Sunday, 6 August 2017

Maud returns from the dead

Das Bedürfnis, Leiden beredt werden zu lassen, ist Bedingung aller Wahrheit.

(The need to lend a voice to suffering [literally: "to let suffering be eloquent"] is the condition of all truth)”
― Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics

"The Alternative, the Poor Farm in Marshalltown, out in the country, was run as follows: If an unwed mother, circa 1930, gave birth, she and the child were removed by bailiff to the county of the mother's birth, turned over to the settlement sheriff and locked up with the poor and insane of the settlement county farm. What happened next depended entirely on the worth of the Matron, often the spouse of the keeper, Standards varied." - Lance Woolaver [1]

"Historically, online there is a picture and small blurb about the Poor Farm or Poor House as it was locally known. It is now the site of the Maude Lewis heritage park. "The County Incorporation Act of 1879 stated that each county was now responsible for building their own poor house. The Alms House was built in 1891. There was one prior to this but nothing is known about it. The Alms House became the 'dumping grounds' for single mothers, children, the mentally ill. or anyone else who could not survive independently in the community. As always horror stories of abuse and neglect were familiar. The residents were often at the mercy of the keeper. One keeper, Guy Thomas, was said to have fed half of Digby from the Poor House. In 1963 the Alms House was closed. It burned down in 1995 by an arsonist." - Carol Harding, Genealogist.

Hanging Everett Out to Dry, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

Maud Returns From the Dead (Asylum Road), oil on masonite, Steven Rhude

Artist's Notebook: Why in an age of genetics and Neuroscience, are ghosts still universally accepted?

  A long held belief that ghosts were created at the time of a person’s death inspires a surreal perspective, for the notion that Maud's true story ended in 1970 with her life has no bearing on a painting or a rug hooking, let alone the imagination of the artist behind the work. That Maud may have travelled to the underworld to dwell for a time and then return is the lively stuff of myth and imaginary retribution, a haunting of the mind, yet suggesting two characteristics concurrent with the notion of justice and penance contemplated by the artist.

The first contends with sacrifices from the living, whom the ghost could inflict with punishment or some kind of vengeance - this is the ghost of reprisal and should be considered in terms of Everett Lewis's apparent control over Maud.  What better place for this metaphorical scenario to unfold than the rural backyard clothesline. "Hanging Everett Out to Dry" conveys a multitude of possibilities as Everett ponders his new world upside down and is given time to assess his humorous imprisonment, and what it can mean for him in terms of his relationship with Maud.

The second characteristic contends with the idea that the intentions of ghosts were quite often good and helpful. In Maud's case returning to Marshalltown Road to guide the living to a path of goodness and honour may frame the literal intent of myth, but her own misgivings invariably enter the picture on a less tangible level, but with another ghostly motive.The disconnection between Maud and her orphaned daughter Catherine Dowley lingered unresolved during her life time - it is the job of the ghost (or vicariously through the artist) to seek reconciliation from that which was left irreconcilable.

[1] Maud Lewis, The Heart on the Door by Lance Woolaver
Chapter 31 - Asylum Road, pg. 161

Laura Kenney, Steven Rhude: Saving Maud, Secord Gallery, Halifax NS. opening September 8th, 

Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS

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