As co-owner of a downtown Antigonish gallery, Rhynold has invested almost 24 years of her life in the business, and during that time has watched the industry evolve before her very eyes.
In fact, she credits that evolution for the longevity and success of her studio.
“I think our secret is that it’s constantly morphing, it’s constantly changing and keeping up with trends and the times of what people are looking for,” she says.
Rhynold co-owns Down to Earth Art Gallery with Gerard Mason. The business has been a staple in the downtown core for a long time, situated in the same location at 240 Main St., since first opening its doors in 1996.
The studio walls are adorned with several paintings from local and world-renowned artists – many who fetch a pretty penny for their works.
Down to Earth is hosting Quebec impressionist Pierre Nadeau Aug. 27, 28 and 29. It will be Naudeau’s first show since exhibiting at the Grand Palais in Paris last February. Following COVID-19 guidelines, Nadeau will have self-isolated in Nova Scotia for the mandatory 14-day period prior to his show.
“We’re unbelievably excited,” Rhynold said of the show. “We’re the only show he’s had in Canada this year after coming back from Paris, so that’s a huge accolade for us to be chosen for that.”
The works of renowned marine artist J. Franklin Wright, of Port Hawkesbury, also grace the studio space, along with titles from Aboriginal artists Norval Morrisseau and Alan Syliboy, of Millbrook, Colchester County, whose work is inspired by ancient Mi’kmaq petroglyphs.
“We’ve carried Alan the longest of any artist we’ve had, and we carried him from just a month or so after we opened,” said Rhynold.
“His colours are vibrant, and we ship his stuff as far away as New Zealand and all over Europe.”
The price tag on some paintings at Rhynold’s studio might make the common man’s eyes pop and jaw drop, including pieces by Morrisseau and Wright that are in the $25,000 to $28,000 range. However, many collectors are willing to absorb the cost if it means adding premium pieces to their collections.
“You are paying for the artist and the notoriety and the value of that artist, and we have a number of artists whose pieces are only going one way as far as value goes – Alan’s being one of them, Pierre’s and Frank’s – all of these artists’ prices and values have increased over the years,” said Rhynold.
Antigonish artists such as Bill Rogers and Kate Georgallas also have their paintings displayed at Down to Earth. Supporting local artists and having their work in her studio is important, says Rhynold, as they add community pieces that people in the region can relate to.
“These guys, even though they’re local, they are getting some notoriety as well.”
Rhynold grew up in Guysborough County, but has spent the past 40 years in Antigonish. She calls the art industry a “be-happy business” and says there are others locally, who, like herself, have a real passion for art and understand the value of having galleries in small communities.
“It’s one of those things no matter how often people come in, and locally, things change regularly, so they’re always looking at new pieces and they look at it with new eyes too every time they come,” she said. “You learn things, you find out you liked a piece of art that you never thought you would like, so it’s well-received and it becomes an experience for people and a good experience.”
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Down to Earth also offers a custom framing service, and has framed 30,000 pieces over the years – everything from paintings, to hockey jerseys, to graduation photos and a whole lot more.
This year’s Lumière festival will shine an even brighter light on contemporary art.
Normally a one-night event featuring dozens of installations throughout downtown Sydney, the current pandemic-related restrictions led organizers to stretch the event over two weeks, from Sept. 12-26.
And Suzi Oram-Aylward believes that’s better for her fellow artists and audiences.
“The online component has opened up Lumière to the rest of the island. Before the core of it was in Sydney — it was presented in Sydney and therefore a lot of the artists that presented were from that core. This year it’s really amazing to see all of the artists and the scope of it, it’s really opened it up for a lot of really brilliant people to be able to participate in a way that they really haven’t been able to before,” said Oram-Aylward, who will be taking part in the festival for the third time.
“I think that in previous years you had the one night to get out and explore and it led to this sense of community engagement and it felt really nice, but on the other side of that it meant that a lot of the events were at one side of the city and others were at the other side, so in some cases, people had to pick and choose which events they got to choose and participate in. One of the good things about the way things are set up this year is the online aspect of it and the way that it’s spread out over the span of two weeks really allows you to participate in all of it and it makes it more accessible in that way.”
Greg Davies, chair of the Lumière Arts Festival Association, agrees.
An accomplished artist and curator of the Cape Breton University Art Gallery, he said the two-week format and ability to deliver exhibits online will help showcase a significant number of local artists and provide a quality experience for the public and artists.
He’s particularly excited that people will have ample time to savour each piece of art, rather than gulp them all down in a few hours.
“If you’re looking at it from the perspective of a curator or an artist, there are some disadvantages to it as a one-night event. The disadvantage is that while it becomes a public spectacle to have a one-night event: There’s a lot of energy and a buzz, but it’s rather like a very large art opening, and if you know something about exhibition openings, they can be a lot of fun but they’re also one of the worst ways to see or experience art,” he said. “It’s very hard in that kind of environment to actually have the time to reflect upon the work, and if the work has any sort of subtlety to it, if it’s meant to be appreciated in a kind of quiet environment — and a lot of art is; not all of it, but a lot is — then it makes it very difficult to connect with the artwork as a viewer in the way that the artist had perhaps hoped you would. It’s like a Catch-22 because the spectacle side of it is important to the community as well — it brings people together and it creates a buzz that’s very fulfilling. If you remove that, or you lose that aspect of it, but you may gain on the sort of one-to-one experience with art. What we’re trying to do is try to see if we can find a way to balance those two.”
Oram-Aylward, whose previous works were typically composed of items like plastic water bottles and other found or discarded objects, has even taken a different approach for this Lumière.
A room-sized miniature landscape made of papier-mache, chicken wire and paintings, she describes her project, The Future is Unwritten, as a surreal rollercoaster ride depicting two possible futures. It will be filmed in her attic this weekend and broadcast online Monday at 7 p.m.
“It’s been really fun and messy. I’m really nervous and excited to show it. It’s different than anything I’ve ever done,” she said. “There’s definitely an apocalyptic side to it and then a much brighter side — it really depends on what ways it’s viewed. And then there’s a train track built on it that will take you on an adventure.”
The other day, while gossiping with a friend, she used the phrase “emotional palette” in a description of her general state of mind.
It’s a cool metaphor – one that is compellingly evocative. And one that can help us better visualize and describe the state of our mood. Think about having the blues. Or a rosy disposition. Or, heaven forfend, be in a black state of mind. White with rage.
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I’m not surprised about the ubiquity and utility of this metaphor, because colour is everywhere and we are primarily visual creatures.
We are also, crucially, hearing animals. Sound (and as we shall see, music) is a vital facet of our sensory experience.
And it is for these reasons that art – in the doing as well as in the observing – has such a deep connection to and effect on our well-being.
I first began to wonder about the power of art when I was 10. We lived in London, and every weekend I’d take the tube to one of the many museums and galleries in that great city. What struck me was the sense of peace and reverence evident on the faces of the adults around me. Ten-year-old boys did not frequently experience that from grown-ups.
In my own, private life, my greatest sense of self and inner harmony came when I played my guitar. Still does. Some musicians call that state the “zone.”
It was years later, as a friend studied and then practiced art/music therapy for kids, that I made a few connections.
When I asked why this (sometimes controversial) therapy had such a positive effect, she hypothesized that experiencing art ignored the rational aspect of the mind and instead directly engaged deeper, more fundamental processes.
More recently, when I was on the board of the Arrowhead Clubhouse Society, by far the most frequent budgetary request from members was for art programming. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
So, you ask: What’s going on inside the brain? There is a lot of very detailed, arcane work out there, but in general there are three broad ideas that are quite sufficient for a general understanding.
First, studies have shown that experiencing/doing art increases blood flow in the medial prefrontal cortex. This is a major reward centre of the brain, and increased activity there has led to improvements in mood among folks with eating disorders, addictive behaviours, and mood disorders.
The second observed effect is a lowering of the hormone cortisol, which is associated with stress as well as the so-called fight-or-flight state. We can all do with less stress, and it seems like art is a way to achieve that.
The third brain state is one that leads – as I mentioned above – to the “zone” or “flow” state. When we are there, we lose ourselves, are in the moment and utterly present. We are relaxed yet fully attentive, and deeply attuned to our sense of pleasure. There is interesting neurophysiology to explain this, but for today I think that would ruin the fun.
I should add, with emphasis, that one need not have huge talent or skills to achieve the benefits mentioned above while doing art. Indeed, in most of the research, just doodling was sufficient.
So, find a pencil and paper and go looking for your zone.
A mouthwatering example of chef Kimberly Steele’s cake creations (Credit: Sarah Tariq)
Cobalt Art Gallery is hosting its first exhibition since the pandemic, Cobalt Art Gallery Presents: Women In the Arts, this Saturday.
Gallery Director Sarah Tariq said they are collaborating with businesses on Prince William Street, including The Art Warehouse and East Coast Bistro, to hold the event.
“We just wanted to appreciate the fact that there are so many amazing women uptown doing cool things,” said Tariq, adding the gallery wanted to take the opportunity of the final Prince William Open Street to create space and have as many people attend while maintaining social distancing.
The exhibition will feature local artists Leanne Macdonald’s pottery, Pamela Pierce’s visual art pieces, some of Tariq’s watercolours and East Coast Bistro chef and owner Kimberley Steele’s food creations.
“She’s going to be doing a feature cake for the event and it’s going to be on display and then at some point probably later in the day, we’ll cut into it and serve it for everyone,” she said. Steele will also make croissants, breads and other to-go pastries.
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Leanne MacDonald’s pottery (Credit: Sarah Tariq)
Sneak peak of one of Pamela Pierce’s visual art (Credit: Sarah Tariq)
Interior of Cobalt Art Gallery (Credit: Sarah Tariq)
Macdonald is Cobalt Gallery’s newest artist and was originally supposed to join in March, but the pandemic put plans on hold. Women in the Arts will be her first show.
“We wanted to have the show to open for her, to bring her into the gallery, to introduce her to everyone and then we decided to toss in a few more awesome ladies,” Tariq explained. “Leanne does a lot of pottery based off of the earth, she very much draws from like Earth textures, she doesn’t do anything perfectly smooth finished.”
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