|Rickshaw driver in Victoria, BC|
On a rickshaw ride through downtown Victoria, BC our runner stopped at the most curious places. Twice he pointed out homes of the famous painter from Victoria named Emily Carr. I wrote a note on my phone, 'Who is Emily Carr?' (to see photos and learn more click on this link:Emily Carr's house
Then we passed an outside museum of Totem Poles where we stopped and took pictures. Little did I know that one of the reasons Emily Carr became a famous artist in Canada was because at the age of 27 in 1899, Emily took herself to the islands off Vancouver and began to paint the life and richness of the West Coast native people and the totem poles they carved. Sadly,many of these totem poles were destroyed by loggers in the decades to come, but Emily's paintings saved them for us to enjoy.
Arriving back in Seattle I asked my sister-in-law if she had heard of Emily Carr. Immediately, she went on line and began showing her artwork, so many of which were in the Seattle museums. Her pictures were filled with life and adventure in the Canadian wilderness, and we had just returned from an Alaskan cruise that had given us the opportunity to see the lands, trees, and shades of green that I'd never imagined. Emily had loved and painted these places that gave her strength and energy.
Squee Stah a Lo He...
Like Emily Carr, I'm never alone if there is a tree or trees nearly. It is books and stories that create the art in my imagination and connect me to others who journey through life. In Louise Penny's book The Brutal Telling I jumped up with energy and curiosity when I read these lines:
In dowtown Montreal Inspector Gamache stood outside of Heffel's Art Gallery on Sherbrooke st. searching for an answer to a clue. What was Woo and what did Woo mean?How can knowing Woo solve the mystery? What he saw was an almost life-sized bronze of a frumpy middle-aged woman standing beside a horse, a dog at her side and a monkey on the horse's back.
"This is 'woo'?" he asked.
"No, this is Emily Carr. It's by Joe Fafard and is called Emily and Friends." (to learn more click on these links: Images of Emily Carr Joe Fafard's statues of Emily Carr
|Emily Carr and her Monkey Woo in Montreal|
"Normally Emily Carr looks gruesome. I think it's brilliant to show her happy, as she apparently only was around her animals. It was people she hated." Supt. Brunel said.
Emily moved to London and then Paris seeking experts to teach her about painting, but what she saw and painted was not in vogue, nor noticed. Her health began to fail in the confines of the cold wet cities. Coming back to Victoria she gave up painting and lived off pennies selling pottery and other crafts and running a boarding house. In despair, she struggled to survive.
In 1927 a gallery owner, looking for art of the West Coast, heard of Emily's paintings and asked to see them. Stored in a dusty attic she brought them down for him to see. Her paintings were sent to the gallery and a show of her works introduced her to the art world.
At the age of 56 she began to paint again. Buying an old trailer, she called The Elephant, she loaded her pets and began to travel into the deep green forest where she painted in solitude, surrounded by nature and her pets. When her curious monkey 'Woo' squirted the green oil paint, the deadliest of colors, into his mouth he nearly died. She nursed him with a hot water bottle and epsom salts. During the night she dreamed of a hillside covered in greens that began to move. She wrote in her journal,
"The next morning, the light was so pure that I decided to go out and paint....I felt the nearness of God, the invisible spirit inhabiting he leaves of the trees, the rocks under my feet, the clouds in the sky..every scrap of the Universe seemed to advance and recede, to move, swirl and dance in a continuous celebration of joy...the full pure joy of life."
As her health began to decline she continued to paint and also to write her memoir, in her journals, and stories. One book call Klee Wyck won the Governor General's Award in 1941.
I was secretly excited to learn that I'm not the only American who knew nothing about Canada's most famous woman painter and writer. Susanne MacNeille from the NY Times writes with the same joy at having discovered Emily Carr and her works.Vancouver Island Through an Artist's eyes
It is through life's journey that we discover writings, paintings, sculptures, history, and people across all continents...and the pure joy of life.