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Breathe Deeply

Haley Lewis

Creative Spark
by Ivy Wigmore

Paintings by Haley Lewis: Rug Seller (above) and Hope and Grace

The word "inspiration" derives from the Latin "inspirare," meaning "to breathe life into." Inspiration is also something that an artist draws in from the environment. Similarly to the way we all take breath into our lungs to maintain life, artists take inspiration from their surroundings to fuel their creativity. Haley Lewis draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources. "It could be almost anything," she said. "Music, film, or landscape, the look on someone's face, the eloquent gesture of a hand." The images that move her stay with her over long periods of time, and are often combined in memory with other experiences and visions before they eventually find expression in Lewis' powerful work. Lewis' recent show, at Details Past and Present, featured paintings inspired by the artist's experiences in India. Sometimes Lewis' creative impulse is born of a singular and striking image, burning itself into the artist's mind and memory. While she was travelling in India, one day she saw a man lying naked on the ground-an image that was at once shocking and very beautiful to her. The incident left such a strong impression that the vision was still fresh ten months later, when at last she began to paint the man. In the meantime, her subconscious had worked out how to best represent that experience. The ultimate result involved construction of a box to frame the painting, with doors and an altar to honour the subject and give the piece a greater weight of solemnity. For the most part, Lewis relies upon a period of meditation between experience and the physical creation of a piece. Although the initial impulse stays constant from the moment of inspiration, the means of best communicating her experience through art is something Lewis arrives at over time. Currently living in Paris, Lewis is often struck by things she sees in her travels through the city. One day recently, for example, she happened upon an elderly couple dancing on a street corner. Elegantly dressed and each totally absorbed in the other, they were performing a tango to scratchy recorded music. It was, Lewis said, "incredibly beautiful-the way they looked at each other, the whole experience." Although she didn't rush home to recreate the experience, that image was taken in and is sure to inform her future work.

Lewis says that she is usually working towards some end, most often an upcoming exposition. She will have a show in Paris in the upcoming months. Because of working towards an end, Lewis is constantly seeking images that are relevant to some chosen theme. However, she says that seeking can't be conducted in any kind of compulsive or exploitative way; her quest involves maintaining a receptive spirit, remaining open to the inspiration all around. The most important thing for Haley Lewis is to keep eyes, mind and heart open, and in that way allow inspiration, like breath, to enter in.

Spirit Food

Words and Music

Review by Ivy Wigmore

When you think of amusements for a sunny summer afternoon, thoughts tend to gravitate towards pleasant ephemera: strolling the boardwalk, lolling in the sun, or reclining in one's nearest approximation of a shady bower, juicy novel and frosty gin and tonic at the ready. Should the natural world begin to pall-perhaps on the approximately three (3) days of the year when temperatures on P.E.I. ever inch above temperate-there are always the air-conditioned and atmosphere-controlled malls, bars, and cinemas. All perfectly good, fluffy summer fun, which-no question!-has its place. However, if you look around, there are events (yes, even during our short and distraction-centric summer) that supply the essential elements of escape, along with sustaining substance: food for thought and the soul.

On a recent mid-summer afternoon, the Kirk of St. James lunchtime recital series featured "Words and Music": poetry read by David Helwig, paired with music by pianist Frances McBurnie. Although the program was a short one, just forty-five minutes, there was not a second wasted. A selection of familiar sonnets by Shakespeare and others was complemented by musical selections from Schumann, Scarlatti, Bach, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schubert. The poetry's themes reflected the eternal concerns of humanity.

Helwig's readings began with love, in Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?, and ran the gamut of reflections on mortality, nature, and spirituality with Donne, Herbert, Wordsworth, and Hopkins, returning finally to love, with Millay and then Shakespeare again to finish the readings. The sonnets and music complemented each other perfectly, each selection expanding upon its counterpart and enhancing it, so that the whole was somehow more than the sum of its parts. Helwig is a powerful and expressive reader.

McBurnie is an exquisitely lyrical pianist; her phrasings and shadings of notes reflected the tones and themes of the chosen poems beautifully, moving the listener ever deeper into a properly contemplative frame of mind.

The Kirk itself is cool and dark, the air weighted with the solemnity that seems part of the fabric of any house of worship. Leaving the church, and back into the sunshine of a July afternoon, I felt revived: my body refreshed and my spirit restored.

Wooly Business


by Ivy Wigmore

In 1978, John and Carol MacLeod took up sheep farming on the land where they had settled the previous year. On 525 acres straddling the Valleyfield Road, the MacLeod's farm has been in the family since John's great-grandfather bought it from a representative of Queen Victoria in 1860. Before very long, the MacLeods learned to tan the lambskins taken from locally marketed lambs, which heralded the start of their craft business, Wooly Wares.

Since 1985, Wooly Wares has been housed in the building across the road from the MacLeod house, a building that has been there almost as long as the farm. Built in 1875 as a centre for the area Orangemen, the building was subsequently the Valleyfield community hall and now is one of very few craft shops in the country offering hand-made wool felt products. Felt-making (sometimes just called "felting") is an ancient craft, predating spinning. The MacLeods list felt hats, slippers, booties, hot mats, tea cozies and vests among the felt products that they make. Carol also makes beautiful felt wall hangings. The variegated and variously textured fibres make for interesting effects. A softly-coloured piece evokes a peaceful seaside scene, complete with blue heron, while a vibrantly coloured hanging of blues and greens offset with flashes of coral evokes underwater scenes from a New Zealand vacation a few years back. Carol teaches felting workshops in the summer months where the groups gather for an hour or two to learn a new (albeit ancient) craft and have some fun. At the end of the class, students get to take home the products of their labour.

Wooly Wares features all manner of items that you might expect to find, such as sheepskins, blankets, sweaters and slippers, as well as a variety of items that you might not think to find. The shop offers wooly footstools and flower vases made from felt as well as their most popular winter item, the sheepskin Father Christmas. Wooly Wares will be on view at upcoming craft show and sales at Orwell Corner and at the Murray Harbour Community Hall. Although the craft shop closes for the winter (the venerable building is not insulated) the MacLeods welcome inquiries and visitors to their home. If you'd like to see more about Wooly Wares, check out their web site at To arrange a visit, call Carol at (902) 838-4821.

Waiting to be Told

PEI Storytelling Festival 2000

by Ivy Wigmore

Long ago, in a place like this (and places quite different), places nearby and places far away, in a time before video, before the internet, even before books and magazines, there was storytelling. The oral tradition was humanity's earliest means of passing on stories across the ages, preserving the memories of deeds and events, and the people at the centre of them, so that they might not be lost to later generations. Today, the idea seems a bit incongruous, in the age of cable TV and multimedia. The stories are still being told, but are almost a backdrop for life, disposable tales a dime a dozen on television and at the movies. Traditional storytelling seemed to have fallen by the wayside in recent years. If the oral tradition were to die out-as many think it is in the process of doing we would lose a powerful means of understanding ourselves and our place in the world. And people seem to know that: all over the world, storytelling events and festivals are popping up, and stories are being told again.

The PEI Storytelling Festival for 2000 got off to a wonderful start September 13 at the Carrefour Theatre. Twelve diverse storytellers shared the stage, and the stories ran the gamut: Boyde Beck gave us a peek into the other side of Anne-land with the tale of Rory Long Donald, featuring a young boy, an uncle, hay, three broken rakes and a shotgun; Lorne Brown gave us a powerful historical allegory from Hans Christian Andersen, and then told the story about the story; Norma Cameron, in an interesting mix, told us both a spooky fable about a changeling seal, and a humorous story featuring her grandparents-her granny once lived close to the Queen Mother, did you know, back when the Queen Mum lived next to the chip shop (well, that's the story granny told); Hugh MacDonald told the painfully hilarious story of the birth of one of his children; Deirdre Kessler gave us a personal glimpse into her (even then so imaginative!) younger self, illuminating her uneasy relationship with Santa Claus, an evil eye, and her amazing prehensile toes. I regret the stories were too varied and many to recount. They were all great.

I went with my mum and we had a terrific time. Next time I see her, I'll get her to tell me a story.

Drive Dull Care

Hold the Haggis

Review by Ivy Wigmore

Summer doldrums got you down? Too hot? Too cold? Need a general tonic and pick-me-up? If you answered "yes" (or "no") to any of the above, head out to Orwell Corner Historic Village Monday night for a performance of "Hold the Haggis."

Hold the Haggis is one current incarnation of the estimable PEI performers Margie Carmichael, Steve Sharratt, Roy Johnstone and Wendell Boyle. Each of the members is a fine musician and, to a person, they are possessed of wonderful voices. Well, almost to a person. I can't claim to have really heard Johnstone's voice-he was among the assembled who raised their hands in response to the question,"Who here can't sing?"-but he surely can play hell out of a fiddle.

Not that the audience members who couldn't sing were let off the hook. The group soon had us all joining in for the chorus of a very old traditional song, "To Drive Dull Care Away." And drive dull care away we did. Typical of a real old-time country gathering, the crowd was of all ages. There was also a good representation of visitors, from New York and Boston among other places, as well as local folk. 

Despite the crowd's diversity, the audience was soon united-through dint of the singing, dancing, and comedy (some of which, mind you, they performed themselves)-by broadly smiling countenances. Boyle led us all in a traditional circle dance, which is usually performed outside, but on this damp evening, we stayed in. I am happy to report, Gentle Reader, that there were no injuries, but the raucous fun had us all a mite warm. There, in the meticulously accurate historic setting, with the glow of kerosene lantern-light reflecting on wooden walls and beaming faces, the cry to "turn up the air conditioning!" gets a big laugh.

One of the many highlights of the evening engages members of the audience in a complicated and hilarious genealogical search for survivors of a mythical clan. Factors involved include a venerable haggis, the threat of fiery rings and the most ungodly assortment of tartan ever assembled. But here, I think I must draw the tartan curtain. 

As Sharratt said in the introduction to one song: "If I told you any more, you'd know what happened." Well. We can't have that-go and find out!

A Couple of Stand-up Guys

Lorne Elliott and Derek Edwards

Review by Ivy Wigmore

Lorne Elliot is a funny guy. I mean, that hair! The lanky wind-blown, storm-tossed look of the man, and the perennially baffled expression! What, is he joking? Well, sort of. Seeing Elliot on stage is like a performance of "The Misadventures of Mr. Lorne Elliot," as he describes the series of disasters, both large and small, that seem to make up the fabric of his life. Whether he's battling a mouse in his pajamas (um, yes, the mouse was actually in Elliot's p.j.s), trudging leagues through knee-deep mud to have a secret cigarette (foiled when a piss clam put out his only match; now he understands the moniker), or lying, naked and smeared with cheese whiz, in his basement (well, I can't really shed any more light on that one, and-seriously, folks, if you want me to, I think you may have more problems than Lorne Elliot...well, okay...I believe that it was mouse-related, but that is all I'm going to say) things just seem to happen to him, even in these most commonplace activities.

As Elliot describes it, screwing up is his life and livelihood, nice work if you can get it, since most of us-no matter how talented in that regard-never make it out of the amateur ranks, and just have to continue to flail away at life regardless.

And, as we travel through life, flailing onward, we tend to lose some acuity of perception. We stop smelling the roses; we may fail to appreciate the dew on the Budweiser. Well. Derek Edwards is here to remind us to pay attention to what is going on around us and just how messed up things are. Edwards is newer to PEI than Elliot, and not yet inured to the PEI way of life, not to mention the PEI way of driving, which tempts him to bash his head through the windshield. On arrival here he saw boxes of strawberries for sale, marked at $175 per. Got to be, he thought, the crack cocaine of strawberries. He reminisced, poignantly, about camping adventures, waking up in the great outdoors to legions of mosquitoes reeling on the floor of his tent, too full of blood and alcohol to fly.

Edwards was excruciatingly funny. Be sure to take in his act before he abandons it for his considered new career-breaking into cottages to pay for his strawberry habit.

Watch for the Signs

Dal Segno Trio: West of the Danube

Review by Ivy Wigmore

On Sunday, July 16th, St. Mary's Church featured the Dal Segno Trio's concert featuring the music of eastern European composers, "West of the Danube," as part of the ongoing Indian River Festival. The evening marked the trio's fourth appearance at the festival. Only fitting, really, since dal segno (Italian for the sign) instructs the musician to return and commence from the sign.

The New York-based trio, all of whom are Julliard-trained, is: Mescal Wilson, a pianist who has performed solo at both Carnegie Hall and the Kaufman Concert Hall and whose 1992 recording of Szmaowski's Symphonie Concertante for Piano and Orchestra, Opus 60 was named classical Disk of the Year by the New York Observer; John Kneiling, who has performed as the principal cellist with the Symphony Orchestra of the State of Mexico and is currently principle cellist with the New York Symphonic Arts Ensemble; and, Stanley Hoffman, violinist and violist, who has played with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, and (under the direction of Leopold Stokowsky) with the American Symphony Orchestra.

The trio offered elegant renditions of Vitezslav Novak's Trio quasi una Ballata, Opus 27; Zoltan Kodaly's Duo for Violin and Cello, Opus 7; and Antonin Dvorak's Dumky- Trio, Opus 90. Kneiling helpfully and humourously explained that the word dumky is not a variation of dummkopf,-he hastened to assure us that "Dumky-Trio" does not mean "three dummkopfs"-but is the plural of dumka a traditional folk melody about past glory. Throughout both the Dvorak and Kodaly selections, heard fragments of Eastern European folk melodies lend a particular poignancy to the music.

St. Mary's Church, which was designed by William Critchlow Harris, has been called one of the best buildings, acoustics-wise, in the world. Indeed, the all-wooden Gothic interior is said to replicate the qualities of the interior of a violin, so the audience enjoys the unique experience of being inside the instrument of music itself.

En route to the washroom, a woman (also from New York) stopped Hoffman to say how beautiful the music was, "but what," she wondered,"ever brought you to Prince Edward Island?" His response, in keeping with the trio's performance, was eloquent and unpretentious: "We were invited." The architecture, acoustics and wonderful music combined to produce a memorable summer's evening entertainment. But don't fret if you missed them-I have a feeling that the Dal Segno Trio will return.

Family Reunion

by Ivy Wigmore

Artist Julia Sarradet paints portraits of the family of Arthur Newbery For the past year or so, Julia Sarradet has been living with a house full of very demanding guests. They clamour for attention day and night, she says, and as if that weren't enough, she dreams about them. Well, they are at least fairly quiet, since none of them are in the land of the living-no, I'm not talking about ghosts. Sarradet has been obsessed with portraying a nineteenth century family since she found their family album in the Charlottetown archives.

The Newbery family captivated her; she felt immediately that she was their connection to the present. The more she discovered about them, the more interested she became. Her husband would often be greeted with stories about what the various Newberys had done, much in the manner of news about an absent relative. Looking at their photos and reading various documents compelled her to try to bring their story to life, to let others get the sense that she had of a very real family with a story to be told. She got copies of the photos and began to try to illuminate their lives through the medium of her art.

The paintings tell the story of a close-knit family at the end of the nineteenth century. Arthur Newbery worked in a government office overlooking Queen Square, which was more or less a vacant lot and in no good state of upkeep. A passionate gardener and a community minded soul, Newbery worked to create a beautiful natural space out of the land at the centre of town. Flowers and fountains transformed the area and a bandstand was built where the community could gather for open air concerts of a warm summer evening. In 1885, a writer for The St. John Globe wrote about the gardens: "That desert waste known as Queen Square ... has been transformed into a thing of beauty-a veritable oasis."

The Newberys' home life was just as compelling for Sarradet. In one painting, an obviously doting Ella Newbery bathes one of their three girls. Another of the canvasses, "A Hard Day's Play" shows two very serious little girls taking tea with their dolls. Yet another features an extended family relaxing on the front porch on a summer afternoon. As the viewer walks from one painting to the next, the Newbery family becomes more fully realized, their day-to-day life more easily imagined.

From the moment she met them, Sarradet wanted to make the Newbery family known. For her, they epitomize the qualities that make the Island so special: the strength of family ties, love of the land and the power of community. Until now, she hasn't wanted to talk about these works, because she didn't want her connection to the family filtered through another's perspective. Now the paintings are almost finished, though, Sarradet is ready to let the Newbery family appear once again in Charlottetown.

The Newbery Family Exhibition will be showing at the Pilar Shephard Gallery from May 27 to June 15.

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