|It's all good. Portrait of Laura Kenney, Rug Hooker|
“Steven Rhude and I had an exhibit titled "Saving Maud' at Secord Gallery in Halifax, Sept 2017.
Through Steven's paintings and my rug hookings we examined Maud Lewis's life, her struggles,
and upon her death, the stewardship of her art and house to the wider commercial
and institutional establishments. We wanted to give a fuller understanding of Maud's life
and a factual record...and we have more to say. - Laura Kenney, Rug Hooker
Note to self on Maud: What constitutes the material of a life lived in the unforgiving spotlight of poverty? And what does it mean to us today? Why does a folk painter stand out for public scrutiny, yet, as we can see and confirm for ourselves, through a life suspended in the vague records of a modernist era gone by, with blurry black and white photographs and film footage suggesting, but not quite defining, the ethos of a person, a woman, a painter, and in many respects, this person called Maud, continues to remain an enigma - even as the colour of her life is realized.
Note to self on Rug Hooker: For the rug hooker, whether it is the material of a physical life, or the material of a spiritual life, textile is the one true conduit to understanding for the purpose of expression. For the painter it may be linseed oil and earth on linen, but for the hooker, it is burlap, wool, sari ribbon, or cotton, materials born generally and historically out of forced labour. The history of textile is one of slavery. The above portrait of Laura Kenney may be defined easily as a portrait of an artist in her studio. Or, an artist at work. Or, an artist at work with materials at her disposal. Nothing more and nothing less. Yet, textile is an underrated material in an age of the computer monitor. A high resolution picture of a rug hooking can be seductive; the ribbons of exotically coloured strips of material integrated into a conceptually pixelated sense of logic do leave us curious, but not in the same state as when we can view the actual article, and ponder its material origins. Conclusion - it is more than an artist in the studio.
Note to self on Maud: She did the unforgivable for the times, to be single and to get pregnant was a sure
ticket to the poor farm. The only alternative would be to go underground.
Note to self on Rug Hooker : Maud has no features, as in every character that figures in a Kenney rug. It's a
line up that is without end. We supply the identity.
Note to self on Everett: As a former inmate, and later a night watchman, he held the keys to the poor farm.
His ghosts chant something ambiguous, but today it sounds like #Metoo.
Notes to self on Maud: Supposedly a timeless theme for artists - the woman in a bath.
However, this in not Bonnard's woman lounging after a brisk day of sailing, or a woman from Degas' perspective,
reclining in a Bourgeois Parisian apartment bath with staff just around the corner. There is no perfume for a
voyeur's pleasure. This is the result of no running water, and a friend named Olive Hayden.
It is paradise if ever so brief.
Note to self on Rug Hooker: One can only conclude that she envisioned the sleeping quarters opposite to our
cherished understanding of privacy, and the need for some art; that is to provide some light
in the middle of dark and troublesome dreams.
Note to self on a graveyard with the unidentified: Maud had a penchant for altering the prevailing logic
of a season. A spring tree in winter, or fresh flowers in a barren winter landscape graveyard. Seems a fitting
note of sanctification.
Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS