plenty of options for divergence, but contemplating Jaye Ouellette's realist wave painting "Euryal" is where I ended up a few times. There is a Northern European resolution to the smoothness of the painting, firmly couched in the realist tradition of the west. The artist's hand is not burnished away though. The brush freely moves over the wave's form with vigour and plenty of gesture is evident. However, the freezing of the wave in motion, moving into decent, and prior to its eventual crashing end, is suspended as the physical (or terroir) draws the viewer in. It's just the illusion of space and water on a flat surface we may tell ourselves, but the image's cave like negative space, and a blood or wine red under painting reveals itself on closer inspection, giving the experience of conditions more than just an imagistic desire for a clear and precise painting. Waves after all are not just salt water in movement, they contain and churn up rock, soil and debris as they reach their eventual conclusion at the shore.

Euryal, Acrylic on panel, Jaye Oullette

Terroir is a complicated exhibition that will take some time to digest. Taking in the work of twenty nine Nova Scotian artists requires more than one or two visits to the AGNS, but my sense is that this show will continue to churn up much more insight about the type of art experience occurring today and in the future, when contemplating our diverse range of artistic practice in Nova Scotia.

Terroir: a Nova Scotia Survey presents works by 29 artists working in the province, mining its history and culture, and offering a diversity of production.
Artist from across the province responded to an open call, and this exhibition was built exclusively from that list of respondents. The exciting range of experienced and emerging artists make for a dynamic, engaging and diverse exploration of artistic practice. From painters, weavers, sculptors, printmakers, makers of video and installation art, hookers and beyond, Nova Scotia is home to some of the country’s best artists, this is an opportunity to showcase that talent, and unearth its roots.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

[1] Roberta Smith, “Post-Minimal to the Max,” New York Times, February 14, 2010.
[2] Radical Def: Oxford Dictionary

Monday, 25 July 2016

Empty cisterns and exhausted wells

Woman Listening, o/b, 5" x 8.5", Steven Rhude

A woman drew her long black hair out tight

And fiddled whisper music on those strings
And bats with baby faces in the violet light
Whistled, and beat their wings
And crawled head downward down a blackened wall
And upside down in air were towers
Tolling reminiscent bells, that kept the hours
And voices singing out of empty cisterns and exhausted wells.-  T.S. Elliot 

Monday, 18 July 2016

Above the Head

Fishing School, Rug Hooking, Laura Kenney

Roxanne During WW2, Near Canso , NS, o/b, Steven Rhude

"The working-class man's attempt to blur class boundaries by wearing the bowler was satirized in the early films of Charlie Chaplin. Eventually, the bowler became an icon of the bourgeoisie, as immortalized in Magritte's famous painting of a middle-class man wearing a bowler (Robinson 1993: 166) and, after the Second World War, was worn mainly by middle-class businessmen." -

We in Nova Scotia challenge this premise!

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

Saturday, 2 July 2016

House of Film; The McNeil House For Wayward Youth

House of Film, The McNeil House For Wayward Youth, Chester, NS, oil on board, 48" x 48", Steven Rhude

A quick search of Chester, Nova Scotia reveals an image of sailing, cocktails on a veranda overlooking the harbour, and money - lots of it - piles of it in fact. Sir Christopher Ondaatje resides there during the summer and refers to it this way: "A lot of people know about Chester, N.S., but nobody talks about it. They simply don’t want anyone else to go there."

Concurrently, a general view in Wikipedia describes the village thus: "Chester is one of the wealthiest communities in the province as a result of being a holiday and resort destination, with many seasonal and year-round estates and mansions. The nearby waters of Mahone Bay and its numerous islands are well known for yachting and have made the Chester Yacht Club into a cruising destination."

Apparently, I see a different place. Since the film tax credit disaster and the exodus of artists and industry workers to greener pastures like Hamilton or Sudbury, I've never passed through Chester and been comfortable with the prevailing version etched into the Doers and Dreamers vacationers bible. Yet it just so happens Ondaajie's view may be more prescient than he thought possible - but not for the obvious reasons of wealth, and seclusion. Ninety nine percent of us hardly meet that criteria, and after all, we are told by our Premier that subsidies to business are a no-no, at least in the film sector. Therefore, we are encouraged to understand that Chester is the land of free range economics, self made men and women, and ... oh ya... Clearwater Foods - where never a subsidy or forgivable loan could be found. Not what Ondaatje had in mind when he iterated: "They simply don’t want anyone else to go there."

 Reality suggests otherwise, as I observed the subject of my painting noted above, being demolished on a street in Chester on a typically bright and cheerful Chester Sunday morning. Suddenly my image of Chester quickly changed to one of forlorn detachment, as the month of April 2016 turned into the cruelest month - a month where artists in the province pondered and railed against a concerted attack on their industry by a government oblivious to the nature of their own house, and its cultural purpose. Sorry Chester, 'I'm only passing through' is what I though at the time. But issues have a way of haunting you.

 It may have started with a bunch of bean counters concluding our cultural house was redundant around the same time as the wrecking ball arrived to level this house, a house, my house, your house, our house, the house - but it revealed to me just how important it was not to take the house for granted.

 Ironically, the real industry house employed to render the "provincial cultural and social landscape" in all its shapes and forms, and narratives, was under attack by that which it never imagined could be its enemy - the very person that claimed protection was needed from the invaders of market forces and demographic favouritism.We as artists are still trying to fathom how a Premier of a province like Nova Scotia could all of sudden not connect art and culture with a big priority like public education, but several interviews with McNeil back in April did just that. Education was a priority, and Film was a frivolous subsidy that no one supposedly mentioned to him as he toured the province. 

Notwithstanding McNeil (he to will move on), or the boarded up buildings in Nova Scotia, houses are not temporary in the Nova Scotian mind. The mind doesn't move on so quickly as long as memory prevails. The mind of a house has too much social, regional, and spiritual depth to vaporise under the current circumstances.  On the contrary, the need to provide a sense of permanence to those that choose to live here (especially in a climate where "going down the road" has become our provincial anthem played consistently by politicians come election day), some how finds a metaphor in every aspect of our architectural countenance - especially through the arts and the film industry that generates, and indeed, under the circumstances, highlights our uncomfortable plight. The truth hurts, but we need to confront it.

People will continue to talk about the film debacle, the bean counters, the job losses, out migraton, and missed opportunities. These issues never really go away. Yet, when shows like "Terroir" ( a survey of Nova Scotia Visual Art at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia) bring our people together, it gets harder and harder for our provincial government to justify its handling of the film tax credit, even though some people don't want anyone else to go there.

Steven Rhude, Wolfville


Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Otherness of Caplin Cove

Portrait of Caplin Cove, Nfld, oil on board, 30" x 48", Steven Rhude

                                                               The Otherness of Things

"Reflected on the surface of the pencil is also the inherited and entangled history for his father's care for this important, and perhaps useful object. There is a certain intimacy suggested. He sharpened it by hand, tactfully. The surface suggests he touched it often in his work. The history to their exposure to each other seems clearly visible - they remember each other in their flesh. Indeed, it seems that he felt, in a certain sense, obligated and responsible for it. He did not simply dispose of it when it became to short to be really useful. It is an inexpensive item. He could have easily replaced it with a more useful new one. Instead, he kept it. He tended to it in tenderness it seems. It seems appropriate to suggest that his sense of being affected meant that he felt obligated to let it be even after it seemingly  lost its pure utility value. But this affectedness, this sense of obligation is fragile and precarious. It is small and could have easily been lost in the work place. The concerns of every day life could have overtaken, leaving little or no time to tend to its letting-be. Indeed, its claim is but one of many. There are so many other others. To be sure our exposure to all others is vast, infinite indeed. And all other others also demand our response to their provocations - what Levinias called the the demand of the 'third' for equal justice (Simmons 1999)."

- Lucas D. Entrona, Ethics and Flesh, (Being Touched by the Otherness of Things) - Ruin Memories pg.56

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Tits up, failed selfies, and a social misfit called Judy

Judy - Opening of "Surfing the Ironing Board", Mary E. Black Gallery, Halifax, NS

                                                      "Surfing the Ironing Board" Hooked Rugs by Laura Kenney
                                            Mary E. Black Gallery in Halifax. The show runs from May 20 - July 10, 2016.

"Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each  to take form in the mind of the other. And this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship."
- Georg Simmel 

                                                                                            Two Art Worlds

Note to self after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #1, 

"Every day the art world spins, tumbles, crashes and burns, and then rebuilds itself. It is a world of investment, auctions, and image craft, an egocentric place where commerce is king, criticism is based on hits and likes, and substance is lost in the shadows of awards, art fairs, and  the next post modern controversy. The art world consumes mountains of ink often for those that are least in need of it, and least deserving of it. In general, it pays little attention to social or regional issues when the name is not recognizable, or marketable. In fact the very names of certain artists and their work have become a branding exercise often ironically negating the substance of their message - turning them into prophets of profit.  In some respects the art world has gone Tits Up!

Tits Up, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

However, be that as it may, there does exist another art world, one with integrity and purpose that can at once leave you with an engaging experience, or a smile, even a frown. Over the last five years or so I've taken an interest in the domestic, and regional message of a character named "Judy", who is magnetic because she is not global, but local. Not gone mainstream - but has preferred instead to go down stream - into the murkiness of Nova Scotia's cultural world where issues seldom raise an eyebrow beyond the frequency of facebook; which is where coincidentally I saw my first "Judy" rug hooking."

                                                    Who is Judy?

Note to self  after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #2,

"Judy came to life through the art form of rug hooking, a mystic form of art making involving the anonymous material of textile. The voice of textile speaks through memory, and we prize it for all kinds of occasions, yet like the contents of a Frenchy's bin, seldom know from whence it came. An underrated art form, obscure to many, yet none the less, a time honoured traditional medium with historic roots in Nova Scotia, it has seen a resurgence owing to the regional principles of individual artists and the co-operative support inherent in fibre enthusiasts. 
Judy's Attempt at a Selfie, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

Judy on the other hand is not anonymous, although her origins are quite mysterious. Perhaps she may be connected to the familiar dress makers manikin also nicknamed "Judy ", but this too remains conjecture. It's true she is without facial features, but she does have red hair, and is portrayed consistently in a black dress with red boots. She has a cat, a crow, an ironing board, a bathtub, a toilet, an abundant supply of wine, and a serious bad ass attitude. For women, she is an advocate and will not allow her voice to be silent. For men, she is a partner in crime, in a post cod world of collapse and outsourcing."

                                                   Who is Laura?

Note to self after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #3,

  "Like all fascinating art, I wonder about the creator of Judy; she is obviously important to our understanding of the significance and evolution of a character who is simple yet complex, regional yet universal. It just so happens that Judy's creator is a stay at home mom, not part of the one percent glamorized today. We shouldn't be surprised. Artists often work at home, and in a world of the ego and alter ego, it is important to clarify the two.

Under the Microscope, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

However, Judy (and Laura her creator), have been put under a microscope, and in Judy's case what we see is generous and abundant. The microscope reveals that Judy has grown into her life - however equivocal it may seem. Yet for Judy's creator - "how Judy lives", well - there in so does her creator, Laura Kenney.

Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship. Georg Simmel
Read more at:
Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship. Georg Simmel
Read more at:
Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship. Georg Simmel
Read more at:
Every relationship between persons causes a picture of each to take form in the mind of the other, and this picture evidently is in reciprocal relationship with that personal relationship. Georg Simmel
Read more at:

 Laura, like Judy is a romantic, but has a seekers design. She combs the channels of Nova Scotian culture and themes, laughing at human nature like the philosopher Democritus, and yet allowing ideas to simmer in the unconscious. For Laura, there is a fundamental marriage between the figurative and the abstract; and her character Judy needs both these forms in order to meet her pictorial objectives successfully. For Laura, her backgrounds are her modernist drawing tool, or more accurately her searching tool that acts as Judy's voice."

                                            Why do the Chores?

Note to self after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #4,

"Judy and the domestic chore: we won't find Judy performing a chore. Instead we find her avoiding the obvious in order to ponder the inevitable. A prerequisite for any artist and their work is avoidance of routine and the harnessing of thought - willful thought that often jars the logic of the household. So Judy surfs the ironing board rather than irons shirts. Wine is more effective when procrastinating over what to make for dinner. And of course, after the chores have been abandoned, dreaming of light houses is more important than sleep." 

Surfing the Ironing Board, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

Dinner, a Recurring Problem, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

Light House Dreaming, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

                                                   Love of a Cause

 Note to self after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #5,

"It should be acknowledged that Judy is an activist, unelected politico, shit disturber, protectionist, and cultural strategist. Pictorially she is what many ponder in their day to day community cycle of cultural importance. Where to put ones time and effort - Save a school? Protect a light house? Protest the loss of a film industry? The issues can be like an avalanche of loss in a landfill of stupidity, but Judy is also a poet, an  unacknowledged legislator of the regional mind when it goes astray. She has the responsibility of our spiritual well being in mind and she often tells it like it is, even if it hurts - no wonder she tends to imbibe on occasion."

Light House Landfill, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

                                           Bringing Culture Home 

Note to self after attending Surfing the Ironing Board #6,

"If Judy mirrors one thing, it is that culture (in our case Maritime culture) is not something that should remain outside oneself. It should not be the sole domain of artists, bureaucrats, administrators, curators, accountants, politicos, critics, and marketeers.  Culture belongs at home with a place setting for two. With a guest like that, discussion should always be illuminating," 

An Illuminated Guest for Diner, rug hooking, Laura Kenney
 Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS