People who are creative have a need to create. It’s in them, and it needs to come out. For some, it manifests in the way they lead their daily lives, for others it takes the form of performance, or composition, or the manufacturing of an object, be it painting, drawing, sculpture, or other media. They get up in the morning, put their thoughts and intuition in motion, and they create something.
My wife Jeanine is such a person. She was active as a fine artist through the seventies and early eighties; exhibiting and teaching sculpture and other art making forms at Beal Art School in London, and for the University of Windsor art school in Chatham Ontario. She was the head of that school for a couple of years actually, and made the one hour trip (each way) three days a week from our home in Delaware to the Chatham campus. She sold lots of work, won awards, had one woman shows, and received grants. She was well respected, and completely involved in the contemporary Canadian art scene. In 1981 when we both quit our jobs and moved to the old Methodist church in Wyecombe, Ontario, she also stopped her professional life as an exhibiting artist. She had had enough of the game, and had developed new priorities; but that doesn’t mean she stopped being creative.
In a previous blog I talked about Jeanine’s decorative painting of furniture. Today I am conveying a little tale of the time she made a special gift for a friend.
In the late eighties, we were doing a lot of antique shows with the same dealers, when one day an exciting new dealer came on the scene. She was young, well in her thirties which is young for an antique dealer, had good taste in all things Canadiana and folk art, and was honest and dedicated. She bought widely from the community and soon developed a sterling reputation. We did some good business together, and quickly got to know and like Sue; so before long we were hanging out together, back and forth between our places, always having as a common bond a strong appreciation, and enthusiasm for folk art. It came about one year that Jeanine wanted to make something special for Sue’s birthday. Sue loved roosters. She loved a lot of folk art, but she really loved roosters. So Jeanine decided to make a rooster for Sue. She confined herself to the workshop and set about with wire, paper-mache, and oil paint, and presto, several hours later emerged with a dandy of a large, cross-eyed, black and white rooster. A fine specimen who portrayed the confidence and insolence of a truly fine cockerel. We loved him, and were fairly confident that Sue would love him too. At least we hoped so. Giving people folk art, even to a folk art lover, can be a tricky business.
And so Jeanine was feeling shy to present the work as her own for fear that Sue may not like it, but feel compelled to say she did because the artist was standing right there in front of her. Thus we decided to create a folk artist to go along with the folk art. Ah yes, now M. Rooster was created by a previously unknown 65-year-old folk artist from the Baie St. Paul region of Quebec named Benoit Rotisserie. Or something to that effect. I honestly can’t remember. Then we dressed up Jeanine in old dungarees, fake mustache,a scarf and hat, and took a photograph of the artist next to his work. We created a bio of the artist,document of authentication, and photo which all went into the box along with the sculpture.
Sue’s birthday came. She opened the box and hooray, she was delighted with what she found inside; and we got to enjoy several minutes of snickering and grinning at each other before she began to put two and two together and started to question the authentication. Great fun was had by all, and Jeanine had the reassurance she desired.