Black Sheep Gallery Happy March, everybody. Spring is (hopefully) just around the corner. With the help of a customer, we have unearthed a video released in 1977 about Joe Sleep (1913 – 1978). It was filmed two years before his death and shown with the Joe Sleep Retrospective exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia in 1981. The film is directed by Harold Pearse and produced by Atlantic Filmmakers Co-op. It is described as “a tender portrait of a great character”. You can view it online by clicking here.

In the 1940s and 50s, it was quite common to see a fisherman or fish pedlar pushing his cart full of ice and mackerel along community streets, calling out in a loud voice, “MAC!, FRESH MAC!”. At a time when few housewives drove, and many families had no car at all, this was a much-appreciated service, and is fondly remembered by many maritime seniors. This bony little fish was plentiful and packed a flavourful punch, especially if it was smoked. Cecil Mosher (1927 – 2002} a fisherman from Tancook Island, fished for a lot of mackerel in his day, and he has definitely captured its tiger stripes and its iridescent blue green colour in his carving. Cecil’s output was limited, and most of his carvings stayed with family members and friends until after his death.

Donald Boudreau’s (1917 – 2000) whirlygig is well weathered but the age and wear only add to the beauty of the piece. It must have been on a covered porch in Nova Scotia where our strong gales would make the propellers and maybe even the arms spin. The propellers have worn away part of the lower arms. Just the thought of this little guy blowing in an Atlantic gale makes me want to sit on that porch.

Cape Breton’s favourite carver, Sid Howard (1913 – 1992), has done it again with his carving of a puffin enjoying a recently caught fish. The bright orange legs are delightful and the familiar paper tag with his typed name and address is still stapled to the side. You can see it in a short video by clicking here.

We have added two other birds to the gallery. The handsome spotted rooster is by Garnet McPhail (1926 – 2008). Garnet is featured in the NFB movie “Folk Art Found Me" and several published reference books on Nova Scotia folk art. The great horned owl was done by Merrill Stewart (1926 – 2008), a cousin of Eddie Mandaggio, whose body of work was also limited by health problems.

Donald Armstrong (1915 – 2018} was forced into retirement as a dairy farmer due to ill health. After meeting Percy Bezanson, a respected carver of horses and oxen, he decided to start carving. Donald took great pride in his work and spent many hours on each piece. Most of them were not for sale because he took them to display at local agricultural fairs. We were lucky to get him to part with this horse. Just a simple black horse but you can feel Donald’s determination to capture the essence of the horse in every chisel mark. He was also a delight to visit, and we spent many happy hours with him over the years discussing his carvings.

Eddie Mandaggio (1927 – 2020) has taken a completely different approach to carving with his bull. The ferocious bull is standing his ground and Eddie has captured the character of the bull with just a few rough cuts on a block of unfinished wood. Adding the ears and horns is just decorative, the true strength of the piece is in the raw form of the body of the bull.

And we have saved our favourite piece for last. The work horse by Tom Rector (1908 – 2003) is a tribute to an important part of farm life, the farm horse. You can tell the respect Tom has for this animal by the heavily padded collar which eases the load on the horse and the painted brass studs on the harness. It is a majestic creature, by one of our favourite artists.

Be safe everyone.

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