Archive for the ‘Process’ Category

Great Women of NS Portraits Storm The Halifax Club
July 2, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s 2011 Art Exhibit honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

The Halifax Club

The Great Women of NS Art Exhibit has moved to that elegant business bastion, The Halifax Club.

Thanks to Jodi Bartlett, the Club’s wonderful General Manager, for the warm welcome.

Crowds were steady and reactions to the portraits were very, very strong at The Public Archives, where the show had its 2-month Summer “”run””. Jodi says the response to the portrait collection, at “”The Club”, is equally strong.

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We’re Open!
June 16, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

What an evening! The opening night of my Great Women of Nova Scotia art exhibit (which runs til June 25th at the Public Archives) was amazing: to say I was awed by the size of the turnout and the warmth of the crowd would be an understatement.

My event organizer, Colette Robicheau and I decided to rent 200 wine glasses for the evening -feeling optimistic about the turnout. I brought another 50. And… we ran out of glasses.

The room was so crowded some folks said they missed each other in the mix of the crowd: people came, stayed, bought 1/3 of the paintings I had for sale – and, most importantly, they really embraced The Nova Scotia Nine.

Moms brought their daughters, wives brought their husbands, and members of Rita Joe’s, Mabel Bell’s and Granny Ross’ families all made the trek. An amazing evening, truly.

Julia Ying Napier Chiasson and her Mom Jo Napier, with Organize Anything's Colette Robicheau Photo Credit: Jan Napier

The Power of Edith Jessie Archibald
May 24, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

So now I am back in the studio, “working away” on the soft, gentle face of Edith Jessie Archibald. Take a peek:…

I am using old hotel-room cards to carve away at the surface of Edith Jessie Archibald’s portrait, focusing today on the background surface – trying to create a sense of “sea”… her dress is so staid and proper, starched collar and puffed sleeves, I think the contrast will create some tension and a sense of the energy of a port city alive with rough-hewn possibilities…We’ll see what happens.

When I started researching the women who were ‘key’ to securing the vote for N.S. women, EJA always popped to the surface. She was in good company… Dr. Eliza Ritchie, Edith Murray. Agnes Dennis to name three…

But I chose Edith because she spoke to me, as all “”The Nova Scotia Nine”” did and do: Like Rita Joe, and Viola Desmond, Edith Jessie stood out in character and countenance, in action and impact. In Edith’s case, she wrote powerful essays. Made powerful speeches. And ultimately, she moved people to action, giving downtrodden female citizens a sense of self-worth – a feeling that something greater, for them, was possible.

Okay, back to the studio.

An Emotional Rock
April 26, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

Photo Courtesy of Parks Canada/Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site of Canada

The talented Canadian biographer Charlotte Gray – (author of Reluctant Genius about Mabel’s husband, Alexander Graham Bell, and their life together) –  shared with me recently some  insights about Mabel, based upon her research.

Specifically I asked Charlotte 3 questions and shared the first q/a in my prevous blog entry. Here’s the next question I asked her:

Question no. 2:  Charlotte, I think of Mabel as “chief strategic/financial/romantic partner” to Alec/Alexander Graham Bell. How would you describe her relationship with her husband (if you had to write it on the back of a business card or matchbook cover?

Charlotte emails back:

“…Yes, (Mabel) was his romantic partner, emotional anchor and practical helper. If it wasn’t for her chivvying (and her father’s professional help, as a lawyer), Bell would never have registered his patent. It is interesting that Alec’s father-in-law fades out of (Alec & Mabel’s) life once the telephone patent is secured: I think he found Alec simply too exasperating to deal with.

 “ …Alec was the centre of Mabel’s life, and her main link to the speaking world, so it is hard to think of one without the other. But her refusal to allow her disability to limit her in any way was extraordinary.”

Q to Charlotte: What did your learn about Mabel Bell that most impressed you?

“JoAnn …Once I had got over the fact that the man who invented the telephone could never speak to his wife on it, because she was deaf, I was fascinated by the way she provided emotional stability for Alec.” Charlotte says Mabel’s hearing disability was “irrelevant” to their relationship: “her good judgment and strength of character were everything. And that their mutual dependence was extraordinary. She was a woman who could be firm with her eccentric husband, and she had a wonderful sense of humour.”

A Peek Behind the Canvas
March 30, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

It turns out there are a million details to think about to organize an art show. So I, wisely, I am sure, have decided to enlist the help of a friend: Colette Robicheau.

She is a long-time friend, and she now runs a company called Organize Anything. Lest you think this is a shameless plug for Colette, well … I guess it is. But she’s amazing, so I feel she fits in with this blog about incredible Nova Scotian women.

I met her years back, when I was a Toronto-based technology columnist for the Ottawa Citizen and a health columnist for The Globe and Mail and had just written a book for HarperCollins – a series of interviews with women who were using technology in interesting ways.

Anyway she and one of her team, Laura – my patient and talented Blog-manager, who is a journalism grad from Carleton University and a NSCC PR alumn – are helping me organize my Public Archives June 2011 show opener.

Go Team!

Wonderful Women
February 23, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

My portrait show – The Nova Scotia Nine – came about with a visit to my local library, in downtown Halifax. I’d stopped by to see if my favorite HRM reference librarian, Norma, was around.

I had an idea for a show of paintings, for my first art show, and I wanted her help. (She’d helped me with my book cover when I was co-authoring a book about women and technology, for HarperCollins, and I knew a conversation with Norma is always worth the pitstop.)

She was on vacation. So I left her a simple note: “Interested in tracking down women of Nova Scotia of cultural/social/historical significance. Thoughts? ”

Turns out that’s the kind of note that drives reference librarians wild: two weeks later upon her return from a vacation, Norma discovered her colleagues had already come up with a dozen or so names of women they felt fit the bill.

As I walked home with their list in hand, it was immediately apparent: I didn’t know who any of these people were. Pearleen Oliver, Frances Lillian Fish, Nora Bernard, Rita Joe, Gladys Porter, Cora Greenaway, Mona Parson, Evleyn Richardson and Margaret Marshall Saunders.

Others suggested Margaret Meagher, Allie Ahern, Isabel  MacNeill, Abbie Lane, Florence Murray, Jean Whittier, Eva Mader Macdonald, Winifred  Eaton and Pearl Young.

A few I knew: Muriel Duckworth Portia White, Maud Lewis and Sister Catherine Wallace. But most didn’t even ring a bell.. I love research and I waded in with a sense of excitement.

Who were these women? Why, after 10 years in a Halifax newsroom, did I not know their faces, know their stories?

The Start of the Road
February 19, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

Sorry I wandered off a bit there in the last entry. I have never written about that before and was surprised at how strongly I was able to express my feelings about painting.

Anyway, now it’s10 years later and I am focused on my first solo show. The centerpiece of which will be 9 large portrait paintings of women I have encountered who accomplished truly amazing things on Nova Scotia soil. They turned our lives around in so many different ways.

And I want to introduce you to them here. Via this Blog. These women, trust me, are worth investigating. So bear with me and I’ll introduce you to each one as we go along here. Let’s say: one woman, each week. Plus, my ramblings about the show and how it’s developing.

Because I hate to think I’m in this alone.  And I know from those years of writing about technology that a “virtual voice” really does echo. So, here goes, goes….goes……goes…..goes…

The Nova Scotia Nine
February 17, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

The focus of the June 2011 show at the Archives will be a group of women I’m calling “The Nova Scotia Nine”. There will be more than 9 paintings in the show but these women, these large-size portraits, will be the focal point.

Most of these women I’d never heard of before this idea for a show started to percolate in my brain. As I encountered each of their stories, the faces, their lives, I was bowled over: Each woman did something really amazing. They changed our province, our culture, our history, the way we think and live today.

They’re very different people but they share two common elements. They were aware of the value of doing something “bigger then themselves.” They contributed to a greater good, I guess you could say. And the second common thread is that all nine are largely unknown characters in the story of our province. And least they were to me.

I found it shocking that I’d spend most of my life, up until recently, working as a journalist – much of that time based in Nova Scotia – and had never heard of these people. Well, all except for one. They are all dead now, unfortunately, so it’s too late to talk with them. But not to late to hold them up to the light. To honor them. To look at their faces and study their lives and their characters.

So, that’s what I’ve been doing. Exactly that.

I’ve spend the last few months researching them, falling in love with their stories and their faces, and painting portraits of them. Their large-scale portraits will be the focal point for an 18-painting show at the Archives.

My first solo exhibition. I’m excited. Because I want to honor these women, and this feels like a great way to do it.

It Starts With a Blank Canvas
February 16, 2011

This blog tracks the origin & evolution of Jo Napier’s June 2011 art exhibit/portrait series honoring “The Nova Scotia Nine- Great Women of N.S.

Where do I start with a blog? I mean, really: I just want to paint.

To paint women, specifically. I don’t yet know why. Perhaps it’s a matter of beauty. Or of capturing familiar elements of form and character. Maybe it’s just a matter of having grown up with a houseful of brothers; an unaddressed curiousity around sisterhood.

Whatever the reason, I love to paint women.

“An artist,” said Robert Henri (American painter, 1865-9929), “should be intoxicated with the idea of the thing he wants to express.” I am: I want to express the spirit and character of women whose faces and lives capture my imagination. Which is why I’m working so hard on a show, this June, of portrait paintings.

The show will be held at the Public Archives of Nova Scotia. Stay tuned for details!