Black Sheep Gallery Relax, put your feet up and enjoy some great folk art on this sunny May day.

We have lots to offer this month, including two recently received beautiful Joe Sleep paintings from British Columbia. The owner worked at the Manuge Gallery in the 1970s and also worked with Bernie Reardon prior to 1981. Bernie Reardon was the director of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia for many years and more recently was the director of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Manuge was the first gallery to host a Joe Sleep exhibition. These were purchased directly from Joe by the consignor just before the exhibition opened. She writes “I purchased two pieces for my nine-year-old twins.” “One piece was in the Joe Sleep Retrospective show at the AGNS in 1981 … They have been living in the back of a walk-in closet for 40 years!”

The Two Lions painting from 1976 was chosen to be in the exhibition. The other painting has a large cat with a butterfly and rabbit border. These are accompanied by photocopies of ephemera including the press release for the AGNS show, newspaper article, exhibition report and notice of a film on Joe Sleep. The Joe Sleep film was produced by the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op and directed by Harold Pearse. Harold was with Nova Scotia College of Art and Design at the time, and a committed supporter of Joe’s work. Bruce Ferguson, guest curator of the Joe Sleep exhibition spoke at the film presentation.

We also have a new Everett Lewis painting. Following the substantial increase in the price of the work of Maud Lewis over the past couple of years, many collectors turned toward Everett’s work, and they are becoming increasingly difficult to find. This piece shows two of Everett’s cozy little houses hanging on the horizon while Maud rides her goose-stepping donkey with Everett guiding his horse and sleigh to a stop in front of her. They seem to lead an idyllic and carefree life. The colours are vibrant against the snowy background. It is a happy memory and was probably painted after Maud had passed away. It is on green board and Everett’s name is boldly painted in black at the bottom of the painting.

The very primitive carving of a man’s head added to our gallery this month is by an unknown artist. It may have been mounted outside because it is worn and cracked but these do not negatively impact the overall presentation of the piece; rather they give a rich character to the carving.

Eddie Mandaggio was well known for using found objects in his art, He would often incorporate doorknobs, feathers and cow horns in his work, The necks of geese were made from branches he found while wondering in the woods. Eddie was a quiet, gentle man and often spent time alone in the woods. Everything was art to Eddie and it is likely that he discovered this cow skull on one of his walks, He has used auto body fill to bring the skull alive and the long lost ears have been replaced by wooden ones. A perfect example of the common practice by folk artist to incorporate found objects in their work.

The large body of the goose by Wesley Hubley with its outstretched neck is beautifully balanced on two very spindly legs. It seems impossible that it will actually stand on its own, but with little effort it does stand nicely on its own. One of the first wave of contemporary Nova Scotia folk artists discovered by Chris Huntington in the early 1970s, Wesley participated in the first and second Nova Scotia folk art festivals. He was also featured in the National Film Board production, “Folk Art Found Me” which was released after his death. When interviewed at the festival for the film, Wesley stated "some people, you know, want to make that kind of stuff and they can't get no shape of it at all, and some people, it just slips right off their hands like that. It must be born in you for to do it."

In the summer, 1996, edition of the Nova Scotia Folk Art News, the editor wrote: "Once in a blue moon, someone turns up whose work is so exceptional that he, or she, gets a "thumbs up" from everyone. Such was the case with 85 year old Stanley Mason. The retired fisherman spent his days at his window overlooking Merigomish Harbour, painting on blocks of quilting fabric, depicting scenes remembered from his 74 years working in the fishery. Villages, birds and animals comprise the subject matter of these wonderful creations." Stanley Mason’s (1908 - 1999) rendition of a dance band and dancers is a delightful memory of his life in a Nova Scotia fishing village.

Be safe everyone.

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