Owens art exhibit mourns and celebrates vanishing family farms

Joanna_Close

Joanna Close at exhibition opening

“First and foremost, I think they’re objects of great beauty,” said Gemey Kelly Friday night during the opening of the latest exhibition at Mount Allison University’s Owens Art Gallery.

Kelly, who is gallery director, was talking about the nine hand-dyed, hooked rugs on display until the end of February as part of the exhibition “Documenting the Farm.”

Artist Joanna Close says she created the rugs and silk screen pieces in the exhibition to capture the memory of the farm that had been in her family since 1858. The farm was demolished in 2011 to make way for the expansion of a nearby gravel pit in Stilesville, New Brunswick.

“It started as a mourning,” Close says, “but I think it’s become a celebration.”

She adds that the rugs show the farm buildings still in use, places where people lived and worked for generations.

“That’s definitely a celebration, showing the time spent in this place and the people that it employed and (who) thrived off of this place.”

Close grew up in Moncton, but visited the farm every weekend where she watched her grandmother cooking buckwheat pancakes and beans on the white wood stove that is depicted on one of her hooked mats.

“I think it’s one of the most comforting and most warm, welcoming memories that I have,” Close says.

Boiduck & Ames

Janice Boiduck (L) and Carolyn Ames

Gallery visitors Carolyn Ames and Janice Boiduck said Close’s hooked rug reminded them of their own grandmothers’ cookstoves.

“It brings back memories,” Ames said. “I can picture her kitchen and her home just by looking at it.”

“Cooking in that stove had the best bread, oh and you could smell it all through the house,” Boiduck added.

“I think the exhibition has a lot of meaning in New Brunswick,” Kelly says. “We are starting to see the loss of the small family farm, which is what this work is all about. So I think it has a lot of resonance for people who value that way of life.”

Click here for Laura Landon’s  report on the exhibition broadcast by Mount Allison’s campus/community station CHMA-FM.

Click here for a link to Owens Art Gallery exhibitions.

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