Life is forever changing and unpredictable as you never know what unexpected surprises or opportunities can happen in a day. In late August, artist Virginia Houston was working her shift at the Winding River Art Gallery when a new customer walked into the shop. There is nothing unusual about a newcomer visiting a gallery, rather a very welcomed and expected occurrence. This gentleman, however, would offer a very rare opportunity to the gallery and an exciting new venture.
“The gentleman asked me if the gallery was interested in buying some prints he had at home. I explained to him the policy of anyone placing any artwork in the gallery. We are a not-for-profit gallery and in order for anyone to put anything on display a person needs to become a core or consignment member. He was not interested in doing this,” said Houston. “But having taught high school art I couldn’t help but ask him whose prints he had in storage. When he told me they were genuine hand-cut silkscreen prints of Canada’s most famous folk artist, Maud Lewis, I asked if he would bring them to the gallery so I could take a look at them. When this gentleman returned with the prints we found some of them were damaged too badly to even consider, but many of them were good quality. The prints were copyrighted to W. T. Ferguson who sold copies to the 10 Mile House in Bedford, Nova Scotia, until it went out of business.”
This chance meeting led to some gallery members acquiring these limited edition vintage hand-cut silk screen prints. Another detail of noted significance is that they were printed while Maud Lewis was still alive. Lewis passed away in 1970, but continues to be one of Canada’s best known and most loved folk artists. An exhibition is now being shown at the gallery, featuring an original Maud Lewis painting, the newly acquired prints along with other memorabilia, including hand-written notes on the copyrights granted to Willard Ferguson for producing her prints, books and art cards. This exhibition is a truly amazing opportunity for the gallery and for collectors of fine art prints as the value of Lewis’ art continues to rise and is sure to go up further as interest in her intensifies.
A new major motion picture of Lewis’ life, “Maudie” made its film debut at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Then in October, the film opened the 35th Vancouver International Film Festival and won this year’s overall audience favourite. British actor Sally Hawkins portrays Maud, while American actor Ethan Hawke is playing her husband, Everett. The movie is set to be released in theatres nation-wide in Spring 2017. The movie hype and celebrity attraction, with talk of possible Oscar consideration, has already elevated interest in Lewis’ art internationally. Now with increased demand for her originals and fine art prints, the timing for a local Maud Lewis exhibition couldn’t be better.
The exhibition of framed Maud Lewis’ vintage prints will be on display until the Winding River Art Gallery closes in December and all prints are available for purchase from the gallery. The retail values were determined by American Art promoter/marketer, Ellen Adler. Winding River Art Gallery is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is located at Mastodon Ridge in Stewiacke, Nova Scotia. An artist is always at work in the gallery and the gallery is always filled with surprises to delight and bring wonder to every seemingly ordinary day.
Janice Guinan is a local artist who passionately believes in the importance of visual art. Her About Art column appears each week in the Truro Daily News. Guinan also writes a weekly column for the Colchester Weekly News. Both can be viewed online at www.trurodaily.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.