After class, we went touring and saw several Maud Lewis homesteads and a slew of Frenchys.
|Ben Loman Harbour, c. 1952, by Maud Lewis|
Poppy Balser is doing exactly what she should be doing in this workshop, spending hours putting us through technical exercises with big fat brushes. They’re very informative but not particularly photogenic.
After class, she offered to show us the sights. This is a beautiful area of mists and moors and glowering headlands, so we jumped at the chance. We started our tour at the Point Prim lighthouse. There’s been a light at this location since 1804, but this is a spare, uncompromising iteration built in 1964. Still, it’s very beautiful. It’s located on a wild, rocky headland at the mouth of Digby Gut and is surrounded by weathered, stunted trees and massive basalt and granite shelves.
|One of many exercises I painted in yesterday’s class.|
Around Digby, the buzz is all about a movie depicting the life and marriage of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis. It was just released in Canada and is to open in the US in a few days.
Lewis was born in Yarmouth, NS in 1903. She suffered a severe form of juvenile rheumatoid arthritis that caused her to be unusually small and almost chinless. Today, with her physical deformities, she would have been cared for by the state, but that wasn’t so in 1937. She moved to Digby to live with her aunt. In 1938, she married forty-year-old bachelor fish peddler Everett Lewis.
According to her husband, Maud answered an ad he had posted for a “live-in or keep house” housekeeper. They married a few weeks later and moved into his tiny one-room cabin a few miles west of Digby.
|Provincial memorial at the site, more or less, of Maud Lewis’ home.|
Lewis accompanied her husband on his daily rounds peddling fish, bringing Christmas cards that she had drawn. Emboldened by her success, she started to paint on beaverboard, old cookie sheets and Masonite. Her worsening arthritis meant she was unable to do housework, so Everett did the housework and Maud sold paintings for very small sums of money.
Her original house is now in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. The province has thoughtfully erected a steel memorial model close to its original location. Driving toward Digby Neck on a parallel road, we came across a sign pointing us toward another replica of her house. We squelched down a dirt lane to find it. It was built in 1990 by retired fisherman Murray Ross, and is complete with Everett’s shop and their mailbox.
|Murray Ross’ iteration of Maud Lewis’ home.|
We’ve been baffled by signs for something called Frenchys. It turns out that a Frenchy is a used clothing store. These were pioneered by Edwin Therialult. In the 1970s, he started imported used clothing from the United States to make cleaning cloths he called “wipers.” Some of the clothes were too good to shred, so he opened an outlet to resell them. Fortunately, he didn’t trademark the name, so a “Frenchy” is now a used clothing store. They’re big business around here. Guy’s Frenchys has seventeen stores and is just one of the chains using that name.
|Headlands in the gathering dusk.|
According to the cognoscenti, if you buy someone a gift item at a Frenchy, you should tell them it “had tags.”