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Whose Maud? - MacRae Centre

In the heat of last summer, the Acadia Art Gallery presented an exhibition beautifully curated by Dr. Laurie Dalton entitled, Whose Maud?

The title, and artwork, compelled gallery visitors to consider the identity of Maud Lewis, and the concept of commodified identity – to whom does an artist and their work belong? And what about us?

Artists Steven Rhude and Laura Kenney produced works and studies of Maud, and her experience that explored beyond the sentimentality of Hollywood to the honest struggles and sometimes grim backdrop of her life.

I was privileged to spend a couple of hours on the red sofa with all three of these experts on Maud at the Acadia University art gallery. I was excited by the ideas we explored, and hoped the conversation would be interesting for  those who know a little about Maud, but would like to explore more about her life and work with those who have done research, and know quite a bit about it. I also hoped the discussion would help to open up the world of art to people of faith who are unsure about how to encounter and engage an artistic space, particularly an art gallery.

One of the best ways we can learn to engage culture is by engaging with art, as it expresses, and demands, asks questions of us, and causes us to ask questions in return. Living in London, if I needed a fresh look at the world, and to be driven out of my usual grooves of thought, I would make a visit to the Tate Modern art gallery. Inevitably I would be challenged and changed and be given fresh insight for whatever project I was working on. We are blessed beyond measure to have an art gallery as part of our university here in Wolfville. I visit here for the same reasons. Its diminutive size does not diminish its impact.

The light was beautiful that morning in the art gallery at Acadia. You can see the way it plays on the colours in the room in the photograph above. Unfortunately, we ended up with problems with both the sound and the video recording from this conversation, and so I refrained from posting it at the time, resolving to rebook a conversation at some point in the future.

However, February 18 is Heritage Day in Nova Scotia, and this year we are honouring the person and contribution of Maud Lewis. I thought it might be worth posting these videos, hoping that some might at least listen and gain something from them. The sound is echoey, and the video is monochrome. But as you listen, you will hear a challenge emerge. Have we commodified Maud? How does identity become commodified anyway? Is art only for mass production and printing on socks so that we can possess it? Or does it mean something else, something more? Do we really care about Maud Lewis?

How much do we commodify our relationships? One another? Allow ourselves to be commodified? Will others like the real me, if they new the whole story of my life?

The first video below considers these sorts of questions among others. and in the second, the artists introduce a few key pieces from the exhibition.

Scroll down to the third video to hear from Dr. Dalton how she goes about curating an exhibit, that will offer guidance to help you engage with the world of art. The final two videos are the uncut full interviews for diehard fans!

Happy heritage day, as we celebrate Maud Lewis.

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