ANTIGONISH, N.S. - For this year’s Heritage Day celebration (Feb. 18), famed Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis was honoured. During the weekend and Monday provincial holiday, numerous events connected to Lewis’ recognition were held across the province.
In Antigonish, a ‘Paint Maud’s House’ activity for children was held on Saturday (Feb. 16) at the People’s Place Library; and on Tuesday, local artist Anne Camozzi did a presentation, via Facebook live, which was screened in the library’s community room. The presentation, titled Channeling Maud Lewis: Art for Heart’s Sake, can still be viewed on YouTube.
Camozzi talked about her appreciation for Lewis and how she is inspired in her own work, by Lewis’ creations and ability to overcome challenges.
“She is inspirational in the sense of how she, with no training and she used really rudimentary materials, yet was able to create art that spoke to people and enlivened their lives,” Camozzi said. “I think that is the essence of art.”
Creating while dealing with an illness and through pain, is an aspect shared by the artists. Camozzi said the fact Lewis was disabled, from living with rheumatoid arthritis for most of her life, is another factor her selection to be recognized during this year’s Heritage Day, was a strong choice.
“I think another reason it’s a good idea to talk about Maud on Heritage Day is that a huge number of Nova Scotians are disabled; I’m not sure of the exact number, but I think it’s more than 25 per cent. Maud was a disabled person before people were called disabled,” Camozzi said, noting the stigma Lewis would’ve dealt with, as well as, as enlightenment grows, the province recently passing an Accessibility Act.
“The world is opening up to the fact there are people out there who are disabled who can still contribute in a big way; I think her art is very timely in that way too.
“She is a national treasure for Canada so we should be considering her a treasure for Nova Scotia.”
Lewis’ work is full of bright colour, an aspect shared by Camozzi’s art. Camozzi’s book Galaxies: Serenity Within, being a strong example (visit anne.camozzi.com).
“I’m definitely inspired by Maud’s use of colours,” she said. “I think she used colours to distract herself from her life and I think I use colours in the same way. And I like the way Maud thought outside the box with colours; she didn’t mind having a fall tree in the middle of a winter day, if she needed that colour.
“So, I think, colour is a huge part of what Maud is about, and my art is about too.”
Camozzi talked more about the soothing and transcending aspects of colour.
“I think when you look at colour it changes up your brain,” she said. “If you are suffering in any way; from pain, isolation or any kind of illness, whether it be mental or physical, or you’re facing challenges in your life, when you look at colour, it changes your brain. You can distract yourself from whatever you’re going through.
“I’m sure Maud was using colour to distract her from her pain, and poverty, and isolation; and certainly for me, creativity, writing and art is a distraction from my medical situation and the fact I’m more isolated than I used to be.”
Just prior to Camozzi’s presentation, local artist Sally MacKay, well-known for her rug-hooking work, addressed the audience; starting with the fact she has had polio since she was a young girl.
“I think [Lewis] is an inspiration to anyone who is disabled,” MacKay said.
“If the art is in there, it has to come out, somehow. I think Maud Lewis is, certainly, a perfect illustration of that. She had a lot of hardships but there was still some beauty in her head that came to be shown to the world.”
She talked about how art has helped her cope through the years.
“As I said [while addressing the audience], I can’t wait to get up in the morning to find out what is in my head today … what am I going to do today,” she said.
“It’s exciting and it does help you to forget about the pain. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because your mind is so into what you’re doing, it kind of makes the pain go away.”
She talked about Lewis being chosen for the Heritage Day recognition.
“It’s an excellent idea; and it shows you don’t have to be rich and famous, a good hockey player or actor, to deserve that recognition.”