It was an old Volkswagen van, always five minutes away from breaking down, that eventually brought Joy Hecht from the United States to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Since the late 1990s, the Manhattan-born Hecht, a Francophone, had been contemplating a visit to St-Pierre-Miquelon.
As she looked at a map, she saw another, much larger island she’d have to travel through first.
“What’s Newfoundland? Where’s Newfoundland? I’ve never heard of it,” she said.
Those plans were put aside, and she continued to work as an environmental economist based in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been consulting on environment issues in Third World development,” she said. “Because I’m a freelance consultant and most of my work is overseas, it doesn’t matter where I lived.”
But after landing a job in New Jersey, she became restless.
“I just wanted to pack up and leave and just go on the road,” she said. “When I said things like this to my friends they would (ask me) are you OK? Are you having problems?”
But a counselor she spoke with didn’t see anything wrong with it all.
“You should probably get something bigger than a Toyota Prius,” he said.
So, she did. And after two and a half years of travelling wherever her van would take her, Hecht arrived in Newfoundland and Labrador in August 2006.
“I got off the (Argentia) ferry and I was going to go down to Cape St. Mary’s and look at birds and it was 10 degrees and pouring,” she said. “I said, ‘I think I’ll just drive to St. John’s.’”
While sitting at The Bagel Café, eating scrambled eggs, drinking coffee and looking through tourist literature, she noticed the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival was happening that night.
“It’s pouring, I’m not going to a folk festival,” Hecht said. “But at six in the evening, the sun came out and everything turned beautiful.”
There were no tie-died T-shirts or Pete Seeger songs being played, as she’d come to expect from folk festivals in New York.
“Oh, folk music here is actually the music of the folk, it’s Newfoundland music, it’s people who are happy to be Newfoundlanders,” she said.
The next morning, while walking down Signal Hill, she saw a man making a video and stopped to talk to him.
“It turned out he had been a refugee who came from Cuba and said everyone was so nice that after they accepted (him) as a refugee … he ended up staying in Newfoundland,” Hecht said.
After only 24 hours of being in the province, she found herself talking to this man about moving here herself.
She returned to Washington, D.C., but over the next three years she would catch herself looking at houses for sale in St. John's. She would talk herself out of it, saying she wouldn’t be able to stand the winter.
But after a visit in winter 2009, she decided she would finally make St. John’s her home.
She’s been involved in art as a hobby for years, and when the economic consulting work started drying up last year, at age 64, she decided she was due for a career change.
“I always wanted to try (collage), and so I said, ‘Just do it, start cutting things up and start sticking them down,’” she said. “I haven’t looked back and they’ve gotten more sophisticated and more complex.”
Jeanette Jobson, a visual artist and owner of The Baccalieu Gallery in Heart’s Content, included Hecht in her gallery artists for 2020.
“Her work, when you first glance at it, everyone’s intrigued simply because it’s a technique not seen very frequently,” Jobson said. “It’s the type of work that takes the same amount of thought and preparation as a painting would, but you’re just painting with paper and colour, as opposed to traditional paints and brushes.”
Her artwork also caught the attention of a project in New York City, called LinkNYC, after she submitted it for consideration.
According to their website, LinkNYC is a “first-of-its-kind communications network that is replacing New York City pay phones with state-of-the-art kiosks called Links.
These Links have free high-speed Wi-Fi, maps, access to city services and a phone charger and are free for anyone to use.
#ArtOnLink showcases the work of artists on those kiosks, in its nearly 1,800 locations.
A spokesperson from LinkNYC sent a statement about why Hecht’s artwork fit so well.
“Joy’s uniquely abstracted found-material collages of NYC cityscapes were a perfect fit for the #ArtOnLink program. Her simple cut-paper style and use of color creates almost three-dimensional views of the beloved NYC skyline,” the statement said. “The primary goal of the #ArtOnLink program is to share work from local artists that celebrates the city and the people who inhabit it, and Joy’s series does just that.”
To view some of Hecht’s artwork, you can visit her website at https://joyhecht-arts.com/.
What do you do when there's a massive blizzard and the city is in a state of emergency for now eight days, with everything closed and no place to go? Art, of course! This is the view out my window in downtown St. John's, Newfoundland. The storm brought out the best in my neighbors, we all grabbed our shovels not only to clear our own doorways and cars but to dig each other out. I finally met the man in the red house down the street, and a young fellow in a white house up the hill. I got to know the Nigerian nurse in the green house, whose red car was completely hidden under an eight foot drift before we all chipped in and spent hours clearing the snow around it. I may even have gotten on the good side of the woman across the street and her husband, who I think have never liked me! #collage #collageart #collage_art #urbansketch #urbansketching #urbansketches #pleinair #pleinairartist #fineart #artfair #modern #contemporaryart #modernart #newfoundland #newfoundlandart #newfoundlandartist http://joyhecht-arts.com/