Tuesday, 1 August 2017

The Day Maud Died

"Who would true valour see,
let him come hither;
One here will constant be,
come wind, come weather.
There's no discouragement,
 shall make him once relent,
 His first avowed intent
 To be a pilgrim." - John Bunyan's Original Version, To be a Pilgrim

The Day Maud Died, rug hooking, Laura Kenney

The Day Maud Died, oil on masonite, Steven Rhude

What constitutes the spirit of a house? This question may indeed point to the reason so many made their way to Maud's house, to meet Maud, and leave with a painting commemorating their journey and experience. A desire to apprehend and understand a particular spirit that was on her own pilgrimage - the sacred site being her own memories of Nova Scotia made manifest through panel boards, paint, and a corner studio with a window. Her grid to a point of departure. Her way out of the restrictions imposed upon her by the conventions of her body and rural society.

However, as much as the tiny house became a barrier to the outside world and the restrictions imposed upon her by her husband Everett - in a physical and psychological sense limiting Maud's freedom; it's window, must have become a buttress of assurance. As she projected her vision outwards, so must have it been reflected back on Maud, knowing her paintings would engage us with her world. A dichotomy between the most personal and public of worlds. A window of equilibrium.

In many respects, The desire to save Maud is a metaphorical one; by focusing on her journey it may be we are as Laura Kenney says: "saving Maud on a bunch of levels....freeing her from Everett... freeing her from her health limitations...", and freeing her from the institutionalizing of a limited image framed in the shop window of historicism, tourism, and public galleries, far from her community of origin. It may be, Kenney goes on to say, "one of the reasons people love Maud so much is that she rose above her circumstances. We are all Maud in this respect...or at least want to be Maud." But this kind of presence can meet with adversity beyond the grave too. 

From Lance Woolaver's The Heart on the Door pg 209: "With Maud, and beginning with a remnant rug, the house became a constant spring of visitors and art. Everett could never countenance this thing, this spark of Maud and the welcoming, warm and human nature of her decorations. He would take the benefits, and claim them, but he never understood what he chanced upon. People think a harvest moon is just for them: As soon as Maud had passed along, he would obliterate every brushstroke and reminder of her presence.

Ev would believe - it does him credit - that there was something in the house that made it special. His belief would become a prophesy... what Everett would do suggested that he knew the house was special, but he never knew why."  

The artist's dream: It was in a solem dream that on the day Maud died, there were flowers and her favourite birds - harbingers of spirit and freedom. In that dream, her funeral was attended by local fishermen who also attended to rescue lifeboats in times of emergency.

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


Steven Rhude, Wolfville, NS


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