It’s common knowledge how in this province, stories are often told with music or art; history and folklore combined with melodies, woven with thread or painted on canvas.
It’s only natural the province’s struggle with the collapse of the cod fishery be a major source of inspiration for artists.
Next week marks the 20th anniversary of the cod moratorium in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Five Island Art Gallery in Tors Cove is recognizing it with “Reflections on Cod — The Fishery, The Moratorium,” a juried show of about 50 works by local artists, telling the story of our once-thriving cod fishery and its demise.
The idea started with Marion Counsel and the Five Island Rug Hooking Group, a group of women who first got together in August 2009. Since then, they have held a number of exhibits showcasing their hooked rugs representing various memories, challenges and inspiration in Newfoundland and Labrador culture. In 2010, the ladies published a book — “Hooking Our Heritage” — and brought their work to Ireland, where they held a show and conducted rug hooking demonstrations and workshops.
“So many people had been touched by the moratorium, and we thought it was something that should be commemorated,” said Laura Coultas, who runs the gallery and is co-curating the exhibit with her mother, Frances Ennis, and aunt, Maxine Ennis.
The gallery put out a call for submissions this spring, and received plenty — Coultas and her family are still trying to find space to hang them all.
While there are hooked rugs, there are also pieces of art in other media, including watercolour, acrylic and oil paintings, pastel drawings, gyotaku (Japanese fish printing), and ceramics, by artists like Dave Hoddinott, Jeannette Jobson, Cathy Driedzic and Randy Blundon.
Some artists chose to focus on a life that once was; others depict snapshots of life since the industry’s downfall.
With her art figure “Great-Great-Grandmother Making Fish,” Carolyn Morgan of St. John’s focuses on the role of women in the cod fishery.
“The quality of the cod was left to them women, and it was up to them to properly salt it, turn it at the right time, make sure it didn’t spoil and keep the dogs away from it,” Morgan said.
“The amount of money a family would get for the cod was up to the woman, and a woman who could watch the quality was essential to the business. I wanted to make sure that women’s role was documented.”
See SONG, page D4