Rockwell Kent (American, 1882–1971), Masthead (1926), wood engraving on paper. The Rooms, St. John's, NL, 2003.5.1, purchased through anonymous donation. Reproduced courtesy of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, USA, Rockwell Kent Collection, Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton. All rights reserved
For many people, there’s something special about home. Working in Newfoundland 100 years apart, artists Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) and Pam Hall (1951– ) are evidence of the impression home can leave on a person.
Two independent exhibitions now on display at The Rooms, St. John’s, NL, explore the work Kent and Hall created when they called Newfoundland home: Pointed North: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland & Labrador and Pam Hall: HouseWork(s). While the exhibitions feature two very different artists, they both showcase home as a source of inspiration.
Kent’s time in Newfoundland — 1914 to 1915 — was fleeting, but his stay had a profound influence on his work. “The period that he worked in Newfoundland was an experiment,” says Caroline Stone, who curated the Kent exhibition at The Rooms before retiring from the gallery. “At the time, he was experimenting with Modernism and Symbolism in his paintings, which was an anomaly for him when he went back to America.”
Rockwell Kent (American, 1882–1971), The House of Dread (c. 1914–17), oil on canvas. Courtesy Plattsburgh State Art Museum, SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, USA. Rockwell Kent Collection, Gift of Sally Kent Gorton, X1978.1.8. Reproduced courtesy of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, SUNY Plattsburgh, NY, USA, Rockwell Kent Collection, Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton. All rights reserved
Exploring Newfoundland’s influence on the American artist’s style, the exhibition showcases a variety of paintings Kent created while he was in Newfoundland. One of these is The House of Dread (c. 1914–1917), which hints at the impact of Kent’s home in Brigus, Newfoundland on his life. The painting depicts a nude male figure standing at the edge of a cliff beside Kent’s house — now a heritage site known as Kent Cottage — and a female figure leaning out of a top-storey window. While neither a literal depiction of Kent’s house nor its surrounding geography, the sombre painting draws viewers in. “There’s a drama to it,” Stone says of the work, which Kent described later in life as a comment on his marriage.
Combining pencil drawings, oil paintings, wood engravings, ceramics, books, stamps, and a record cover, the Rockwell Kent exhibition provides an overview of Kent’s work during and after his time in Newfoundland. “He was an all-around competent person with a lot of ideas,” Stone says. “It’s a fascinating life.”
Fast-forward 100 years past Kent’s time in Brigus to another artist from elsewhere, now stationed in Newfoundland — one inspired by home in a very different way. The exhibition Pam Hall: HouseWork(s) showcases the Canadian artist’s depictions of house and home. Spanning the last decade of Hall’s work, the show explores the implications of domesticity in women’s lives.
Pam Hall, The History House (2008), mixed media Memory Cloths, bamboo supports. 243 x 243 x 366 cm (variable). Photo: Ned Pratt
The multimedia exhibition presents visitors with the house in all its forms — quite literally. Viewers are greeted with houses that hang from the ceiling, sit on displays, and are mounted on walls. The works challenge audiences to consider houses as places of history, knowledge, work, and prayer. The exhibition also engages visitors in a physical way, inviting them to enter, walk through, and in many cases, gently touch the installations.
“The exhibition is all about discovering and rethinking the kinds of things that are taken for granted,” says guest curator Dr. Melinda Pinfold, a professor at the University of Alberta. The Work House (2014) is perhaps the best example of this. Consisting entirely of aprons, The Work House acknowledges housekeeping as a traditional form of women’s work, and reminds viewers of the intense manual labour associated with domestic tasks. The Work House was originally a performance piece, during which Hall and two other artists spent four hours per day sewing aprons into panels for the house.
Pam Hall, The Work House (detail) , nylon, aprons, thread, bamboo supports, 243 x 243 x 366 cm (variable). Photo: Ned Pratt
Pointed North: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland & Labrador and Pam Hall: HouseWork(s) explore two very different artists with at least one thing in common: a distinct sense of place.
Pam Hall: HouseWork(s) is on view at The Rooms in St. John’s, Newfoundland until September 7, 2014 while Pointed North: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland & Labrador runs until September 21. Please click here for more information.
Ariana Armstrong has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Affairs and Policy Management, with honours, and is currently in her second year of the Master's program in Journalism at Carleton University. She interned at Muse Magazine and Global National before joining NGC Magazine.
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