Archive for the 'NS in art' Category

In the News: Art and Architecture edition

I’ve been neglectful, but my google alerts have also been rather bereft lately – news of tourism business partnerships between Nova Scotia and Stirling, Scotland, while fascinating, are generally only  tangentially related to landscape, and I try to stay on topic (although, as an aside: the description of the visit to Scotland is incredibly evocative of every single tourism trade mission to Scotland of the past 80 years).

In a bit of self-promotion, my thesis was listed on the NiCHE (Network in Canadian History & Environment) website, probably thanks to my excellent thesis adviser. Neat!

Here’s an interesting article about Peter Gough, a landscape artist whose artistic imagination is captured by Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. A snippet:

Having roots in both is the best of two worlds, he says. While they are culturally and geographically close, the prevailing elements of their landscapes are quite different: Nova Scotia, practically surrounded by the sea, feels almost like an island to Gough, while, to him, the dominant feature of New Brunswick is its extensive, storied river systems.

I liked Gough’s emphasis on the full sensory experience of being in the landscape – I think the landscape should be more than what we see, even if the medium we will ultimately use (e.g. painting) is a visual medium.

The Chronicle Herald published an article on the architect Brian McKay-Lyons, his annual architectural project/retreat called Ghost, and this year’s project to reassemble a historic octagonal barn from Annapolis County on his own property on the South Shore. I find McKay-Lyons’ work interesting for his attempt to bring modern yet place-specific architecture to his projects, and I respect his commitment to live in Nova Scotia even when it may not always be professionally advantageous.

However, so far as our cultural/historic landscape goes, I’m not really sure how much value this gesture holds. Taking a building away from its original place turns it into more of an artifact than an object in the landscape – however the cumulation of all these preserved built “artifacts” can still be useful in picturing historic and/or vernacular architecture. While I cringe at the assumption that “saving” an old building by moving it is by definition virtuous and right – and the collecting impulse that accompanies it – I do like the idea that re-using old buildings if worthwhile if only for the purpose of reducing waste. What do you think? Are any of you as conflicted as I am?

NS in Art – Adolf Fassbender

Cape Breton Beacon, A. Fassbender
It’s no secret that much of the inspiration f0r this blog comes from my history studies. While editing my thesis last week, I came across a reference in a tourism brochure to a prominent photographer, “Mr. Passbender,” who extolled the beauties of Nova Scotia as a world-class destination:

“‘Nova Scotia possesses outstanding subjects for pictorial photography,’ writes Adolf Passbender, F.R.P.S., of New York, one of the foremost authorities on photography in America. Every year a small army of artists and photographers come to Nova Scotia. They know that the quaint little seaside villages with the fishermen’s homes built amongst granite boulders offer excellent studies. “

(From Canada’s Ocean Playground, 1939)

“Passbender” was actually a spelling mistake, as I discovered when I googled the name. Adolf Fassbender was a German-born photography instructor and pictorial photographer whose most important artistic years were in the 1930s and 1940s. Fassbender did not believe in absolute accuracy in photography or in anything like “the ugly truth.” Fassbender believed that the photographer was supposed to find – and create – the beautiful and picturesque.

Here are a few of Fassbender’s Nova Scotia images (The photo at the top of the post is “Cape Breton Beacon”):

Fishermens Menace, A. Fassbender

Fishermen's Menace

Crooked Mile

Before the Storm

This final image is somewhere on the South Shore of Nova Scotia (here). It is different from his other NS subject matter – fishermen and fog and lighthouses – but the common element of the ocean is still there.

Apparently Fassbender’s major publication of his images includes lengthy captions written by the photographer which address the technical aspect of the photo and Fassbender’s personal thoughts about the setting. I would love to be able to read those captions, to get some kind of insight into how he approached and modified the Nova Scotia landscape in his images.

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