An exhibition at Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John’s, Newfoundland, features work by two artists based at opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Jane Walker (Newfoundland) and Vivian Ross-Smith (Shetland) describe islandness as a living experiment, an open platform for exploring life on their respective islands, bringing people and place together to form new bonds..
The artists spent several weeks collaborating, experimenting and leading community engagement sessions on the Bonavista Peninsula of Newfoundland before bringing their individual and collaborative works together - which include alternative textiles (fish skin, lichen and rug hooking), metal work, photography and project documentation - for the exhibition.
Sunday morning fishing in Sweet Bay with Larry. In July 1992, 30,000 people in Newfoundland and Labrador lost their jobs after the announcement of the cod moratorium and left the province in a state of confusion and vulnerability. The moratorium remains today, however the Recreational Groundfish Fishery (commonly known as the food fishery) is open for a total of 46 days between July and October. Islanders remain hopeful that the cod stocks will rebound.
The islandness public programming started in the small town of Keels. Vivian Ross-Smith shared her use of fish skin in her practice with participants who prepared and preserved skins from cod caught in Sweet Bay. They exchanged stories, and small artworks were created from skins of fish caught in Shetland.
On a Friday evening, a group of invited friends and strangers gathered at Susie’s Café in Birchy Cove to share a supper of local food. The evening was framed with a question, what does being an islander mean to you?
Gord picked up a bronze net needle during the supper, commenting on its weight. He immediately felt confident using this artwork. He showed us the most efficient way to load the tool with twine in order to avoid tangling.
Shirley Ryan is a community leader, craftsperson, artist, business owner, chef and great friend. As the owner of Susie’s Café, Shirley and her sidekick Diane Cuff put together the islandness community supper, complete with fish and brewis, and bakeapple cheesecake.